The energy was high in Trumansburg for the final weekend of Grassroots Live. The shows were switched to the Grandstand Stage at the fairgrounds due to damage to the infield stage but that didn’t keep the people or performers present from having a great time. Friday night brought two Grassroots Festival veterans, Jimkata and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Saturday 90s rock group The Spin Doctors graced the stage.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad opened Friday night with powerful and unifying reggae vibes. The band’s traditional sound was layered with extra horns, percussion, and vocals from local Ithaca talent. A couple of dancers joined in for a majority of the show who mirrored and increased the joyful atmosphere. Lead singer, Chris O’Brian spoke about the power of reggae music in spreading from Jamaica to corners of the world like Rochester and Ithaca and bringing people together. The whole set contained originals and covers weaved together seamlessly. A highlight of the show was a bouncy rendition of Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party” that seemed to kick the crowd into high gear.
The anticipation and excitement for Jimkata’s return to the stage was palpable. The Ithaca born band went on hiatus in 2016 after treating audiences to dynamic sets at festivals and opening for bands like Papadosio. There were many people talking about the last time they saw Jimkata and many were decked out in band merch that they had clearly had for a while. Lead vocalist and guitarist Evan Friedell walked out to the stage to adjust his pedals and was greeted at the front of the stage by what seemed like old friends.
On the heels of their new album Bonfires the band launched into a set full of synth and vocal melodies and washed the crowd in light and sound. Weaving between new songs and recognizable classics, the audience never seemed to stop moving. One would have found it hard to not dance around a bit during the sequences of dreamy rhythmic jams. Jimkata always brought a cerebral experience kept lively by clean locked in musicianship and an emotionally fueled light show. This set was no different and felt like a triumphant return.
Bred in NYC, The Spin Doctors had an extremely successful run in the 90s and have continued to put on one hell of a show. Lead singer Chris Barron charismatically introduced each song with anecdotes and banter that kept the audience engaged. The humorous interplay between bassist Mark White and Chris during the banter kept things light. Mark would roll his eyes, shoot rubber bands at Chris, and even took a seat and pretended to make a phone call during a particularly long story.
Musically, the band still holds up after all these years. The vocals sound honed in and each member of the band excels at their craft. Chris’s voice carries the familiar tunes, guitarist Aaron Comess brings clean classic rock tone and licks to the stage, Mark’s funky and energetic style is nestled perfectly in with the rest of the sound, and drummer Eric Schenkman carries the band on his hard hitting beats. The band played their hits such as “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” and “Two Princes” and even played some new material. The audience went nuts and sang along whenever the hits were played but both jammed out moments and new songs were equally as danceable and welcomed.
As the lights went down at the end of the show, the last attendees of the year at Grassroots left the fairgrounds smiling. It was clear in the smiles and stories of the past few weekends that Trumansburg was treated to some wonderful moments of light and sound in July.