Music, Family, ‘Rasslin’: Orange Blossom Jamboree Had It All!
Five days. Three stages. 60 bands and performers. 60 hours of music to absorb, regardless of which sets you heard. Children’s activities. Outstanding workshops and playshops. Great food trucks. Outstanding beer.
Oh, and there was a near-WWE-level ‘rasslin’ match to boot!
Yep. For the tenth time, Toby and Russ Bowers honored Florida music by hosting Orange Blossom Jamboree, presented by Dunedin Brewery at Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville. One of the first questions that always gets asked is, “Why wasn’t the So-And-So Band invited?” It’s called an embarrassment of riches. Bowers could fill at least three such weekends, probably four, to include most of the outstanding talent in the wide range of genres that OBJ represents annually.
Confession: last year, I used any number of excuses to avoid going to the Zombie Stage and only made it there three or four times. That wasn’t fair to those bands and didn’t give me a complete picture of OBJ. The other two stages — the Cypress (main stage) and the Citrus (adjacent to it) — alternated sets, whereas the Zombie performances overlapped. A lot.
So you’ll see that I heard many partial sets, jetting back and forth. I only missed seven entirely. And, fortunately, there is brilliant video evidence courtesy of Volke Mon (all those monitors and cameras), more videos from Roy Loeffler, and awesome audio evidence from Butch Almberg. To those gentlemen and Patti Boates, who worked tirelessly with Volke Mon, we are forever in your debt! There are 14 videos here; there will be many more coming in the near future!
They always say that recent memory trumps older memory. Be that as it may, there were some absolutely jaw-dropping performances every day. So many bands [and here you can take your pick]: played the best set of their careers, reached a new astral plane, bumped their game up a quantum level, whatever you want to call it. They evolved, reinvented, extended, brought their A+ games.
Unfortunately, we missed Honey What (AGAIN). Early arrivals raved about their set. I hereby pledge to catch them on a night with no other distractions. And it’s worth mentioning (for the first time but not the last) that there were lots of musicians who (if possible) hung out all weekend, appreciating and respecting their fellow Florida musicians. First nod here goes to Danielle Mohr of Honey What.
Este’s Church of Love made an early appearance this year (Bowers again mixing it up, giving everybody opportunities from year to year). And once again she and her crew delivered a world-class performance. I say that every time I see her collective, and I mean every word. The joy and love just pour from the stage, and the band included Justin Davis on guitar, Juanjamon on tenor sax, Dani Jaye on violin and vocals, and some ringer who looked a lot like Tony Tyler on bass.
Antelope had the closing set, and the band featured a change on bass. Trevor McDannel now fills that slot, and he did a superb job. There was ample and honest discussion about the fact that they loved the man Trevor replaced — Sean Hartley — but that he was “in too many bands!” (And sure enough, we saw him several times the following day!)
“Suzy Greenberg” was the perfect way to get people bouncing ’round the room, and they did. After “Chalkdust Torture,” they blew into “Down with Disease” with a long-ass jam. Fronted by guitarist Matt Weis and Juanjamon (keyboards, sax), the vocals were excellent, Michael ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie crooning as well.
One joyous surprise was Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll,” which yielded into a fine “Tweezer,” and that gave way to “Birds of a Feather.” DAMN! Antelope finished off Wednesday with “2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra).”
The sound mix at all three stages was again great. You know me — I ALWAYS think it’s too loud, and I did again this year, but I have ear plugs. One day I’ll convince people that a notch or two down would improve ear health. Maybe.
The Fil Pate Trio electrified the noon crowd — with only one microphone (the good old way). Pate plays mandolin in this setting, with Mike Godwin on guitar and Rob Williams on bass. It was magnificent, from the opening chords of “Kentucky Mandolin” to the coda to “Tipsy Gypsy.” They hit “Shady Grove” for the second song, and from there on it was pure Americana, except maybe for “African Mandolin.” And a wonderful pair of jazz tunes: “Mr. P.C” and “Minor Swing.”
I fully intended to go Zombie to listen to Sweet as Folk, which is photographer Arielle D’Ornellas’ music project. However, we were blown over by POCKiT, a power funk trio from South Florida. Later we realized we should have recognized two of them as members of another great funk ensemble, Fusik: keyboard player Chip Gardner and bassist J. (Jason) Spencer. They were joined by Mai Linares on drum kit.
Familiar and yet fresh, their approach attracted lots of ears for some great originals such as “Juice” and “Gordita.” For “Coconut Boogaloo,” they were joined by tenor player Rob Smiley, another South Florida stalwart. Spencer solicited “beverages” for the band, reminding us: “If the band is lubricated, then the crowd is undomesticated!” Artist-at-large Michael Nivens (Ajeva) came out to help send Stevie Wonder’s “Too High” sky high and stayed up for their closers “23” and “Driving Out,” including a space bass romp from Spencer.
I put in a lot of steps during the five days of OBJ (plus Tuesday), but the man who wore a well-beaten path between stages was our affable MC PK, who would announce the set, cheerlead at the end, then zip over to the other stage (Cypress <> Citrus) to introduce the next band. And his outfits were fabulous!
Follow the Monarchs is a tremendous improv project emanating from Dunedin Brewery. The lineup is never quite the same. This time, DunBrew proprietor Michael Lyn Bryant was on drums, Kane on bass, Alex Sears on keyboards, and Joe Knoebel on guitar (not coincidentally three quarters of S.P.O.R.E.). They played… whatever the heck they wanted to. It was great. Bryant’s drum game was on point, and Sears loved all over his synths.
Sarasota’s Wild Root is another band that has really reinvented itself, this time as an outstanding “hard soul” trio with powerful vocals. Paul Fornier is the band’s leader, guitarist, and vocalist, and he pushed the band through a great set. Sean Hartley was fabulous on bass. “Gimme Something” stood out, as did a cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” which segued into a funk thing. Finally, “Did You Really Love Me” turned into “Purple Rain.”
Guavatron did what they do best: start jamming and then jam some more. There was a delicious double-sammy: “Spring Roll > Voyager > Dayman (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) > Voyager > Spring Roll,” a 45-minute jamtronic delight. Then Carl Schmid of Austin, Texas, made his first OBJ appearance as artist at large. I was skeptical — for about a minute — and then it was fully apparent that “All Systems Go,” a new tune they had worked out with Schmidt, was properly named. Another quarter-hour of heaven.
And, for as many times as I’ve grooved with Guavatron, this was the first time I actually realized (now this is a DUH moment for me) that the action keys on Casey Luden at the drum kit. He’s the one who is constantly kicking it up, so when Conor Crookham drops the bass, Luden is in perfect lockstep. Told you it was a DUH moment.
First real conflict: Deja Voodoo was on the main stage, and Oddessey was back on the Zombie. I caught the first part of Deja Voodoo, The Rev. Funky D’s latest project. The band included Jimmy Rector (percussion), Sara ‘Mama Bone’ Phillips (trombone), Bob Feckner (trumpet), George Pennington III (guitar), and Sean Hartley (this time on guitar!). They rocked out, appropriately, with “Out of Control.” And then I was outta there, heading for Zombie-Land.
Oddessey, the Port St. Lucie quintet, offered up a fine set of Allman Brothers tunes and a nice original with bassist Matthew Lindstrom on vocal. The ABB songs included “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” “Whippin’ Post,” and “Les Brers in A Minor,” with multi-instrumentalist Peter Baione (also guitar and flute) playing tenor sax. It was all propelled by Erik Flinck from his drum set.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things were stellar with Deja Voodoo. Funky D (Darryl Quesenberry) called up Tony Tyler to join him on keyboards; eventually, he grabbed Hartley’s guitar as well, and MusicFestNews’ own Matt Hillman played harp.
My first encounter with High Test was at 3 in the morning at Funktoberfest, when they shot a grand-slam touchdown. This set was even better. Paxton St. John (guitar), Butch Gonzalez (bass), and Brett Crook (drums) were joined by Kalen Mercer (EWI). And Carl Schmidt and violin were back; he played the entire set with High Test, and it was about as high-test as you can get. St. John got some great sounds playing his guitar through a Leslie cabinet. Michael Nivens sat in on “Superstition,” Gonzalez soloing first, then Mercer, Nivens, and Schmidt. Brilliant.
More decisions. Holey Miss Moley was ready on the main stage, but I’d missed Flint Blade last year and was determined to catch half of his set. Man, did I ever make a great decision! He was joined by Casey Luden (drums) and Roddy Hansen (keyboards) of Guavatron. Flint Blade plays the Chapman stick. I had to ask: ten strings which are tapped or fretted. The top half are for bass, the bottom for melody. The set was awesome. At one point, he turned Hansen and Luden loose, came out front, and hula-hooped. And he was good at it! Flint Blade was another of those musicians who was present all weekend, dancing, listening, appreciating. Respect.
one of my favorite parts of playing as a trio is picking up the hoop while the guava duo jams out
Posted by Flint Blade on Wednesday, May 22, 2019
The Holey Miss Moley funk machine was already in overdrive when I returned. They were stomping through “Hold On, I’m Coming” and excellent original “Shake It with Me.” Their great new song “Here to Dance” was again a real highlight featuring Miss Robyn Pack and Ellie McCaw on vocals. Brian B.True had a great guest slot.
Their magnum opus, “Afroshaft,” was, of course, incredible. Christian Ryan soloed on tenor, and then there was a percussion feature: Anthony Morales, Vernon Suber, and Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright. After “Naugatuck,” they closed with “We Are Family,” and it truly was, with B-True, MC Nook, Loe Sanz, and Sean Maloney (a.k.a. Legacy) on stage.
After the set, one of the best exchanges of OBJ: Holey Miss Moley bass player Kenny Harvey kids guitarist Jacob Cox, saying, “Our drummer is WAY better than their [Bonnie Blue’s] drummer. Cox: “You dumb fuck, he’s the same drummer.” That was truly a LOL moment.
And Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright was in fact sitting in on drums for Bonnie Blue, as he does often. This was — by far — the best and most powerful set I’ve heard these Jacksonville rockers play. They opened with a jam that lead into “Gypsy Woman” and then “Blood for Gold,” two of the tunes from their exceptional album No Lookin’ Back. “Blood for Gold” began a great jam sequence with “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys > Porch Song > The Shape I’m In.” They killed all three covers.
“Best Friends” featured great interplay with Wright and bassist Adam Kenneway, then John Wilson on piano. Juanjamon joined the fun on “Trigger” with a cooking solo on tenor, and then Tony Tyler made it a three-guitar attack on “Beggars” with Willis Gore and Bradley Churchman.
Another great line: after their last song, video archivist Volke Mon ran up to me and said, “If you’d bet me $50 that Bonnie Blue was going to cover Hot Chocolate (“Everybody’s a Winner”), I’d be handing you a $50 bill!”
I missed Syzygy and Dizzlephunk over in Zombie-Land, and also The Good Wood Band earlier.
The Grass is Dead had the first headlining slot, and they made the most of it. They did the Dead, of course, but they joyous went off script, especially with a great instrumental version of “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Artist-at-large Carl Schmid battling multistring master Billy Gilmore on violins! “Alabama Getaway” and a very uptempo “Sugaree” in particular stood out. It’s always great seeing Jon Murphy with that upright bass. Schmid first came out for a superb Grisman-like newgrass/dawg-grass tune. Steve Pruett on mandolin and Jared Womack on dobro were outstanding in their interplay.
Dizzlephunk had the late set and the silent-disco set in Zombie Land.
Two jaw-dropping moments opened the day on the two main stages. First, I’magene, a Destin quartet, stunned us with a performance no one who was there will ever forget. There is plenty to talk about instrumentally, but once we heard Anthony O’Shae sing, best vocalist competition was over. Spectacular pipes. He also plays keyboards. Charlie Buice played drums, and Robby Walton played guitar and sang. The other main focus was on Jessica Heit and her violin.
They were playing some great original music, often steeped in synth pop. The showstopper was “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” O’Shae’s falsetto in particular was riveting. Next they turned Heit loose for a violin romp. O’Shae promptly tore up “Dirty Diana” falsetto-style. Then Heit grabbed a mini-keytar, and I’magene took us through “Sexual Healing,” “Human Nature,” and original “Do You Want That Feeling Inside?” JUST WOW.
I did get back to the Zombie briefly for The Grindstone Sinners, offering another great set after last year’s OBJ debut. They included a nice cover of “Soulshine.” Honestly, I’m not sure how I fit that in, because the second jaw-dropper was taking place on the Citrus Stage with The Conglomerate. The feeling was very much like the first time hearing Ghost-Note, except that TheConPS, as they abbreviate for the interwebs, features three (3) THREE keyboard players playing at least ten keyboards, especially synths.
This was funk to the power of funk. You can expect to hear a LOT from this outstanding band. The setlist included [Proz, Freehand, Convince Me, Joy, Timothy, Head On]. Titanic funk!
shoeless soul continued dazzling us with another fine set of thoughtful music. And the addition of two ladies for much of the set made it that much better. Tina Praino, one of the brightest lights in our community, came up to sing a tune she wrote called “The Burg” and also joined in on a ska-ish version of “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” The other little lady was, in fact, little, dancer Natasha, age 8. She was on stage most of the set. And she was TOTALLY AWESOME.
The quartet offered their great originals, including a Latin-y “Peter Pan,” “Paving the Way” with a guest solo by Chris Sgammato (alto sax). As always, Rene Schlegel’s unique delivery was a delight. Their rhythm section — Sladjan Vidic on bass and Dave Gerulat on drums — was simply magical. They finished, appropriately, with “Happiness.”
Phunk It was back at the Zombie Stage, led by Kyle Shell on guitar and vocals. It was a really enjoyable set with an ABB-ish tune, another with a nice Latin vibe, and a really nice take on “I Know You Rider.”
I went back to catch Ella Jet and Future Soul. As I got nearer, I got truly excited. Guitarist Kevin Mendel was playing the break to “Call Tyrone.” I enjoy the Ella Jet silky soul and elegance, but I was really looking forward to her and the band finally stepping out a bit. I was giddy imagining her singing, “And tell him come on, help you get your shit.” Alas, it was not “Call Tyrone.” It was a tune with a similar guitar break. They played their elegant set very well. I’d just like to hear them kick it up a bit.
Now my crisis began: five sets I really wanted to hear with overlaps. And every one was a banger. Leisure Chief was first up. As many times as I’ve heard them before, this was a whole new level. They’ve kicked ass before, but not this much ass. The opening instrumental featured solos from Christian Ryan on alto sax (through an effects pedal) and Jordan Garno on guitar. For “72,” Derek Engstrom sang, joined by Megan Shay. Ryan was on flute, and Roland Simmons joined Garno on guitar.
“The Yard Sale” was some great laid-back jazz, and then Jim Wuest, also an artist at large, turned the proceedings to deep funk on “Take Me to the River,” playing clavinet while Keegan Matthews played electric piano and synths. After that, I wrote WOW, “Galacticos,” and WOW.
So, in the middle of the best set I’ve ever heard from Leisure Chief, I split to go see Side Hustle. The Jacksonville quartet had just released their excellent EP Common Ground; they first played OBJ last year. They were playing “Fly Back Home” from the EP when I arrived. Then Side Hustle threw down a fine “Sledgehammer,” pumped up by vocals from guitarist Anton Laplume and bassist Sean Thomas. The interesting song, driven by Aaron Plotz on drums, featured a great solo from Laplume. “Freedom 35” was a dance party led by Billy Begley on piano.
And back to catch the band I’ve heard more than any other: Shak Nasti from Orlando. The trio has expanded to a quintet, with Keegan Matthews (Leisure Chief) on keyboards and Ito Colon on percussion. Tim Turner’s guitar tone wasn’t quite right at the beginning, but it improved as the set progressed. Matt Lapham on bass was once again simply astounding. And drummer Rion Smith is a polyrhythmic wonder.
By the time they got to “Forget Yourself,” Wuest and Simmons rushed the stage. “Postizos” was superb, Colon and Smith in a duet and then Turner with a great solo. The peak of the set might have been the long jam during “A Way Inside,” Turner and Simmons blazing away on guitars. And they closed out with two of their best: “Monster” and “Mind Bomb.”
The Legendary JCs were about to take us old-school in the best way possible, with a true soul revue. And Eugene Snowden is just the man to lead such a show. Snowden had surrounded himself with a crack funk machine, led by Anthony ‘AC’ Cole on drums, Katie Burkess on vocals, and Clay Watson on trombone and washboard. Tommy Shugart (The Groove Orient) joined Andrew Rice on keyboards, and stage-hopping Simmons was back playing with Michael Lashinsky. It was vintage Snowden, especially on the show-stopper “Save Me.” The first four tunes were great…
…and I left for Future Vintage. This jamtronic trio out of St. Petersburg crushed from the moment stage MC Clyde Lowrie announced them, opening with “Do It” and then a Daft Punk song, “Give Life Back to Music.” Matt Giancola had at least half of his keyboard toys (he does have a LOT) and was all over his synths. For “Reed Tune,” the composer, Reed Skahill of Ajeva, and Ella Jet sang. Skahill also grabbed his guitar for some more funk.
Bassist Trevor McDannel was brilliant (I wrote “unreal” in my notes) on “Coupe de Ville,” which featured a superb piano solo from Giancola. After “4th-Quarter Magic,” Giancola played some of awesome Herbie Hancock-like “Chameleon” synths on “Ole” after Jon Ditty had a fine sit-in (rap-in?). That left it for drummer Eric Layana and the boys to kick it one more time with “Body.”
There is a reason people attend church every week. Grateful Dead church. And one of the primary sets of proselytizers are Uncle John’s Band, and they set up shop at the Citrus for a fine long set that featured “Terrapin.” Remarkably, they kept rolling without a hitch when the power went out during “Jack Straw,” with Dan DeGregory and Michael Bortz doing a nice double drum solo until they got the power back on and then went right back into the same song at the same spot they left off, never stopping.
They got “Shakedown Street” out of the way first thing, then settled in. “Big River” and “Stagger Lee” offered a great one-two punch, as did the guitars of Alan Gilman and Rich Whiteley. After “Hey Pocky A-Way,” Chris Sgammato sat in on alto for “Estimated Prophet” and “Eyes of the World.”
As amazing as Come Back Alice has been since we first heard them half a dozen years ago, this latest reinvention is even more powerful that what we remembered even at Hometeam New Year’s Rally. This was epic. “Shadows” was a shitkicker romp, and they never took their collective foot off the gas. There seemed to be a hard-rockin’ edge to everything (and that was a very good thing). “Loneliness” was excellent, followed by “Ugly Rumors,” with Shugart on organ and Tony Tyler grabbing his guitar slide.
Even “Can’t Find My Way Home” showed great power, especially in Tyler’s vocals. At several points, amazing flames of sparks shot up from half a dozen pots in front of the stage. THAT was exciting! So was Dani Jaye on violin (fiddle, whatever). And Sean Hartley (see?) and Brad Elliott propelled the set forward on bass and drums.
And I left. Again. During CBA’s best set ever (according to me), to check out Franscene, a genre-bending trio from Lake Worth (think West Palm Beach).
[What did I miss? A lot, most notably the band’s version of “I Walk On Gilded Splinters,” with Sara Phillips, Jim Wuest, B-True and Dave Watts. Dave Watts? What was he doing there? The drummer from The Motet played drums on that tune and the Roland TD-50 electronic drums kit on the final tune, Michael Jackson’s “Scream.”
Imagine my delight discovering Matt Giancola of Future Vintage and The Heavy Pets’ Jeff Lloyd playing with Franscene on “Goodlife.” Lloyd stayed up for “Lazy Boy” as well. Dave Trull played guitar, keyboards and synths, with Will Trull on drums. Shaun Cuddy played bass and bass synth, and they all sang. Mike (F my notes) played trombone as well as guitar.
Check out this fun jam from Orange Blossom Jamboree featuring Jeff from The Heavy Pets and Matt from Future Vintage Band!!!?? 5/17 from the Zombie Stage – Brookesville, FL ??
Posted by Franscene on Saturday, June 1, 2019
“Space Land” was killer, and they steered that into “Closer to My Home,” the Grand Funk Railroad classic, and they shut down a fine set with “Tribal.”
Did I hang out for Guavatron’s silent disco set? Those who know me don’t have to ask. It was a brilliant tribute to the ’80s, and it was pure fun. After a couple of technical false starts, the set took form with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” with an enormous jam in the middle. After “All Night Long,” Skahill and Ella Jet sang “Thriller.” We heard “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” “Everybody Wants to Save the World,” and a killer “White Wedding.”
“The Land Down Under” went all trance-y with great guitar from Adonis Guava and synths from Roddy Hansen. I was beyond thrilled to get a silent disco version of my favorite, “Xilla.” Dave Trull joined in there somewhere. It was 3 a.m., so, no, I’m not positive when!
The Hometeam jam was in full swing. I was in bed.
Two years ago, The Daniel Heitz Band stunned us with a superb performance early in the day. Daniel Heitzhausen and band did precisely the same again this year with a monster set. He had 80% of The Groove Orient on stage with him, and they blew out a massive set. They totally crushed the Billy Cobham song “Spectrum,” with Heitz and Chuck Magid on guitars. John Downey took Magid’s spot for a tune, and he too rocked out. Then Magid returned, and Mike Nivens assisted on the three-guitar attack on “Hot ’Lanta” that was amazing.
Apparently you CAN come home again, as we discovered when Troy Youngblood returned from his Maine Home (he’s been there almost a year) to play with not one but two of the bands he is associated with. Skull and Bone Band got the nod for the first part of the set, with Chris Brown on bass, beefcake ’rassler Mountain Mike Shuman on drums, and Dennis Stadelman and Jeramy Martin on guitars. There was a rocker, followed by “Goin’ Down South” and the crowd-pleasing “Let’s Walk the Plank.” Youngblood’s voice sounded better than ever, his signature purple hat atop his head.
At that point, and with minor changes, Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish assembled. It was classic. It didn’t take them long to stumble into “Molly’s Door,” the true story of bassist Chris Brown’s Crescent City escapades. Bob Feckner’s trumpet was so good, and Al had a wonderful piano intro to the raunch about to spill out over the stage. Stadelman was still there, and young guitar slinger George Pennington III, another ’rassler, was there, too. Reggie Scott was directing traffic from the drum kit. There were several Chris Brown song detours.
Pennington stepped out on a deep, bluesy “Devil Smells Like Bourbon,” a real romp with Al on harp. “Got My Mojo Workin’,” the Youngblood variation, featured lots of solos, including Martin, who had returned to the stage along with Shuman. And, finally, “Something Must Be Wrong” told us it was time to STAY RIGHT THERE for the group photo courtesy of Mandi Nulph and Matt Hillman.
Legacy Orchestra Collective is never the same and always magical. This time, Legacy was joined by Tony Morales, Dave Gerulat, Kenny Harvey, Juanjamon and more. It’s always a good day when I hear “Ridiculous Elephant,” a great original of Maloney’s. The stage was packed for “It Ain’t Right,” a funk masterpiece with Magid, Ellie McCaw, Loe Sanz, Sara ‘Mama Bone’ Phillips, Jimmy Rector, and Mark Mayea. It got DEEP. Jon Ditty spit some rhymes, and then sound engineer Andy Lytle played bass on an old Happy Campers tune, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” with Skyler Golden on guitar. “Ain’t No Use” was also excellent.
I noted that the new and improved S.P.O.R.E. had really upped their game from an October viewing to one at the end of March. Their OBJ set continued that trend. Michael Lyn Bryant is a semi-regular member of the band now, giving them dual synth capabilities along with Alex Sears. Also, Joe Knoebel has been playing with fire on guitar, and that trend continued as well.
They got right at it “The Moto” and kept the prog on tap flowing all set long. Steve Honig on bass had a killer intro to “The Origin of Bim,” which had a killer groove. After a fine version of “Tainted Pitties,” Juanjamon on tenor helped out on a WOW “Ethereal.”
In the process, I had missed Headstash and the Stephanie D’Angelo Trio sets. I heard lots of rave reviews about D’Angelo’s performance in particular.
In the long list of bands absolutely blasting sky-high at OBJ would be Tand, the excellent South Florida quintet. They too played a killer set that seemed like a new level for the band. The set began with “Die Hard > Fast Money (to the jam) > Swim,” Peter Krause (bass) and Ali Nassar (drums) pushing the pace immediately. That sequence was killer, Taylor Godsey blazing on guitar. As “Fat Tua” shifted into “Everybody Party,” Jim Wuest stepped up to the clavinet, and he and Daryl Wolff on synths partied down for certain. Tand also knocked out “Who Are You?” and then “Papercut > Fast Money (finish).” Bravo!
Splitting sets again, I went back to see what Spiral Light had to offer. They are another from the great set of Grateful Dead tribute bands from South Florida, led by Nick Landess on keyboards and vocals. Joni Bottari was an engaging lead guitarist. For the part of the set that I heard, Carl Schmid was sitting in on violin. He and Landess had a great exchange during “Cassidy.”
On the way from Tand to Spiral Light, we walked by the location of the wrestling match! I had forgotten all about it! for months, Mountain Mike Shuman and George Pennington III had been trading Facebook taunts and insults. Eventually we came to discover that it was all a preview for their big wrestling match. Watch the video. Do you think there will be a rematch? A kudos for everyone who helped to set up this epic battle.
Speaking of kudos, Rising Light once again presented a full schedule of “wokeshops” and playshops under the Rising Light white tent. And that tent was tucked under the large porch overhang of a new building on the property, helping to keep things cool (and dry, except that we were blessed this year with exceptional weather). Yoga, permaculture, music instruction, arts and crafts, partner massage, and sustainability were just some of the topics offered, and they helped manage the Marching Band Parade Saturday. And Kid Row was once again chock-full of activities for young festival-goers of all shapes and sizes!
Rising Light WOKE&PLAYshops at OBJ '19
We are proud to present: Rising Light WOKE & PLAYshops at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2019Turn the sound ON!
Posted by Rising Light on Friday, May 31, 2019
The Applebutter Express did what they always do best: delight with their fine original songs and eclectic covers from just about anywhere. Kyle and Shannon Biss and their incredible bandmates, Joe Trivette, fiddle, and Zach Rogers, bass, delighted us with their wonderful mix of great stories, double-entendre songs, and eclectic covers. Pure uncut ukulele funk. “Handguns and Hammocks,” anyone?
Next we heard a band play their best — and last — set ever, as The Groove Orient, who had only recently released a great new album, announced that this would be their final performance. They’ve never held back, but everything poured out of the band this set. “Bugs” featured both Harry Ong (bass) and David Vanegas (percussion and sometimes bass) on vocals, with Tommy Shugart switching from Hammond B3 to guitar, dueling it out with Chuck Magid.
“Adventure” also had Ong singing, and then there was massive prog on “Pattern,” Magid shredding like mad. “Sewer Rat” was totally badass, as was “One More Night.” “One Foot” picked up the pace during the tune thanks to Bucky Buckingham on drums, with Shugart and Vanegas on vocals. Vanegas then grabbed the bass so that Ong could pour himself into the vocals for “Sammy A,” and Shugart’s organ work was straight out of church.
And I split. Again. (Before “Hot Bandit Woman” and the “Bananas” encore) This time to see Jon Ditty. The rapper was accompanied by Dave Gerulat on percussion and a behooded George Pennington on guitar. This was Ditty at his best, with a cappella rants, great rhymes, and pure emotion crammed into the set. B True guested on “Natural Selection.” Then Kasey Bowers, daughter of our weekend hosts, came up to recite with Ditty an entire rap she had learned from one of his albums. That was deluxe.
Reed Skahill paired with Ditty to sing “No Money,” and MC Nook joined in for a stanza or two at some point. Finally, Ditty’s “Dear God” rap was pure fire, absolutely riveting.
We hustled back to find the Melody Trucks Band also on fire. This group’s three-guitar attack is killer, with Willis Gore, Brady Clampitt, and West Brook (The GingerBeard Man) blazing start to finish. They “eased” into the set before Trucks sang “Just Here for a Good Time.” She was once again in great voice. And everybody sings except, I think, for drummer Shaun Taunton. After “Look Before You Leap,” Clampitt switched to keyboards for part of the set.
Then Trucks paused to thank the crowd, reminding us that last year’s OBJ was the first time the band ever presented original material! Isaac Corbitt, harmonica in hand, dueled with Taunton. Then it was “the beast’s” turn, as Shane Platten had a bass workout before “Jellyfish.” Gore sang a brand new song (“Keep On Ridin’”?).
Trucks dedicated “Freight Train” to her dad, the late Butch Trucks. fiddler Carl Schmid joined in a “Southbound” romp, Clampitt on organ. Next Trucks and crew reminded us that “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” and they said goodbye with “Yield Not to Temptation.”
The Heavy Pets had the headlining slot, and we were once again reminded why this band has been on top for so many years. Guitarists Jeff Lloyd and Mike Garulli and keyboard wizard Jim Wuest all sing, and this was a magical set. David Vanegas sat in all set on percussion. The man of the set, however, was Tony D’Amato. He is just so badass on bass.
The set started with a lovely short pop song and then exploded in numerous directions, featuring music from their album Strawberry Mansion and more, beginning with “Shahryar’s Rage.” “Real News” was in there, too, after, “Sigismondi,” before the cavalcade of stars crossed the stage.
Melody Trucks was first, then Dave Watts of the Motet; Jamie Newitt moved to percussion briefly. Adonis Guava (Guavatron) also jammed out on that song. Then Joe Marcinek joined the groove, Wuest swirling in synths. Carl Schmid’s sit-in was fascinating, starting very Texas country and ending very South Florida deep funk. Juanjamon then played tenor. Next, Russ Bowers brought his crew on stage for just a fraction of the recognition they deserve for providing us such an amazing, wonderful, and safe environment to be with family. And he allowed an encore, seeing as how it was “the tenth anniversary!”
Eventually, I slipped away to see one of the Spirit of the Suwannee’s best ambassadors, Vlad the Inhaler, play his first OBJ. He is a DJ, and I have always admired his enthusiasm and most often his music, featuring a wide cross-section of the EDM spectrum. This set was right up my alley, with lots of acid jazz and house intertwined with the other grooves he presents. His eternal smile tells you he’s having as much fun as you are. This was a blast.
I did not stay for his silent disco set, which was packed and well-received. Of course it was. He’s Vlad the Inhaler.
No Hometeam jam for me, either. 12+ hours of music seemed like enough for the day.
The final day of OBJ — Day 5 — would end earlier than the previous days (well, theoretically), and it also produced two of the most exciting “new discoveries” plus some other great sets.
Mind Medicine was a collaborative effort of musicians, three from Ajeva (Mark Mayea, Mike Nivens, and Taylor Gilchrist), Jimmy Rector of CBA, and Tucker Sody, formerly with Displace. They provided a pleasant start to the day with originals and covers of the Allman Brothers and Pink Floyd (“Great God in the Sky”).
I was enjoying Mind Medicine, but something was telling me to go find out about Victoria Cardona at the Zombie Stage. Best Decision of OBJ 10 for me. Cardona is a looper from the east coast of Florida, and I’ve never seen a more engaging looper (and I’m thinking about Keller and Legacy and [fill in the blank]). She plays guitar and has a magnificent voice. I arrived as she was playing “Oh! Darling” in ’50s doo-wop style. She had already played a marvelous version of “The Land Down Under” unlike any you have heard. She shifted to Spanish for a lovely song. She was employing two microphones. The first was for her lead vocals; the second created an awesome chorus effect. You could have heard a pin drop.
Next, she regaled us with a tale about her grandfather in Cuba. The government demanded (and I hope I have the story straight) his cane fields, and he said no. When they insisted, he burned them down, for which he was jailed. Once released, the family came to America. The chorus of the song was: “How sad for the sugar, But how sweet its taste.” WOW! Then she blistered a Latin tune, and her playing certainly evoked Santana, and then that somehow worked its way through a variety of songs including “Volare” and “Bamboleo.” Standing ovation at the end. You bet I was standing. BRAVA!
Meanwhile, back at the main stage, Row Jomah was regaling with a set of excellent tunes from their albums and fine covers — in other words, another day for this fine band. They did offer the elusive “Cat People” before I arrived (naturally), and then there was “European Festivity Nightmare.” Rochelle Siddiq guested on that one, “You & Me,” and the Talking Heads tune “Crosseyed & Painless.” Artist-at-large Joe Marcinek sat in for that one as well.
Joe Roma always puts together a creative setlist that displays the group to best advantage. And having Dave Gerulat (percussion and vocals) as a semi-regular member enhances Roma’s vocals. Sara Phillips and Christian Ryan sat in the entire set as well. On the closing “Taintasia,” Austin Llewellyn on synths and Melbourne Walsh on guitar both had great solos, as they did all set long. And how about those spiffy glasses that turned orange when cool liquid was poured in?!?
“High-energy string band” is at least a clue to what the Firewater Tent Revival brings to the stage, with washboard (Kris Whatley) and sax and harmonica (Jeff Hoff) thrown in for good measure. Their eclectic mix of tunes is always fun. Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy” was particularly, well, crazy.
Back at the Zombie, Souljam were back for their second OBJ. I knew I was in exactly the right place when I arrived, joining Chris Critter Ricker, Melody Trucks, West Brook, Isaac Corbitt and a packed house for this set. Some fabulous funk was rolling out during “Lucy,” pulsing along with the rhythm boys: Will Keehner on bass and Patrick Williams on drums. “Lucy” slipped into “Liz” (the ubiquitous “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”). AnnaLee Keehner had the first guitar solo. John Carpenter got a great Leslie effect on his solo, leading to a great jam that turned into the punchy rock of “Tide,” and that included a “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” return.
Next up was a nice version of “Stop-Go,” the Widespread Panic tune, which segued into “Leap.” That was much funkier, with a slower section in the middle, Carpenter soloing again, then back to the funky head. There was enough time left to squeeze in “Good Time.”
Electric Kif ripped off another tremendous set (they did the same at Suwannee Rising). These guys play some monstrous fusion, and this was more of the same. You almost get whiplash watching Jason Matthews (keyboards) and Eric Escanes (guitar) tear it up. They invited Christian Ryan to the stage with his soprano sax as bassist Rodrigo Zambrano and drummer Armando Lopez kicked the band into a time-honored classic: “Hang Up Your Hang-Ups.” Oh, damn!
And it was wonderful seeing two of the most important supports of the Florida jam scene there to support. That would be Rosemarie Camp, Christian’s mom and proprietor of the Red Lion Pub in Winter Park of blessed memory, and Kenny ‘Pops’ Camp (and Christian’s mother-in-law, mother of Holey Miss Moley’s Jen Peacock Ryan).
We were about to enter a buzzsaw, completely unaware. (Well, obviously, Russ Bowers wasn’t!) Shaw Davis and the Black Ties had the final set on the Citrus stage. This was a power trio, plain and simple, with the accent on power. There was no ignoring this set. Davis channels Hendrix, and he does it well. Throughout the set, there were numerous Jimi teases and some of his songs as well, including “Little Wing” and a spectacular “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” with Davis sitting on the edge of the stage.
The last set on the Zombie stage, so professionally run by the guys formerly know as Bath Salt Zombies, featured Tropico Blvd. Michael Lantigua and his crew were offering up a bouncy, pop-ish set — quirky, they call it, just right for the late-afternoon set. Mark Mayea and Mr. Whiskers were there and having a blast.
And that left it to The Dr. to put the icing on the cake with the last set of OBJ (well, the last official set, anyway). Roosevelt Collier works in a variety of settings, including some great outings with the Electric Kif boys, but for this one he assembled the definitive RC3, with Matt Lapham on bass and Anthony ‘AC’ Cole on drums and vocals. One of the best parts of keeping track of an RC3 set is writing down at least some of the song titles, with the ever-popular “Jam 1,” “Jam 2,” and “Jam 3” right out of the gate. They may in fact have names, but they are jams, and they are so fine. When they got to “Jam 4,” I wrote: RIGHT HERE. That was the moment when they reached nirvana. Well, I certainly did.
Next was one of the songs Collier plays from his Jimi Plays Funk tribute: “Power of Soul.” Cole is awesome on these, because there is absolutely no telling what he will be singing. They played a killer version of Lettuce’s “The Dump” and then a monster version of “Good to Your Earhole” (Funkadelic). George Pennington III came up for a guest slot, as did Clay Watson with trombone. There was a real effective “It Hurts Me Too” with Watson, followed by a blasting “Shakey Ground.” Things were even fuzzier now, but I think Pennington came back up, and Stephanie D’Angelo also crushed her slot with Collier.
And they came back for an encore. Collier explained that he had it in his contract that Russ Bowers had to play a song with him. What else could Russ do? What a great way to close out.
And that was the end of OBJ X. Except that it wasn’t, of course. Earlier in the week, we heard rumors (OK, I heard it straight from Kenny Stadelman and then Dennis, but…) that there would be a “secret” CopE set when everything was said and done. This of course spread like wildfire for the band who were one of Florida’s premier jammers before a hiatus and more recently two incredible headlining sets at OBJ 9 and a show this year at The Bloom.
Dennis Stadelman, Juanjamon, and all three of the former CopE drummers (Dave Gerulat, Michael Garrie, Brad Elliott) had performed at some point over the weekend. I was exhausted. 50+ hours of music had all but knocked me out. I confess I made it up to Hometeam to hear the hometown Hometeam heroes play with wonderful joy and abandon, but it was packed, and I was done. Put a fork in me. I know it was awesome.
We know that many cities, regions and states have vibrant music communities and opportunities to hear and share music in family atmospheres. We just don’t think there are any that are better than what goes on here in Florida 365 days a year. The Orange Blossom Jamboree is an open invitation to join the family, as are Hometeam New Year’s Rally, Dunedin Brewery’s Oktobeerfest and Spring Beer Jam, and numerous other events.