Orange Blossom Jamboree Blows Away the Rain — and Us, Too!

Audio recordings courtesy of Butch Almberg
Photography courtesy of Matt Hillman, David Lee and Mandi Nulph
Video recordings courtesy of FUGU, Volke Mon, Christopher Pack and John Wilson

I’m curious to know whether other states have an event such as Orange Blossom Jamboree, a festival that highlights exclusively Florida music (OK, there were two interlopers, but still). For the ninth time, Russ and Toby Bowers curated a spectacular festival featuring more than 60 examples of Sunshine State greatness.

A cursory glance at social media posts confirms what we all thought — best one ever, from the music and sound engineers and lighting crews to the food vendors and PLAYshops and children’s activities. And, on the very positive side, the dire weather forecasts we been watching from a week out were far less severe or long-lasting than anticipated. The temperatures were actually really pleasant the majority of the time.

Poppy moving in – Mandi Nulph


We arrived as Grindstone Sinners were beginning their set on the Citrus Stage. This was just the first of many bands playing their very first OBJ, and they made a great impression. Their mix of originals and covers, most notably “Morning Dew,” was the perfect festival opening. And, given discussions about not enough female artists represented at fests, it was great to see the very first band with fine vocalist Ashlyn Weidemiller backed by a solid trio.

Grindstone Sinners at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018
Grindstone Sinners

Dennis Stadelman’s Sonic Stew were up next. The deadly rhythm section of Sean Hartley (bass) and Brad Elliott on drum kit always makes for a great set, and Nook rapped on a few tunes and sang some backup vocals. Stadelman’s sets are always a pleasure with his warm, inviting style and great lyrics, and this served as a nice warm-up for the two major events of the fest — headlining sets by CopE with both Stadelman and Elliott.

Dennis Stadleman of Sonic Stew at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

It was time to unleash ALL the guitars as Blackwater Grease cranked up their set. This one was a blast if a bit rough around the edges. Isaac Corbitt, one of the festival’s five artists at large, joined in on the second tune, “Back to Florida.” “Last Grease” was a great rocker, highlighting Tom Bennett on keyboards and Steve Honig’s monster bass and artist-at-large Critter. Then they were joined by Harmonica Man Trey Miller for “No Crossroads,” whose playing jumped a couple astral levels — WOW!

Crazy Fingers had played one of the best sets at the Wanee Music Festival on Happy Hour Wednesday, and their OBJ set was even more amazing. There was, amusingly enough, a rain delay right after they opened with “Here Comes Sunshine,” but once the rain abated, the boys jumped right back into it for a marvelous evening. “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider” was lovely.

Crazy Fingers

After a bouncing version of “In the Moonlight,” somebody said, “We’re just going to stay up here until the next band comes on” (yes, they were the last band of the night!). As if to make the point, they launched into an amazing sequence with “Dark Star > The Other One > Drumz > The Other One > Breathe > The Other One.” Absolutely incredible. They closed with “Box of Rain” and encored with “The Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion.” BRAVO!

Johnnie Nichols & Rich Friedman


The setup for OBJ has the two main stages next to each other, while the Zombie Stage, operated by The Bath Salt Zombies, was toward the back of the Sertoma Ranch. In the past, I’ve made the effort to get down there as often as possible. This year, I did not. I have lots of excuses, none of which hold any water. I had fully intended to hit the Skallop set but let rain (and not that much) deter me. As a result, I also missed K2theC, Razed by Wolves, Flint Blade, and Honey Hounds.

Flint Blade

If we were pleased by that opening set Wednesday by Grindstone Sinners, we were bowled over by Souljam, a Vero Beach quintet; their name is quintessential truth in advertising. They blew out a great set, again with a female vocalist. AnnaLee Keehner also played acoustic guitar, while counterpart John Carpenter also sang and played lead electric guitar. Keehner’s powerful voice filled the campground. The set included five fine originals plus two dynamite covers. The first was a surprise “Surprise Valley > Changing Tide” (the latter original), and the second was a massive “Whipping Post” finale.


The Daniel Heitz Band had made an impressive debut last year at OBJ, and this one was even better. Heitz, a great guitarist, had fleshed out his band with another fine guitar player in Chuck Magid (The Groove Orient) and Magid’s bandmate Tommy Shugart on Hammond B3 organ. They began optimistically with “Some Sunny Day” with solos from Shugart and from Trey Miller, sitting in on harmonica. Later in the set, they blew “Yellow Moon” into a huge prog rocker, followed by a smokin’ hot “Hot ‘Lanta.” Bassist Nathan May had a fine set and a great feature on “Together.”

The Daniel Heitz Band

Souljam had set us up for the weekend: looking forward to bands we’d never even heard about before (seriously, Russ Bowers, how do you do it?). It was time for another, this time the amazing Llamas on the Loose. We had a pretty good idea how this set would go, having spotted Josh Kim of The Reality on stage with his keyboards. And it was a blast, start to finish. The quartet (bass, drums, guitar and keyboards) bounced through a great set of originals and a couple nice covers, including “Axel F,” “5 on 4,” and “The Landlady;” guitarist Kasey really nailed that one. Everybody was grooving to this set.

Llamas on the Loose

Maybe you’ve seen Uproot Hootenanny before. If you have, then you know just how much fun this set was. Like Souljam and Lllamas on the Loose, this is the perfect name for this collective. This set was a riot, good-timey bluegrass — guitar, violin, banjo and bass — with a percussionist in tow. They started hot and got hotter as the set progressed. The band slowed it down — a bit — for “No Better Than” and offered an unusual look at “Ain’t No Sunshine.” They bounced and rocked, largely the fault of Nico Swarley on bass fiddle.

Uproot Hootenanny

“Same Shit, Different Day” was a riot, and they followed that with a tremendous “Scarlet Begonias.” There was more bluegrass, “Let It Rain Down on Me,” a Celtic-style shitkicker, and a fabulous unplugged “One Shot of Whiskey” encore down on the dance floor.

And the day continued to shine with yet another new name for us: Mind Medicine. Their Facebook page claims music both “ethereal and psychedelic,” and they aren’t foolin’. The Tallahassee quintet jammed hard, rocking some fine originals and tossing in a good “Fame” and an even better “Thriller” cover as well.

Mind Medicine

It was time to go Phish-ing with Antelope. Once again, Matt Weis and compatriots crushed a set. With Juanjamon on keyboards and tenor saxophone and Michael Garrie on drums, we were seeing two more members of the aforementioned CopE, and Sean Hartley was back to slam some more bass. Everything seemed to be working right. “Jam > AC/DC Bag” was a great to kick it off, as was “Harry Hood,” and the jams during “Tweezer” were awesome, especially Juanja on tenor.


I’ll confess that Guavatron is my favorite Florida band, and this set was more stupider than the last two from this spring, both of which were, in the vernacular, stupid. Or sick, if that’s still in vogue. Examine this amazing sandwich: “Get It On > Better Off Alone > Show Me Love > Better Off Alone > Get It On.” DAMN. Somewhere in there Reed Skahill (Ajeva) guested on vocals. What attracts me is the amazing trance-dance music this band produces. Conor Crookham and Casey Luden make an incredible rhythm team, building the base for Roddy Hansen’s keyboard wizardry and the great guitar work of Adonis Guava.


St. Petersburg’s Resinated rocked their reggae with plenty of side dishes of hot funk and even disco. “Can’t Stop Now” was the appropriate opening tune, and “Gotta Keep My Hands Off You” and “Pass It On” were both killer. The band’s harmony vocals were excellent, and they closed with “I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye.”

Resinated – Mandi Nulph

There was great buzz about the Melody Trucks Band, which debuted at Great Outdoors Jam and also threw down at Hometeam New Year’s Rally. This was a similarly fine set which blew wide open with “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” including fine solos from Willis Gore (guitar), West Brook (lap steel), Trucks (congas), Shane Platten (bass), Shaun Taunton (drums), and I swear there was a keyboard player.

Melody Trucks Band at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

They played the first band original, “Not Here for a Long Time, then “(It’s Just a) Personal Thing,” which featured Brady Clampitt on guitar and Platten (he’s a beast on bass). Later, “Southbound” yielded to a “Les Brers in A Minor” tease before Critter joined them for “Yield Not to Temptation” in honor of Col. Bruce.

Holey Miss Moley got the last word — a lot of them, really. If you open with your strongest tune, then it’s obvious you’re ready to crush, and crush they did, first with a massive “Afroshaft,” then “Big Bad Wolf.” After a disco “Bermuda Triangle” with B-True Brian, the ladies — Miss Robyn Alleman, Loe Sanz and Ellie McCaw — stepped up for “You’re All I Need to Get By,” with B-True still rapping and Christian Ryan on alto sax. Jon Ditty offered a new vamp as Sanz and McCaw sang “Put It in the Wind” with horn support from Ryan and Jen Peacock (trumpet).

Holey Miss Moley at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Kela Rothrock and Travis ‘Too-Tall’ Young sang on “You Got Me” before the hip hop throw down with singer Danny Clemmons, Ditty, and B-True. Yet another artist at large, Joe Marcinek, matched up with Jacob Cox as they tore down “Devil Funk,” “woo”s all around, before the ladies took over again to sing “I’m the Slime.” Encore time: “High on Your Love,” Clemmons and the ladies, Rick James-style.

Miss Robyn Alleman and Danny Clemmons of Holey Miss Moley at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

I missed silent disco, and somehow I never heard about the great goings on at Hometeam with Custard Pie, more Georgia interlopers who really rock out. *SIGH*


The Firewater Tent Revival were first at bat and did not disappoint, from “West L.A. Fadeawy” through a fun set that lived up to their “high-energy string band” self-description. Any band with washboard, fiddle, sax and banjo has got to be fun. There was a killer medley that went “Dark Side of the Moon > Eleanor Rigby > Dark Side of the Moon > Mama Don’t Allow.”

The Firewater Tent Revival at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

The Psychedelic Monks were magical once again, opening with some great funk titled “Tapetum Lucidum.” Sandwiched in the middle of the song, Evan Ahlswede’s steel pans highlighted Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line” with its “shake señora” chorus. Artist-at-large Skyler Golden (Ajeva) played guitar on “The Boogie Man,” with more help from Isaac Corbitt and harp. Highlight of the set was “Dank Zappa.” More truth in advertising.

Meanwhile, I missed a band at the Zombie Stage many raved about called The Bird Tribe. The trio from Nokomis created quite a stir. Hope we get to see them on the festival scene again.

It was time for more South Florida funk, this time delivered by Fusik. “Tight Work” was some badass fusion, Robert Smiley on tenor sax. Golden guested again on guitar on “I Can’t Let You Go,” guitarist Sanchez Rivera handling the vocals. They gave us some Tampa funk before covering “The Dump” (Lettuce). “I Need Help” was the all-out funk near set’s end.


Yet another “new” band made us sit up and listen as Lemon City Trio knocked out a great set that featured jazz, fusion, soul, and some really spacey shit as well. The set began with “Babbitt” and “Sing a Simple Song.” There was a tune called “Flying Free” from their EP, and the closing “Cliffs” was great space stuff.

Lemon City Trio – Mandi Nulph

Orlando funk and soul then appeared in the form of Leisure Chief, that fine quintet (plus one), with Roland Simmons sitting in the entire set on guitar, slinging alongside Jordan Garno. Keegan Matthews brought the funk instantly with clavinet on, Derek Engstrom on vocals as well as drum kit, Christian Ryan on flute. This band has continued to evolve, with more rock and beautiful soul tunes in addition to funk and jazz. Engstrom’s voice is so soothing.

Leisure Chief
Derek Engstrom – Mandi Nulph

Just as quickly, there was a monster version of “What Is and What Will Never Be,” Tommy Shugart guesting on B3 (well, it WAS his B3, after all). And here, for one of the few times all weekend, the sound under the pavilion was too loud. There was a tremendous fusion tune with flute, synths, and Chris McMullen killing on bass. WOW. Simmons had a big solo. The final tune was straight-up badass, Garno soloing first, then Ryan on soprano sax (spectacular).

Ryan then had to pack up all his toys quickly to move to the other stage for his set with JOOSE. This amazing collective has risen to great prominence in the Sunshine State, as viewed by fellow musicians. This performance went in a variety of directions, thankfully so. After “Efflorescent Atonement” from their life suite, “Denial/Rage” was simply off the charts. Mark Mayea (Ajeva) was spacey on synths on this very Zappa-esque tune. He also played keyboard strings which developed into a magical ostinato before bassist Taylor Gilchrist (Ajeva) blew it up.

JOOSE – Mandi Nulph

Artist-at-large Travis ‘Too-Tall’ Young (also Ajeva) guested on “Peacock Strut” that was killer fusion, Ryan crushing on soprano sax. After “State of Shock,” a Stevie Wonder tribute broke out, first with the fusion tune “Contusion” before Nalani Rothrock sang “Do I Do” superbly, and that was followed by “All Day Sucker.” And they debuted a portion of the fifth and finale act in their life suite, this one called “Acceptance.”

We could hear the Sosos set while we went back to camp for dinner. They were followed by Electric Piquete, who sounded great. Gerald Wilson’s “Viva Tirado” will get my attention every time!

Electric Piquete

Mama’s Batch was another “new” band, although we certainly knew the players. Vocalist Nalani Rothrock fronted a band with Josh Lamkin (guitar and vocals) and three members of The Groove Orient: Harry Ong (bass), Bucky Buckingham (drums), and Tommy Shugart (keyboards). There was huge buzz when this band finished, because WOW. No setlist was available, but suffice to say you’ll be hearing a lot from this quintet, and soon!

Mama’s Batch at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018
Nalani Rothrock of Mama’s Batch at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Next was a very difficult choice: Trae Pierce and the T-Stones or The Reality. We caught the funk mastery of Pierce’s first tune before heading to the Zombie Stage — for the first time. In the past, they had constructed a stage in the open. For the first time, the bands played under the adjacent pavilion, a wise idea given the threat of rain.

Trae Pierce & The T-Stones at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Every time The Reality hits the stage, they create a funk dance party that just won’t quit. This is fun on steroids. They included tunes from all three albums, primarily the brand new Politically Uncorrect. Dan Jones is a superb front man, great singer, and dynamite guitarist and trombone player. Caleb Bone (bass) and BA Jones (drums) drive this vehicle like madmen, and, speaking of mad, recent addition on keyboards Josh Kim (Llamas on the Loose) fits right in here.

The Reality – Mandi Nulph
The Reality – Mandi Nulph

It was time for the headliners. Could we all CopE with that? Resoundingly, the answer was — YES! The three members who’d been with the band ever since it made its Florida debut — Dennis Stadelman (guitar, vocals), Kenny Stadelman (bass, vocals), and Juajamon (keyboards, tenor sax, EWI, and vocals) — were joined by all three of the drummers in the band’s history: Dave Gerulat, Brad Elliott, and Michael Garrie. As best I could tell, there were two drum kits and two percussion sets on stage, and they moved around. Everyone was dressed in black.

Juanjamon of Cope at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

“What Goes Up” was the perfect way to kick it off, and the dance floor was jammed. Early on, Dennis stepped up to the mic and offered: “Thank you. We are CopE. Been a minute.” There’s an understatement! Brother Kenny was on fire the entire set on bass. Juanjamon sang one of his signature tunes, “Babylon Man,” before Dennis switched to banjo for “Take Me Over” and “Suwannee River Scrubdown.”

Next was an instrumental the band often used for their first tune of the night, with great organ and guitar solos. Dennis really punished his wah-wah pedal on “Hurt,” and the encored with, appropriately, a big “Going Home.”

Thought: this was a fine set, but it was clearly just the warm-up for what they would bring Saturday night.

We missed the aforementioned Bird Tribe, Oak Ramble, and The Getbye. And, of course, the Hometeam Jam.



Once again, the day began with a bang with another band we didn’t know: Side Hustle. The Jacksonville quartet played a great set of originals and covers, reminding me by turns of early Lotus and George Benson jazz and rock with great jams. They began with six fine originals including “Work with What You Got” and “Freedom 35.” The latter provided a dance jam intro into a torrid “Another Brick in the Wall,” but that paled compared to MJ’s Dirty Diana,” and the “Sledgehammer” closer had everyone dancing.

Side Hustle at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

We ambled to Zombie-Land to check out Xotic Yeyo, a raw bar-band trio having a lot of fun. After a bit, we made it back in time to see part of the Rusty Shine set. This was more fun in a bluegrass/outlaw country sort of way. “Got Better Things to Do” was solid, and the ubiquitous Corbitt joined in on “Highway 42.” “Rushing Around” featured acoustic guitar and bass. And there were smiles all around during “Put Some Weed on It!”

Xotic Yeyo – Mandi Nulph
Rusty Shine – Mandi Nulph

The Funky Nuggets were a pure delight. Frankie Sensimilla is the perfect frontman for this quartet, singing and playing guitar. The first tune included a rock-solid “Kashmir” tease. On “What You’re Doin’,” Nik Dee played melodica, and Rocky Rucker had a fine bass feature. The set was a blast; the only tune that fell short was the cover of “The Boys are Back in Town.” Their originals jammed!

Nikolas Dee of The Funky Nuggets at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Then it was back to Zombie country to hear Somatic. Max Kipnis fronts this band, plays guitar and sings. And we got more of Sean Hartley on bass — always a good thing. Eric Layana held down the drum beats; the great new addition to the band is Kyle “Mr. Whiskers” Sareyani on keyboards,  flute, and vocals. From “ You Got What I Need” all the way through “I Say,” they funked, there was some rap, they rocked, and the groove jazz was sublime. Josh Zook (New Earth Army) guested the entire set on tenor sax.

We split that set to hear the second half of Displace, the Tampa quartet that has been blasting skyward of late. They began their set with “L.A. Woman” in anticipation of The Scream of the Butterfly, a Doors tribute in Tampa curated by guitarist George Pennington III with other members of the group and a wide swath of the Tampa jam scene involved.

George Pennington III – Mandi Nulph

They unveiled two new tunes: Scarecrow” and “Luvlee (Only If U Want It)” and offered a lovely cover of “Can’t Find My Way Home.” They closed, as is often the case, with “The Flight of Admiral Fitzgerald,” the magnum opus from Undertow, and it killed. Vinny Svoboda (bass) and Tucker Sody (drums) just crush these jams. It went over the top when Chris Sgammato (vocals, keyboards and alto sax) jumped on the speakers out front with alto, wailing away.


There was more superb South Florida funk on tap with FUGU; they opened with a really jazzy instrumental. Things got weird as guitarist Taylor Godsey narrated a crazy tale titled “That’s When Things Got Weird.” Daryl Wolff on keyboards (yes, the king of the late AURA ) used “Linus and Lucy” to launch into a really hot jam, Godsey soloing, and that led to a very Biscuits-like jam when Sgammato and alto sax jumped in. And then, for something completely different, a monster version of “Working Man.” Yep.


Paul Levine, the man behind Suwannee Hulaween, Purple Hatter’s Ball, and the late Bear Creek, was attending the festival. Damn right I got a picture of Paul and Daryl together after the set. Daryl also works on the Hula lineup.

Paul Levine and Daryl Wolff

I love the band JUke, every time. They just had a fine set at Wanee. But this OBJ set was… something else. Maybe I just never actually HEARD them before, but this was incredible. By the time they hit “Country Stroll,” it was 100% ON. Sonny East (guitar) and Marcel Salas (bass) both ripped tremendous solos. Then there was fun with “We Just Want Your Soul.”

JUke – Mandi Nulph

This set was amazing with the quartet, but then guests arrived to shoot this to another galaxy altogether. Melody Trucks and Corbitt were called up for “Little by Little,” the Junior Wells tune Susan Tedeschi has adopted. Corbitt and East locked horns first in a great duet. Then Corbitt and Eric Garcia, JUke’s front man, went toe to toe on dueling harps.

We need a separate paragraph to talk about what was, for me and at least some others, THE moment(s) of OBJ. I compared notes with others who have had the pleasure of seeing the Melody Trucks Band and catching her sitting in on vocals at Wanee and elsewhere. She has a fine voice, always just a little contained. This version of “Little by Little” was something entirely different. From the moment she stepped up to the mic, she let it ALL go. She soared. She was spectacular. Please, Ms. Trucks. Do this again. And again. And again. WOW!

After a hot “Everything’s Gonna Be Funky From Now On,” Bobby Lee Rodgers was called up to add his guitar to the mix. To say that they fanned the flames on “Burn in Hell” would be a gross understatement. Rodgers is a beast.

My other most favorite-est Florida band, Shak Nasti, was up next. Originally configured as a trio, the Orlando group now also has Ito Colon on percussion and Keegan Matthews (Leisure Chief) on keyboards. The group has always depended on the guitar of Tim Turner, one of the best guitarists you might never have seen, but the addition of Matthews gives their material even greater depth, and he got plenty of solo space.

Tim Turner – Mandi Nulph

After a huge “Treelocks” to start the party, Anthony AC Cole brought his tenor sax to help out on “Mind Bomb.” Turner was killing on guitar, and his vocals are perfect for this configuration. The percussion-driven “Postizos” gave Colon and drummer Rion Smith a chance to show their stuff, Matthews on electric piano. “Middle of a Bubble” also rocked.

“A Way Inside” was just plain stupid. For one thing, Matt Lapham was playing bass, my favorite player on the planet. Matthews was wailing on his clavinet, and Bobby Lee Rodgers joined the boys; they’ve played together often. My notes correctly indicate HOLY SHIT. “We want the funk” for certain. Matthews continued to shine, Turner drove “Monster” in all its stop-start glory, and they shut it down with “You’re My Buzz.” Yes, you are.

Matt Lapham

Like JUke, Bonnie Blue had a fine Wanee set, and this one was better. The set featured a number of great sit-ins and killer jams. By the time they got to “Gypsy Woman,” which Willis Gore sang, one of the most powerful tunes from new album No Lookin’ Back, Isaac Corbitt found a spot on stage and began blowing harp. John Wilson’s organ solo stood out. Gore and Wilson also soloed on a fine cover of “Feel Like a Stranger,” and Wilson sang “Way Too Slow.”


Bradley Churchman sang a bunch, too, and traded guitar licks with Gore. “Shake a Leg” was a blast with a “Jessica” tease before a really deep jam on WSP’s “Tall Boy.” Critter joined the gang for “Trigger” (also on new album), with Adam Kennedy knocking out a tremendous bass solo. Then Corbitt and Critter riffed off each other before Critter ripped a great solo.

On the band’s recent tour to Colorado, drummer Jeremy Mayr was unable to make the trip, and the band was joined by Jamal ‘MusicCity’ Wright (Holey Miss Moley). Wright sat in for the closing “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which blew up with Melody Trucks on congas and Critter, Gore and Churchman providing the three-guitar attack. Man, oh, man.

After two glorious sit-ins, Bobby Lee Rodgers had his own slot. Rodgers has worked with many rhythm sections, but none better than this one: Matt Lapham (Shak Nasti) and Anthony AC Cole on drums (these two often work with Roosevelt Collier). It was incredible. Rodgers’ tunes usually stretch out beyond ten minutes with his brilliant fretwork and fine features for his sidemen. Such was the case with opener “Time to Breathe.”

Bobby Lee Rodgers & AC Cole – Mandi Nulph

This was the second time hearing “(We’re Gonna Elect an) Electronic President,” so good and so on point. “Vertical Prison” was mind-blowing. They played one of BLR’s signature tunes, “Ike Stubblefield,” after which Eric Garcia (JUke) and Melody Trucks returned the favor, joining in on closer.

My biggest regret was not seeing The Bath Salt Zombies a single time. Their official set overlapped Rodgers’, and apparently I missed at least one late-night set that they performed. I love them, their attitude, and their dedication to the scene. During the day, we also missed NoNeed and Universal Funk Orchestra.

The Bath Salt Zombies
Zane Bowman

I was correct in my suspicion that the previous night’s CopE set was a warm-up for the main event. This was, as they say, THE SHIT. Kenny Stadelman reminded us why he is the godfather of Bay area bass players — all set long. The previous night all six were dressed in black; tonight everyone was in white. By the time they rolled into “Awake,” the crowd was totally lit up. Juanjamon was blowing sax like a madman, so good. There was some truly trips shit during an enormous jam, Kenny again in the driver’s seat.

CopE – Mandi Nulph

It really was exciting seeing all three drummers from the band’s reign on stage interacting with the band and the crowd. They were all smiles; so were we! “Outer Space” is a tune the band has performed often, so they invited the song’s author, Bobby Lee Rodgers, to join them, with Corbitt in tow. More WOW. It got even bigger during the massive jam that sprang from “When It All Comes Down,” Juanjamon on tenor and both Stadelmans killing.

Beautiful ladies on the rail – Mandi Nulph

Encore? Damn skippy. There was ZERO chance it wasn’t going to be “Shake Anything,” and you best believe we all did. Dennis’s voice was crisp throughout the set, and there was all manner of variation, Juanja on vocals, then a bouncy island lilt, and Juanja on synths before a return to “Shake.”

– Mandi Nulph

I DID make it to silent disco. On channel B, Dizzle Phunk (Universal Funk Orchestra) was spinning some good tunes, but I was all about Channel A, where Nuggetron was setting up. Nugge-who? Why, that would be a massive collab between The Funky Nuggets and Guavatron: Adonis Guava (guitar) and Conor Crookham (bass) of Guavatron, Frankie Sensimillia (guitar) of The Funky Nuggets, Mark Mayea (keyboards) of Ajeva, and Dillon Reeder (drums) of the sound crew and Future Soul.

Dizzle Phunk & Friends – Mandi Nulph

It was one massive jam (I survived until 4 AM), and just WOW. Frankie sang “Gin and Juice,” which segued into “Must Be the Money.” Mayea was announced as Mark After Dark and lit one up with a wicked “All Along the Watchtower” vamp. Eventually, there were lots of player swaps, including Rocky Ruckert on guitar and Travis ‘Too-Tall’ Young. Joe Marcinek played clavinet and keyboards, and FUGU boys jumped up as well. My notes failed after Johnny Nichol (formerly of Green Sunshine) and trumpet took a turn.

Nuggetron on the right – Mandi Nulph



Rain early morning Sunday put a slight damper on things. I’d hoped to get to Zombie City to see Courtney Calo and the amazing Blue Skye Pipes and Drums but did not venture forth. During the course of the day, I also missed Grumpy Ole Trolls, Oklahoma Stackhouse, and The Conglomerate.

We could hear High Test during the morning rain shower from our campsite, but they sounded so good I grabbed the umbrella and sprinted over. WISE DECISION. My notes are useless. Cannot wait to hear them again.

High Test

It just wouldn’t be OBJ without Legacy Collective Orchestra. This year, Sean ‘Legacy’ Maloney (guitar and vocals) invited Kenny Harvey (bass, Holey Miss Moley), Dillon Reeder (drums, Future Soul), and Juanjamon (tenor sax) to join him for another set of bouncy, positive tunes, including “Pirate Bones” and “Monkeys.” Artist-at-large Joe Marcinek sat in on one of Legacy’s signature tunes (and my favorite), “Ridiculous Elephant.” He stayed up as Ellie McCaw and the radiant Loe Sanz (Holey Miss Moley) sang “It Ain’t Right.” The ladies hung around for “The Sun is Shining” (and yes, it was). And “A Lot Like Water” was equally appropriate for the day.

Sean Maloney of Legacy Orchestra Collective with Joe Marcinek at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Spred the Dub had a nice set, kicking off with “I Can’t Turn You Loose” before walking the line between funk and reggae. That was fun.

Spred the Dub

The Citrus Stage boasted Ella Jet and Future Soul. She has a lovely voice, and her band was solid — especially drummer Dillon Reeder, who also worked his arse off as a member of the Citrus sound crew. After “Away,” there was a nice mid-tempo ballad titled “More Myself When I Get Lost With You.” Critter guested on “Your Love,” and they invited Skyler Golden up for “the strangest song we’ve ever written.”

Ella Jet & Future Soul

Este’s Church of Love was once again a huge success, first and foremost owing to Este Loves’ massive personality and talent as a songwriter, singer, and curator of a superb band, including Dennis Stadelman, Brad Elliott, and Estes’ sister, Carly. They began with the beautiful sentiment “Thinking of You Brings a Smile to My Face.” After “Never Let You Go,” 14 people in white dress rushed the stage: the Love Choir. Every time this 20+ member band plays, the house comes down.

Este Loves – Mandi Nulph

“Must Have Done Something Right” was fine, and Reeder sat in for “Embrace Yourself.” Critter turned in one of his strongest solos of the weekend on the wonderful “I Believe in You.” And Joe Marcinek also had a huge solo. Critter nailed it again on “Here to Stay.” At that point, the stage continued to fill, Juanjamon on tenor sax, Nook rapping, and Skyler Golden for “A Little Life Under the Moonlight.” It was awesome. The most significant sit-in came from Stephanie ?, now playing guitar in the Juanjamon Band. She crushed her solo. Not bad for a 17-year-old!

Este’s Church of Love – Mandi Nulph

Ultimately, of course, it was Este Loves, whose spirit was at the center of the action. BRAVA!

Este Loves – Mandi Nulph

Jacksonville’s Universal Green had a strong set of reggae-funk-soul that kept everyone dancing. And, in the middle of the set, did you expect to hear a power version of “Ace of Spades?” Tell the truth! The “Exodus” cover was dynamite, Jason Hunnicutt at the drum kit.

Universal Green

The High Cotton set was a tale of halves. The first half was raw, unpolished, but fun. This is a Widespread Panic tribute band, and a long intro finally made it to “Porch Song,” with “Ain’t Life Grand” tumbling after. Bassist Chris Brown (the famous one) does a spot-on imitation of John Bell’s voice, which was a riot, and those songs also featured guest v on violin. Next were two so-so originals, including “Dark at the End of Days.”

High Cotton

The second half started as Dennis Stadelman entered, and suddenly the entire band transformed, blowing up a masterful “Ride Me High” with great guitar work from Capt. Calvin. Eventually Juanjamon on tenor and Bob Feckner on trumpet upped the ante even further, and “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” was a match, with Stadelman, Fecker, and Vernon Suber (percussion – Holey Miss Moley).

Between Bluffs returned from hiatus to deliver monster sets at Great Outdoors Jam and Hometeam New Year’s Rally, among other shows. They showed no signs of letting with another great performance, starting out extremely spacey and working from there. The band again played its new concept album Type 1 Civilization in its entirety, Mel Walsh again superb on guitar and Justin Davis always so impressive on that upright amplified bass. The glue here is vocalist Jerrod Simpson, who is a great songwriter as well. Also, Simpson’s two-year-old daughter was rockin’ the rail!

The Applebutter Express appropriately got the final set; this was their last show before going on childbirth hiatus — Shannon and Kyle Biss are expecting in August. It was the perfect send-off. Their song “Smile, Smile, Smile” doesn’t begin to capture Shannon’s radiance. And it’s that disarming smile that makes their ribald tunes and covers so darn much fun.

Kyle Biss is a ukulele shredder, joined by excellent fiddle player Joe Trivette and monster bass fiddle man Zach Rogers, and they provide the music for those glorious Biss vocal harmonies. Trivette was magic on “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” And the boys seriously tore up “Orange Blossom Special.”

This is probably not the right title, but “Whistle and Go Fishin’ in Heaven” was a kick. Stadelman and banjo helped out on “Goin’ Straight to Hell.” The fun continued through “Dear Abby,” “World Ain’t All That Bad,” and “Hammocks and Handgrenades.” Shannon sang solo on “I’m Movin’ Out,” and there was a monster version of “Have a Drink On Me.” And the wonderful finale also included “Wanee Trippin’” and the infamous “Butt Chug!”

The moment you attempt to offer praise and thanks for an event such as this, it is 100% guaranteed that you will miss a bunch of people who deserve to be acknowledged. Rising Light did such a spectacular job once again of coordinating all manner of PLAYshops and yoga sessions and the like. AshLynne and Robert Greene had wonderful areas for children and teens to be children and teens.

Thanks to our masters of ceremonies: Big Mike McCullough (master of the Mushroom Stage at Wanee), MC Nook, and the surprise of OBJ — the return of MC PKStephen Barry and Adam Danger Smith provided opportunities for everyone to make some art, and Moe Angelo and Because of the Lotus truly ‘lit’ up the area between the two main stages. Bean Spence was seemingly everywhere!

The OBJ group photo — and the Ginger photo that followed — were coordinated by Mandi Nulph and Matt Hillman.

Mandi Nulph taking the group photo at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018
OBJ Family Photo – Mandi Nulph
Ginger Photo version 2 at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

This was also a very animal-friendly affair!

Meg Stone and her wonderful volunteers were awesome. The sound and lights crews, and I’m shouting out Andy Lytle in particular, for all three stages blew our minds once again. Doug Marris and his folks are superstars.

Wendy Molitor & Andy Lytle at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Jillian Melucci and Megan Baker are goddesses. The festival’s main sponsor was Dunedin Brewery. And then there are our gracious hosts: Russ and Toby Bowers, pulling off another amazing Orange Blossom Jamboree.

Toby, Kacey & Russ Bowers at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2018

Thank you all. Mostly, thank everyone one of you who continues to support this great endeavor and live music in general. NOBODY HAS A FAMILY LIKE OURS. NOBODY.

And oh, thanks to Mother Nature for ameliorating what looked to be non-stop rain; the weather was great — a little damp, but not too hot.

Comments are closed.