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Virginia Key GrassRoots Music Festival: Y’all come back real soon now ya hear?

February 16, 2012

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of being involved with the Virginia Key GrassRoots Music Festival. Like most things lately, my involvement came about haphazardly and the end results exceeded what few expectations I had.

The festival first popped up on my radar after some local bands started talking about their participation on Facebook, (Raffa and Rainer, Juke, ArtOfficial, etc) and I figured it would be an opportunity to hang out in the great outdoors and listen to all my favorite hometown acts in one place without having to trek across state lines. Of course, I ended up thinking of inquiring about press access requirements literally the minute after I buy my 4 day pass. Luckily though, I was able to get in touch with the organizers down here in Miami and help them out by bringing some Miami flavor to the festival in the form of live-painting artists (Kazilla, Remote, Torek, Brian Butler, GG, and Eva Ruiz).

This post isn’t about what I did for them though, it’s about what they did (or are trying to do) for this city. I have to preface the rest of this post by saying that I’m usually the first to scoff at any shade of tie-dye wearing hippy, but like with every other group of people, I try to think generally and act specifically. That being said, this festival really showed me the potential for people to come together and do something great without having to be motivated by star power or greenbacks.

In all the interactions I had, both with festival volunteers/staff and regular GrassRoot attendees who came from afar, there was a sense of camaraderie uncommon in a Miami setting. As if you could leave your wallet with someone while you went to the bathroom and come back to find them and all your money still there (not that I’d advise trying that.) The staff at the food and beer tents were happy and helpful, and served great products to boot. Not to mention the fact that all the food was done “in-house” by the festival organizers, which worked to their advantage from what I could tell as far as quality at least.

Now I hear those of you in the audience saying “Screw the food and the ambiance, how was the music at this MUSIC festival?” First of all, tone down the attitude there; second of all, it was great. It could be said (or at least it was said to me by someone who knows their stuff) that the quality of the sound coordination wasn’t 100% up to snuff. There was some bleeding between stages, where you’d sometimes hear the music from a different stage floating in while you were at a particular tent/stage. Honestly though, I only noticed this at a couple shows during the entire 4 day period and as an amateur music appreciator I was able to enjoy each show I went to. Even in the very few cases where it happened, especially during the daytime sets, it actually ended up being a really cool experience when one band’s music would blend into another’s and ended up complimenting it.

The only thing I was really disappointed with was the Miami presence throughout the weekend. For an event where the organizers really went above and beyond (and I can tell you that first-hand) to integrate local bands and culture, it was such a let-down that more people didn’t come take advantage of it; especially at a ticket price of around $30 for a day pass. Every day I was there I had an amazing time, and honestly consider my $100 well-spent, regardless of the fact that I didn’t end up needing to spend it. Aside from getting to see some local bands I haven’t seen perform in a while, I also got to discover some great new bands from out of town (the two that really stood out for me were Driftwood and Rubblebucket.) Beyond the music, I was introduced to Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, a venue that truly let’s you enjoy the best of Miami complete with a beach to stroll down while taking in the sunset over the bay.

This is really my Paul Revere’s “the British are coming” to you Miami. To all of you who complain about the cultural wasteland we live in; to those who thumb their noses at the dives and less-than-savory establishments and then complain that there’s no good music scene; to the people who crowd Midtown hotspots while secretly yearning for the day when it topples over the edge into South Beachdom; cliches are cliches for a reason and so I leave you with “You reap what you sow” so get to planting and stop complaining about the work that comes with harvest season. Otherwise we’ll be doomed to life in a city associated only with the shitshow known as Ultra, reflecting the scene the world believes to be Miami’s true essence.


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