To live in Miami is to live in paradise. While the rest of the country gets up at the crack of dawn to shovel their cars out of the snow and endure freezing temperatures, a mid-February beach day isn't out of the question for a South Floridian. And the organizers of GroundUp Music Festival are taking full advantage, scheduling a long weekend of great live music right next to the ocean. Grammy-winning-jazz-ensemble-turned-festival-curator Snarky Puppy will play a set all three days. Music legends David Crosby and John Medeski will hit the stage as legend-in-the-making Esperanza Spalding takes the role of GroundUp's "artist-at-large," playing each day as a guest and mentor to the festival's many talented up-and-coming artists. Here are just some of the under-the-radar artists to check out at GroundUp.
Roosevelt Collier is a Miami native, but his music has taken him on travels far from the Magic City. A regular on the festival circuit, Collier has played alongside the Allman Brothers, Lettuce, and many other jam-band veterans. Collier, or "the Dr.," as he is nicknamed, lets his pedal steel guitar do all the talking onstage, whether he's a sideman or the main act. Though he came up in the gospel tradition of Miami's House of God church, the Dr.'s speedy pedal steel noodling could put any metal guitar god to shame. Look for Collier's stage-hopping to give Spalding a run for her money.
Laura Mvula is a certified tastemaker and BRIT Award-nominated artist in her native England, but she's still relatively unknown stateside. This makes it all the more surprising to have the opportunity to see her at the North Beach Bandshell. Mvula is known for the strong visuals and elaborate productions that accompany her lush, futuristic, harmony-laden music. Her set is certain to stand out in the jazz-, jam-, and fusion-focused lineup.
The jam-band scene is a tight-knit world where groups from different states and regions bump into one another often on the road during festival season. But even the most road-tested hitchhikers need a place to call home, and for Electric Kif, that place is Miami. The fusion band has been slugging it out on the local scene for the better part of a decade. The group is a staple at venues such as Lagniappe and Ball & Chain, but it's been flexing its festival muscles for some time, and GroundUp will be Electric Kif's chance to show what all those years of practice can do for a band with limitless potential.
The Funky Knuckles
The story of most successful musicians is one of endless gigs and little notoriety. These artists earn a respectable living playing music on their own projects and as sidemen, perhaps as part of a touring band or as session musicians. Odds are they won't be the next Beyoncé. But for musicians such as those in the Funky Knuckles, there's the next best thing: playing in a commercially successful band and working with superstars on the side. The Funky Knuckles sold out shows on their first European tour in 2016, and their albums Meta-Musica and New Birth have topped the iTunes jazz charts. Meanwhile, the individual band members have played on or produced projects for other artists, including Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and, yes, Beyoncé. Keys player Caleb Sean coproduced Queen B's "Best Thing I Never Had."
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House of Waters
Max ZT, hammered-dulcimer player and part of the world-music trio House of Waters, tells a story that his parents related to him about watching him fall in love with the instrument at a museum exhibition. "I walked up to it, sat underneath, and just listened to it for hours," he tells GroundUp Music, the label founded by Snarky Puppy that has signed much of the talent appearing at GroundUp Music Festival. While most of the acts at GroundUp will keep the energy level high, House of Waters will take a more meditative approach to making music. Listening to the group's sweet sounds and taking a quick dip in the ocean nearby afterward will be one way to stay centered during an exciting but hectic weekend.
GroundUp Music Festival
Noon Friday, February 10, through Sunday, February 12, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-453-2897; northbeachbandshell.com. Tickets cost $85 to $825 via eventbrite.com.