Orange Blossom Revue Delivers Intimate Gathering of Music’s Very Best
In its eighth year, Orange Blossom Revue (OBR) is starting to feel like a festival that can do no wrong. Its organizers made it clear they are all in: a fledging well-organized music festival that had the look and feel of a large scale event yet delivered an intimate gathering of music lovers who made their way to Lake Wailes Park, in the small central Florida town of Lake Wales. They used the site’s natural foliage — Spanish moss that grows wild and untamed that added to the beauty that surrounded the grounds that hosted the Orange Blossom Revue — transforming the grounds into a mystical place that filled nearly every inch of terra firma with a non-stop medley of outstanding music.
Attending this two-day festival was fun and easy; everything from entering the grounds to the food and beer lines happened with fluidity. Refreshing yet unusual were the reasonably priced food and drink options that included several choices including tacos, barbecue, burgers and other tasty eats along with plenty of adult beverages for those who wished to indulge. The stage lighting and acoustics were splendid, and the sightlines from all areas were clear without obstruction. There were plenty of feel-good moments at this all-ages festival that had the feel of a country fair-like setting where children played freely, running around doing what kids do while creating memories, perhaps one day recalling the days of attending such a fun and memorable festival.
Of course, the older folks, not the ones running around blowing bubbles, were treated to a weekend of outstanding performances by several notable names in music including a standout performance by Grammy Award-winning Nashville bluegrass quintet The Steeldrivers. As it turns out, this was the last performance for The Steeldrivers until next year; they have already announced their upcoming 2022 tours. Accomplished pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier was on hand as artist at large and joined in on some solid jam sessions with nearly all the bands on both days. Incredibly, Collier blended with every performer, showcasing his masterful guitar skills. Adding to the artist at large lineup was Boston-based folk/Americana acoustic specialist Ryan Montbleau, who played a sensational solo set to the early arrivals.
Jacksonville jam band Side Hustle was an outstanding opener; for those who hadn’t arrived early to catch them, they missed a songfest that got the crowd engaged and dancing in their chairs. Next, San Francisco-based multi-genre singer/songwriter Nicki Bluhm set the pace early with a standout set. The Hummingbirds performed a beautifully composed set that felt like we turned the clock back 20 years; it is clear the duo sounds just as spectacular today as they did then. Americana singer/songwriter Hayes Carll took the stage with an inspired set that left the crowd standing wanting more. We suggest you catch Hayes on his next visit to the Sunshine State. This festival lived up to the challenge of bringing in major headline performers without compromising the intimate feel that those who have remained loyal fans of OBR since the festival’s inception when it started as a barbecue among a few close friends.
The weekend consisted of a consonance of music delivered by a handful of multi-talented national acts ranging from bluegrass, country, rock and even gospel. Friday’s headliner The Wood Brothers played an inspired set on an unusually cool night that kept fans on their feet during their eighty-five minute performance. As the second day approached, all the talk was about the upcoming evening performance that night from Southern rockers Blackberry Smoke, Of course, many who gathered over the weekend came to see frontman Charlie Starr and the rest of Blackberry Smoke and their reputation for delivering a solid rock show. Blackberry Smoke opened with “Live It Down” and didn’t disappoint; those who attended witnessed an impressive set that kept the intimate gathering of festival-goers on their feet movin’ and groovin’ to the bands every beat. With Brit Turner pounding on the drums along with Benji Shanks and Paul Jackson handling the guitars it was exactly what the crowd came for.
Equally impressive and perhaps one of the best performers over the two days was Devon Gilfillian, whose soulful-inspired voice stole the show and is clearly a talent that should be kept on everyone’s radar as his career continues to evolve.
The festival is now on the map; only time will tell how Orange Blossom Revue will continue to develop, but if it’s anything like this past weekend, we can hardly wait for the next one. Who will headline OBR next year? Let’s do it again next year.