Grammy Award winning Steve Earle is a celebrated Texas-bred songwriter, author and actor renowned for his hard-living ways and heartfelt political activism. His unique roots-rock country sound lands with a bouncy twang and a brawny thud, with impassioned lyrics that always stand up for the little guy. With forays into blues and bluegrass, his songs have been recorded by everyone from Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings to Travis Tritt and Vince Gill. Backed by his long time hard-kicking backup band The Dukes, he’s back on the road supporting his swaggering new no-excuses country album “So You Wannabe an Outlaw.”
New Orleans-based sisters Leah and Chloe Smith play their own interpretation of Appalachian music, merging art with activism while blending folk, soul, hip hop, classical, southern gospel and more into their own sizzling sound. They tear into the music with sensual prowess, boasting soulful and poetic vocals and eclectic instrumentation. They bring to the world new stories and songs sculpted to embody our human journey and our global community.
Chicano Batman blends soulful music from Central and South America to make tropicalia for the 21st century. Hailing from L.A., they draw from a broad range of '60s and early '70s Brazilian bossa nova and samba, slow-jam soul, spacey psychedelia, surf-rock cumbia, rumba, and Norteño to create their addictive sonic brew. Their funky, bass-driven grooves are perfectly complemented with retro ruffled tuxedo shirts from a thrift store near you.
Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West-African funk & disco and by modern post-punk & electro. Weird and wonderful Nigerian poetic imagery set against an edgy Afro-Electro soundscape produces a wildly diverse mix of global sounds focusing on liberation, power and beauty.
In a post-modern world of skyscrapers and handheld computers, Driftwood looks beneath the concrete and circuitry to find their sound. Based in Binghamton, NY, their unique blend of old-time folk with modern and world music features blazing fiddle action, boundaryless banjo, booming upright bass and gleeful guitar alongside a scrap wood kick box, clapping hands and stomping feet.
From Cajun to country, reggae to improv, zydeco boogie to roots-rock riot, festival host band Donna the Buffalo aims for the best of what music has to offer. Their singular sound features upbeat grooves, inspirational lyrics, memorable hooks, superb musicianship and an overwhelming sense of celebration. They’re an American institution – socially conscious yet eternally danceable. Donna the Buffalo started the GrassRoots Festival over 25 years ago outside of Ithaca, NY to raise money for local charities and showcase the sounds of their friends and inspirations from around the world. The band features multi-instrumentalist Tara Nevins, guitarist Jeb Puryear, keyboardist Dave McCracken, bassist Kyle Spark and drummer Mark Raudabaugh.
Born into a family of famous lap steel guitar players, including his grandfather Henry Nelson who invented the “Sacred Steel” style, Atlanta-based AJ Ghent is a stormy and swaggering frontman who sings funky tales of beauty, heartbreak, and betrayal. His guitar playing is a masterful mix of Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Ben Harper that floods the stage with energy and lights up his bright summer rock sound.
Boston-based singer/songwriter Ryan Montbleau plays a soulful mix of rock, folk, R&B, Americana and funk, offering up tough but tender rockers and a soulful, rootsy brand of barroom blues rock. Contemplative and richly emotive, the relentlessly traveling troubadour has a true gift for melody, and his songs of happiness and heartbreak draw you in with soul-gripping lyrics and a powerful sound.
Fusing elements of Afrobeat, dub, spacey jazz and psychedelic funk, the 10-piece ensemble aptly called Big Mean Sound Machine brings together the musical languages of West Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America to create a lush bed of rhythm and harmony. Storming out of Ithaca, NY, their shows are a fiery exhibition of artfully conceived dance music filled with luscious horns and heavy beats. They're a polyrhythmic monster that stimulates both body and mind - a complex sonic force with a raw edginess and a crisp and constant groove.
Born near Lake Victoria in Uganda, Herbert Kinobe is a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer known for his inspired synthesis of ancient African roots music and global fusion. His powerful World-roots-dance sound showcases the diversity of traditional African instruments while keeping his ears open to the sounds of the world at large. With rich, mellow percussion and a sound that’s both celebratory and relaxed, he''ll bring you on a special journey across Africa with a gentle and powerful acoustic music.
Arson Daily stands out for a myriad of reasons, whether it be their rich storytelling or their infectious melodies and grooves, it’s hard not to find something you love within their music. Their live sets are wildly energetic with the audience stomping alongside, lost in the retro rock ‘n’ roll. Their tracks perfectly capture the feeling of a fleeting youth—a divine mixture of sentimentality and yearning, packaged as danceable—leaving you begging for more long after the last note rings out.
Asheville's Ashley Heath plays original soul Americana music, with velvety vocals, bluesy guitar and a folk twang. She draws from a range of musical styles to showcase her contemplative lyrics and soulful picking. Mountain Xpress readers even voted her the #1 songwriter in town!
The Big Fat Gap loves Shakori Hills! Although the band has gone through a few changes since their performance at the first Shakori, their current lineup has built a reputation for expert musicianship, tight vocal harmonies, excellent songwriting and engaging performances. Known for their superb brand of compelling Carolina bluegrass, the BFG's impressive artistry demonstrates why they remain at the top of the Triangle bluegrass scene!
Caique Vidal is an accomplished percussionist and songwriter from Salvador da Bahia, the center of historic African culture in Brazil. Batuque means "to drum" and this unique band delivers a fiery performance that delivers riveting dance grooves with a modern style, including the rhythms of samba, reggae, salsa, bachata, pop, rock and bossa nova. Their live performances are pure passion and energy!
The Cane Creek Cloggers are a performing dance troupe that have specialized in Appalachian clog dancing since 1980. Hailing from Orange County, NC, they choreograph all of their own routines, with innovations in the realm of old-time steps and figures. They share the goal of preserving the heritage of old-time clogging, flatfoot and buckdancing, while exuding the joyful energy and infectious rhythms at the root of it all.
Hailing from Deep Gap, NC, Cane Mill Road preserves the traditional mountain music they were raised on while boldly tackling spirited interpretations of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot and more. Aged just 14 to 19, they play bluegrass, old-time, newgrass, Americana and folk with high-energy performances featuring an eclectic mix of complex originals and classic standards.
Sarah Osborne McCombie grew up in the Piedmont of North Carolina and was captivated by the five-string banjo music that originated from the mountains of the Carolinas and Virginia. Together with husband Austin McCombie, they formed the acoustic duo Chatham Rabbits to spread the sound of the old-time and folk music that they love.
Hailing from Folly Beach, SC, Dangermuffin is a rootsy Americana jam-rock quartet consisting of acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass and drums. With a genre-hopping sound ranging from cool ballads to spirited ska beats, they expertly mingle electric energy with raw acoustic tenderness and insightful lyrics.
Dom Flemons, known as the American Songster, is a world-renowned, Grammy Award-winning folk artist, slam poet, and founding member of the old-time string ensemble Carolina Chocolate Drops. He plays a wide range of styles, including ragtime, Piedmont blues, spirituals, Southern traditional, string band, fife and drum, and jug band music. He sings and plays guitar, banjo, bones, harmonica and more, mixing traditional musical forms with a contemporary approach to create new sounds all his own.
Dr. Bacon is a genre-defying Appalachian soul-grass band from Boone playing an infectiously danceable blend of energetic rock ‘n’ roll. Their sound is a rollicking amalgam of bluegrass, soul, funk, hip hop, blues, jazz, folk and more, with traditional bluegrass instrumentation bolstered by harmonicas, horns, jaw-harps and kazoos. Their unique and multicultural sound is a joyous shout from the mountaintops!
dub Addis combines the intricate melodies of their Ethiopian homeland with the rhythms of reggae to create an original sound that moves both the heart and mind. With soulful sounds embedded in the polyrhythms of Africa, their energizing songs are dedicated to bringing a positive message to the masses and uniting people of all backgrounds in a celebration of life.
Ellis Dyson & the Shambles are a 6-piece swing-ragtime band from Chapel Hill known for their whiskey-soaked, foot-stompin’ sound and wildly explosive live shows. Their old-timey front porch vibe takes traditional Appalachian music to the next level with masterful fiddle, banjo, saxophone, kazoo and more. Bursting with exuberance and effortless expertise, their playfully hootin’ and hollerin’ folk rock is guaranteed to bring the ruckus!
The Fritz is an explosive soul-driven rock band from Asheville serving up a powerful dance party bursting with mighty vocals, climactic solos, and tight grooves. These funky masters of improvisation create high-energy songs with a skillful balance of tight musical interplay, top-flight musicianship, deep rhythms and thoughtful lyrics.
Greg Humphreys has consistently reinvented himself, from the enlightened college rocker of Dillon Fence to the blue-eyed soul man of Hobex to a folk-leaning solo artist. He's now returned to electric guitar with a magnificent trio with abundant instrumental chops and words that hit like bohemian gospel in a voice that’s pure Stax/Muscle Shoals heaven. Whether playing genre-blending soul, blues, country or more, his sincere emotion and bountiful heart always shines through.
Asheville’s I, Star plays “supernova folk-hop”, where singer/songwriter melodies meet conscious hip-hop lyrical flows with visionary consequences. Singer Aradhana Silvermoon’s angelic melodies and MC/poet Truth-I Manifest’s potent parlance portray powerful messages of personal and global spiritual transformation, with influences of reggae, blues, world, rock and electronica accenting their danceable essence.
Joshua “(J) Rowdy” Rowsey is North Carolina's next big thing in hip hop, blending elements of jazz and rock into his impassioned sound. He's also an actor, improviser and writer featured on NPR and more. Together with Chapel Hill-based group the NightShift, they were nominated for the 2017 Carolina Music Awards for Best Hip Hop Group.
Raleigh-based singer/songwriter James Olin Oden takes you on a timeless musical journey that spans the globe. His vocals are accompanied by infectious rhythms that hearken back to multiple dance traditions including Appalachian, Flamenco and Celtic. Fast-paced, foot stomping tunes are followed by heart-rending airs and ballads, and in all cases his music cries out, "Let's dance!"
Combining Piedmont blues with bluegrass, folk, swing and ragtime, Durham-based singer/songwriter Jon Shain crosses rich musical terrain, taking us on a breezy ride through the history of American music. With authentic Southern seasoning and country compassion, his warm acoustic fingerpicking and charmingly insightful blues-influenced lyrics are executed exceptionally. His approach is equal parts humorous, love struck and world-weary, all with a homespun flair.
Durham-based Kamara Thomas writes astro-religious songspells and hypnotic musical tales culled from ancient songlines and dreamtimes. Channeling dusty Americana, rootsy folk and classic rock, she spins hazy narrative paeans to America’s epic landscape and mythic past. Her bewitching live performances incorporate intricate vocal harmonies, Native American shamanism, cosmic trance-inducing jams, mountain songs and spellbinding stories of the fabled Old West.
The Mastersons are a husband-and-wife alt-country duo raised in Texas and relocated to Brooklyn. Their sweet melodies, spunky wit and dazzling guitar and fiddle playing perfectly complement their big-hearted lyrics and sweetly intertwined harmonies to create a perfect soundtrack for warm nights and lazy days.
Come explore the amazing world of Paperhand Puppet Intervention! NC's imaginative puppeteering troupe uses cardboard, papier mache, trash and a variety of puppetry styles to help promote social change, peace and hope for a better world. Their magical environmental program includes giant puppets, masks and music. Join the puppets in a parade around the festival grounds on Saturday and be prepared to let your spirits soar!
Accordionist Preston Frank has been laying down his blazing bayou boogie and fearless yet traditional Louisiana zydeco for decades. His trademark swamp groove is a combination of Cajun, funk and soul, cooking up a smooth and flowing Creole sound that instantly makes you move. The jumping rhythms and festive vibes rest in his hands while his fingers work magic on the diatonic accordion. Firmly planted in his musical roots for over fifty years, Preston Frank remains an important force in preserving traditional zydeco and Creole French music.
Hatched in the heart of Hillsborough, The Shoaldiggers (formerly Coleslaw) is a 9-piece swampgrass piratebilly band playing danceable, down and dirty, rockin' Americana. The tunes are fun and full of energy, with an edgy sound ranging from old-fashioned honky-tonk to modern Southern rock. Although delicious to the ears, please do not eat the band.
World nomads, Sri & Joakin perform infectiously blissful Kirtan and Indian Ragas on harmonium, karatalas and other traditional folk instruments. Their call-and-response Kirtans sound like a wild village shin-dig, with everyone singing and dancing like no ones watching. Whether new to chanting, or a seasoned yogi, join the family fun, weaving ancient Sanskrit mantras with One Love classics from Marley and other modern-day peacemakers.
Hailing from central NC, Swift Creek's addictive sound features strong traditional and progressive bluegrass influences, a touch of country and a healthy dose of folk. Driving guitar and bass support their tightly-woven three-part harmonies, punctuated with thrilling mandolin, fiddle and banjo solos.
Hailing from Snow Camp, NC, the Tan and Sober Gentlemen pioneer a sound they call "Celtic punk-grass." It's a raw and unfiltered blend of hard-driving, danceable roots music from both sides of the pond, delivered with a punk edge and whisky-fueled abandon. They're famous for their rip-roaring live shows, featuring all manner of shenanigans, audience engagement and tremendous energy.
Miami’s experimental reggae band Uma Galera is a seven-piece powerhouse playing Latin-tinged grooves laced with rock, funk, ska and more to create what they call “world soul music.” Their fitting name means “one crowd”, as their bouts of musical improvisation inspire unity and grow good vibes.
Violet Bell is a folk-soul duo from Durham weaving a jazzy blend of Americana with classical and gypsy roots. Consisting of the stunning siren call of singer/guitarist Lizzy Ross and the spellbinding multi-instrumental charms of Omar Ruiz-Lopez, their energy is fiery, intimate and intuitive. They're a dynamic musical force, playing emotionally evocative songs with raw power and divine beauty.
Eclectic Durham jazz collective ZOOCRÜ fuses hip hop, R&B, soul and gospel into a unique sound that's equal parts anthem and affirmation. With lyrics addressing love, race and cultural barriers alongside brilliant instrumentation, they take listeners on a wild journey through the world of American music. Intelligent, bold and unifying, their progressive grooves are designed to honor the fallen and heal the broken.