GroundUP Music Festival 2018 – Guest Review

By Phillip Watson 

Another Ground Up Music Festival in the books and another weekend of being blown away by the musicianship of the artists at this festival. This time I brought some friends that have NEVER BEEN TO A MUSIC FESTIVAL and they walked away saying they would buy next year’s ticket.

Staying true to his word Micheal League curated a lineup of every type of music you could possibly think of.  From world music, to jazz, to bluegrass, to electronic music Micheal League’s words of “I hope you go home with some music you’ve never heard of” delivered in a phenomenal way.

Here are my top 10 sets of the weekend.

  1. Snarky Puppy night 1- Not often is a band’s first set of the weekend the best but god damn did they come out of the gates firing. Feeding off the energy of the crowd after we had been amped up by Banda Magda and PARIS_MONSTER, Snarky delivered a monster set one to kick off the weekend. Even the funkmayor,  Jake Funkmayor said it was basically a greatest hits set Grown Folks, Palermo*, Whitecap, Binky, What About Me?, Shofukan
  2. JoJo Mayer/Nerve – There are very few times anymore that I am legitimately blown away by a musician but JoJo Mayer was instantly a top 5 drummer I have ever seen in my life.  Will Clark (Funk You) said to me this is the guy who is sampled the most in drum and bass music and i could immediately understand why. This guy is 55 years old and straight up dominated the kit. He alone made me believe that one day their will be a live drum and bass/electronic band that can achieve the levels and pace of a regular DJ set. UN FUCKING REAL PEOPLE
  3. Micheal League/Joshua Redman/Lionel Loueke/Larnell Lewis – If the names alone didn’t do it for you, their playing went beyond the names alone. The 4 of them had never played together before and really only met each other face to face that day and took us on a jazz journey we wont forget. This is what jazz is all about and what I hope this festival continues to do throughout the years. Incredible, incredible stuff!
  4. Underground System – The absolute shock of the weekend. Walking into late night on night one after being blown away by Snarky’s first set and the first day of madness the party didn’ skip an afrobeat. The way I’ve been explaining this band to people is picture a live band house DJ set. Constant grooves at a ridiculous pace and some guest spots by the Snarky horn section kept the entire 18th floor moving and grooving! I really hope to see this band tour soon because they can flat out play.
  5. Shaun Martin’s Go-Go Dance Party – After being my favorite set of last year the bar was set incredibly high and once again he delivered. Bringing the entourage of funk players with him Shaun Martin took us on the go go funk adventure once again throwing old school funk and rap songs one after another on top of dance friendly go go beats. One day he will hopefully make a whole tour around this because its so much god damn fun.
  6. Robert Glasper – My first time seeing him and gotta say idk why I’ve waited so long to see him. Band consisted of drums, bass, turntables, and piano and he took us on his genre bending set as night time fell on us in Miami.  Herbie Hancock’s Tell Me a Bedtime Story was my personal highlight from his set.
  7. Snarky Puppy night 3 – The closing set of the weekend (not including late night) delivered in great fashion. Shaun Martin feeling it and dancing his ass off up there had us all laughing smiling and singing along as the band we love closed us out of the unbelievable weekend.  (Semente, Tarova, Gemini, 34 Klezma, Thing of Gold, What About Me?, Sleeper, E: Quarter Master Reprise+
  8. The YAYennings Quartet- it’s 330 in the fucking morning all of us on our last bit of energy to close out the first day. I walked in expecting that same Snarky funk we all love, and what we got was just some gold ole fashion dirty bebop jazz. The back and forward play of Jay Jennings and Bob Reynolds were the perfect ending notes to an EPIC day one.
  9. Weedie Braimah and the Hands of Time – African music with MonoNeon on bass is something I’ve been missing all my life lol. Great way to spend the afternoon dancing away in the Miami heat. Also having some legit African instruments and 4 different percussion players on stage never hurts 😉
  10. Knower late night – I’ll be the first to admit I actually had to walk away from their festival set it was just a strange transition from the Joshua Redman set into Snarky then into the crazy fast funk of Knower but we said what the fuck and gave them another chance in the late night and man oh man did they deliver. The crowd was like putty in their hand as we followed band leader and drummer Louis Cole on every crazy beat he delivered. I’m sure my ATL family is having a blast with them right now down at Aisle 5.

Micheal League said “I hope you guys feel like this is just a backyard party” and for 2 years straight it has felt this way with smiles on everyone’s face and mind blowing music. Till next year GroundUp Family.