Summafest at Dunedin Brewery: A Magical Confluence of Sounds
One band played deep improv. One band played beautiful soul and fusion. One band played funk and soul that makes you lose control. One band played harp-driven, hip hop-flavored lofi jazz, and uptempo, too.
All of that happened Saturday, July 9, at Dunedin Brewery, with magical connections occurring everywhere you looked at Summafest. If those four descriptions above sound unrelated, be assured they definitely were not; this union was conceived by brewery proprietor Michael Lyn Bryant to bring attention to music relatively new and/or relatively new to the area. It was a perfect evening of music, with each band playing an hour, alternating outside and inside of the brewery.
The proceedings began at 8 with Zero Context, an ever-changing collaboration with Bryant on Korg Prologue this time, a bass player, a drummer, and possibly another musician as well. I’ve had the privilege of hearing several of these improvisational events, all outstanding, but this might have been my favorite. Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris is a giant and can ride any wave, and Cabe Crisler’s bass tones were absolute perfection in this “context.”
Theoretically, each segment of the set had a title, but, as Bryant pointed out, “We’re just making this up.” Maybe so, but this was a brilliant hour of twists, turns, connections, and three musicians precisely in tune with one another. They got ethereal, played punk-is rock, and called one section “Drums On Fire.” Like experimental improv music? Don’t miss the next time Zero Context schedules a show.
The trio played on the side of the driveway in front of the property immediately to the south of the brewery, which Bryant has dubbed “The Moon Tower.” They will host a show there in the near future.
One of the most exciting aspects of Summafest for music fans of my ilk was the fact that three of these bands were unknown to me. I am always delighted to learn about and hear new music, and this night I was delighted three times (four, counting Zero Context). Next up, playing inside was an Orlando band called EarthTonez Music Collective. They are: Jacen Pierre-Louis, guitar, vocals; Matthew Harris, lead guitar; Collin Oliver, keyboards; Jose Figueroa, bass; and Dante Dunbar, drums.
This excellent band weaves together Afrobeat, fusion, funk, and soul in heaping doses. Their really solid intro tune is currently untitled, but the band’s assertion that it was Fela Kuti-inspired was undeniable. After the Afrobeat, they dove immediately into some straight-up fusion on “Tripsy,” the first tune they wrote together as a band. This one featured a fine feature from Dunbar, the second of four tremendous drummers on the evening.
“Setting Suns,” the group’s second single, which was released with a video, was highlighted by solos from Matty “Ice Cold” Harris on guitar and then by Oliver, dancing all over his triple-decker keyboard setup. Oliver made this funky pop shimmer.
Pierre-Louis, himself a fine singer, called up Songbird Shella (Rochelle Siddiq) to join the band for the last two songs, beginning with the neo-soul of Robert Glasper’s “Move Love.” She took the lead, then she and Pierre-Louis in unison; they sounded so beautiful together. He had a great guitar solo, and Oliver was excellent on electric piano.
The two reversed the order for closing tune “Honey Yellow,” with Pierre-Louis on lead and Shella backing. Oliver was all over his synths, and they took this tune WAAAY uptempo. The foundation all set long was due to Figueroa on bass and Dunbar on drums, and they lead the band into a deep jam to close the set.
[EarthTonez: Untitled, Tripsy, Setting Suns, Move Love (Robert Glasper), Honey Yellow]
Back outside near The Moon Tower, Sketch was ready to go. Are they from Austin? Orlando? A bit of both. Drummer James Adkins had become a Florida staple after his time with great Orlando fusion band The Conglomerate before appearing in any number of combinations and permutations with musicians from far and wide. Great drummer number 3.
Adkins was joined by Daniel Howard on guitar and Montez Garner on bass. Both Garner and Adkins sang as well. There was great funky R&B, blistering rock, raucous fun, and sweet soul. From the very first notes, we knew this was going to be a rocket ship to the stars, musically. There was so much unbridled enthusiasm. Adkins sang “Problems,” with Garner killing on bass.
[I posted this next exchange online in real time:]
Band is laying down heavy ORIGINAL funk. Drummer says, “Do you like funk?” Big cheers.
Woman at table directly in front of band yells, “PRINCE!” Adkins says maybe later in set. Woman promptly turns her back to the band and carries on protracted conversation. She never looked at them again.
In my head, I’m trying to do the Vulcan mind meld:
PLEASE, for the love of music, DO NOT PLAY HER REQUEST.
AND. THEY. DID. NOT! For the record, Sketch would play a set on Sunday night as well, and they blew out a tremendous “Purple Rain.” You gotta love karma!
Adkins also sang the soulful tune before Howard crushed some big jam deep rock during “Nudes” on guitar. It was ridiculous! Garner then took lead on The Spinners’ smash hit “It’s a Shame.” Next up was another great jam and some sing-along choruses of “LA LA LA.” This set was fun, frenetic, frantic, and funky. Welcome back, James!
[SKETCH: Problems, ??, Nudes, It’s a Shame, Really Know Your Lover, Africa, Bad News, Sumthn Else, Funk, Etc.]
We moved back inside the brewery for the fourth band of the evening, Katara. I knew nothing at all about them, or so I thought. Yet there was bassist extraordinaire Jon Shea and the great Natalie DePergola on drums (great drummer number 4). Also on stage were Willy ? on percussion and Seth Lynn on harp (NOT harmonica) and synths, sometimes alternately, sometimes simultaneously!
On the one hand, you might describe some of this music as ethereal lofi/downtempo, but other parts got pretty intense, and then there was hip hop jazz. Let’s just say they were wonderfully all over the map! To add to the visual stimulation, Lynn’s harp strings were a pattern of alternating colors, so beautiful. All of the music was written by Lynn and DePergola.
The whole setup was mesmerizing. On “Oklahoma,” Shea had a great bass intro, followed by synths, going from funk to dreamy. At this point, I lost track of tracks — what happened on which song, but it was all outstanding. The harp playing was riveting; you couldn’t look away!
If I were guessing, I would say that lovely vocalist Sade Holmes joined them for “I’ll Always Be” and stayed for the remainder of the set. Ethereal, jazzy, hip hoppy, joyful — all those adjectives describe what took place with her on the bandstand. Then guitarist Peter Mongaya was in the house, and he plugged in to send the set even higher. He had several excellent, thoughtful solos.
There was deep fusion, funk, superb bass, magical harp, incredible drums and percussion, and finally Holmes singing “There She Is.” It was the perfect ending to a perfect night of great music, four sets outside of the mainstream, all striving for excellence… and hitting that mark!
[KATARA: Lightning, Dune, Oklahoma, Daddy Debussy, Butterfly, Kerala, Yugen (B section only), I’ll Always Be, Flowers, Glasperish, There She Is]
Bravo to Bryant for putting the show together, for sound engineer Chris Fama getting in his 10,000 steps setting up and running sound both inside and out, for the excellent wait staff, for all of the musicians sharing with us, and for all of the patrons ready to challenge themselves with new music!