Word of [South], a festival of literature and music, is a unique blend of writers and musicians and an exploration of the relationship between the two disciplines. Beginning with our first festival in 2015, the festival showcases authors who write about music, musicians who also are authors, authors and musicians trading places, and everything in between. We’re especially proud of our “mu-aushups”: authors and musicians appearing together (some of whom have never met), as well as our cookbook authors, kids programming and musical performances of every genre--we’ve got gospel and HipHop, pop and bluegrass, jazz and country, Americana and R&B. Bring the whole family, and come see what’s down South!
Released in July 2002, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots remains the commercial high-water mark in The Flaming Lips’ wild four-decade journey, giving the GRAMMY® award-winners their first RIAA certified Gold Record. As the eagerly awaited follow-up to 1999’s masterwork, The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi proved that singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd had yet another masterpiece in them.
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a sci-fi-themed quasi-concept album that cast The Flaming Lips’ most playful and profound songs to date in a wondrous swirl of ambient electronics, digital beats, and psychedelic splendor. The record yielded the band’s top-streamed track, “Do You Realize??” (a timeless stargazing anthem that, in 2009, was named the Official Rock Song of the band’s native Oklahoma) and also landed the Lips their first-ever Grammy Award® win for the cosmic album-closing instrumental “Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon (Utopia Planitia).” The Lips will be showcasing the album in its entirety at this year’s Word of South.
Rising Appalachia is an internationally touring Americana and world folk ensemble steeped in the soul of the South. It is the brainchild of Atlanta-raised sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith, rooted in the traditional folk music of their family, storytelling, songcathing, grassroots activism, lyrical prowess, and a multi-instrumental tapestry of their melodic ensemble. The band’s unique sound is shaped by Leah and Chloe’s soulful vocals, simple instrumentation, and seamless harmonies, unique to siblings raised in folk traditions. They are joined by a host of talented musicians who bring their own cultural influences, enriching the blend of folk, world, and urban music that defines the smooth sound of Rising Appalachia. Featuring full-time members David Brown (upright bass, baritone guitar), Duncan Wickle (fiddle, cello), and Biko Casini (drums and world percussion), plus a host of special guests, expect to be swooned into a tapestry of silky sounds. Their event this year at Word of South is co-sponsored by Opening Nights at Florida State University.
The Blind Boys of Alabama are recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music. Celebrated by The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and The Recording Academy/GRAMMYs with Lifetime Achievement Awards, inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and winners of five GRAMMY® Awards, they have attained the highest levels of achievement in a career that spans over 70 years. The Blind Boys are known for crossing multiple musical boundaries with their remarkable interpretations of everything from traditional gospel favorites to contemporary spiritual material by songwriters such as Eric Clapton, Prince and Tom Waits. They have appeared on recordings with many artists, including Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Susan Tedeschi, Ben Harper, Patty Griffin and Taj Mahal. Recently, the group’s decades-long mission of spreading light and love has taken on even deeper context, as they’ve reckoned with the loss of two of their own, Paul Beasley and Benjamin Moore, both longtime members of the Blind Boys tight-knit family. The new album ‘Echoes Of The South’ is released in their honor – as well as for the group’s recently-retired leader Jimmy Carter – and keeps the Blind Boys’ long-held mission statement at its core: “As long as everybody gives all that they have to give and we sing songs that touch the heart, we’ll live on forever.” The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform a musical set at Word of South and also discuss their new book, Spirit of the Century, written with Preston Lauterbach.
Lauren Groff is the award-winning and bestselling author of the celebrated short story collections, Delicate Edible Birds and Florida, a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as five novels- The Monsters of Templeton, shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, Arcadia, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, Fates and Furies, a finalist for the National Book Award and Amazon’s pick for Best Book of the Year, Matrix and Vaster Wilds. Groff’s work has appeared in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Atlantic, and in several of the annual The Best American Short Stories anthologies. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two sons.