The Beauty of GroundUP Music Festival Was Its Simplicity
Being a music photographer and concert promoter means that I get to see an abundance of music. I’ve always heard that you can become jaded to the music scene after doing it for so many years. I comprehend the possibility of that becoming a reality, but there are still moments that just absolutely blow me away. GroundUP was undoubtedly one of those moments for me.
Nowadays big festivals have become immensely energetic visually. The beauty of the GroundUP Music Festival was the simplicity of it all. It was held at North Beach Bandshell. I’ve never experienced the North Beach side of Miami before, but what a contrasting pace and vibe it has, compared to South Beach! Very relaxing, quiet, and peaceful. The venue is oceanfront and located in the heart of North Beach.
There were two stages set up. No lasers. No visuals. No flashy anything. Just the beach. Two stages. Lights. Sound. And an incredible breeze from the ocean that graced us the entire weekend. The music never overlapped. It seemed they wanted all of their audience to attend every act they had planned for the festival. As soon as one act stopped, the other stage would start, and the audience would shuffle over to the other.
The audience for this festival is what made the event for me. Many concerts and festivals these days are undeniably safe havens for the drug culture. People staying up all hours of the night, going for as long and hard as they can. The party aspect is carefully woven into the music, and people are mostly there to have a good time and catch some good tunes. The majority of this festival seemed to be the exact opposite. This crowd was respectful and attentive. You could tell they were all extreme music lovers if you paid attention to their claps and woos.
They were not like most audiences that would clap for the standard energetic and built-up moments. They rewarded subtle, technically difficult moments that I as a non-musician didn’t understand at times. They woke up early and participated in workshops. They were respectful and clean and overall created an atmosphere like no other festival I’ve ever been to.
GroundUP Festival is produced by GroundUP Music (which is Snarky Puppy’s and Michael League’s label) and The Rhythm Foundation. The music for this festival was carefully chosen, and it consisted of only the top players in the industry from head to toe. It was apparent at every turn. The mornings and afternoons consisted of players from various bands sitting down and teaching workshops (drumming, song-writing, bass, percussion, etc.). The audience would show up bright and early and sit and quietly listen, ask questions, and participate when called for.
The music was the most culturally diversified that I’ve ever seen in one given festival, but the one thing that tied them ALL together was their level of playing. Because of this, the all-star jams of musicians were next-level. There was never a dull moment. You could go from hearing Andrew Bird whistling over the crowd to hearing the sacred Moroccan chants and drumming of Innov Gnawa. The cross-cultural friction was electric.
I can easily say this was the best festival I’ve ever been to, and I’m excited to see where they go from here. Hats off to you, GroundUP!