It’s fitting that this year’s Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival of Music, Dance and Art is hyping itself as family-friendly. Returning to Virginia Key, near Miami, for its fourth annual iteration, the festival not only prides itself in featuring bands who wear their roots on their sleeves with a style all their own, it’s also based on an ethos of fundamental conscientiousness for our neighbors and the environment. And aren’t those some of the best ideals to instill in our children?
In fact, the festival begins with its new “Grassroots Culture Camp,” on February 15, a series of workshops for all ages, covering everything from music to cooking. It begins at 9 in the morning. Events include lessons on instruments led by members of Driftwood, a quartet from Binghamton, New York who mix folk and world music. On Sunday, Ben Cohen, one half of the founding entrepreneurs of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, will host two workshops, one on community building and another on cooking. There’s also dance, yoga, sustainability education, bike tune-ups and much more.
But, as ever, the main draw will be the bands. Besides Driftwood, who kick off the music, some out-of-town guests include Lobo Marino a harmonium, drum & bass meditative chant inspired duo from Richmond, VA (feat. on last months PureHoney compilation), Swear and Shake an indie folk band from New York, the Native American duo Sihasin from Arizona and Rubblebucket, another New York outfit, but they feature horns and have psychedelic influences to produce a peppy if angular dance sound.
Some of the best local bands in South Florida are also represented, including Afrobeta, The Baboons, Locos Por Juana, Spam Allstars and Electric Piquete, among others. In total there are over 40 bands booked playing across four stages. Michael Mut, bassist/vocalist for Electric Piquete said, “It truly is an honor to be selected to play an event like this. The range of acts, the caliber of performers, the amount of activities for the whole family to engage and enjoy — all are incredible, and we are looking forward to being a part of it.”
The Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival has its origins in Ithaca, NY where organizers kicked off the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival in 1990 as a benefit concert to support a local AIDS organization. It did so well I became an annual event. Twelve years later, organizers started the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival in North Carolina. Both are still going strong.
It’s been four years since organizers have maintained a winter version in Virginia Key. “They are looking to continue to host it down here for a long time to come,” notes Mut, who also handles PR for the festival, “and even expand their presence and partnerships year-round. Putting down roots, so to speak.”
Children 12 and under free. For more information, visit VirginiaKeyGrassRoots.org or call 786-409-5261. The festival takes place at Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Miami, FL 33149, from Feb. 19 – 22. Tickets are available online at VirginiaKeyGrassRoots.org | RSVP on FaceBook
~ Hans Morgenstern | Independent Ethos (www.indieethos.wordpress.com)