Orange Blossom Jamboree: In Florida, OBJ is the Way We Say FAM
There was a meme on the interwebs that said, and I’m probably paraphrasing here: “In Florida, OBJ is the way we say FAM.”
That’s OBJ as in Orange Blossom Jamboree, an annual four-day orgy of Florida music (OK, there was this one Georgia guy). OBJ is a magnificent family gathering of musical talent (although it would honestly take at least three weekends to include ALL the Florida musicians and groups).
With any endeavor of this size, there is always a collection of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good: the hideous weather forecast from earlier in the week continued to improve as Thursday drew closer, and the only significant rain occurred early Friday with only minor affects to the schedule. Also, the large awning at the Sunshine Stage was a blessed relief. The bad: with four stages, you were bound to miss somebody or some legendary part of a set or something. The ugly: traffic coming in Thursday morning and afternoon was snarled for some time, with long waits for quite a few. Surely that glitch will be worked out for OBJ 8.
The schedule was staggered so that — technically, with a golf cart or new running shoes — you could have seen everybody. Often, the decision was: first half of this set, second half of that, OR, hear this set, miss that one. So, up front, a list of sets I missed that I truly regret.
 Ajeva (Thursday). Everyone said they killed it (because they do every time they get on stage). I could hear part of it while checking out Flat Land and the Bath Salt Zombies.  Leisure Chief (Friday). I thought I understood the rain-revised schedule, but I was, as is often the case, wrong. I only got to hear the last song; I wanted to hear this set because I am in the process of reviewing their superb new album, King of Nothing.
 Bells & Robes (Friday silent disco). I really like these guys, but we ran out of gas.  Dunedin Brewery House Band. This excellent collective has some of my favorite musicians from a number of great bands. We had to fit lunch in someplace!
There were others as well, but I did see part or all of 47 performances, so there’s that. In addition, MusicFestNews sent one our largest teams to OBJ: writer Mandi Nulph and photographers Brian Hensley, Matt Hillman, David Lee and John Phillips. We have OBJ smothered and covered!
I arrived later than planned but assumed I would still have time to get set up and be able to see Trigger City Trio. The traffic jam determined otherwise. I also missed Amber Lynn Nichol and Harmonica Man and the Sawgrass Band with the affable Trey Miller. We could hear American Song Box as we finished setting up. I was anxious to hear Endless Flow. This wonderfully eclectic group has undergone several recent personnel changes, and I think this was one of their first outings with the revised lineup. They were playing on the Dunedin Brewery Big Cypress Stage.
They were terrific! What a great way to kick off (my) OBJ with a bang! Lead guitarist Nathan Sly, who also plays trumpet, Sam Adwell, guitar, and John Demeter on bass remain from the last lineup. Mark Mayea (Ajeva) was there on keyboards, with Todd Overton on drums. And Kyla Rothrock was handling the vocals along with Sly. And nobody was able to keep Jimmy Rector off the stage all weekend; he sat in on percussion.
They jumped right into it, and from the very first notes it was apparent that the band was hitting a new level and that they were raising the bar for the rest of the weekend. There are many culprits in that bar-raising, but blame Endless Flow first.
Suddenly, Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris (Come Back Alice, Holey Miss Moley) jumped up with Rector. I smiled at Ajeva’s Travis Young, who grinned as he said: “NOW it’s a party!” They blew up a great cover of Snarky Puppy’s “Shofukan,” Mayea going nuts on the keys. An original, “Illusions,” led into “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond,” with Skyler Golden (more Ajeva!) shredding on guitar.
So, yeah, blame Endless Flow. Este Loves continued to fan the flames with a superb set of her own, again with greater depth than I’ve heard from her band before. Brad Elliott had the drums locked down tight, and the Rev. Funky D sounded great on keys. From the opening notes of “I Want You to Get Inside My Mind” to the last, Este, her sister and band were on “Fire.” And the stage invasion didn’t hurt, either, with Trey Miller and even more Ajeva (Reed Skahill). Credit Sean Hartley for blistering this entire set on guitar.
We had wandered to the Sunshine Stage to check things out, and psychedelic tripsters Free the People were loaded with great prog rock. I cannot wait to see this band again. We also stopped in to see the best-dressed man at OBJ. That would, of course, be Dean Johanesen, performing on the Bath Salt Zombies’ Cirque du Zombe Stage. I have enjoyed him on CD, but this was kicked way up, too. It’s an OBJ thing. You might not understand… unless you’ve been there. I particularly dug “The Wizard of Menlo Park.”
Somehow, I had never seen Kaleigh Baker before, so it was about damn time! The Groove Orient has been working with her a lot, and they sounded great backing her powerful blues belting, tremedous depth in her voice. Meanwhile, Row Jomah was having a ball on the back stage, starting with “Tell Me” and roaring straight on through. Nobody was able to keep percussionist Dave Gerulat off stages, either. Partway through the set comprised mostly of originals, Joe Roma invited the ubiquitous Christian Ryan and Sarah “Mama Bone” Phillips on stage — baritone saxophone and trombone!
“Choke,” from their great album Cat People, suddenly yielded to a simply joyous cover of “Call Me Al” that found its way back to “Choke.” And they closed with The Dave Matthews Band tune “Two-Step.” Two interesting aspects. First, this song sounded great with a sonic lead guitar, thanks to Mel Walsh. Second, I could actually understand the lyrics (with Dave, I need an interpreter).
There were conflicts galore on the horizon, but before they arose I got my first look at Ben Prestage. He plays guitar while using pedals for a couple of drums, and he sings, accompanied by a bass player. It was front porch soul and blues, lovingly rendered, and the crowd was digging it. While heading briefly to the campsite, I could hear the Sarasota Steel Pan Band playing all kinds of stuff. PK, our main MC for the weekend, told me to check it out. FAIL. Next time. Because now things got SEE-REE-OUS.
The Juanjamon Band had their way with us first. Their funk is just plain stupid, in the vernacular. Dre Mack was just brilliant all set on guitar. “Booty” was in the mix of first tunes, and then a new song surfaced. I’m reasonably sure that the song Juan dedicated to all the ladies was… wait for it… “Cunnilingus.” We all thought so, anyway.
In addition to the usual lineup with Michael Garrie on drums and the Future Vintage boys, Matt Giancola and Trevor McDannel (keyboards and bass), Juan had recruited an excellent trumpet player and equally great alto sax player. There was a reggae intro to a tune with Juan’s tenor and the alto wrangling, and eventually it sounded like Mexicali reggae. Too cool!
One more thing. Their white space suit-looking outfits were awesome, especially as the lights constantly changed their colors.
Later, Juanjamon posted his assessment of the fest: “OBJ 7 was great! The best thing I heard repeatedly this past weekend was, ‘Everbody here is so nice!’ This was truly music to my ears, strangers not acting like strangers, but human beings loving without judgment, fear or caution. You all keep this up, and maybe we will change the world after all… just maybe! I love you all so much, thanks for the gifts of love, all the hugs and kisses, and of course your amazing energy and support, for, without it, we would probably only see each other at Suwannee.”
Here is where I needed that “Fast Train” Come Back Alice is always singing about, but I hustled out to the by-now Moonshine Stage for Flat Land. This superb Gainesville quintet was blowing out a great set, and then they gave everyone a monstrous “Kiss.” Can you say dance party? A hard-charging new funk tune called “Ultraviolet” was next, followed by one of my favorites, “Relax Retry.” They added a dynamite “Rufio’s Last Stand” to close the set.
I had to concede that I would miss Ajeva this go-around, although I was fortunate to be at their album release party for Evolve. Word on the street was that their set was huge (‘yuuuge?’). We got to hear — and definitely see — the first of three nights by the Bath Salt Zombies. As always, they were so much fun.
It is never easy to attempt to predict which bands might fit into the category TDWR (Talent Deserving Wider Recognition — that used to be a category in downbeat). The aforementioned Come Back Alice and Flat Land are two such who have played major festivals and are pushing their geographic boundaries. Holy Miss Moley might well be the next. They have evolved and expanded from an excellent funk-rock (primarily) instrumental group to a terrific collective covering the Meters, P-Funk, Afrobeat, and hip-hop, and the addition of vocalists also widened their scope.
Holey Miss Moley crushed from beginning to end. They invited B True Brian up for “BBW” and “ATLiens.” When they got to “Sho’ ‘Nuff,” Dennis Stadelman was on guitar and Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright from Herd of Watts joined Yral on drums. Jacob Cox was in the wah-wah zone. After “Shake It with Me,” they lit into their Afrobeat masterpiece “Afroshaft.” I recognize my tendency toward hyperbole, but I assure you “Afroshaft” IS truly a wonder. They blow this up so deep and so wide, with Christian Ryan on baritone sax first and then flute.
Miss Robyn Alleman graced the stage for a wild “Red Hot Mama,” then smoothed things out with a cool “Boogie Oogie Oogie.” Mikey Guzman was huge on keyboards on these, especially on clavinet, Ryan on flute first, then alto. For encore they presented “Do It Like You Do,” with Ryan’s alto in Maceo mode.
There was an unannounced silent disco set on the Moonshine Stage with a DJ and B True Brian that was fun until I melted into a puddle and headed home. To the sounds of the Hometeam generator, which had somehow landed right next to my tent. To be continued… (the generator story and music)
“I can show you that when it starts to rain
(when the rain comes down)
Everything’s the same…”
Maybe so, maybe not. Inside the tent was dry; outside the tent not so much. So we missed RedFeather, Fuzzy Britches and Laura Shepherd. And Guavatron, and I really wanted to hear them. I was determined, come hell or… OK, not that part… to see Electric Kif. We had heard much about them, and everything I’d heard turned out to be an understatement, because they threw down outstanding ‘70s fusion. Jason Matthews was incredible on keyboards, obviously another huge Herbie Hancock fan (along with Matt Giancola).
Then it was Heather Gillis’ turn. And here is why we love festivals, OBJ in particular. You have a rabid crowd of music fans just ready to soak up some music from bands new to them. That happened a number of times during the weekend, but the first was this monster set by Gillis and band. We had just seen her and the Corbitt-Clampitt Experience in Tallahassee the week before. But this set by the Heather Gillis Band seemed several light years beyond last week’s great set.
They started out with an enormously kick-ass instrumental, and suddenly all heads were turned in their direction. Kyle Chervanik (bass) and Gerald Watkins (drums) are the perfect rhythm section for this powerhouse band. After Gillis belted the lyrics to “I’m a Ram” and a tremendous tenor sax solo from Nyan Feder, they roared into a wicked jam.
Another original from the band’s album, “Fight to Win,” was followed by Gillis grabbing her lap steel and searching the crowd for a harp player. MusicFestNews’ own Matt Hillman jumped up and did us all proud as they played “Gonna Be a Storm > Shake Your Money Maker.” And Gillis, just 21 years old, is from Brooksville, and there we were at the Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville. How cool is that?
I checked out another of Orlando’s great bands, funkUs, before heading to the BSZ stage to check out Hymn for Her again. I had seen this duo from Maine via Airstream trailer a year ago, and they were just as quirkily delightful this time. Lucy Tight was playing banjo (I think), and Wayne Waxing was playing the three-string cigar box guitar AND playing bass drum. They finished a tune, then slid into “Devil’s Train.” You just cannot believe they are getting such power from such a simple set-up.
Then Lucy and Wayne switched axes, and they called up their daughter (perhaps 11 years old?) to sing, and she did a fine job on “Sioux City Sue.” I was hearing bongos, but no… it was Wayne with banjo flat on his lap, using it as bongos. Nice touch!
The Ben Sparaco Band was up next. I was fortunate to have seen him at AURA and Wanee, where they had tremendous sets. This one was a match. They kicked off with a real hot tune which went through a bunch of changes, first “Machine Gun” (!!), then scat-singing and playing, finally into an Allman Brothers-like vibe, with a superb electric piano solo from the keyboard player. And that was the soundcheck!
The 18-year-old guitarist then blistered “Walk on the Levee,” the first tune on the band’s new EP, Bring the Jubilee. Sparaco’s excellent slide guitar work is reminiscent of Derek Trucks’. The band then played a magnificent cover of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” You really need to check this man out. He lives in Tennessee now but grew up in Coral Springs.
I was sure with the revised schedule I would get to see at least part of the set by Leisure Chief. Part turned out to be the last song; it was superb. Then it was time for The Groove Orient, who had backed Kaleigh Baker the previous day. They have been hot for some time, but their tours with MOFRO and with The American Babies have really elevated their game. They came out smoking and never let up.
shoeless soul was back on the BSZ stage. They too have been putting up great sets wherever they go. You know what? That is honestly true about almost everyone on the scene. Most bands played their best sets (by my estimation) or a match for their best. shoeless soul was no exception. There was a particularly interesting sequence where they used the intro to “Watermelon Man” to segue directly into the Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” Then came a loving cover of “Purple Rain” with two female vocalists. Rene Schlegel kept everybody rocking, and Austin Llewellyn (also with Row Jomah) sounded great on keys. Dave Gerulat was finally at the kit after a number of percussion sit-ins.
Then it was Serotonic time. This was my 40th show; I dig them that much. It was outstanding. The sound on all four stages was very good all weekend (the Bath Salt Zombies did their usual great job on their stage), but consistently the best sound of the weekend was on the Sunshine Stage. That pushed the Serotonic set through the (theoretical) roof.
Daniel Navarro is a recent addition to the band on bass; he is also a member of Us Four. Most area musicians point to him as THE MAN. He certainly was this set, but all five members were lit up. “Might As Well” was truly powerful. Navarro, Jordan Garno (guitar), and Bryan Lewis (keys) blew up “Rhinobelly.” After “Something New” (a new song), Jon Ditty Didier joined the band to rap on “Cinotores,” and they closed with a new tune, “Off the Rails.”
As I walked over to hear Between Bluffs, the sound reminded me of Row Jomah, but I had forgotten that Mel Walsh plays guitar in both bands. They were sounding great, too. In the process, I missed Beebs and Her Money Makers, who threw down a tremendous set in my absence.
In all the back and forth, we also missed Uncle John’s Band (thank heavens they hold down Thursdays at Skipper’s) and The Stereo Type, whom I really enjoyed at Little Econ Love Fest.
The Applebutter Express was up on the Big Cypress stage. This was a typical ABX set, full of smiles, fun, great mandolin, bass and violin, and crowd favorites such as “Shit Ain’t Illegal If You Don’t Get Caught” (I don’t care if that’s not really the title; it’s just too much fun to say), “Smile,” and “Hey, My Brother.” The best surprise was a fun ‘cover’ of Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone.”
S.P.O.R.E. S.P.O.R.E. S.P.O.R.E. S.P.O.R.E. If you dig the funkiest prog rock and jamtronic insanity, then the set by this Jacksonville quartet was the place to be. They were simply amazing, once again. A hot intro led into “Tainted Pitties.” Right at the beginning of “Breakthrough,” the power went out. Fortunately, the sound folks were able to solve the problem almost immediately. Trey Miller joined them on harp. Jeremy Kairalla was again brilliant on guitar. After “Wait for It,” keyboard player Alex Sears had a nice intro to “Respect,” which got really deep.
When they got to “Hamster Hash,” they invited Alex’s brother Greg up on guitar. That tune starts with a powerful reggae lilt. Suddenly, after a few minutes, Kairalla and Greg jumped into the guitar rave-up from “Free Bird” (the only part of the song most people want to hear, anyway). That got everybody lit up. They returned for “Domoto” as an encore. Bassist Steve Honig had a superior set. Just WOW.
Everybody — and I mean everybody — was anticipating the Come Back Alice. Everyone (the ones who were awake) remember how Tony Tyler proposed to Dani Jaye at the end of their set last year. What could they do for an encore?
Answer: throw down an amazing set! Tony began on keys, the Hammond B3 and the electric piano/clavinet/synth thing, with Dani on guitar. Kenny Harvey was on bass, paired up again with Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris. Jimmy Rector was sitting in on percussion. The entire set was perfect, and the packed Big Cypress stage crowd was in rapt attention.
There was big response for “Coraline,” the tune whose video won at the L.A. Video Awards. The funk just got huge on “Ugly Rumors,” punctuated at the end by a righteous wail by Tony. “Illusions” included various members trading fours, then Tony scatting while playing guitar.
There was much discussion before the start of the fest about all of the members of CopE, OBJ darlings for so long, performing in one capacity or another at this year’s edition. To this point, Dennis Stadelman, Juanjamon, Brad Elliott, Michael Garrie and Dave Gerulat had all performed. That’s five. But would we see number six?
Yes! Tony called up Kenny Stadelman (bass), along with Heather Gillis (guitar) and Juanjamon (tenor sax). Heather told a funny story later. “They said they were going to play ‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.’ I said great, and we worked on it during the afternoon. As we got on stage, Tony announced a CBA song, ‘Fast Train.’ Dani leaned over and said it would be OK, and it was. And, in the middle of the tune, we did go to ‘Liz Reed.’” It was over-the-top awesome. And the hug between Kenny and Juanjamon was worth the price of admission.
I truly wanted to hear Bells and Robes do the silent disco, but it was already well after midnight, and unlike the night before they would have to tear down the main stage and then set up the silent disco there. We went to sleep, or tried, given the generator next to the tent. To be continued…
Perhaps you’ve observed a recent trend at concerts and especially at festivals: we EXPECT to be entertained, and our applause and appreciation are not really necessary. A band will be on stage just killing it, and at the end of a song there is mild applause at best. At the close of a great set, there is not much more. And often, people EXPECT an encore but don’t want to work for it. This is true for national acts and local bar bands at well.
For better or worse (and you know what I think), we need cheerleaders, people who will get us to clap, cheer, make noise, convince them to come back for an encore. Into the void have stepped MCs (masters of ceremonies), individuals who have identified a need (thank heavens) and worked to fill that void.
This year’s MCs were PK (James Williams), Nook (Nook Thanh Nguyen), Clyde Lowrie, and Loe. They all worked hard to announce bands as they stepped on stage and to whip us into a frenzy when the sets were done (or an encore was in the offing). As Nook points out, “I think we all realize it’s important to keep spirits high and motivate the crowd.”
PK has been at this for almost two years, making sure that we appreciate the great performances by the bands we love. And Clyde has been announcing at the Blueberry Patch for some time. Nook added, “I had been to some festivals before where I felt like it lacked a dominant MC presence. Some of the festivals did not have one at all, and some I felt would benefit from having an MC that engaged the audience more.”
We owe them — and our musicians — a debt of gratitude for all of their hard work.
I think about half of the audience for the early set from Ism were musicians, some of whom had heard Ian McLeod’s superb jazz band, other who had heard the rumors. This was my third Ism show, and in a short span this band has exploded onto the scene. This set was incredible. I am praying there is a recording I can spin on my jazz show on WMNF, because WOW.
Ian plays vibes (percussion with Flat Land). Brother Grant is the percussionist (drums with Flat Land). Mark Mayea (Ajeva) had another superb sit-in on keyboards, and Greg Jungbluth is a tremendous bass player. The set began smokin’ hot and never let up. The horns were great, and Ian is a monster on vibes. Late in the set, Vernon Suber (Holey Miss Moley, Bengali 600) and Nester Garcia jumped up to play percussion (Jimmy Rector was probably up there already), and things went Latin, and they closed with “The Chicken,” always a favorite.
Boxcar Hollow plays Americana, newgrass and lots more under the direction of Matt Weis. For this show, the lineup was augmented by Dani Jaye on fiddle and Fil Pate on mandolin. They immediately shoved it into high gear with a double-time take on “Don’t Let Go.” After a tune similar to “Fire on the Mountain,” Fil and Dani tore it up on an uptempo “After Midnight.”
It was too late to catch Grumpy Ol’ Trolls, the very young ladies (10-14?) who delighted last year and again at Little Manatee Jam Fest in April. But I was determined to hear the Corbitt-Clampitt Experience again. Since the breakup of the Corbitt Brothers, this has been a tremendous vehicle for Isaac Corbitt, the brilliant harmonica player. Brady Corbitt is an engaging singer and guitar player, and these boys rock. Here’s a surprise: Jimmy Rector on stage!
After several songs, Clampitt turned Corbitt loose on a real harp workout: “Hall of the Mountain King > Für Elise > Hall of the Mountain King,” and that led into a tribute to John Popper. Nothing but awesome! Heather Gillis was invited to join in on “Blind, Crippled and Crazy,” Gillis sharing vocal duties with Clampitt and everybody sounding great, especially bassist Jason Alessandrini. Gillis stayed up for “Don’t Keep Me Wanderin’” (in addition to her own band, she also performs regularly with Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band). As I headed to grab lunch, Corbitt’s harp intro led into a rocking “Mystery Train.”
I returned to the Citrus Stage in time to catch the end of the set by On the Avenue, the Lakeland quintet who deliver hip-hop and rap rock, playing to an enthusiastic crowd. We wanted to hear Justino and the Difference, but I was determined not to miss Bengali 600, starting a little later. With all of that, we could hear a bit of the set by Jeff White and Soultaxi, briefly. As Justino pointed out later, I heard the older tunes; all of the new stuff was in the second half.
The quartet used the Warner Brothers intro to jump into Justino’s “Pop Tune,” which changes directions several times. Next came a cover medley, with “Black Gives Way to Blue” (Alice in Chains), ?, “Outstanding” (the Gap Band), and “If I Would Could You?” Jonathan Richardson had a beautiful keyboard intro to “Somewhere,” and then it got really prog-heavy. Which was followed by a solo tune by Justino on acoustic guitar, “And the Sun Keeps on Turning.”
Then we sprinted back (well, sort of) to the Sunshine Stage for Bengali 600. This was my third time hearing this amazing Afrobeat collective, and again they just blew me away. (I am envisioning a show with this band and Ism!) A Budos Band cover featured trumpeter Joe Meadows. On band original “Female Love Interest,” band leader Jeff Richey had a great tenor sax solo, and Meadows joined in. “The Big Hustle” highlighted Christian Ryan on baritone sax. He switched to flute for “Daktari Walk” (I think). What a superb band this is!
I had been fortunate enough to latch onto Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish a year earlier, and every subsequent performance has knocked me out. This OBJ set on the BSZ stage might be the best one yet. The stage was relatively compact, so Thee Eloquent Barbarian had his keyboard set up off stage left, while Bob Feckner (trumpet and flugelhorn) and a trombone player were off stage right. Troy was flanked by Dennis Stadelman and another 21-year-old guitar whiz, George Pennington III.
If their song “Blues in My Blood” doesn’t resonate deep inside you, your soul might be on walkabout. The trombone player got a nice solo, and this one featured Thee Eloquent Barbarian on harp. The emotive “Let Me Go” had solos from Stadelman and Pennington, who also used his talk box. What followed was a great long version of “Molly’s Door,” affectionately known as “the Chris Brown song.”
It was great watching Thee Eloquent Barbarian playing harp with one hand and keyboards with the other. “The Devil Smells Like Whiskey” eventually segued into “Roadhouse Blues,” with the rhythm section of Sean C. Sinback and Matt Salvador killing it. They returned to “Devil,” which finally rolled into “I’ve Got My Mojo Working.” Fabulous.
We hightailed it back to the main stage for the Savi Fernandez Band. We arrived just in time for my favorite song from their most recent album From My Heart: “Blessed.” “One More Minute” turned into “You Got What I Need.” The band was on fire before settling down — briefly — for “Butterfly,” then ramping right back up for “Smooth Movement.” Rion Smith (Shak Nasti), Isaac Corbitt and Christian Ryan all sat in at some point.
Now it was really time to stage-hop. We also missed Crazy Fingers (saw their great set at AURA) and Bootleg. Miami’s blues kings JUke were having a great set on the Citrus Stage, but I knew I needed to check out Last Electric Rodeo; I had seen several members with full face paint (I’m blaming all of this on the Bath Salt Zombies). There were ten of them, seven on stage, three off. The guitar player was a green alien; the alto sax player’s shaved head was entirely white with El Día de los Muertos designs.
Somebody was the Joker. (And there was a woman in the audience all green with green David Bowie Diamond Dogs hair!) The first tune we heard had a tremendous guitar solo. After “Can You Dig It?,” several women grabbed gas masks for — naturally — “Gas Mask.” REALLY need to see these people (??) again!
The conflicts were getting worse. The Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio was on the main stage, opening with “Start to Breathe,” “Ike Stubblefield” and “Beggin’ You to Stay.” Most of his songs clock in at 10+ minutes, giving everyone time to show. Rodgers rocks hard, but his jazz roots always shine through. Then I jetted to the back for Displace, the quartet heading toward a release party June 25th for their second album. Meanwhile, Rodgers and company apparently ripped off a half-hour version of “Outer Space.”
I arrived at the Displace stage just as they were beginning my favorite of their songs, “Geonosis Shuffle” (I was really lucky in my stage-hopping all weekend). Sam Dobkin was truly in the zone, his guitar as nasty as ever. Chris Sgammato was moving from guitar to alto sax to keyboards. And you would be hard-pressed to find a better rhythm section than Vinny Svoboda and Tucker Sody. One vocal tune preceded “Valerie,” but I split before the Toro sisters, Alexa and Bella, joined them on stage.
It was Shak Nasti time. I had mentioned in a preview there was a very good reason I had seen them 42 times previously: they are amazing. For this set, with bass player Matt Lapham touring with Popa Chubby, Todd Warsing was subbing. As incredible as this set was from all the players, credit Warsing with a superb night; he owned this. In addition to regular members Tim Turner (guitar and vocals) and Rion Smith (drums), Chris Charles joined in on saxes and Keegan Matthews (Leisure Chief) on keyboards.
“Buzz” was a great introduction, with Charles on baritone sax. He switched to soprano for “Sunsation,” and Matthews had a fine solo. Then the boys got down to business with “Middle of a Bubble.” Smith’s polyrhythmic drums propelled every tune, and Turner had a fine solo. “Sweet Drunk Bananas” was a fun romp.
Turner, Warsing and Smith all shone on “Treelocks,” followed by a bouncy “Mule Kick.” On the full-tilt rocker “Mind Bomb,” Charles electrified his baritone to great effect. Discovering they still had a couple of minutes left, Turner selected a favorite of his, the Zappa/Beefheart collaboration “Willie the Pimp.” (Turner is part of Christian Ryan’s Garage, the Zappa tribute who crushed it at Little Econ Love Fest and will reprise their set August 27th at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa.)
We heard the opening tune of headliner Suénalo’s set before going to catch the Bath Salt Zombies again (we had missed the Friday set). We had missed some great songs (including the “Fire” medley, “Lowly Worm” and “Bearded Lady”), but we made it in time for their cover of “When Doves Cry.” Perfect. After that came the rollicking “Whoa Betsy” (“We all had milkshakes!).
It usually doesn’t pay to Jones for a song, but I was pulling hard for “Boris the Spider,” because I knew exactly where it would lead. My prayers were answered, as bassist Tucker Cobb’s deep bass/baritone intoned the John Entwhistle classic. Somewhere in the midst of the “creepy, crawly, creepy creepy, crawly crawly” lyrics, the tune shifted to the band’s over-the-top deluxe cover of “I’m Your Boogie Man.” With lead mandolin. Everybody was dancing up a storm. When the tune went back to “Boris” for the coda, Graham Woodard announced that Oranga Tanga, scheduled to play Sunday, would perform an impromptu set.
After a very short break, Oranga Tanga was on stage and ready to go. This quirky quartet (again, blaming the Bath Salt Zombies, whether they are responsible or not) sings about giant rats and other odd animals and being in sixth grade. In the middle of that song, it suddenly exploded into Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” — on kazoos!
By the time we got back to the Big Cypress stage, Suénalo was on fire. Everybody said their set was killer. That last tune was truly amazing. It was now 12:20 (all the final sets ran past their listed close of midnight). And it was time for silent disco with Future Vintage. Theoretically.
Last year, the silent disco was set up on the Sunshine Stage out back. Everything was set up and ready for anyone who wanted to come back after the main stage closed down some time after midnight. That was the deal with Thursday night this year, the one announced when the Holey Miss Moley set was finished.
There were two main problems with the silent disco for Friday and Saturday. The decision was made to move it to the main stage, but that meant waiting for the headliner to finish and break down, then set up the silent disco, check the sound and start. That was problem one. Problem two was estimating how many sets of headphones would be needed.
We did not make it Friday night, but I understand the problems were similar. Saturday, Suénalo finished at 12:20. Somewhere around 1:30, DJ Pete Bones (I think) did a 25-minute set, and finally Future Vintage was ready to go — at 1:55. Meanwhile, there were 80 sets of headphones, but more than twice that many people were there. On top of that, there was a serious technical glitch with the system, with sound cutting out at regular intervals. It improved but never got quite right, despite the best efforts of all involved.
Future Vintage did their best to work through the problems, kicking out with the title track to their recent album, Doin It Right. A sampled tune preceded “Ole” and then the excellent theme from Back to the Future. After 40 minutes, the constant sound glitch sent us home.
It seems to me the silent disco could be set up on the Citrus Stage, and silent disco-ers could dance in front of that stage or just stay under the main-stage roof. That would mean set-up would be complete, and transition time would be minimal. And the popularity of the event dictates renting a full set of headphones, it would seem.
Fortunately, the generator had been moved, by order of the Guv’nah!
At these festivals, it is always enjoyable watching the musicians hobnob. And it seems bass players do more hobnobbing than anybody else, although drummers are a close second. The way all of these musicians collaborate and cooperate is the very key to everyone’s success. Well played, ladies and gentlemen. Well played.
Phunk It had the 11 AM opener, although some festies had still not slept! Their set featured Dead favorites and more, all with the right vibe. These guys have also appeared as Tangled Mangos, among other configurations. “Fire On the Mountain” appeared early (“Scarlet Begonias” was probably ahead of it), followed by “Wake Your Children.” The next tune had a great Zach Deputy vibe to it, sort of like the Dead’s version of “Good Lovin’.” They had a nice interpretation of “Me and My Uncle,” and “I Know You Rider” yielded to “Get Up, Stand Up.”
Beartoe was a very interesting trio. Beartoe Aguilar plays guitar and sings. His guitar playing is mostly rhythm and a little lead, but it was very infectious and enjoyable. “A Hole in My Soul” was early in the set, and midway he sang “Why can’t you give me just a little kiss?” The style reminded me of Hill Country blues shuffle. Also solid was “Ain’t nowhere in this world you can go away from my love.”
Pat had insisted — correctly — that I see the Psychedelic Monks at Little Econ Love Fest. These boys: Max Bressan (bass/vocals), Evan Ahlswede (guitar/vocals), Evan Clancy (drums), and Eric Keleharakawa (guitar) turned in another great set. They were joined by a tenor sax player and by Rev. Funky D on keys. After a great first song, Vernon Suber turned things into an Afrobeat romp on percussion. Then there was a huge stage invasion as Alex Sears (S.P.O.R.E.), Trey Miller, and Isaac Corbitt joined in for two songs. After “Lost,” there was a nasty jam in “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2,” and the closing songs was amazing: “Packages of Mustaches.”
Pat is always right.
Sosos springboarded from that set, starting with “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond,” much more reserved. It was time to get packed up so we wouldn’t have to do that in darkness. By the time we finished and returned, it was time for Legacy. Sulana said she thought it was just him looping; I reminded her there was no chance of that with so many great musicians on hand.
This was another deluxe edition of the Legacy Orchestra Collective: Matt Giancola, Dennis Stadelman, Dani Jaye, Sean “Legacy” Maloney, Yral, Juanjamon, Kenny Harvey, Jacob Cox, Mikey Guzman, Vernon Suber and Tony Morales. I got lost in the tunes. After a great jam, Miss Robyn Alleman and Megan Baker joined for “Once in a Lifetime” and “Only Love.” Andy Lytle and Colin Getts played as well.
After a Robert Palmer tune, there was Legacy’s great “Ridiculous Elephant” with Juan and Dani going wild, eventually moving into “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” The set closed with a great message in “If You Want to Find Perfection,” Chris Sgammato and Isaac Corbitt involved as well.
Oranga Tanga repeated the previous night’s zaniness with more of the same: songs about rats, ants, hippos, and family dramas on ABC. And the “Rockit” kazoo tune. And lots of kazoos thrown out to the crowd. They saved their most entertaining tune for last. I think it started with something about “Mother’s Day,” but, every time it would provide some reference, abruptly they’d sing: “This song’s not about that” and launch into full-frontal punk mode. Straight-up fun.
Dennis Stadelman, who had already appeared in a variety of capacities over the weekend, had one of his new groups, Sonic Stew on stage (he also has a trio called Grape Soda with Yral and Harvey). This band featured the Rev. Funky D (so great to see him throughout the weekend), Daniel Navarro, and Dave LaMarr on drums. Opening with “Reasons Why,” they covered a variety of songs. Dennis picked up his banjo as Christine joined them with mandolin and Brian Johnson with acoustic guitar. Then Kyle and Shannon Biss (ABX) sang “Ohio” (yes, that one).
Juanjamon and Chris Critter Ricker (the Georgia interloper) both took great solos on the next song, and Navarro was huge on bass. At the end, there was another hug, this time with Dennis and Juan. Looking forward to more from his two new groups.
It was time to shut things down — one more set. The originally scheduled group had to cancel; how could that slot possibly be filled? Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet! Hell, yes! The Rev. Funky D, Trey Miller, Matt Weis, Bowers, Michael Garrie, Kenny Harvey, Juanjamon, Andy Lytle (percussion) and Vernon Suber were all on stage.
“Deal” got the ball rolling, followed by the obligatory “Shakedown Street.” For “Me and My Uncle,” Miller picked up his banjo, and there was a huge jam in “Easy Wind.” Bowers’ daughter Casey came up to play and sing with him on “Ripple.” We split during “Sugaree,” but a glance at the proposed setlist indicates there was a lot more to come:
Lovelight, Fire on the Mountain, Eyes of the World, Feel Like a Stranger
There were great vendors of all sorts on hand for the weekend — great food, wearables, paraphernalia, and more. The Sertoma Youth Ranch folks made sure we had plenty of ice. Sponsor Dunedin Brewery had beer trucks set up for those in need of medicinal barley and hops. The first aid station was welcome as well.
A huge shout-out goes to The Illumi-Nation Project, courtesy of Liza and Hal Bailstein and all of their compatriots, yoga instructors, nature walk leaders and more. Their beautiful tent and activities are welcome additions at any event, as they continue to promote community-conscious activities to benefit us all. Their work is so important that I asked Liza to share information about their mission:
“This weekend, we were honored to not only provide interactive classes and The Illumi-Nation Station as a calming sanctuary throughout the weekend, we are proud to say we provided over 150 cups of free coffee, tea, over 60 gallons of water and 180 delicious organic, vegetarian meals to our Rising Light volunteers and other helpful homies!
Rising Light is an team of teachers and volunteers that provides free, fun, interactive classes that stretch bodies, expand minds, open hearts and lift spirits! We had some of our biggest classes ever this weekend with over 60 people in attendance!
Rising Light is the Illumi-Nation Project’s community outreach program. We are a St. Petersburg based 501.c3 non-profit that provides community enrichment through interactive education focused on sustainability & holistic practices.”
Thanks to all of the volunteers, clean-ups folks, stage crews and everyone who made Orange Blossom Jamboree 7 a raging success.
And thanks to Russ and Toby Bowers for all that they do for the Florida Music Scene. How many days to OBJ 8?