Snarky Puppy performing at the Ground Up Music Festival Saturday. On the foreground, Michael League, bass, left and Chris McQueen, guitar.
Photo courtesy of Luis Olazábal /The Rhythm Foundation ©

You annoy the goddess of weather at your own peril.

After some people (I don’t want to mention any names here …) humble-bragged about the setting, the mild temperature and the light breeze on a Friday evening in February, it was almost a given that Saturday would be cloudy, windy, and with periods of light rain and drizzle. Still, the groveling and the apologies apparently were accepted because the skies cleared for the latter part of the afternoon into the evening. Lesson learned. It won´t happen again.


Snarky Puppy performs at some point every day of the festival and Saturday’s set mostly served to debut music from the group’s upcoming album Immigrance. The new songs, while still sourced in broadly varied traditions and featuring smart arranging, were mostly anchored by uniform, steady grooves setting the table for improvisers. On a first impression, they sounded almost minimalist in comparison to the suite-like, thru-composed pieces the band is known for.


Snarky Puppy performing at the Ground Up Music Festival Saturday. 
Photo courtesy of Luis Olazábal /The Rhythm Foundation ©

That said and reflecting the diversity in the makeup of the band, the music still had global underpinnings. To address Snarky Puppy’s sources is to end up with a meaningless catalog. Suffice to say that Saturday’s set evoked at different times Middle Eastern music, Brazilian baiaos, Uruguayan candombe, and Herbie Hancock’s electric sound from the 70s, Moog and all.

The better festivals are great settings for discovery. On our way to, or from, a set by our favorite artist or group, we might find an unexpected pleasure. Suddenly, here’s an act we’ve never heard before and we probably would not have discovered on our own because, well, they live in a different musical neighborhood and we just don’t go there.


La Perla at the Park Stage, Saturday. Photo by Fernando González ©

That was the kind of treat waiting for the crowd at the satellite Park Stage at the end of the set by Snarky Puppy at the Bandshell. Here we found La Perla, an all-female, alt-traditional music group from Bogota, Colombia. Singing in Spanish and featuring two gaitas (an indigenous oboe-like instrument from the Caribbean Coast of Colombia), drums and shakers, La Perla offered an engaging, stripped-down set of Afro-Colombian music styles. This was not an ethnomusicological presentation. It was tradition alive and with an edge, highly charged and fun.

As it turned out, the short walk from the Bandshell to the Park Stage brought us from electric, cosmopolitan hipness to the unplugged wisdom and dusty beauty of a celebration in a small town in Colombia.

Music often provides us with mind-opening armchair travel but still, this was special.