Orange Blossom Jamboree: OBJ is Still How We Say Fam
On a personal note (OK, this is ALL personal, but…), the single greatest moment of Orange Blossom Jamboree was seeing Jack Pieroth with his double bass on stage with Boxcar Hollow, swinging with a smile. He’s a tower of unimaginable strength.
There was so much love, companionship, compassion, and friendship coursing through Sertoma Youth Ranch, the entire time that, if not a single note had been played, we STILL would have had a wonderful time.
Normally, we would talk next about the incredible music that began Wednesday, May 18 and ran through Sunday, May 22. Normally. But Orange Blossom Jamboree is not normal. Plenty of that goes to the attendees, of course, but the people who run this festival, now in its 12th year, deserve to be recognized. Those of you who are on social media know that hundreds of people have posted precisely these sorts of sentiments. Let’s look at the folks who make OBJ sparkle, year after year.
The conversation has to begin with our hosts, Toby and Russ Bowers, who continue to curate a truly magical experience. They do anything and everything to put the heart into OBJ.
We are indebted to Sertoma Youth Ranch for use of the facilities annually. In return, this is by far their biggest profit-making event.
The unsung hero of OBJ is Tom Rollins, who provides the portable Citrus Stage and doubled down by also bringing the Clementine stage.
Dunedin Brewery sponsors the event, provides a beer truck for staff and artists, and sells beer from a second truck near the stages.
Jillian Grant is The Queen. She and her staff coordinate volunteers and operations. Also, a revolving door of magnificent costumes!
Meg Stone runs hospitality for staff and artists, including food when available. Her people man the beer truck and keep water on ice.
Andy Lytle has moved on from his main gig with Receptor Lighting and Sound, now working with Billy Strings, but he is Russ’ right-hand-man at OBJ each year.
This is the first festival I have ever attended where the sound from each of the three stages was absolutely perfect NEVER TOO LOUD (my main complaint always). Every band could be heard properly. The sound engineers were: Marty Brann, Cypress (main); Joey Crochet, Citrus; and Ave Joat, Clementine. These gentlemen and their crew are superstars.
Same goes for the lighting folks under the direction of Joe Donnelly. Madison Delancey assisted on the main stage, Adam Gray on the second stage. Sound engineer Ave Joat ran double-duty in the field.
Liza and Hal Balstein once again presented a full range of programs at the Rising Light tent and beyond, showcasing just some of the great talent in our community.
If you ever walked past the playground area, then you saw dozens of children engaged in wonderful activities of all sort at Kids Row, organized by Ash Lynn and her volunteers. She also provided The Bridge, an essential gathering place for teens.
Sean Maloney and friends organized the first annual Throwamajig Disc Golf “tournament” with a course at the back of the property. It was spectacular fun, and you can bet he will be back next year, as will everyone who played and newcomers (he even hooked me!).
MCs PK (Cypress & Citrus stages) and Clyde Kadiddlehopper (Clementine) kept their respective stages rolling with great announcements, encouragement to the crowd, and big smiles.
All of the volunteers did an extraordinary job making OBJ the wonderful event it was, from front gate folks and people directing traffic to those cleaning up, working with the stage crews, and everyone else.
And all the photographers capturing the scene, including (but not limited to) Hunter Nicole Davis, Bryan Edward Creative, AJ Hége Photography, Bill McPhail Jr., Mandi Nulph, Chuck Smalling of Funk Eye Media, John Strojny of Silent J Studio, and Vinny Svoboda.
Music. Because there was some. And, in typical OBJ fashion, we were treated to one amazing performance after another. Many qualified as Best Ever from that band on my scale, and I was blown away time and again by some legendary sets. We requested setlists from every band at OBJ and received many, many of them (thank you). There are several bands for which we have no photos yet. We will endeavor to add those ASAP.
WOOKIE WEDNESDAY, MAY 18
Speaking of legendary, Uncle John’s Band had the Wednesday pre-party to themselves. After a tiring two days of setup (Donna cooked both days for the volunteers), I was ready to chill out. UJB had other ideas. They proceeded to throw down a brilliant night of music. Even those who have enjoyed the group hundreds of times commented about how on point their two sets were.
Matt Hillman sat in on harp for “New Minglewood Blues,” and Koko Ray added great sax work for “Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World” and “Shakedown Street > Good Lovin’,” but it was UJB that made this night so very special.
[UJB: ONE:Saint Stephen, Jack Straw, Cumberland Blues, Rosalie McFall, New Minglewood Blues, Peggy-O, Let it Grow; TWO: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, *Low Spark of High Healed Boys, Loose Lucy, Brown-Eyed Women, Estimated Prophet > Eyes of the World, Shakedown Street > Good Lovin’, Playing in the Band >Uncle John’s Band; E: Ripple]
THURSDAY, MAY 19
Opening set at a festival, especially on a Thursday at noon, is a challenging proposition. Many have not arrived yet; others are still at their campsites. Ashley Smith and the Random Occurrence ignored all of that and crushed a brilliant performance. ASTRO had delighted at last year’s OBJ and followed that up at Suwannee Hulaween. This set was a light year beyond those.
Ashley Smith posted the best set by a female vocalist all weekend, and the band set the bar way high. The secret sauce might have been the violin playing of Nick Ewing, but the entire band was in magical lockstep, and the sound was absolutely pristine. (As a constant critic of sound, you just don’t expect such perfection on the very first set.)
[ASTRO: Vamp (Atmospheric), Atmospheric, Decide for Yourself, Sirens, Strange, Limbo, Worthy, Alaska, Tension, Unfortunate Circumstance, Changing Views, Loneliness My Lover, Three Goodbyes]
Joy Wagon are accustomed to playing at night, often the late-night slot. I wasn’t sure they knew what to do when that big ball was blazing in the sky. I was very wrong, as usual. The trio of Colin Christopher, Jeremy Clapper, and Remy Lundy had expanded with Mikey Guzman on keyboards. Now the band also includes Austin Eunice on percussion and saxophone, a great fit.
There was some reference to the band’s hobbit-ness after “2nd Breakfast,” and they knocked out a great cover of Goose’s “Slow Ready.” Pyrrha Lundy wished everyone a happy OBJ afterward! (I don’t think she is two yet!)
[JW: Just Drive, 2nd Breakfast, Slow Ready (Goose), Cosmic Booty > Spirits > Good Karma, Get Down* > Inertia > Pulse]
After a number of years using the little pavilion as the third OBJ stage, it was beyond awesome to discover that the Clementine stage, one of Tom Rollins’ portable affairs, was set up in the back field, with two huge tents for patrons to beat the heat (well, the sun, at least) and the rain.
HoneyWhat had the first set there, and Danielle Mohr and band played the perfect opening set there, a sultry performance highlighting her vocals and the band.
[HW: Mad in the Moonlight,Bring Me, Recess, Part of You, Mama, Luna, Young Lady, Lawless, Undercover Lover, Wicked, Velvet Corner, Aphrodite, Ticking Time Bomb]
It had been far too long since we’d heard Psychedelic Monks. They were superb! Their name is accurate: they hit those psychedelic jams hard. They also crush trance-dance, and you probably haven’t seen anyone incorporate those steel pans so well.
The band has released their debut (finally!) CD Puddlin’ Up, and four of the songs came from the album. It was a tremendous set, and we’re still early on day one!
[PM: Scrambled Eggs, Cool Like Kevin, Do It, Tapetum Lucidum, Bailar, I Don’t Want You]
Apparently, I don’t get to St. Petersburg enough, because all the locals knew about flame-throwing guitarist Branson Welsh. The setlist below doesn’t tell the whole story. Think Stevie Ray Vaughan for one influence. He reminds me of Shawn Kellerman, a Canadian who used to visit the Bay area; Welsh knew exactly whom I was talking about. His version of “Chittlins Con Carne,” the Kenny Burrell classic that SRV covered, was pure heaven.
Don’t miss this guy.
[BW: She’s on Fire, Deal with It, Bright Lights, Tell Me, Little Wing]
If there was any one set most anticipated at OBJ, it would have been Follow the Monarchs. Michael Lyn Bryant (proprietor of Dunedin Brewery, the fest’s sponsor) had relentless promoted this set with brilliant advertising posts and memes of all sorts. Let’s just say the hype was not undeserving.
FTM play uncompromising original music, riveting, blistering, skin-flaying, stunning, wonderful music. Bryant and compatriots Joe King, Cabe Crisler, and Brad Elliott crushed this set before a packed house of dancers and gyrators and head-bobbers and those with their jaws on the ground.
Juanjamon joined in on keyboards and tenor sax, and then guitar monster Stephanie Perez jumped in. Things went bonkers for the Ween cover “You Fucked Up,” with Tyler Toth coming on to vocalize/rant/stomp. What sent it completely off the rails was the sit-in, literally, by Cody Bean.
[FTM: Wish Her Name Was Pete, Cabe’s Got Muffins (aka Taliwa), Swamp Bridge, Up For Debate, Sliver, Institutionalized (Suicidal Tendencies) > You Fucked Up (Ween)]
Sean Maloney always corrals a great band for his Legacy Orchestra Collective. He outdid himself this year, with Austin Llewellyn, Caleb Bone, and Dennis Stadelman. When I arrived, I was thrilled beyond belief to discover that Bobby Lee Rodgers was also on stage with his badass electric banjo. Sean said BLR had planned to stay up for two songs. When they were done, BLR asked him, “Is this the kind of music you write?” When Sean answered in the affirmative, BLR asked if he could stay on stage, and stay he did through the remainder of the set.
It was a walk through Legacy’s fine compositions, including “Bee Miner” and “(Shit) It Ain’t Right.” “Elephants,” as often happens, teased “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
[LOC: Walkin’, Bee Miner, Avenue, Afterthought, (Shit) It Ain’t Right, Tom Foolery, Monkeys, Elephants, No Brakes]
The set from Boxcar Hollow was magical, not only because Jack Pieroth was healthy enough to perform. Matt Weis, Chris Babosa, Dave Gerulat, and John Sabal joined Pieroth in a wonderful set of originals and carefully curated cover tunes. The version of was so remarkably tender.
They offered up a stunning “My Favorite Things.” The original tunes such as “Teenage blues” were really fine, as well.
[BCH: Hey Pocky A-Way (The Meters), Teenage Blues, Crosseyed and Painless (Talking Heads), Hard Time Loving You, Tulsa Time (Eric Clapton), Devil’s Lye, My Favorite Things (Richard Rodgers), I Need More Love (Every Day of My Life) (Robert Randolph), Wine and Smile]
The worst thing you can do is compound one error with another. At 7:15, the start of the set, Beartoe was nowhere to be found, no phone call, no text, no message. The stalwart Galbraith sisters were waiting, and waiting. There was a brief attempt to find a guitarist to join their rhythm section team. Finally, Beartoe (Roberto Aguilar) arrived, and the set began 18 minutes late. This would have been the opportunity to come out roaring to make up for the late start.
Instead, he began with a sleeper, then an anemic take on “I’m a Ram.” The set was flat, but his attempted non-apology was flatter, something along the lines of “Somebody thinks I should apologize.” You should have. You didn’t. We have long memories. Taylor and Ashley Galbraith deserved far better.
The Stereo Type brand themselves as “FunkFolkRockJam,” which is a good place to start. They had an impressive set of original tunes and a cover of “Pigs” that turned heads everywhere within earshot. It was great to see Nick Landess on keyboards.
[ST: John Candy, Day of Yeah, Hanging Brain, Formally Known As, Pigs (Pink Floyd), DOTW, Sunset, Spanish Floss, Autumn]
Anthill Cinema are in their own little universe. As Jimmy Rector notes, they play music for themselves as therapy. We’re just lucky to be around to hear it. Once again, their vision of music poured out over the stage and all around us, filled with deep progressive rock, cinematic anthems, blistering metal, and whatever else they want to play, often within the space of one or two songs.
AHC offered music from all corners of their catalog, gave us three new songs, and included a Primus cover and two from Umphrey’s McGee. The Masked Man, who may or may not have been Justino Lee Walker, wore a fabulous shirt that read ROW JOMAH DESERVES BETTER TIME SLOTS.
[AHC: Montage Music, The Jig of the Blasphemette, Signals, Genesis > Dreistmege Fuge, Jerry was a Racecar Driver (Primus Cover), A Picasso’d Lie (New), Pop Song, Life Happens to All of Us (new), When Smaller Becomes Small, Miss Tinkle’s Overture (UM), Puppet String (UM), The Big Blue Thumb (new)]
Antelope: A Tribute to the Band Phish attracted a fine crowd for a fun and diverse set of Phish. It’s always a blast seeing Matt Weis wielding that megaphone for “Fee,” and Michael Garrie’s work at drum kit was the driving force all set long.
[Antelope: Wilson, Fee > Possum, Free, Harry Hood > Stash, S.A.N.T.O.S., Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin, Chalkdust Torture]
There are, deservedly, many bands that pay tribute to the legacy of The Allman Brothers Band. Steeln’ Peaches, from Central Florida, is certainly one of the best. Their spirited approach to the music is outstanding, and they dig deep into the catalog. The talented septet got everyone up and dancing with “Jessica” and never let them stop.
Highlights included a brilliant take on “Kind of Bird” and the addition of Bobby Lee Rodgers on that amazing electric banjo during “From the Madness of the West” and for the remainder of the set. Catch them on tour this month.
[SP: Jessica, Blue Sky, No One to Run With, Southbound, Back Where It All Begins, Kind of Bird, Melissa, From the Madness of the West, Ramblin’ Man, Whipping Post]
FRIDAY, MAY 20
The start to Day 2 was as sweet as the start to Day 1 with a mind-blowing set of Psychedelic Space Funk from a new band out of Saint Augustine. The group formed in December and changed their name recently to Sauce Pocket. The band is now a quintet with the addition of saxophone player, who added a great new dimension to the band’s sound.
They eased in with a fine ballad highlighting the superb vocals of keyboard master Kaleb King; he was my favorite male singer of OBJ. Drummer Riley O’Brien then proceeded to march everyone through an ass-kicking set of outstanding jams. Logan Quick on guitar and Taylor Ivie on bass were awesome. Sauce Pocket will be a major presence on the scene.
[SP: Star Visions > Slipping Away, Eye of Thieves, Beastly, Lightsaber, Booth Love > Use Me (Bill Withers), Yeti]
Cousins Shua Harrell and Aaron ‘Bucky’ Buckingham are Oxford Noland, a duo with Harrell on guitar and vocals and Buckingham on drums and keyboards (he makes that look seamless). A various points during their set they were joined by Megan Roxane Shea, Chuck Magid, Daniel Heitz, and Uncle Jerry. They call themselves indie rock, but they did country, rock, and plenty more during their entertaining set.
[ON: Coyotes, A Sad Revelation MS, Sinister Speech DH, Master CM, Dreams CM/MS/NE, Swinging Doors UJH, Seven MS, Save Arlene, Roof Tops, Shades, Spitting Verbs]
To this point in the program, we had really lucked out weather-wise, because forecasts had us being inundated most of the weekend. Our luck would run out shortly, but after Friday we had pretty fair sailing, although it was hotter than Hades (I haven’t been there yet, but that’s what I heard).
shoeless soul are sentimental favorites for much of the Hometeam and OBJ crowd, and the field was full of dancers nodding approvingly at the quartet plus Austin Llewellyn on keyboards. Rene Schlegel, Sladjan Vidic, Mike Ratza, and Dave Gerulat (his 23rd set, I think) delighted the crowd with numerous favorites before Mother Nature became more than a song title.
[SS: Our Love, Smile, Mother Nature, Part of Life, Painted Desert, Modern Day Pioneers, Obviously Obvious]
Tropico Blvd were well underway by the time we made it back from the Clementine stage. We missed Godzilla (OK, maybe it was somebody in a big Godzilla costume) running around the pavilion while the band played its namesake tune.
Miguel Lantigua, Cody Moore, Audrey Short, Dan Daily, and Kyle Sareyani and several others turned the band into a raging octet as the rain began.
Lemon City Trio brought that Miami funk, fusion, and prog rock to the Citrus, and they were incredible for as long as they could play before rain dampened everything. Brian Robertson, Nick Tannura, and Aaron Glueckauf dazzled the crowd, many of whom were not familiar with their awesomeness.
It was beginning to monsoon on and off, mostly on. I assumed (always a dangerous proposition) that music out in the field at the Clementine would get cancelled. As a result, I missed The Hulagans, and kudos to the band and Ave Joat for making their set happen.
Meanwhile, back under the pavilion, The Reality were ready to take the stage. Dan Jones was not able to perform, but Caleb Bone, BA Jones, and Josh Kim had a plan. One hell of a plan, it turned out. They invited Adonis Guava of Guavatron to join them on guitar. Josh Haley, who has played off and on with the band, also was there, and Juanjamon threw his tenor sax and vocals into the mix as well. Funk Eye Media photographer Chuck Smalling dubbed them The Alternate Reality!
Caleb Bone was saddled with all the lead vocals, and he CRUSHED the entire set (favorite male singer along with Kaleb King). Everything, and I mean everything, worked to perfection. Guava was killing lead guitar with superb rhythm from Haley. Juanjamon’s tenor was so fine in the jams, while Bone and BA Jones created a rhythm tsunami.
Brock Butler of Perpetual Groove grabbed Guava’s guitar for “Wanna See You Dance,” and Kim was brilliant on his “In the Hall of the Mountain King” feature. BRAVO, BOYS!
[Reality: Sweet Tooth, Fat Fanny Pack, Wanna See You Dance, In the Hall of the Mountain King, All My Time, Where is Lucy]
Shevonne began her set with a solo tune before being joined by her band The Force (properly named) with Aaron Buckingham (Steeln’ Peaches, Oxford Noland) on drums. They only got in a couple songs before the monsoons forced the crewe to cover equipment. Somehow, at some point, the band gave us a superb and appropriate take on “Purple Rain” to end their set all too early.
With the rain so heavy, I missed Electric Kif, one of the greatest fusion/prog rock bands anywhere, out in the field. I really assumed they wouldn’t even get on stage.
I’ve been a fan of S.P.O.R.E. for almost a decade, and they’ve been through many changes. When they re-emerged right before the pandemic, they were a quartet who then expanded to five pieces. At last year’s OBJ, they were six and then added a seventh. This version of the band, with two guitars, two keyboards, two drummers, and a bass absolutely rages, and they have never raged harder than they did at OBJ. This set was legendary.
Because they were ready to go when Shevonne’s set was cut so very short, they were able to start early, which would be important later. “High-Energy Progressive Electronic Rock” is a gross understatement, but it’s a start. Faces melted all over the floor.
[S: Domoto, Jpmkah, Origin of BIM, Hamster Hash, Respect, Huddleston Shuffle]
Speaking of the floor, the monsoon waves sent water pouring down the hill and onto the floor of the pavilion, which was clearly not designed for this emergency. Water was as much as an inch deep in places.
Such as where I was sitting. Those who’ve seen me at shows know I have my ubiquitous notebook at hand to scribble stuff I’m likely not to remember. In fact, Joseph Fredriksen took a photo of my notebook earlier. At some point during the S.P.O.R.E. set, I lost my notebook. I looked, and looked, and looked some more. No notebook. Did somebody take it? Seemed unlikely. I decided to extend my perimeter search a bit and found the notebook — it had floated 15 feet away in that standing water!
The Perpetual Guava set was scheduled for the Citrus stage, but that was deluged. The decision had been made to get Guavatron and Brock Butler onto the main stage before Ajeva’s headlining set, since S.P.O.R.E. had started and ended early. It was a genius move from all concerned.
The sparkling set began and ended with songs by Butler’s band Perpetual Groove, with two Guavatron songs, and a tremendous cover of The War on Drugs’ “Under The Pressure.” Butler fits so tightly into the Guavatron groove, and watching him and Adonis Guava shred together: priceless. My favorite: “Cousin Kelly”
[Perpetual Guava: TTFPJ, Cousin Kelly, Under The Pressure (The War on Drugs), Gustavo, 3 Weeks]
After back-to-back stunning sets from S.P.O.R.E. and Perpetual Guava, it was up to Ajeva to close out the night. Absolutely nothing could have prepared us for the titanic nature of their set: incredible props, brilliant music, fabulous presentation, and Michael Nivens as guitar god.
You simply had to be there. These boys have been raging for years, but this was an entire quantum level up for them, a complete sensory overload: music, visuals, theatrics and more. It’s just as well it was the last set of the night; nobody’s brain was ready to absorb any more. MAGNIFICENT.
[Ajeva: Ambient Jam, D3 (Duck Sitting), Get Up, Try to Release, Rambo’s Revenge, Hardest Part, Make a Difference, Better Days/Drums, You Can Too, Waves]
The one set that did get cancelled was by fan favorites Unlimited Devotion, because it went beyond “Looks Like Rain.” Looks Like Wall of Water would be more accurate. Many campers suffered water difficulties, and the main road to the back of the pavilion required a lot of tractor work to return it to fully functional. We were camped by the little bridge from the main area into the parking lot, and water severely undermined its support to the point where it was deemed unusable.
SATURDAY, MAY 21
Day 3 began as did the two previous — with another amazing opening set, this time from Wahh World Fusion Band. They were powered by bass dynamo Juna Serita and Michael Washington on drums. The band for this set centered around tabla maestro, vocalist, multi-percussionist, and composer Shankh Lahiri, who formed the group. His konnakol was so riveting.
Vocalist Guianna Brave was marvelous. Somewhere in the set they snuck in “Superstition.” They honored the late Ray Zilla, one of the most important artists on the experimental and world music scene in this area. Sitar and guitar helped paint the complete picture.
[WWFB: Darvish, Eternity, Wonder, Desire on Fire, Des Mere, Beatle, Reflection, Brother Ray, Liberation, Gimme Five]
During the five-minute break between sets, Serita grabbed her bass and zipped over to the other stage to join the Keegan Matthews Trio, now a quartet. Matthews is the keyboard master for Leisure Chief. This set was filled with six of his original tunes and two great covers. Rion Smith (Shak Nasti) was on drums, and the alto sax of Patrick Bartley made it four.
Serita was again amazing on bass, in perfect step with Smith, with Bartley blowing big on some dynamic fusion. Matthews used his synths liberally and well during a really entertaining set.
[KM3: Apalachicola (Intro), It’s a Vibe, Supernova, Cosmic Killer, Floridian Swag aka New Gold Sneakers, Black Market (Weather Report), Fight or Flight, Spank-a-Lee (Herbie Hancock)]
One of the surprise entries of the weekend was the inclusion of a new band called MiniM. Once we saw that David Rakower had his hand in it, we knew this would be fun. That would be a gross understatement! These guys (Michael Hibler, Billy Sanders, Hunter Richey, Ross Borgias, and Rakower) played a fine set of jam rock, which seemed to be precisely what the crowd was in search for. We had a good time; they had a better time!
Put MiniM on your radar, if only to see the awesome keyboard stand Rakower uses. You’ll be happy you did!
[MiniM: Something Special, What, Layered Mirrors, Away, City Lights, Cheers (TV theme), Kyle’s Song (moe.)]
I’m not sure if Grindstone Sinners are the hardest-working band on the scene, but they sure look like it! They create a successful intermixing of band originals and some of the best rock covers of the ’60s and ’70s. Instrumental “Jungle Strut” stood out.
The twin guitars of Jay Umlauf and Jared Forst are a prime focus of the Orlando quintet, so fascinating they can overshadow the great contributions of bassist Jeff Hunt. Umlauf tossed a nice “Ode to Joy” quote into “Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad?”
[GSS: Jugando, 21st Century Tomb, Back To Shenandoah > Jessica tease > Party Town, Hard To Handle, Jungle Strut, Booty Stank, Where It’s At > Hot ’Lanta, Life Can Be A Breeze, Orange Blossoms, Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad?]
Last year’s surprise set was delivered by Hannah Harber & the Lionhearts. At the time, I suggested that they was just this side of country. I’ll amend that. She IS country, the REAL country music you’ll never hear on the radio. Her music is full of rock, Americana, and pure emotion, and that comes out with every song she sings.
Thomas Wynn sounded great as always on guitar. Colin Fei (Steeln’ Peaches) is also a member of the Lionhearts, and Rion Smith sat in on drums. “Long Time Coming” was the touching title track to her upcoming album, and it led to a superb jam with Wynn roaring. They closed with a kickass “Oh Papa.”
[HH&tL: Slow Leak, Sorry Darlin’, Come Alive, Hurricane (Levon Helm), I’m Alright, Hearts Harvest, Find Yourself (Lukas Nelson), Heartaches, Hold On You, Long Time Coming, Seminole Wind (John Anderson), Oh Papa]
We missed GoldenEra, but Roosevelt Collier did not, with a great sit-in. All reports acclaimed it a tremendous set.
The first word I wrote about Eugene Snowden’s set was “madness.” Snowden, front man for The Legendary JCs, is a performer of stunning range and vision, and he is completely, totally mad. His band gets highest marks for their ability, honed over the years, to follow wherever his mind wanders, at a moment’s notice. This set began with Snowden seated, playing bongos (which he does really well). I asked him for a setlist, then realized that was a fool’s errand. Short of a video, there’s no telling where things went from moment to moment.
And it was glorious. Snowden is the consummate performer, a true showman in the James Brown/Jackie Wilson mold. There was a young lady playing harmonica, and the ever-present Katie Burkiss sang backup and took lead on one great song. Jay Umlauf guested on “Love and Affection,” then Roosevelt Collier on The Legendary JCs classic “Save Me.” Tony Tyler sat in earlier, and more joined in one the finale: “Put a Little Love in Your Heart > Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
South Florida quartet-turned-quintet Tand have been on an absolute tear since they added Mike Garulli (The Heavy Pets) to their lineup. They’ve upped their game constantly through appearances at Suwannee Hulaween and North Beach Music Festival.
Three minutes into “Fat Tua” at OBJ, if was obvious they were on an entirely different level — already. This set was simply amazing, a fabulous warmup for their set at Summer Camp a week later and the upcoming Peach Festival. It’s great to see hard work pay off!
[Tand: Fat Tua > Orchard Of One > Swim > Caribou > Swim, Puzzle Piece, Down By The River, Welcome Home]
I love, love, love Stick and Ditty, but honestly I have no idea how to describe them adequately. Their schtick (see what I did there?) is so well honed. Jon Ditty can spit astonishing rhymes at machine-gun pace or slow things down enough to let the power of his hip hop sensibilities sink in, while Stick Martin is a very gifted musicians who helps propel their set as they bounce off each other lyrically and musically. Stick and Ditty work truly in sync when they get deep into their set.
Miami’s Latin funk fusionistas Electric Piquete tore up their set, keeping the hall dancing to the grooves. The band features two gents who play in all the superb South Florida funk and fusion bands (OK, maybe not ALL): saxophonist Robert Smiley and keyboard champ Chip Gardner.
The set was a pure delight, and Roosevelt Collier sent Gerald Wilson’s “Viva Tirado” completely over the top. The whole South Florida scene simply sizzles.
[EP: Salvo, Chan Chan, Mother Smother, Fonquiviri, Sofrito, Viva Tirado, Fonquetazo, De Cara Al Sol]
If the Daniel Heitz Band looked familiar, it was because the same seven men comprise Steeln’ Peaches. This band features Heitz’s compositions, but the playing is the same outstanding quality, equal parts fire and precision. Heitz and Chuck Magid love to lock horns as the band roars behind them. And Roosevelt Collier was there to spread the love.
There was a dance party out in the field as Future Vintage took over, and the dancing was non-stop. Tucker Sody has become an indispensable part of the trio, so perfect and tight at drum kit plus electronic drums. Trevor McDannel impresses every time out with deep bass and some fine work on bass synth.
Meanwhile, Matt Giancola was dancing us through a great setlist of original tunes and a few covers on keyboards. Michael Nivens guested on “Funky Heroes.” These guys get the jamtronic/trance-dance mix just right.
[FV: Doin’ It Right, Work It Out, Skate (Silk Sonic), Untitled new tune, Funky Heroes (Afrika Bambaataa), Wanna be your lover (Prince), Boogie on Down, Freak Magnet, 4th Quarter Magic]
After a hiatus, The Heavy Pets came roaring back last fall, highlighted by their superb set opening North Beach Music Festival in December. Newest member Chris Patsis follows along in the tradition of totally badass bass players with The Pets, and he kicked a lot of ass at OBJ with his bandmates. They were firing on all cylinders, with Jeff Lloyd and Mike Garulli trading vocals and guitar riffs while Jamie Newitt rocked those amazing beats.
Right when I realized they were down to their last song, I turned to Donna and said, “It just has to be ‘Dewpoint’.” Jim Wuest then proceeded to lead them through a glorious “Dewpoint” romp! Couldn’t even tell you what the encore was!
When they were done, we had the opportunity to thank in person many of those responsible for the wonderful weekend, including Russ & Toby Bowers, Andy Lytle, Jillian Grant, Meg Stone, MC PK, Clyde Kadiddlehopper, and other dignitaries. MC PK handled intros on the two main stages, while Clyde held sway over the Clementine. Both did great jobs.
SUNDAY, MAY 22
Sunday was (mostly) bluegrass day on the two main stages. Low Ground got the day off to a wonderful start. Nico G. Kiriazis on acoustic guitar appeared to be the ringleader, but somehow Billy Gilmore had snuck in there as well on mandolin. Fourth day, fourth fine opening set. There was plenty of traditional music, some originals, and a dandy “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider.”
Out in the field at the Clementine, Row Jomah were excited to present their Latin set. It was in fact a “Lovely Day” as they opened with the Bill Withers classic. It was jazzy and Latin-y, with oft-time collaborators Dave Gerulat (percussions) and Vinny Svoboda (bass). It was the perfect set for a Sunday afternoon. Kudos to the boys for creating this sets: Joe Roma, Austin Llewellyn, Dylan Chee-A-Tow, and Mel Walsh. They even made a Coldplay song sound good!
Not gonna lie: seeing Christian Ryan on stage playing saxophones and flute was deluxe. Maybe not as deluxe as seeing Jen Peacock Ryan glowing (OK, melting — we were all melting) and seeing beaming Rosemarie Camp and her wonderful beau. Just sayin’…
[RJ: Lovely Day (Bill Withers), Fire & Ice, Nothing But Flowers (Talking Heads), Big Water, Windowpanes, Clocks (Coldplay), Fade Away, Rain Down]
Rocker Doug South was supported by a rhythm section and had a diverse set of music, including “This Old Cowboy” (Marshall Tucker Band), an interesting take on “Shakedown Street,” and a solid “Peace Frog.” Most interesting: a great sandwich beginning and ending with Masego’s “Tadow” with some great pyrotechnics in between.
Was this the very best Applebutter Express set ever, or do they just keep getting better and better? Answer: [C] both of the above. If they didn’t play every great song in their repertoire, I sure can’t figure out what they missed. You look!
Shannon’s and Kyle’s voices are sheer heaven together; the Bisses give us musical kisses. This is uncut ukulele funk, and it rocks! Zack Rogers on bass and Jason Baker on fiddle make this an unbeatable team as they power through lots of double-entendre-filled originals and fascinating cover tunes.
[ABX: Until the Morning Came, Handguns and Hammocks, Southpaw, Keep it Together, Let’s Go Get Stoned, Hot Pussy, Wanee Trippin’, Orange Blossom Special, When the Leaves Change Color, He’s Got Love in his Heart and Mayonnaise in his Head, Milwaukee Here I Come, Rocky Raccoon, Rocky Top, Start a Fire, Ragin’ on the Weekdays, Smile, Tell Me If I’m Crazy, Riley]
The latest edition of The Tony Tyler Trance features drumming phenom “Rage” Paige Cantrill; L.A.’s own “queen of the sunset strip” Linda Ann Kiley on keyboards, vocals and synth; Darryl McGowan aka “D-Truth The Professional” on bass and vocals; and Tyler on guitar and vocals. Jimmy Rector was sitting in on percussion.
They raged Tyler’s compositions as this new band is becoming more cohesive. Jay Umlauf sat in on “Tijuana Trance,” followed by an even more exciting guest slot by 19-year-old Bryce Ponnudurai (son of Ash Lynn) on guitar!
[TTT: Learning to Live, Pleasure/Pain, Miss Pristeen, Blues Has a Groove, Obsession, Headed to Nowhere, Sirens, Tijuana Trance]
The Gator Boys offered an enjoyable, low-key set of bluegrass. The quartet featured bass, guitar, banjo, and a lady fiddler (so, not all boys). They had fun with songs such as “Creep,” “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” and the Ghostbusters theme.
The Suwannee Mountain Boys played two sets. Meanwhile, at the Clementine, the grand finale there, overlapping both sets on the main stage, was music from Displace. Chris Sgammato and his mates dove in with “Trans Love Express,” a Jean-Luc Ponty song they like to cover. From there on out it was Sgammato’s music, most of it new or brand new, other than Friction from the band’s album Undertow from some years back.
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sgammato was animated as he led the charge, and once again Chris Barbosa (violin, keyboards) demonstrated his great versatility.
[Displace: Trans Love Express (Jean-Luc Ponty), Friction, Caverns, Crippling Self Doubt, Last Of Their Kind, All In, Possums, Rabbit]
Unless you’d read about them it was unlikely you’d even heard of The Suwannee Mountain Boys. First, you have to appreciate the name, given the utter lack of any Suwannee mountains of any sort! But that was just the beginning of the fun. The most notable name on the lineup belonged to mandolin wiz Jarrod Walker, a member of the incomparable Billy Strings band. (That led to speculation that Strings himself would show up, but that was impractical on every level). The other notable name was the aforementioned Billy Gilmore on guitar, leader of The Grass is Dead, likely the best Grateful Dead tribute band anywhere.
Also playing were Jarrod Walker’s brothers: Tyler on guitar and Corey on banjo. Add PJ George III on electric bass and Christian Ward on fiddle, and you’ve got yourself one dandy Americana bluegrass machine. Everybody sang at some point, often all together. It was marvelous. The first set featured so many great classics and wonderful tunes such as “Goin’ Steady,” “Rosalie McCall,” and “Bugle Call Rag.” “Sugaree” was originally slated for the end of set one, but they added a tune and cut “Sugaree” — for the time being.
We weren’t privy to the second setlist, but suffice to say it was tremendous. Of special note were Ray Charles’ “Busted” and a spectacular set-closing take on the Old & In the Way classic “Moonlight Midnight.”
Think that was spectacular? You should have heard their rousing, way-uptempo “Sugaree” for the encore! What a wonderful way to close down Orange Blossom Jamboree 2022!
[SMB: ONE: John Hardy, Opus 57, Goin’ Steady, Rosalie McCall, Bugle Call Rag, Somewhere Far Away, Think Of What U Done, Mississippi Waltz, Heartbreak Mountain, Deep Ellum Blues, x, Everything’s the Same; TWO: ?, ?, ?, Busted, Mountain Dew, ?, ?, Moonlight Midnight; E: Sugaree]
Ready for OBJ 2023? Thought so!