NiteTalk: Michael Hansen Gives Us a Snapshot of GrassRoots Fest

Michael Hansen R

You dig kickass ska/punk? You've got it. (Fishbone). How 'bout throwback to the future bluegrass? You've got that too.(Del McCoury Band) Solid Gold soul? Check. (Chaka Khan) Cajun zydecko? Check. (BeauSoleil) Enlightened hip hop? Check again. (Arrested Development) In fact, no matter what you're musical preference, there will be at least one check in its box. It's the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, which takes place Thursday through Sunday on beautiful Virginia Key. Key man Michael Hansen fills us in.  

What's the origin story behind Grassroots? Upstate New York has long had a vibrant music scene, and the founders of Grassroots, who are musicians themselves, wanted to start a festival that would celebrate both the local musical output and introduce musicians from around the country and around the world. It also began as a vehicle to help the community -- AIDS was striking down many people and early on the festival was trying to help fight the epidemic. Later it began focusing on helping the community, focusing on cultural awareness and arts in the schools.Then in 2003 another festival site was found in North Carolina, and we started a second Grassroots.

Who's in on this thing with you? We have a wide range of folks who help make this festival happen. There is a core team that organizes the festival logistically from start to finish, as well as many friends who help us build the stages, put up the tents, and run the sound. We also have a strong group of volunteers.

What made you decide to bring it to Virginia Key? The New York festival is in the summer; in North Carolina we have a festival in the fall and the spring. It has long been the intention to have one festival per season and Miami just seemed like the right place to have a winter festival. Miami is in a way what our festival is -- a concentrated area that includes many different ethnic and cultural groups...

With that in mind we looked for a possible site for the festival. Virginia Key Beach was suggested and it immediately seemed like the right place. It's close to the city, but it's still an escape from the city. It was also only beach where segregated classes could swim, so it seemed just right for our Grassroots Festival.

Can you name a few of each nights' headliners? Thursday we have Arrested Development and Donna The Buffalo (our house band)... Friday we have Chaka Khan, Jim Lauderdale and Fishbone... Saturday we have Del McCoury and Immortal Technique... and on Sunday Donna The Buffalo with friends, Preston Frank and his Zydeco Family Band, Rbble Bcket and Crazy Fingers.

Isn't there also a strong local component? There are lots of local bands: Raffa and Rainer, Locos Por Juana, Suenalo, Bill Kelly, ArtOfficial, Mishka and more. Plus The Florida Beer Company is providing the beer for the festival, Emerge Miami is leading our "love parade" and Raffa & Rainer performed and talked at a local school through our Roots in the Schools organization

How'd you decide who to book for the program? We wanted a good mix. We wanted the best of the local scene, and we feel like we have that. We wanted to make sure and invite some of our favorite bands from the other festivals and we have that. As for the headliners,.Arrested Development is a great "festival" band, and Chaka Khan, well, that was the feather in our cap. She's going to bring down the house!

What other kinds of surprises can folks expect to find?
This is not just a music festival. There will be lots of things happening throughout the weekend: live graffiti artists on site; dance workshops; kids activities; great food; as well as the beach access and camping....

Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance runs Thursday February 9 through Sunday February 12 at Virginia Key Beach Park. Ticket and camping information can be found here

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