Great Outdoors Jam – The Halftime Report: SICK AS FUNK!
The Great Outdoors Jam is in full swing! For the first time, GOJ is being held at Fields of Renninger’s in Mt. Dora. This new location is truly beautiful— and big! The two stages are very close together, and there are lots of vendors.
We missed Thursday’s activities, but by all reports it was a fabulous day all on its own. Teen Girl Squad and shoeless soul got the festival off to a great start, followed by Funk You, again bringing that Georgia funk to Florida.
The talk of the night may have been Joose, the superb new fusion band with Christian Ryan leading the way. Everybody — and I mean everybody — was talking about keyboard wizard Mark Mayea (Ajeva) tearing it up. Then Atlanta’s Voodoo Visionary stuffed the crowd into a time machine for a ‘70s set.
Backup Planet melted more faces with their incredible prog rock. They and Voodoo Visionary both have sets today (Saturday) here. Free Range Strange had the final word on the acoustic stage. A lot of words, actually. Story is that festival king Kenny Blair told them to knock it off at 5 AM!
Grape Soda had the honors, opening GOJ 2016 (Dennis Stadelman, Kenny Harvey, and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris), followed by a great set from Universal Sigh, which had lots of people talking.
Boxcar Hollow delivered a magnificent set. Matty, Jeff and Jack (sounds like the Pep Boys) were joined by Fil Pate (mandolin) and Dennis Stadelman (guitar). And that soaring violin (fiddle, whatever)? Dani Jaye of Come Back Alice!
Justino and the Difference had something very special planned: an improv set. Absolutely the best set I’ve ever heard from them. The quartet weaved and bobbed through numerous genres and tempos, starting with an Eastern European them (Justino did just tour Russia), on to prog, jamtronica, rock, and… it was amazing.
There will be a lot more great music at Great Outdoors Jam before it closes at sunset Sunday, but I guarantee you there won’t be a set better than the one Tweed played. This Philadelphia quartet was over-the-top astounding: jamtronic fusion heaven. The first tune got everyone’s attention, and the second one was, as Pat would say, “SICK AS FUCK” (now abbreviated as SAF). Just like Justino’s band, every one of these boys was incredible, but Dan McDonald on bass? SAF! The Philadelphia boys blew us all away!
So obviously this was just going to be a ridiculous funk fest. Who you gonna call? The Juanjamon Band, of course, with another groove-heavy set of goodness. Of course they played “Knockin’ Boots,” “Hey Chester” and more. Dre Mack was lit up on guitar, and this was a blow-out night for Juanjamon on tenor sax.
Displace had just released their second album, the outstanding Undertow, last Saturday, so this was another opportunity to premier these new songs for fans. “Mantis,” the funkiest of funk tunes on the album, just washed over the entire crowd. After “Float,” another new one, they invited Dennis Stadelman to the stage for their opus, “Geonosis Shuffle.” (They have several, actually.) Vinnie Svoboda and Tucker Sody are an amazing rhythm section. Blessed with four extra minutes, they blew out System of a Down’s “Toxicity.”
Fortunately, The Fritz (Asheville) loves playing here in Florida. We sure love hearing them. They hit funk, prog rock, jamtronica, “Life During Wartime,” more Mahavishnu-style prog, and many of the band’s great originals, including “Too Late.” Jamar Woods is such a great showman that it’s easy to forget how amazing he is as a keyboard player. SAF
Aqueous (Buffalo) had an all-moe. set Friday (they play again today). They performed the material superbly; some of the song choices were not as exciting, but the musical peaks were brilliant. Best of all, they didn’t try to mimic the moe. songs note for note or solo by solo; they played the songs in their style, very effectively. The set started with “Tailspin.” “Plane Crash” was really well handled, as was “Okay Alright.”
Baltimore’s funk ambassadors, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, also love playing here in Florida, and their two-hour set was absolutely ridiculous. This quartet is so on top of its game. “I Think I’m Losin’ My Mind” was deluxe, and the funk romp that followed segued into and out of “The Pink Panther Theme” (with two awesome tempo changes). They played a bunch of new music, all really well received. Jeremy Schon is a rock star on guitar, pure and simple. He was amazing all night. They all were, but for the first time I realized just how pivotal the astounding bass playing of Ben Carrey is. SAF! Oh, yeah. And “Ghostbusters!”
It was time for quieter music on the acoustic stage, and I use that term loosely, because we got wonderful music from two great bands. First up was Harmonica Man and the Sawgrass Band, Trey Miller’s collective. Jesse James sounded great on violin. They played a number of fine originals including “Highway 10” and “Chain Gang,” featuring others throughout the set, including Colin Getts and Jacob Cox.
Then Miller announced they’d been working on a project and proceeded to whip out “Blue Side of the Grass,” side one of Floyd’s Dark Side. A couple more minutes? Sure! “Hotel California!”
That left it to Sean ‘Legacy’ Maloney (and his new leg!) to take us home. He had engaged Displace to back him up. What a superb choice! They opened with “Inner City Blues” and never looked back. Next up was Legacy’s glorious “Ridiculous Elephant > Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin) > Ridiculous Elephant.”
Andy Lyle (with Receptor Sound and Lights) and Colin Getts joined for a tune; they played with Legacy in The Happy Campers. Then Jacob Cox and Kenny Harvey came up for “It Ain’t Right,” a song which will be on the upcoming Holey Miss Moley album.
I drifted off about 2:45; they stopped around 3:30. What a stunning day of music!
Controlled Fall is on stage as I write. Coming up: Ludidea, Ajeva, Voodoo Visionary, Groove Fetish, Backup Planet, Broccoli Samurai, Come Back Alice, Aqueous, Holey Miss Moley (‘90s hip-hop set), and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Oak Hay has the acoustic late-night bluegrass jam.
Wild Root, The Orange Constant, Este Loves, The Tony Tyler Band, Copious Jones, and Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet.
It doesn’t get any better than this!
Photographs by kind permission of Brian Hensley. Our next report will have many more photos by Brian and by Mandi Nulph!