No Resolutions Festival — Chapter One: The Bands and Fans Who WERE There
No Resolutions Festival, the four-day event in Branford, Florida, just wrapped up early in the morning of January 2nd with a great two-and-a-half-hour set from Displace, a Tampa icon. The event was, by turns, spectacular, a shit show, a much-needed hugfest, a communications disaster, and home to some of the best music EVER.
It seems prudent here to split this into two chapters. In Chapter One, we will talk about the outstanding musical performances we heard on a daily basis. In Chapter Two, we promise a complete, no-holds-barred examination of the moving parts of the organization that went off the rails or didn’t move at all. We will discuss groups that did not play the festival in Chapter One with a deeper dive into some of those issues, COVID infections aside.
Chapter One: The Bands and Fans who were there
Chapter Two: The Bands and Fans who were NOT, and WHY
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 29
Ellie Ray’s RV Resort is an ideal location for a small music festival. As the name implies, there are dozens upon dozens of RV hookups and plenty of space for tent camping, a dog park, swimming pool, hot tub, restaurant, and bar. All of that sits right on the beautiful Santa Fe River with one of north Florida’s famous springs right there.
The arriving festival-goers were greeted with spectacular weather, generally highs near 80 and lows approaching 60 all four days. (Contrast that with Fool’s Engagement last April when nightly lows were near 40!] Given that virtually everything else in Florida and nationally was either cancelled or postponed, it was a special feeling being at a music festival, however dysfunctional.
Numerous vendors had set up in the area which contained the two side-by-side main stages. There was the usual assortment of arts, crafts, tie dyes, and glassware, and there were lots of live painters on hand. Also central to this festival was the presence of Black Sheep Circus, presenting DJ Space Cheech, a space for other early afternoon and late-night music, acrobats, yoga sessions, and wonderful vibes.
This was billed as the pre-party before the announcement that two of the festival’s headliners — Big Gigantic and Girl Talk — had cancelled due to contract issues. As the organizers scrambled to adjust, the pre-party became a “free” event (unless you had already paid for it). Then, the day before, The Reality, funkmeisters from Tampa, also cancelled, also due to contract issues.
That left it to Doom Flamingo, the synthwave machine from Charleston, to make night one right. So here is a new acronym: BSIHEHFTB (Best Set I Have Ever Heard from This Band). We shall employ it for Doom Flamingo and for headliners Robert Randolph’s Family Band and Ghost-Note the next two nights.
Earlier in the day, the band sound-checked several songs, including “Legs” (ZZ Top) and “The Best” (Tina Turner), that sounded superb wafting over the warm afternoon air. They hit the main stage for real right at 10 p.m., and from the very first second it was clear this was going to be straight fire.
From the instant they rocketed into “Queen of America” (I’m inventing song titles here) and for the next two hours, the sextet totally captivated everyone within earshot. They were brilliant. Yes, Kanika Moore, front woman extraordinaire, makes this band the complete, but the five musicians were jaw-droppingly amazing as well, led by Ryan Stasik, who sometimes plays with his other band (Umphrey’s McGee). It was obvious as well that they were delighted to be performing at all, given the massive postponements and cancellations seemingly everywhere.
Mike Quinn had a number of superb tenor sax solos in addition to his work on keyboards and vocals. Thomas Kenney was in rock star mode with the chops to back that up. By turns, Doom Flamingo poured out soul, rock, R&B, and delicious punk such as “Just hear Me Out.” Moore rapped during “I Can Make You Dance,” followed by a fabulous synth-y jam.
They unveiled a brand new song, killer prog rock with another great tenor solo. There was an incredibly propulsive song, a piano break from Ross Bogan, and an incendiary jam about… robot sex? All the while, Moore owned the stage, dancing, strutting, twirling — what an incredible stage presence! The band played “Legs” near the end of the set. All set long, Stasik and Stuart White on drums provided a rock-steady foundation.
The crowd was small but vocal in asking for an encore, and boy, did we ever get one! First, Moore did her best Tina Turner (people not near the stages thought they were playing a Turner recording!) on, of course, “The Best.” But then…
I’ve heard “Blade” several times live and numerous others online, but this one was astounding. The entire band was blazing while Moore soared, dropped to her knees, and danced through this signature track. WOW!
DJ Space Cheech had performed at Black Sheep Circus during the afternoon and early evening. I was excited to discover that the late-night music was beginning with Flint Blade, the talented musician who plays that awesome-looking 14-string Chapman stick. It was the perfect way to easy back down.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30
We jumped from two stages to five. The second stage was right next to the main stage, and Black Sheep Circus was just off to the side. Those were easy. The Get Laws’t Get Down Stage was at the other end of the park by the pool and restaurant. The mystery was the Campground Stage, referred to on the schedule as the Infinite Liquid Space. When we asked one of the organizers where it was, his response was, “That’s a good question.” For us, it remained a good question for the next two days; we never found it.
The printed schedule was at this point at best a suggestion, and there was no good way to communicate the changes. Reception was virtually impossible there, a true challenge for anyone wanted to use the facility for a future event.
Cancellations due to COVID included Wigeon, Firewater Tent Revival, and New Orleans Suspects. The Legendary JCs were also not there.
The Savi Fernandez Band was first up, and as always Fernandez and his band rocked his dynamic version of reggae, including “Shake That” and set-closing “Give Me One More Minute Girl > You Got What I Need.” They were exactly the right vibes to get Thursday in gear.
Earlier I’d had a golf cart ride with singer Jessica Jones, and also with us was Mike Musoke, proprietor of the Off the Griddle food truck. The discussion was about him rapping, to which Jones said to me, “Then you’ll have to write about him in MusicFestNews.” We all laughed.
Goldenera hit the main stage at 6:30, followed shortly thereafter by a power outage for keyboard player Kyle Sareyeni. So who should jump in to fill the space while they got the power restored by Musoke! (Jones, you were prescient!) Miguel Lantigua of Tropico Blvd was in the band, while vocalist Michelle Caudle was at home with COVID. MC Nook led his band through a fine set.
The Tom Marcellis Band had the first set at the Get Laws’t Get Down stage. It was an enthusiastic, raw set of rock with Marcellis on guitar. They played a spirited “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider,” and Jessica Jones joined them for her favorite cover song, Bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes.” And a word about the bass player. Chris Sgammato, leader of Displace, is an excellent guitarist, keyboard player, alto saxophonist, and vocalist. But bass is his best instrument. He was was superb!
Back at stage two, we got another surprise — and excellent one — with the addition of Ancient Astroknauts. We understand this was their second live performance! Psychedelic jam bands FTW! Riley O’Brien was at drums, the first of at least four appearances over the course of the weekend! this great new band includes Kaleb King, keyboards, vocals; Taylor Ivie, bass; and Logan Quick, guitar; and they were joined by tenor sax and harmonica player Paul Hoff of Firewater Tent Revival.
Asheville’s Toubab Krewe, the band that plays international country music, had the next set. Those who had seen this amazing band realized that they were one member short; Justin Perkins (Kora, Kamelngoni, guitar, percussion) was not there. Much of the band’s sound surrounds his African stringed instruments. The four members on stage proceeded to throw down an awesome dance party, just a wonderful tour through their catalog plus some great jams, pouring out their amalgam of surf, punk, Afrobeat, and rock. Terrence Houston on drums and Luke Quaranta on percussion laid down the driving beat, matched by Justin Kimmel on bass, and together with Drew Heller on guitar they made the magic happen.
Many of us first learned about Colorado’s Future Joy at Fool’s Engagement in April, and we were excited to see them back. They knew where the Campground Stage, also referred to as the Renegade Stage, since it was at their RV/mobile stage. They apparently had their first set after Doom Flamingo Wednesday. Their second one was at the small stage, a great downtempo affair with Jessica Jones. DJ/producer Emily Cooper is a magnificent singer as well, and along with sax master Zach Simms, who played both tenor and baritone saxes.
Next up was the Awen Family Band, a group new to me. This was one of the best surprises of the festival. And calling this a group is not entirely accurate. Tim Husk operates like Joe Marcinek, curating “a world boogie collective traveling purposefully towards an un-yet known destination.” For shows in Florida, he would use the superb rhythm section of Aaron Webb and Brandon Howell, who both play in Wigeon and Firewater Tent Revival. Those bands cancelled due to Howell’s illness, but his slot was admirably filled by one of the festival’s true stars: drummer Riley O’Brien. Throughout the excellent set, they pumped out reggae, rockabilly, jazz, jam, and rock. Jeff Hann was in the collective, killing on both tenor sax and harmonica. And Webb CRUSHED the set.
The evening’s headliners were the Robert Randolph Family Band. BSIHEHFTB. Seriously. I’ve seen Randolph ands crew a dozen times, and none of those matched the ferocity of this set. I’d say the crowd was sparse, but there simply weren’t that many people in attendance at the fest. No matter. The band threw down so incredibly hard… with huge smiles on their faces. Given how many bands weren’t playing this weekend, it makes sense.
After a brief intro, they tore into Skip James’ 1931 song “I’m So Glad” (you know it by Cream and/or Col. Bruce). Guitarist Tash Neal TORE IT UP. Then Randolph’s cousin Little Stevie on keyboards took a great spin before Robert let loose. And that rhythm section was magnificent. Nobody all weekend smiled wider than bass player Jay White.
The next tune was a sheer delight for the old folks in the room: “Outside Woman Blues.” This, too, was a song Cream covered, originally performed in 1929 by Blind Joe Reynolds. “Sunshine Comin’” was a shot of positivity, with War’s “Me and Baby Brother” next. They invited the ubiquitous Jessica Jones up to wail on “Voodoo Child (Slight Return);” Robert torched his solo.
They totally blew out signature tune “I Need More Love Every Day of My Life.” When the group returned for an encore, Jones joined them again for a joyous “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” Jones freestyle briefly before they closed with equally joyous “Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” with Kyle Sareyani of Goldenera also on guitar.
That left it to Joy Wagon to shut down New Year’s Eve Eve. Those who were there remember the band’s brilliant late-night set at Fool’s Paradise. Before we start, I promised to share this exchange:
SCOTT: Brilliant. The only set that could have followed Robert Randolph.
COLIN: Our worst set ever.
OK. One of us is right, and the other is always striving for perfection. They were brilliant (I use that word a lot, and accurately). They opened with a deep Allman Brothers Band-influenced jam, then a reggae-ish tune, and a great cover of “Breathe” (Pink Floyd) with an incredible jam. Juanjamon had joined the trio, playing keyboards and tenor sax and sounding great. There were guests in and out of the set.
The group’s rhythm section — Jeremy Clapper on bass and Remy Lundy on drums — created such a great groove all set long (and we mean long!). They romped through a rocker with Juanjamon on tenor and the aforementioned Colin Christopher on stinging guitar before shifting to a hip hoppy song with great guitar, synths, more great jams, and some reggae. And the jams just keep on coming, and everything was working (my opinion, not Colin’s).
There was a fine cover of “Freaker in the Speaker,” then Sgammato on alto sax sitting in. By the time the 20-minute encore was over, we were all exhausted — two and a half hours later.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 31
Did we mention is was sunny and 80 degrees out? Just sayin’…
The first set of the afternoon turned out to be a delight. Rooster Von Brown brought his blues, funk, and a little country from Orlando, and his set was a blast, joined by bass, drums, electric guitar, and harmonica. they played lots of originals with deep dives into his repertoire plus lots of great stories.
Blacksheep Troubadour followed on the GLGD stage. Sometimes he performs solo, but this time he had two more acoustic guitars, a mandolin player, and Aaron Webb on bass, making for a rollicking, good-time set.
Future Joy were back on the second stage for their (at least) third set of the weekend. This one was magnificent, waaaay uptempo and deliciously fun. Cooper was singing and doing her DJ thing while Zach Simms was crushing on sax. In the middle of the set, they grabbed the crowd by the lapels (well, you know) when they played a stunning cover of “Eminence Front.” DAMN! Then violin player x jumped in, and things went stratospheric.
As we switched to the adjoining stage, Tropico Blvd were ready to romp, led by Miguel Lantigua on guitar and vocals. Kyle Sareyeni was back on keyboards, also joined by Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris. Their beautiful sound filled the grounds with deep funk and more, or, as Lantigua describes it, they are “genre-fluid”! Audrey Short is such a great player, too!
Meanwhile, back at GLGD, Este Loves was holding forth with the usual suspects. Juanjamon was there, as was Ash Lynn on harmony vocals. Ben Luchka, guitar; Savannah Lee, violin; and Dillon Reeder (!!), drums, all kept the affair rocking with that wonderful positivity that occurs every time Este steps on stage. So many of her great songs were in the set such as “Remember the Time,” “Embrace Yourself,” “Destiny’s Unfolding,” and “A Little Life Under the Moonlight.” (As usual, I’ve butchered the song titles.)
It was Jessica Jones’ turn to host a set, once again accompanied by Future Joy. This was Jones’ birthday as well (possibly +/- a day). The three musicians reprised their smaller set from Thursday with some more downtempo stuff before they were literally kicked up by Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, leader of Ghost-Note, and Riley O’Brien on drums (OK, bass drum-kicked, but still). Musoke again, too!
It had been announced earlier in the day that there was an addition to the evening’s schedule: The MonoNeon Band would be performing in an open slot due to COVID cancellation. I don’t care WHAT band had been scheduled: this was an upgrade! Dwayne ‘MonoNeon’ Thomas is the bassist distinctive for his self-proclaimed sartorial style whose resume includes Prince, the Miles Davis Electric Band, and, currently, Ghost-Note.
We were only mildly surprised to discover that his band featured at least five of the members of Ghost-Note. It would be tempting to say that, while Ghost-Note plays jazz funk, this band plays rock funk, but both bands defy genre. This was an amazing set, not least for the fact that, for many of us, it was the first time hearing MonoNeon speak… or sing. There were two percussionist/drummers on the left, Robert ‘Sput’ Searight on the right, the horns in the back, and MonoNeon and guitarist Peter Knudsen up front.
THEY. KICKED. ASS. It was mesmerizing. Oh, and who was back to rap again? Yep, Mike Musoke! Jonathan Mones and Mike Jelani Brooks were stunning on saxes and flutes. Song titles? We caught a few, including some variation of “She Told Me I’m Gonna Miss Her When I’m Gone” and “I Like Your Smell”; that featured one of Knudsen’s killer solos. There were so many influences pouring out: Brown, Clinton, Zappa, more.
And that was their first-ever live show, we were told!
I jetted back to GLGD to catch Fuzzy Britches, the vehicle of Mario Koury. They were joined by violin player Mike and members of Tropico Blvd , and the jams were deep and wide and fun.
I returned partway through the set of The Bright Light Social Hour. This quartet had crushed a set at Gasparilla Music Festival in October, and they sounded even better now (which also has to do with the remarkable job done by the sound and lighting engineers; more on that later). They are so bouncy, so eclectic, so positive in their grooves. We enjoyed “Could You Be Enough for Me?” which featured gorgeous harmonies.
Bass player Jackie O’Brien and Curtis Roush on guitar really stood out. Along the way, “Mexico City Blues,” the long-lost “Ocean,” “I Feel Your Love” and more washed over the crowd enjoying the dance vibe. The long-lost “Ocean” was a marvel, reminiscent of the same approach also taken by fellow Austin band Khruangbin. They closed in proper psychedelic fashion with a great rendition of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (the first psychedelic song).
It was now 11:36, and we were warmed up for Ghost-Note and the chance to kick 2021 to the curb, big time.
BSIHEHFTB. Because once again the headliner just blew out all the stops. Ghost-Note had recently rocked North Beach Music Festival, and they played a great set, but… it wasn’t this. They came out swinging, hard. MonoNeon was in the zone from the first note. Hell, they all were, having been properly warmed up themselves.
Put had them doing that stop-start stuff, the timing absolutely jaw-dropping. The sextet plus played as a unit, impossibly tight, except that they did it. Mike Jelani Brooks ripped a baritone solo early, and then they launched into some incredible Afrobeat with unison horns before the countdown to 2022.
Jessica Jones joined them for the countdown, then joined them as they tore into “I Want to Take You Higher.” At some point, they played “Milestones” (the second one), “Sexy Dancer” (??), reggae, and Musoke rapping again! And the encore was righteousness itself before Sput got on mic to remind us what we are all about, ending with peace, love, and funk! And we say AMEN!
One more set on tap, my personal favorites Guavatron. Thanks to illness, only two of the four members of the band were healthy. Is there a fix to this situation? There is if you have Jim Wuest of The Heavy Pets (and other offshoots) on hand. There is proof in the phrase “Wuest is a beast.” The keyboard player played keys with his right hand and had a separate bass keyboard he played with his left. And it was incredible, a dance party.
Not surprisingly, the small area was packed for their set, the trio now referring to themselves as Orbit Divider. They began with jazzy trance-dance funk and never quit, improvising as they went. Later, they did stumble upon “Electric Avenue,” which shot a current into the revelers. As always, drummer Casey Luden controlled the tempo, and Adonis Guava was an endless font of jazzy grooves.
After they were done, a DJ set up and played, apparently with a violin player (Mike?).
SATURDAY, JANUARY 1
Other than at Black Sheep Circus, music didn’t begin until almost 5, which worked well for those who had been up most or all of the night. When it did begin, it did so with a big bang in the form of Electric Kif, the brilliant prog rock fusion funksters from South Florida. Those gents are so tight, as they demonstrated on their incredible tune “Labrats.” Eric Escanes was wringing some amazing tones from his guitar. Keyboard wiz Jason Matthews and drummer Armando Lopez steered things in a Latin direction for a bit, and Rodrigo Zambrano crushed on bass. What a perfect way to jump-start the first day of the year!
Another surprise was a band unfamiliar hailing from Cocoa Beach: Tru Phonic. They were great, featuring two saxes out front along with lead singer and guitarist Jake Salter and a female vocalist. They would also qualify as “genre-fluid,” playing a little bit of everything, from jazzy funk to way-uptempo rockers. They also played a fun cover of “The Shape I’m In.”
Sweat Out the Devil was another enthusiastic, raw, fun set of music with two guitars, bass, drums, and some fine tenor sax. There was a rockin’ jam on “Magic Train.” Remy Lundy saved the day mid-set, locating a bass when x broke a string. They played a dark and dirty instrumental, very bluesy.
For most of the festival, the sound at the two main stages — both helmed by Joey Crochet — was excellent. The set by Greenhouse Lounge was unpleasantly, unnecessarily loud. I complain a lot when music is too loud (tell the joke now), but the increased volume did not help this set. Fortunately, it didn’t deter the Jacksonville/Atlanta quintet from playing a tremendous set.
Bill Begley on keyboards — and especially on synths — crushed the entire set; so did whole band. Begley’s wide grin showed us just how much fun they were having, along with Dave McSweeney’s dancing as he played bass and Steve Honig’s rock star poses, with guitar chops to match. Prog rock, jamtronica, deep funk: this set had it all. Then the musicians were joined by Daryl Green, who leads the group Universal Green and has recently joined GHL as a member. They played some solid R&B, originals and songs such at “777-9311″ by The Time.
That would be the last set on the second stage. Meanwhile, SIDE TRAKD was gearing up for his DJ set on the main stage, with dancers twirling and gyrating to his wide assortment of sounds.
The GLGD stage saw most of the action the rest of the night. The Headtones have been impressing every time out, including at Fool’s Engagement, and they attracted a big, happy crowd. This St. Petersburg sextet is adept at funk, rock, hip hop, reggae, R&B, and more, and they displayed all of that. This is one of the few bands still working with a turntablist, and Brenton Mohn adds a lot to their sound. Nook from Goldenera sat in, and the fun just kept on coming. Frontman Josh Magwood is an engaging singer and guitarist, and Carmine Pocchia (trumpet, vocals, keyboards, bass) and Jamal Hansan (sax, keyboards) are both double threats (quadruple threat, in Pocchia’s case!)
The Grindstone Sinners brought their screaming retro Jacksonville rock to the same Get laws’t Get Down stage a bit later. They intermingle originals and such classics as “Hot ’Lanta,” “Soulshine,” and “Crossroads.” The rhythm section is really solid, and the main focus is on the string-bending of guitarist Jay Umlauf, a fine player. There was a nice feature when he sang vocalese along with his guitar solo. The Otis Redding tune “hard to Handle” was great, and they closed their set with “After Midnight.”
SIDE TRAKD played an extended set. As he was finishing, the stage crew set up the equipment for DJ/producers Nick Middleton and Duncan Smith of The Funk Hunters, and the vibes there continued for hours.
The final official set (yes, not counting the all-night renegade set that allegedly took place) was again at the intimate little stage. Displace had the honor of shutting down No Resolutions, and they did it in style, with a two-and-a-half hour celebration. Throughout the set, we were treated to music from the band’s older albums and material from two upcoming albums, including songs such as “Butterfly” and a rocker titled “I’m All In.”
Leader Chris Sgammato offered his regular cover of “Valerie” (The Zutons) as a tribute to a fallen friend, we heard a song the band had never played out before (“Small Prices”), and drummer Evan Thibault rapped a tune. There was classic Displace in the form of “The Flight of Admiral Archibald,” a dance party ready to explode. There was plenty of space for everyone, especially Chris Barbosa on violin and keyboards; he is always brilliant. As time wound down, they offered their slowed-down ballad version of “Hey Ya” and an interesting “Creep” to a still-full dance floor.
The music, the camaraderie, the hugs, the new friendships, the wonderful live painters, the vendors, the food trucks: there was so, so much to love.
The production crew, led by Joe Donnelly, did yeoman’s work with a skeleton crew (COVID knocked their numbers down, too), setting stages, moving equipment, running lights and sound, making sure everything was running properly. Joey Crochet did the audio for both main stages (front of house and monitors), Max Tuchman from Guerrilla Productions was the lighting designer on the main stage, and Philly Garcia did the second stage. Ave Joat did the sound and lighting on the pool stage, and his 15-year-old daughter did a superb job with lighting!
The outstanding security crew headed by Doug ‘Taz’ Maris made us feel safe and comfortable all at the same time, with few incidents (well, there was Charles with those renegade beers), and nobody who was there to see him will EVER forget the dancing cowboy security gentleman Terron Maddox, for a gentleman he certainly was.
So No Resolutions was great, right? If you were there as a band or as a fan, the answer is almost certainly YES.
But the festival was riddled with problems, most of them self-inflicted. What should have been an outstanding venture on all fronts was not. In Chapter Two, we will deep-dive into the many problems that will make it difficult for this organization to mount another festival. That is my opinion. I would sure love to be wrong. Chapter Two coming up soon.
I am indebted to all of the photographers and videographers who helped to capture No Resolutions. First thanks to Bill McPhail Jr., who documented more than 20 sets on the weekend. He has also posted several audio files. James Ketch added photos and lots of videos. Donnie Dagley was there for the first day and the last with great pictures, and Jamal Hasan has posted numerous videos. You can check more of their work on their individual pages and on the No Resolutions FB group. THANK YOU!