If you can only attend one music festival this year (which would be a shame but sometimes in life we are forced to choose), I strongly suggest Zac Brown Band‘s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, South Carolina, April 16 & 17. Before I begin with my extremely prejudicial opinion, I should probably preface this post with a few confessions: one, I don’t typically enjoy country music; and two, I’m a vegetarian. Do I want to go to Southern Ground anyway? HELL YES. (So if you love country music and delicious, perfect Southern BBQ, wouldn’t that mean you want to go even more? Obviously.)
The Marriage of Two Passions (aka The Best of Both Worlds)
Southern Ground is as much the baby of Zac Brown, lead singer and namesake of the Zac Brown Band, as his band is. Before he was a household name as the head of one of the best bands in country, Brown was also a restaurateur. Brown and his father opened “Zac’s Place” in 2004 which specialized in southern style home cookin’. The restaurant was quickly bought up by a developer, and that’s when The Zac Brown Band bought a tour bus and really dove into that whole music thing full time.
The group has never let go of their foodie roots, and helped found the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival, which is also named after Brown’s own record label. Coming from a place of food-fandom, you know this festival is going to achieve what neither a singular food festival nor your average music fest can: perfect execution of both!
Let’s be honest, music at the average food festival is typically mediocre. The food at the average music festival is more often than not an over priced total let down. Southern Ground manages to bring world-class musicians AND 5-star food to the same damn location. Plus, there are chef demonstrations alongside huge performances. Win-win-win.
Admittedly, country is not my go-to sound, and for sure, country reigns supreme at Southern Ground. That said, the festival offers plenty for music fans of almost every ilk. From the Classic Southern Rock sound of the Marshall Tucker Band, to genre-smashing new female duo Muddy Magnolias, Southern Ground brings out the bluesy, rocking, humanity-connecting tunes we all go to festivals to see. You can catch unclassified hit-makers Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Kacey Musgraves, humanitarian and entertainer Michael Franti and his group Spearhead, and many, many more. Tedeschi Trucks Band might be a great jam for the adventuresome, while Coy Bowles & the Fellowship are breathing new life into Southern Rock. And of course, Zac Brown Band are opening both days. What’s not to like? Saturday and Sunday listings can be found here.
Meat & Greet
So I no longer eat meat; that doesn’t mean I don’t know a good batch of burnt ends when I smell one (I did consume meat with great frequency and gusto for 31 years). But the food at Southern Ground doesn’t just hit all the high marks for BBQ done right and the “Chicken Fried” style we associate exclusively with the South; no, no, it goes so much further. Food vendors from the greater Charleston area are pouring in, and renowned chefs from all over the continent are being put on display in to showcase their skills as “stage box” chefs. Whether utilizing a rare breed of hog (the American Guinea Hog) as Chef Craig Diehl does, or cultivating a perfect pastry as PhD (in chemistry) and baker Nicole Crane does, you’ll get to watch your amazing eats come together before your eyes… if you can pull them away from the band on stage. You can see the full Stage Box lineup here, and the list of Food Vendors here.
Innovators in American cuisine and American music are coming together for two days of celebrating life. Nab your passes now, you can’t miss this!