Farm to Grass MamaLinda Music Festival Didn’t Disappoint
The third edition of the Farm to Grass MamaLinda Music Festival took place at Saint Lucie Farm Preserve in Fort Pierce, Florida, an incredible weekend with more than 20 multi-genre local and national touring acts that kept the music going all weekend long. The ticket price included primitive camping on the well-maintained grassy grounds inside the farm.
Farm to Grass was created by Justin Akerley and Michael Hale, two hard-working Floridians who not only share a love for music, but when not hosting two annual music festivals eight days of the year are full-time farmers working the citrus groves and vegetable crops on their family’s 250-acre farm. MamaLinda, the festival name, is in honor of Hale’s mother Linda, who was a fixture on the farm and passed away three years ago. Her memory also extends into the laser shows that can be seen at night throughout the festival grounds, because she used to give each of her children laser lights as presents growing up.
At this festival Akerley and Hale aren’t sitting in a VIP section watching the bands; instead, they take a hands-on approach and can be seen roaming the grounds from sunrise until well after midnight making sure each festival-goer has an incredible experience, doing whatever they can to make sure everyone has what they need. The one thing that stands out when you meet these two men is their congenial demeanor; they make it clear that they are grateful to everyone from the bands and vendors to the fans who continue to support their events.
If camping is your thing, this well-organized festival includes primitive camping. This of course means no electric or water connections. Everyone who camped had to be self-sufficient. The hum of generators could be heard throughout the day and into the night for those who wanted electric in their RVs and tents. It was nice to see more people using solar power and low-emission generators as well. There were plenty of porta-pottys scattered throughout the grounds, and many people raved about the free hot showers that were available to everyone who wanted to take advantage of this nice amenity.
The music festival took place inside the grass courtyard that was on the other side of the canal that divided the camping and music areas. The main entrance was easy to get in and out of and was surrounded by vendors selling everything from Grateful Dead collectibles and art to t-shirts, blankets, and water pipes that could easily enhance the fun. A massage therapist had a table set up for those needing relief from air mattress stiffness and the like. For those who wished to indulge, there was plenty of beer and liquor available at the beer tent. Those looking for a bite had plenty to choose from with the three food trucks that served breakfast, lunch, and dinner for those who didn’t bring food or simply enjoy food truck delights. All the vendors stayed open until midnight or when the music ended.
The grounds were picturesque as well and featured a beautiful lake with benches sounding the water for those who wanted a break from the music or simply a place to watch the sun retire over a serene setting. One of the fun non-music activities was the hayride available a few times after sunset that included a laser light show during the nighttime cruise through the woods. A similar hayride without the laser light show offered those who opted for the daytime hayride a tour of the farm and groves and made for a quick lesson in agriculture for those of us who are city dwellers and not familiar with farming.
The music is what everyone came for, and the stages would be the focus for many most of the weekend. The first was a custom wood-built permanent stage made entirely of repurposed wood from a barn that was torn down in a neighboring farm. The second stage was a large pop-up stage typically seen at music festivals and concerts. Both stages had superb audio and adequate lighting; however, adding a spotlight would have helped highlight the evening performances. The fire pit came in handy as cooler than expected temps arrived early Saturday morning, sending many to find warmth while having a clear line of sight to both stages.
This was a well-organized festival that has a lot of things going for it; there was very little missing other than two very important things: people and security. The festival appeared to have been lightly attended. Perhaps the word hasn’t quite gotten out, but believe me, this is a secret everyone should know about. Once you discover what a great time you have at Farm to Grass, you will return. As for security there wasn’t any or at least none that could be seen. Let me be clear: at no point during the entire stay did I not feel safe. But as we know, these are different times, at any given time anything is possible.
[Ed. note: we received this message from the Farm to Grass organizers and thank them for the information. As noted above, Munroe wrote that he never saw any security, including unmarked vehicles. We are pleased to know they were present; perhaps they could make themselves more visible in future.]
Regardless, there wasn’t anything else missing, and this has been added to my must-attended every year list. MamaLinda Music Festival reminded me of the early days of Wanee, with the freedom to roam the grounds and come and go as you please. As we know, Wanee was eventually taken over by Live Nation and became a huge deal and commercialized to the point it no longer became profitable to the concert conglomerate, eventually shuttering it in 2018. There is no doubt that MamaLinda Music Festival will become a regular must-attend festival on everyone’s calendar, but let’s hope that Akerley and Hale keep it as Farm to Grass as possible (which may be hard as demand grows).
One interesting thing to note is that most of the bands that performed this past weekend have played previous editions of Farm to Grass music festivals. The lineup included a mix of local and national touring bands that featured a bluegrass-heavy lineup along with prominent reggae, funk, and rock bands that took the stage throughout the four-day festival.
Thursday, Day One
The four-day music festival kicked off Thursday night with a fireside jam session comprised of early-arriving musicians that got everyone in the spirit a day before the bands take the stage.
Friday, Day Two
The first day of music on the stages featured local Port St. Lucie, Florida funk and R&B veterans Billy & The Funk Prophets, who warmed up the crowd with a blend of Southern-infused original tunes. Led by multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Billy Bedwell, they executed a most joyous set. Next up was Injoy, the reggae band who brought plenty of love and harmony along with irie vibes with a deep soulful sound along with a spirited rich vocal harmony that got the crowd on their feet swaying from side-to-side.
Americana specialists Uproot Hootenanny played a solid set of danceable bluegrass, folk, and a few Celtic-infused tunes. The band consists of Fort Pierce native and Celtic fiddler Brian Trew, guitarist Brian Bolen, banjo specialist David Welch, and double bass player Nico Kiriazis. Next up was Asheville, North Carolina-based Grammy Award-nominated bluegrass band Songs From The Road Band, who played a Carolina-fueled solid set that featured Mark Schimick, Charles Humphrey III, Sam Wharton, James Schlender, and Gabe Epstein.
If that wasn’t enough, Tampa-based funk and jamtronic specialists The Reality seemed to be having a blast rocking out with the crowd, who engaged with the rockers. Vero Beach creative band Souljam played plenty of familiar favorites from such bands like The Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, and Umphrey’s Mcgee along with several original tunes penned by bandmates AnnaLee Keehner and John Carpenter.
Slide guitar country music specialists The Grass is Dead got the crowd jamming to their steady stream of bluegrass versions of many of the Grateful Dead’s biggest hits. The melodic sounds from the quintet kept the festival-goers on their feet and singing along. Closing out the night was reggae big band The Resolvers; the fun and uplifting band got the relaxed crowd off their chairs by blowing the roof off the main stage with a medley of non-stop jams until midnight to close the day’s music.
Saturday, Day Three
The morning started with an unexpected chill that required most to grab jackets and sweatshirts before heading to the stages. The day opened with Indiantown native and one-man band Johnny Debt, who plays enough instruments to fill all the needed sounds to create great music. He got things started with a small crowd of early risers. Next up was Nashville-based redneck rocker Taylor Martin, who jammed out to several original tunes before bluegrass band Songs From The Road Band returned for a second set having performed the previous night. Sing-along band Polk County-based Born Lonesome was stellar with their blend of R&B, folk, and country while keeping their bluegrass foundation intact. They kept the audience engaged during a non-stop set of original tunes.
Jupiter-based The Jake Walden Band was quite the hit with their own spin on rock, blues, jam, and even a little funk. Space Coast jam band Tru Phonic entertained the audience with a multi-genre mix of rock, blues, and funk. Led by Jake Salter, the band recently reconvened and has added new members, including singer Kaitlin McQuinn, and together played a solid set. Psychedelic bluegrass aces The Firewater Tent Revival band from Jacksonville delivered their own blend of sounds with a funky mix that included folk and roots music. Saturday’s headliner from Fort Lauderdale were national touring band The Heavy Pets, who delivered a funked-up rock and roll show that included funk, jazz, and their unique reggae-infused brand of music that gave everyone who stayed late and endured extreme cold temps that sent many to the fire ring on the festival grounds to keep warm during the band’s nearly two-hour set.
Sunday, Day Four
The cold overnight temps had many pulling out of the campground early Sunday morning, leaving a lighter crowd who made their way to the main festival grounds. For those who stayed, they were rewarded with a stellar set of tunes from a full day of music. Opening the Sunday affair was Orlando-based Sandy Back Porch, the hard driving bluegrass band who jammed out to some lightning-quick guitar licks with a mix of fiddle and banjo licks keeping the early arrivers entertained while also played some gospel and patriotic tunes. Vero Beach’s experimental reggae/Americana band Southern Soul Rebels played a solid set complete with a washboard for added sound. The band got into their signature influenced mix of blues, funk, reggae, and rock.
Supercharged psychedelic island-fusion jam band Lights Out Project was a ton of fun with frontman Jason Noon doing his thing, bouncing up and down while jamming on the guitar and ukulele. Creative Americana/bluegrass band The Short Straw Pickers are a trio comprised of Jack and Armando who both played mandolin while Jeff kept us entertained as he fingerpicked the upright bass. Bluegrass jammers Low Ground are a multi-genre-influenced band that played a mix of songs from Americana, bluegrass, folk, rock, blues, jazz, and jam styles of music. Their love for performing was clear with the smiles shown throughout their entire set.
Guavatron continues to make major strides in the national music scene and has tour dates scheduled across the U.S. this summer. The West Palm Beach-based electronic rock jam band could have easily been the night’s headliner. The band sounded amazing; what was missing was the band’s most recognized light show. Closing out the 2022 edition of Farm to Grass MamaLinda Music Festival was The Grass Is Dead who had performed on Friday night’s lineup. Many of the festival goers had packed up their tents and moved on before the band took the stage, missing a great show. Their own blues-infused versions of music of the Grateful Dead’s songs have made them a festival favorite. Perhaps we will see them return for the next edition of MamaLinda Music Festival.