GROUNDUP FEST

Published on January 29th, 2023

When Michael League and Don Lehr first brought GroundUP Music Festival to the Miami Beach Bandshell back in 2017, they had an inkling of how to make their three-day event stand out. “There’s enough festivals in the world showcasing bands already well-known and successful,” League told this writer a few years ago. “We wanted to create a space where people who really love music can come hear new sounds and take those sounds home with them to expand their listening horizons.”

Michael League by Stella K

Except for a Covid cancellation in 2021, GroundUP has taken that mission statement to heart every year. The 2023 edition, on Feb. 3-5 at the Bandshell, is no exception, with a deep-stacked lineup that is guaranteed to introduce something new to even the most committed audiophile. League’s own band, Snarky Puppy, will continue to serve as the festival anchor, playing a headlining set on each night of GroundUP to cap off an eclectic daily lineup.

The GroundUP menu of event packages includes daily or three-day tickets, general or premium admission, and extras such as access to backstage jam sessions, pre-show live music brunches at the Bandshell, and late-night, post-show live sets at the intimate Faena Theater in Miami Beach.

Here’s a peek at some of the boldface names on the 2023 poster.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy — This massive jazz fusion instrumental collective was founded by League, who also plays bass guitar for the band. Every night at GroundUP these multiple Grammy winners play an entirely different set. League told me in 2019 that the band is so tight it doesn’t matter how many songs land in the set: “We’ve been together so long I don’t worry about anything. We’ve gone through so much onstage, so even if a song doesn’t go well, I’m not scared the night will go horribly. The train never goes off the tracks.”

Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy — Most famous for fronting and founding the great Chicago indie rock band Wilco, Tweedy isn’t afraid to stand alone on stage with just his guitar and insightful songwriting. He put out four solo albums, one a year, from 2017-2020, but if his recent set lists are a prognosticator of what he’ll play, he’ll pepper this solo date with plenty of Wilco tunes, along with an occasional song or two from his earlier Americana band, Uncle Tupelo.

Isaiah Sharkey

 

 

 

Isaiah Sharkey — The Chicago-born guitarist is GroundUP’s designated artist-at-large for 2023: He’ll perform a solo set and lead his quartet through a set of soul, jazz and r&b. Sharkey shared a best r&b album Grammy for his work with D’Angelo on “Black Messiah,” and has played guitar for Paul Simon, John Mayer, Patti LaBelle and more. His smooth solo work, exemplified by the new single “Stay,” sounds like an act of seduction.

Nai Palm

 

 

Nai Palm — In the band Hiatus Kaiyote, Palm’s sultry voice coalesces with trip-hop for a lush soundscape. On her own, the Australian jazz singer has issued one solo album, 2017’s “Needle Paw,” a baker’s dozen of piano lounge tracks that owes a debt to a couple of Joneses in Norah and Ricky Lee. But on that same album, Palm also manages to make songs by both Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie her own.

Silvana Estrada

 

 

 

Silvana Estrada — Jazz started out as an American phenomenon, but didn’t stay in one place for long. Musicians from other countries applied their own touches to big band, torch and swing, and helped jazz become a global language. Estrada, a 25-year-old singer from Mexico, reasserts jazz’s Latin influence and adds a millennial’s cultural savvy. Her latest album, 2022’s “Marchita,” is sung with enough soul it will have non-bilinguals reaching for their translation apps to find out what lyrics could inspire such panache.

Bassekou Kouyate

Bassekou Kouyate — Plenty of festivals introduce new artists, sometimes even hipping you to new genres. How many hit you with instruments you might have otherwise never heard? Kouyate is considered one of the world’s masters of the ngoni, a traditional and ancient West African version of the lute. The ngoni sounds a little bit like a banjo, but also in Kouyate’s skilled hands like no other instrument you have ever encountered.

Also performing: Madison Cunningham, Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Caipi, Becca Stevens & Attacca Quartet, Edmar Castaneda & Gregoire Maret, Lizz Wright, Keyon Harold, Mark Letter Group, Mirrors, Rachel Eckroth, Gisela Joao, Shaun Martin Three-O, Jamison Ross GroundUP is Feb. 3-5 at the Miami Beach Bandshell. groundupmusicfestival.com ~ David Rolland