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On the Ground at the GroundUP Music Festival, with Snarky Puppy, David Crosby and More

The GroundUP Music Festival, which just wrapped its fourth edition in Miami, aims to dissolve the barrier between musician and fan.

With a scarcity of VIP badges, famous artists mingling with festival goers, and jaw-dropping curation of unfamiliar international talent, this annual musical gathering cultivates an ethos of inclusivity.

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Credit Stella K
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David Crosby at the 2019 GroundUP Music Festival

Curated by Michael League — founder of GroundUP Music, and the bassist and bandleader of Snarky Puppy — the festival is a jamboree of sound, reaching across boundaries of style and tradition. I caught up with League after the festival, where he shared his secret formula and his vision for the future.

“I program the festival as if I’m going to watch every minute of every show,” he says.

We are trying to create a festival whose name we can trust. And if they trust the name of the festival, they don’t have to trust the name of the bands, to the point where we can bring whoever we want. And I want to move really far in this direction where in five years we won’t even announce the artists at the festival and people will just buy tickets blind, to never even say the names of the people you are going to see until they are walking onstage.

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On this supersize episode of The Checkout, we spotlight one of those vibrant lesser-known acts, the Brazilian electro-percussion unit PRD Mais, and take in some of the musical fireworks from Snarky Puppy’s sets in North Beach, where the band provided an early glimmer of its new album, Immigrance.

We’ll also hear folk icon David Crosby, whose new band features League alongside singer-songwriters Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis. Finally we’ll drop in on Snarky Puppy’s collaboration with Innov Gnawa, a Moroccan griot ensemble, in an epic festival-closing set. 

Tickets are already on sale for The 2020 GroundUP Music Festival.

Stay tuned for more music from this year’s festival on The Checkout, featuring Andrew Bird and The New York Gypsy All-Stars. Subscribe to our podcast on Apple MusicSpotifyStitcher, and Google Play.

Assistant Producer: Anthony Nieves

For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.