Monday, February 8, 2016

Coming Right Up: Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival

Virginia Key Beach Park
One of the coolest roots and world-beat music festivals in the southeast is happening at a little county beach park outside Miami  Feb. 18-21. The Virginia Key GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance has camping, dancing, and a roster of more than  40 bands over the weekend.

This year's lineup includes The Family Stone (of Sly and the Family Stone infamy,) Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, The Wood Brothers, Donna The Buffalo, Danay Suarez, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Magic City Hippies, Big Mean Sound Machine, Locos Por Juana, and many more.

There's also a hands-on "culture camp" that happens in the days before, February 14-17, with instrument, dance, movement & cooking workshops on the beach. This is a very family-friendly fest, with kids' activities available.

This is the fest's 5th year, and it is run by a nonprofit group affiliated with the Cajun-inspired New York jam band, Donna the Buffalo. They say: "GrassRoots works to nurture local artists and talent while reaching around the globe to bring world music and culture to new audiences, creating environments that inspire creativity and foster community building. The impact of GrassRoots expands far beyond that which occurs during these four-day festivals. For over 25 years, GrassRoots has served to both engage and give back to the local and regional communities in which we exist by providing financial and organizational support to impact positive change."

Donna the Buffalo. festgrrl photo. 
Donna the Buffalo. festgrrl photo.
Believe it or not, this fest includes actual camping in Miami! It happens in a coastal county park with a beach. The campgrounds are located on the festival grounds, a very short walk from the beach. The festival site has big shade trees, palms and grassy lawns. The organizers note: "We encourage Tent Campers to bring drop cloths or tarps to lay under tents – the park’s native plant landscaping is beautiful, but a little prickly sometimes! Camping is primitive, there are no water or electric hook-ups. There is a bathroom and shower building nearby as well as portable toilets. No campfires allowed."

Virginia Key Beach Park. Miami Aerials photo.
Weekend tickets are $100 advanced and $120 at the gate. A 4-day youth ticket (ages 13-15) is $50. Kids 12 and under are free. Single day tickets are also available, and there are separate fees for camping, parking, and for the culture camp. Click here to peruse the options. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dumpstaphunk This Week!

Tony Hall of Dumpstaphunk. Duimpstaphunk photo

Florida funkateers, I bring you good tidings: Our friends from New Orleans, Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk, are playing some shows this week in our neck of the woods!

The band plays Jan. 28 at Pensacola's Vinyl Music Hall,  on Jan. 29 with moe. at Tabernacle Atlanta, on Jan. 30 at The Charleston Pour House in Charleston, S.C.  and Jan. 31 at The Side Bar Theatre in Tallahassee.

Ivan Neville, festgrrl photo.
Go see 'em and shake what your mama gave you, 'cause life is short and this band is flat-out great.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunshine Music Festival Hits Florida

Husband and wife shredders: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks

For the past three years, the Sunshine Music Festival, a traveling concert headlined by the Grammy-winning Tedeschi-Trucks Band, has consistently provided one of Florida's best winter lineups. 

Lucky for us, the streak continues this year.

On January 16 &17, Tedeschi-Trucks will be joined by the Indigo Girls, Trombone Shorty, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, the Jerry Douglas Band, Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen,  The Revivalists, Hard Working Americans  (Todd Snider, Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools , Neal Casal from Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi, and Duane Trucks, Derek Trucks’ younger brother,) Joanne Shaw Taylor, and the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio.

The great Trombone Shorty
This fest (not a camping fest) happens in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park on Jan. 16, and then travels to Boca Raton's Mizner Park on Jan. 17. There are craft beers, a wine bar, and catered lunch is available from noon to 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $50 plus fees and reserved seats range in price but are over $90. You can search for yours here at Ticketmaster.   Kids under 5 get in free.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and your lovely day of music starts at 11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Suwannee Hulaween 2015: A Spectacular Spectacle

String Cheese Incident "Ghoul Train" dancers. Dave Vann photo.
Truth be told, festgrrl is still trying to piece together all the spectacular-ness that happened at Suwannee Hulaween 2015, and she is sure she is not alone. 

Roller-skating disco dancers. Fire-breathing iron sculptures. Primus thump-bass craziness. Head –spinning, hand-springing break dancers. Giant stilt walkers “anointing” fans’ foreheads with orange cheese stickers from a grocery store dairy department. Burlesque ladies twirling on trapeze beside hard-charging British funk band The New Mastersounds in the wee hours. A big swingset shaped like a jellyfish. A giant monster that Danish artists built in the cypress forest out of recycled construction pallets. And, as has been the case during the last two Hulaweens, truly inspired Halloween costumes from the wackiest of fans (A whole CROWD of full-on giant Muppets!)

festgrrl photo.

One of those wavy figures you see at car lots! festgrrl photo.

Gorgeous Earth Mama. festgrrl photo.

festgrrl photo.
This Hulaween was the biggest festival to ever hit the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla, with attendance reported at 21,000. In comparison, about 7,500 people attended Hulaween 2014.

Before you say: That’s too big! Let me tell you, it worked out just fine. Yeah, the lines to do stuff were a little longer. And yeah, there were a lot more people moving to and fro. But this is a big park with nice sightlines to all the stages, and I never felt “boxed in,” and even if I had to stand way in the back sometimes, I could see and hear the shows.
An artist paints at Spirit Lake. festgrrl photo.
Creating a dreamcatcher pyramid. festgrrl photo.

Magical campsite. festgrrl photo.

Stilt walkers everywhere! festgrrl photo.

And Hulaween has one thing no other festival at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park has: the amazing “Spirit Lake” psychedelic forest, which dozens of artists work hard to create for our pleasure and amazement. I spent many happy hours in there, swinging on the jellyfish swings, chilling in one of the many available hammocks, watching the professional light show swoop its way around the park’s gorgeous cypress lake and wandering among the inspired art installations, some of which were interactive.

Building the Spirit Lake monster. festgrrl photo.
The finished monster! Josh Timmermans photo.
Spirit Lake. Keith Griner photo.
Spirit Lake entrance. At night, a projector animated it. festgrrl photo.
Saturday night’s “Ghoul Train” (a Halloweeny-twist on the classic 1970s, dance show, Soul Train) set by The String Cheese Incident was one of the coolest, best executed, and creative performances I’ve ever witnessed at a festival.

Not having any idea of what was in store, we arrived for String Cheese’s second set of the night in the Meadow to see GHOUL TRAIN lit up in lights in the Soul Train font above the stage. Then we noticed that they had put staggered risers in place with Solid-Gold style dancers in glitter outfits flanking the band.

Dave Vann photo.
Break dancers came out.

Keith Griner photo.
And roller skating dancers.

Dave Vann photo.
CRAZY! The String Cheese Incident band members were unrecognizable in their Disco costumes as they launched into an infectious retro-licious ‘70s dance party that made it impossible to sit down for even a single minute.
 Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident. Keith Griner photo.

GZA of Wu Tang Clan acted the part of Soul Train’s emcee, the late Don Cornelius.

GZA of Wu Tang Clan (right) was emcee. Keith Griner photo.
Check out this groovy classic hits set list: Brick House, Got To Be Real, Dancing In September, Pick Up The Pieces, I'm Your Boogie Man, Car Wash, Lady Marmalade, Cold Sweat, I Want To Take You Higher > Dance To The Music. Confetti and bubbles showered the dancing masses.

Dave Vann photo.

Thanks to our great and selfless taper, Sober Goat, you can see this amazing set for yourself right here:

The fest kicked off with a badass dance pre party on Thursday night, with New Orleans’ Ivan Neville showing up in a creepy clown mask for Dumpstaphunk’s hard-charging party set.

Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk! Dave Vann photo.
The Dumpstaphunk set featured a cool cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Ramble On.”

You can see that cover here:

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead hit the stage next, turning out a two-and-a-half hour show full of high-energy, feel-good Grateful Dead covers. They turned a packed ampitheater stage into a grinning boogie communion that started us all off right. Thanks to our wonderful tapers, you can see that set right here:

Hulaween did a nice job of mixing genres: Plenty of thump-thump for the hordes of enthusiastic electronic dance music fans in attendance (who raved about the Pretty Lights, Odesza, and GRiZ shows, in particular,) plus funk, bluegrass, prog-rock, reggae, folk, and a couple of mixed genres that defy description.
Pretty Lights. Photo by Josh Timmermans.

Dave Vann photo.

An intricate Spirit Lake art installation. Chris Monaghan photo. 
The String Cheese Incident continues to be stunning, turning out seven sets over the weekend that each managed to be its own stand-alone kickass show. You can call this band versatile, and the label fits, but it hardly touches the intriguing variety these Colorado players produce. From the afore-mentioned Ghoul Train set to the intricate Sunday afternoon bluegrass set with guests Sam Bush, the Shook Twins, and Elephant Revival to Sunday night’s face-melting closing improvisational jam, String Cheese showed plainly why they are one of the top jam bands touring today.

The Shook Twins. festgrrl photo.
There has been a lot of talk about how this the “last year” for Hulaween, but our hosts, String Cheese Incident, say they’ll be back with bells on next year. You can read all about it in this great interview with Cheese guitarist Bill Nershi by Livefor Live Music.

Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds in "Back to the Future" costumes. Josh Timmermans photo.

Some of the Hulaween shows you just can’t explain with words. Check out this Primus set:

Festgrrl stayed at the park until the bitter end Sunday, and by the looks of things, so did most fans. The field was packed for the final String Cheese shows and the ampitheater was packed, too, for Boston power-funk band, Lettuce. You can see their Sunday night show below, as well as the Sunday night show by STS9.

festgrrl photo.
If you missed Hulaween this year, I’d advise you not to make the same mistake next year. This fest is happening. The promoters did a great job picking bands, keeping on schedule, and creating an intriguing, whacky world for all of us to escape to for a weekend. This is the life, peeps, Get it while you can.

Here's Sunday's STS9 closer set at The Meadow Stage:

'Til next year! festgrrl photo.