This month, Grassroots hustled down to South Florida for the first time. The four day feel good festival would be found on the fields of Virginia Key Park, bringing along music lovers from Miami and festival followers from New York to North Carolina. The feeling of diversity was a prevalent one that weekend, almost as strong as the sense of unity. Reeling in many local bands like favorites Suenalo, Locos Por Juanas, and Elastic Bond, Miamians felt right at home. But other national acts like Chaka Khan, Toubab Krewe, and Fishbone hardly felt out of place in our wide and welcoming arms.
The kickoff of the festival, due to uncontrollable circumstances, was a bit soggy though. I mean, in early February, who would’ve expected so much rain! But that didn’t stop Grassroots, and once the first day and half of terrible weather was over, we were welcomed with a beautiful chill in the air that made for a pleasant remainder of the weekend. All clad in long skirts and wild hair, the attendees of the festival made as much of the experience as the fantastic live performances. It was refreshing to attend a festival where everyone kept dancing and moving, and maybe it was the mix of geographically varying people that brought out South Florida’s true hippy side, however it happened, I am exceedingly appreciative. For once I didn’t leave a concert with the lingering complaint of too much cell phone use and not enough attention on the band. In fact, whenever I did see a phone, it felt weird and out of place. For in that weekend, we weren’t all facebooking iPhone slaves, but livers and breathers of music. The phrase of, “Shake it! Shake what? Shake anything!” chanted by heavymellow band COPE, seemed like a prevailing mantra of the festival.
That, along with the incantation of, “Peace and love”, most sung by the enchanting and awe inspiring Diali Cissokho, brought out the all loving hippy in all of us. And how could it not? With culturally distinct and engaging sounds on each stage, and equally endearing and free spirited crowds, there was just no way to be glum. That’s why bands and fans alike speak so highly of Grassroots, because even with a cloudy start, it’s inevitable that things will get sunnier soon enough. And as long as we kept dancing, the bands would keep playing, and that they did. The diversity of music and people also contributed to the experience of Grassroots.
With rap groups like Immortal Technique and Arrested Development, soul acts like legendary Chaka Khan and Miami’s own Soul Flower, and many other fusion bands like COPE, Locos Por Juanas, Jahfe, and Toubab Krewe, there was something for everyone. And even with the varying styles and genres, there was still an overriding sense of integration. Because every band’s message had a similar tone and ring to it; that, differences aside, we are all one and we should start acting like it. And who would’ve known that a four day music festival could exemplify such a message?
Well, the creators and band’s of Grassroots did, and we happily took the opportunity to explore such oneness. Hippies of every age swayed and bopped all day and all night, high on life…or maybe just high. Either way, smiles were exchanged and kind words drifted between songs. The festival really proved the vitality and power of music as we all danced the nights away, more together than ever. Bands collaborated and attended each others shows, a sense of family brewing with every cheer of support. It all left me wondering, why can’t every show in Miami have such an atmosphere? I’m still not too sure, but it’s left me with a new and exciting sense of hope. Maybe we can all learn to live together in peace and love, and I for one can’t wait till next year’s Grassroots to get another taste of such a feeling.