A Music Lover's Paradise

My trip is all planned out. First, to Appalachia, for some old time fiddle tunes. Then it's on to Plum Branch, South Carolina to enjoy some foot-stomping gospel. Arizona is next, the home of hypnotic Navajo dance music. After that we'll head back east for an extended stay in Louisiana: zydeco in Soileau, dancehall cajun in Breaux Bridge and brass band music in New Orleans. Next up, San Juan, for some bomba and plena, and then to Africa. We'll hear music from the Yoruba culture in Nigeria and the sounds of the Tuaregs and Wodaabe tribes in Mali.

Sounds like a long and expensive trip, but it will only take 4 days and about a hundred bucks. Starting tomorrow and running through Sunday night, musicians from all those places (and many more) will converge on the Trumansburg Fairgrounds, just north of Ithaca, for the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival of Music & Dance. Headliners this year include Lucinda Williams and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. There are some familiar names to local music lovers, including Donna the Buffalo (the host band) and Bobby Henrie & the Goners. But, for me, the regulars from Louisiana make it really special. Balfa Toujours, Walter Mouton and the Scott Playboys and The Frank Family Zydeco Band come up most every year and play at least a couple times over the course of the festival. These folks are keeping important musical traditions alive and it's a rare opportunity to see them all in one place. Dancing to these bands is just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

Besides the music, Grassroots has great food and great people. The vibe is terrific. There's henna and hacky sack, toddlers and tye-dye. They prop up sheets of plywood alongside one of the fairground sheds and haul out dozens of paint cans. Anyone who wants to can have at it. Nearby is the beautiful Taughannock Creek, in case you want to cool off. If you want to check it out, day passes are available for about $40. The Saturday schedule includes all those bands from Louisiana I mentioned.

As if all that isn't enough, all proceeds benefit arts and education causes and the fight against AIDS.