You can’t throw a rock without hitting a music festival nowadays. From the mainstream expansions of huge events like Bonnaroo or Coachella, down to your neighborhood blues fest in the park. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and can be a great way to discover new music.
If you can get over your inner hipster and appreciate the idea behind them, you can see past the commercialized interests that end up making the whole thing a bit more sterile and forced than you hope. With a festival like GroundUp there’s absolutely none of that to deal with and all you’re left with is an unfettered desire to enjoy the music in good company. This year’s edition is February 14-16, at North Beach Bandshell and features Michael McDonald, Lila Downs, Lettuce, and many others.
Launched by the GroundUp music label in 2017, the idea behind the festival was to be a way for audiences to discover new bands to fall in love with. Michael League, Snarky Puppy band leader, and founder of the GroundUp label always saw it as a way to bring the best musical talent together in a no-frills accessible environment. With 3 Grammys under their belt and anywhere from 18 to 40 band members, Snarky Puppy is no stranger to finding creative ways of making disparate seeming concepts sound unified. A group truly more than the sum of its parts, “everyone thinks and plays like a producer” according to League; band members regularly take a step back from the music reacting to things as much as instigating them.
When asked how they keep up with the changes facing the music industry, whether the role of social media, new ways of monetizing things like streaming, League takes an old school perspective:. “Certain things will never stop mobilizing an audience or go out of style; being a great live performer, great musician, and not being an a-hole. Sit down at your instrument or mic and create sounds that move people, and afterwords speak with them and be a warm ethical friendly person. I’ve found that people will want to help you, it’s essentially a universal recipe for success really.” He clarifies that following those steps doesn’t necessarily guarantee you success, thanks to factors like luck. The most important thing is how you channel those principles through your own particular ethos and mold in a way that fits you naturally.
GroundUp festival very much aims to be an opportunity for audiences to not only discover new bands but to fall in love with them. It allows for a lot of direct interaction between artists and attendees, organizers want you to leave the festival with a sense of eagerness around learning more about a particular band you never heard of and maybe discovering even more music after the shows are over. With its scenic venue (North Beach Bandshell) right on the beach, and a host of programming outside of the regular festival hours (including intimate brunches, workshops, and late night concerts at Nite Owl Theater downtown) you really have no excuse for missing out on this truly unique musical experience.
For more information check out the festival site.