Brainquility Music Festival – Florida Funk Fun in the Sun

Saturday, April 21st, was the debut of Brainquility Music And Arts Festival, the latest addition to Florida’s festival lineup. With only a few minor kinks, this was by far one of the smoothest and most well organized new festivals around. There were dozens of artist performances going nearly nonstop around the festival grounds, and there were numerous food and craft vendors. There was even a beach about 20 yards from the stage. Seriously, an actual BEACH. You could lounge in cool waters of Tampa Bay and still see the acts on the main stage. How awesome is that??

Held in downtown Safety Harbor, right alongside Tampa Bay, this is a relatively new venue that only recently started holding large-scale events. Often a new venue or a new festival can mean all kinds of issues. Combine the two, and you almost always have big hassles. I have to admit in this case I saw very little of that. Yes, the two main acts both got cut short due to weather issues, but that is beyond the ability of the festival staff to be able to control. When you are doing something outdoors in Florida, you just have to accept that weather will not always cooperate.

The grounds were massive and had at least three times the amount of vendors and artists that I’ve ever seen at a single-day festival. Just inside the entrance there was a small convoy of food trucks offering something for everyone. Looking out, the grounds stretched well over a hundred yards to the stage at the other end. Lining the first half of both sides of both sides of the grass were dozens of artisans selling everything from aromatics to zebra-striped crystals. There were clothing vendors, woodcrafts, parasols,  jewelry of all sorts, t-shirts and much more. Artists sold painting, body painting, sculptures, glassware and anything else you can imagine and many things you can’t. Lining a full 30 yards of one side of the grounds were massive white wooden walls. Each freestanding wall was provided to an artist to live paint during the day. It was amazing to see these huge white blank slates slowly become unique works of art as the day went on. Each showed the unique perspective of the artist, and it was wonderful to watch it all progress. Throughout the grounds there were aerial performers, yoga performers, hoop dances, silk dancers and more. Seemingly, anywhere you looked there was something happening. It was unlike any other urban, single-day festival I’ve seen.

The day started out with yoga sessions before the first musical act of the day took to the stage. There were over a dozen different yoga and meditation sessions throughout the day both during and in between musical acts. The first music of the day was at 11:30 featuring SIDE TRAKD, the Gainesville, Florida-based DJ. This was a single-stage event, so there were breaks of 15-45 minutes between acts, which was a great time to check out the different vendors and other performances happening throughout the day. Most acts had a 30-minute break between sets. Lettuce and Beats Antique had 45-minute breaks, likely due to the more complicated stage plots for those two acts.

The next musical act was until recently another Florida DJ act. Having just moved out to Colorado, MZG is made up of twin brothers Charles and Zachary Weinert. Zach Weinert is familiar to many from his days with another Florida act, Greenhouse Lounge. They really got the crowd jumping, and everyone was grooving to their beats. The two brothers have a great chemistry, playing off each other and creating a single, unique feel to the tracks they create.

While MZG was on stage, on the other end of the field St. Petersburg’s Movement Sanctuary had a beautiful aerial silk dance performance. Throughout the entire day they had performances from a roster of highly talented people. Wrapping themselves up, spinning and doing a wide range of gravity-defying dances anywhere from a couple feet off the ground up to the top of their silks which had to be 30 feet up. It was mesmerizing to watch.



I stopped by the merchandise tent on my way back to the stage. They had a great variety of merch both for the festival itself as well as the various bands. Prices were reasonable. The only real issue was that it was cash only. I heard a large number of attendees wishing they took cards so that they could purchase items. Luckily there at least were ATMs onsite; however, I know many people weren’t wanting to pay the fees just to spend more money. I hope that the event will be back and that this can get addressed next time.

On the main stage it was time for Atlanta’s own Voodoo Visionary. The five-piece (though at times they had I think ten people on stage!) funk-fusion band has been on a tear these last few months, and this set showed why. They came out strong and didn’t let up for the entire set. They were as tight as ever and played a scorching set, especially for having a mid-afternoon time slot.

This brings up the biggest issue I saw for the entire day – the heat. At this point it was closing in on 3 pm, and it was H-O-T out there. The venue, while beautiful, has absolutely no shade to speak of. There was a beer tent, and there were a few very small areas of shade under some palm trees all the way at the entrance to the grounds, but that is about it. If you weren’t VIP, you were basically stuck in full sun in Florida from the time you arrived until you left. That’s not going to cut it for a lot of people. An event like this in Florida really should have some large canopies or something to provide shade for the attendees as well as cooling/mist fans. A case can be made that access to those is a good reason to upgrade to VIP, but I do think more people would simply opt not to return than would upgrade just for shade.

I spent some more time checking out the huge array of vendors, performers and artists while the staff set up the stage for the next act, the highly anticipated TAUK out of New York. The crowd packed in when they took the stage, and the band did not disappoint. Blending funk, jam, rock and soul, TAUK brought their hottest material, and the crowd was eating it up. Looking out from the stage, it was a sea of bouncing bodies, spinning hoops and smiles everywhere. There were face-melting guitar solos, chest-thumping bass riffs, crashing drum solos and trance-inducing keyboard runs. In other words, it was TAUK doing what they do best.

Just as the sun started to dip down near the horizon and the air cooled a bit, Lettuce took the stage. Lettuce is a huge name in the funk/jam scene and are headliners at major festivals all over the country. The rail was packed, and everyone was ready. Lettuce came out hitting hard, horns, bass, drums, guitar, keys all arranged in the perfect amounts designed to deliver maximum funk energy right into your ears. Looking out at the crowd during their set, it was working. Fists were pumped. Booties were shaken. Heads were blown.

While Lettuce was playing, I also went to photograph the beautiful chalk mural just inside the front entrance that was drawn by St. Petersburg artist Megan Baker.

Also I got to check out one of my favorite things – a Cyr Wheel performer. Though they still are not very common at events, Cyr Wheels are becoming more common in flow performances. They are mesmerizing, and this artist was very good.

Then Mother Nature decided she had had enough and opened up. The Cyr Wheel picture above was taken just as it started to rain. Things went from a light drizzle to a torrential downpour in about 30 seconds. Suddenly the couple of tents on site were stacked wall to wall with people trying to stay dry. I’ve never felt so close to roughly 1,000 people as I did right then in the VIP tent. While I didn’t witness it, videos were shared showing some fans out playing in the rain and enjoying themselves. Everyone else was standing right next to me, I think.

After about 20 minutes the rain finally stopped. Unfortunately I had to take my leave at that point. While I understand Lettuce was unable to come back on, Beats Antique did get to perform, though their set was also cut short.

One good thing about this event being so incredibly stacked with artists – while they dried off the stage and got things reset for Beats Antique, they were quickly able to put together a spectacular fire and dance show right on the event grounds for everyone to enjoy.  That’s both damn good thinking and yet another reason to bring in wandering performers for your festivals!

So with only a few minor kinks, Brainquiliity Music and Arts Festival has really raised the bar for festivals in general and especially for this being its debut. I am far from alone in hoping this comes back again next year.

Brainquility Music Festival


Comments are closed.