Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thank You, Suwannee Hulaween

Michael Kang (left) and Bill Nershi of
The String Cheese Incident (festgrrl photo)
The one word that keeps coming up for me after experiencing the second-annual Suwannee Hulaween is GRATEFUL.

Grateful for the dozens of artists who built the top-notch psychedelic forest for us all to frolic in, grateful for bands that played round the clock, grateful for the beautiful and well-run Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, and especially grateful for The String Cheese Incident, who again showed themselves to be among the most talented and versatile bands in the land.

***Check out a photo album of Suwannee Hulaween peeps here ***

Three nights of playing, and the boys of String Cheese continued to surprise and amaze. The Halloween night "Afterlife" set featured columns of fire, spit out of propane torches in front ot the stage, a disembodied giant projected head of Michael Jackson during a cover of Thriller, acrobatics, and the band dressed in voodoo costumes. Here is the night one setlist, courtesy of our friends at Jambase.

Set 1: Desert Dawn, Rhythm of The Road > Lets Go Outside, Doin' My Time, Betray the Dark > Valley of The Jig > Texas
Set 2 (w/ Antibalas Horns and Rhonda Thomas & Tony White on vocals): Hells Bells (AC/DC), Voodoo (Neville Bros), Zombie (Fela Kuti), Spirits in the Material World (The Police) , Monster (Kanye Rap by Jason), Voodoo Child (Jimi Hendrix) > Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
Set 3: Rosie*, Black Clouds > Big Mon > Black Clouds, It Is What It Is, Spirit of Suwannee Jam > Joyful Sound > On The Road
Encore: Miss Brown's Teahouse*, I Saw The Light (Hank Williams)*, Sledgehammer (Peter Gabriel)*
And then we were off and running. NIght two featured guest spots bymembers of  Leftover Salmon,Toubab Krewe, STS9, Trey Anastasio band members Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman. 
Set One: Sometimes A River, Mouna Bowa, Cedar Laurels, One After 909**, Zombie Jamboree**, Windy Mountain > Shine > Colliding > Drums*
Set Two: Best Feeling > Howard, Pack It Up > Shake Your Body Down To The Ground#, Rivertrance > This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), Outside and Inside
Michael Kang of String Cheese (festgrrl photo)
Encore: Kashmir
Sunday night featured sit-ins by Keller Williams, Nicky Sanders of the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Dominic Lilli from Big Gigantic.
Set One:
Search>Lost>Mouna Bowa>Don't It Make You Wanna DAnce>Pack it Up>Alligator Alley>Franklin's Tower

Set Two:
Let's Go Outside,Black Clouds,Sweet Spot,Birdland,Sirens,Rivertrance,Drums,Swamp,Rivertrance

Encore: Bollymunster

Wow, what a three-day run.

festgrrl spent a LOT of time looking at the art in the Spirit Lake installation, which had, among other things, a two-story tall Buddha metal sculpture that belched fire, a geodesic dome jellyfish swingset, a "sonic forest" where when you waved your hands, each of the "trees" made crazy noises, fire dancers, acrobats, an intricate natural mosaic made of moss, pine cones, mulch, twigs and other small things, a "dragon" made of organic materials that seemed to undulate above and under the ground, trippy light installations, and a huge, elaborate  blacklight mural. And I know I'm forgetting some of the things, it was CRAZY! so grateful.

Below, you can see some of the performances I caught, as well as a look at some of the installations.
Seriously make plans to attend Hulaween 2015. This year had about 8,000 attendees, and it never felt crowded. It just felt FUN.

Suenalo brought the Latin groove from Miami (festgrrl photo)

Suenalo (festgrrl photo)
The Soul Rebels from New Orleans (festgrrl photo)

Soul Rebels (festgrrl photo)
Appalachia Rising (festgrrl photo)
Keller Williams (festgrrl photo)

Appalachia Rising (festgrrl photo)

Grandpa's Cough Medicine (festgrrl photo)

The Spirit Lake!
This breathed fire at night! (festgrrl photo)

Part of the intricate natural installation (festgrrl photo)

The jellyfish swing -- cool lights at night! (festgrrl photo)
Lots o' spots for chillin (festgrrl photo)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Home Team New Year's Rally Coming Up Next Month

Well now, our festival season just keeps going and going, people! The third annual Home Team New Year's Rally happens outside Lakeland, Fla. Dec. 26-28.

Since this camping festival happens just after Christmas, it leaves you free to catch the various New Year's Eve shows going on throughout the southeast (including Phish in Miami, Widespread Panic in Charlotte, Donna the Buffalo in Tampa, etc.).

Advanced tickets are just $65 for the whole three days ($80 at the gate,) and that includes primitive camping. You can get them here. There are no RVs  or campers allowed at the event, which is held at the lovely Maddox Ranch outside Lakeland. More details from the promoters are below, after the lineup.

The gate opens Friday, December 26th at 10am. 


Zach Deputy
The Applebutter Express
Come Back Alice
Grandpa's Cough Medicine
The Corbitt Brothers Band
Uncle John's Band
Come Back Alice
Green Sunshine
The Juanjamon Band
Holey Miss Moley
The Funky Nuggets
Future Vintage Band
Rev. D and the New Diggz
Legacy Orchestra Collective
Between Bluffs
Christie Lenee
Shoeless Soul
Endless Flow
Joe Moves
Jeremy Willis

Here’s what you need to know:

• This is a KID FRIENDLY event, and children 12 and under get in FREE! Kids 17 and under MUST be accompanied by a parent or guardian**
• **VERY IMPORTANT** NO DOGS ALLOWED. The wonderful people at Maddox Ranch are kind enough to allow us to host our event on their property, and we respectfully oblige to their few requests. Thank you in advance for understanding
• No electricity is provided, but generators are welcome as long as they are properly maintained and not disruptive
• RV’s and campers are allowed
• Raised or confined fire pits ONLY! Firewood will be available for purchase on site at the event
• Port-o-potties provided, as well as outdoor showers
• NO outside FIREWORKS
• This is a RAIN OR SHINE event, be prepared for the unpredictable FL weather!
• If interested in vending, please send an email to:
• Events such as these CAN NOT exist without the help of a good volunteer support system. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to:

For any other general questions contact Jenelle Muir, Jillian Melucci or Robyn Alleman. Musicians with questions may contact Cody Bean or Kyle Biss..all via Facebook. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Get Down! Bear Ceek Music And Art Festival This Week!

Photo Courtesy of Rock On

Are we there yet? YES WE ARE! It's time for the booty-shaking party of the year, people,

We're talking Bear Creek Music & Art Festival, the dance throwdown in the woods at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla. Nov. 13-16

This fest is known for its numerous musical sit-ins and surprises, and this year we'll be treated to a groovetastic, world-beat superjam from West African musicians. Nice!

As for the crowd, it’s all about dancing. Super-friendly vibe, outrageous costumes.

The Mandé Superjam, an all-star group of African and American musicians including members of Benyoro, Kreative Pandemonium and Toubab Krewe, and special guests Balla Kouyaté and Raja Kassis happens in the Music Hall on Saturday afternoon. 

Balla Kouyate
The promoters say: "The music of West Africa is the bedrock of many American styles of music, and listeners often hear echoes of blues, jazz, and Appalachian music in the circular melodies and dense rhythms of the region. This supergroup will perform updated interpretations of the centuries-old repertoire of West African jelis (traditional musicians) creating a tour-de-force of hypnotic grooves and majestic melodies."

Over the weekend, you'll see LOTS of horn sections. (The great Pee Wee Ellis, sax player for James Brown and one of the pioneers of funk, is one of the artists-at-large who sit in with various acts.)

Weekend tickets (which include primitive camping) are $195 advanced for a 3-day ticket and $205 for a 4-day ticket. Gate prices are $225 for a 3-day ticket, and $245 for a 4-day ticket. (Just sayin', it pays to plan people, the early bird 4-day ticket was $165, and there was an EZ payment plan to break it up!)

The pre-party music starts Thursday, and acts play through until Sunday night, when powerhouse funk band Lettuce closes the fest.

In addition to the headliners, for some fine funk and soul, festgrrl highly recommends St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Turkuaz, Orgone, Earphunk, The Main Squeeze, Monophonics, and Locos por Juana. But hell, everybody you're going to see is going to be good, trust me. Here's a look at the complete lineup:

Umphrey's McGee x 2
Chris Robinson’s Soulive Revue
Lettuce x 2
Dumpstaphunk x 2
New Mastersounds x 2
Budos Band x 2
Break Science
Talib Kweli
The Floozies
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Zach Deputy x 2
Nicholas Payton Trio x 2
Orgone x 2
Oteil Burbridge and Roosevelt Collier Band
Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds
The Nth Power x 2
Mandé Superjam
The Main Squeeze x 2
Alan Evans’ Playonbrother
Mingo Fishtrap
See I x 2
Kreative Pandemonium
Locos Por Juana
Aleica Chakour Band x 2
The Heard
The Fritz
Curtis Harding
The Broadcast
Funky Knuckles
Come Back Alice
Catfish Alliance
Freddy's Finest
Copious Jones
Captain Green
Green Sunshine
Dirk Quinn Band
Herd Of Watts

Artists at Large:
Bernard Purdie
Pee Wee Ellis
George Porter Jr.
Oteil Burbridge
Nicholas Payton
Jennifer Hartswick
Grant Green Jr.
Roosevelt Collier
Khris Royal
Carly Meyers
Farnell Newton
Eric Vogel
Brandon Niederauer

Silent Disco:
Sir Charles
Juan Basshead
Vlad the Inhaler
Elliot Mess
Charlie Hustle
Michael of Earphunk
Bobby Newport
Schizo the DJ
Dialectable Beats

Know your costume themes: Friday, as always, is Warm & Fuzzy. ('Cause we don't call this chilly fest Brrr Creek for nothing)  Saturday is Superheroes and Cops ‘n Robbers, and Sunday is Purple Day, in honor of Spirit of the Suwannee's dear friend Rachel Morningstar Hoffman.

There will be 10 yoga and workshops throughout the weekend, including Gentle & Ayurveda Yoga, Restorative Yoga, AcroPlay,Yin Yoga to live Music, West African Drumming Workshop, Basics of Poi, and more.

On Saturday, fans can join Zach Deputy as he hosts a charity disc golf tournament on the fantastic 18-hole Magnolia Disc Golf Course benefiting The Spirit of the Suwannee Kids Music Camp.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Riverhawk Music Festival This Weekend

Frank Vignola (Brian Tipton photo)

The lovely  bluegrass and roots Riverhawk Music Festival happens this weekend in Brooksville, Fla., outside Tampa. The fest starts Thursday, Nov. 6 and runs through Sunday.

This fest at the gorgeous Sertoma Youth Ranch is always packed with talent, and includes a lot of bands which fly below the popular radar.

A good example is guitarist Frank Vignola, (whom Les Paul named as one of his top five guitar players in the world.) Vignola plays Thursday and Friday along with Vinny Raniolo. Check them out on this audio link to  National Public Radio's Mountain Stage

Nora Jane Struthers (publicity photo)

Other acts during the weekend  include The SteelDrivers, Town Mountain, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, the Packaway Handle Band, Black Lillies, Nora Jane Struthers, Nicholas David (from the TV show "The Voice!") and Acoustic Syndicate. You can see the full schedule here.

The SteelDrivers (Brian Tipton photo)

A four-day pass, which includes primitive camping, is $139, and there are lots of single-day  and camping options here. This fest is very chill and family friendly. The venue is small and walkable, food is available, and there are showers and bathrooms. Shaded sites tend to fill up quickly, but there is always room in the lovely fields. There is even a little stream running through the venue. Very, very nice.
Sertoma Youth Ranch (festgrrl photo)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Whew! An Award-Winning MagnoliaFest

March Fourth Marching Band - in flight! (Robert Pollock photo)

They might as well start running a commuter train between the Grammy, Americana, Country, and Blues Awards stages and Magnolia Fest in Live Oak, Florida, judging by the bevy of winners at Magfest Oct.16-19.

We got to see Lyle Lovett  (three Grammys,) Rodney Crowell (Two Grammys, including a Best Americana Album win last year with Emmylou Harris,) Jason Isbell (who won Artist, Song and Album of the Year at this year’s Americana Music Awards,) Banjoist extraordinaire Bela Fleck (15 Grammys) and his wife (also a kick-ass banjo player,) Abigail Washburn, New Orleans powerhouse Marcia Ball (Two-time winner of Best Contemporary Female Artist at the Blues Music Awards plus a 1999 performance at the White House with B.B. King and Della Reese on her resume,) Jim Lauderdale (Two Grammys, numerous country and Americana awards,) The Indigo Girls (Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy and dozens of Billboard hits,) And Dr. John (Six Grammys, plus he was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

Well, it was all dizzyingly fantastic, rushing from one fine performance to another and seeing musicians at the top of their game over there in the paradise of clear, bright-sky days and autumn moon nights.

Abigail Washburn (Mandy Pichler photo)

Tara Nevins of Donna the Buffalo (festgrrl photo)

Lyle Lovett hit it out of the park Saturday night at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park’s gorgeous ampitheater stage, delivering one of the finest performances of the many incredible performances I’ve seen there over the years. He's a funny storyteller, an earnest crooner, and a steppy Texas swing bandleader. His plaintive solo performance of  the haunting “Nobody Knows Me” was a one-way trip to Goose-bump City. The “Acoustic Group” band he brought with him on this run was a procession of virtuoso players, and each gave an impressive solo during the encore. Lovett showed himself as the classy, accomplished musician he is. Campground joke: "How many times did Lyle Lovett make you cry?" (festgrrl: Three.)

Lule Lovett and his killer acoustic band (Mandy Pichler photo)

 Jason Isbell, fresh off his Americana Awards for song, album and artist of the year, also gave a soulful performance Thursday night to a hushed crowd gathered beneath the live oaks and Spanish moss. Playing off his excellent solo album, Southeastern, the former Drive-By Truckers front man showed off his gorgeous vocal range and heart-tugging lyrics. The crowd went wild when he launched into his Americana breakthrough hit, “Cover Me Up.”

Jason Isbell (Michael Kaiz photo)

MagFest Fan Loving Life (festgrrl photo)
The Indigo Girls, two Georgia friends who met in elementary school and started making music together in high school, showed they haven’t lost a bit of their vocal prowess since they hit the big time 27 years ago; their harmonies are still gorgeous and strong and their lyrics rock.

The Indigo Girls (Michael Kaiz photo)
New Orleans guitarist-singer Anders Osborne, whom Paste magazine calls “a triple threat as a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist,” delivered a blistering late-night Saturday set which featured a nice cover of Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand.” You’re never sure what the eclectic Osborne is going to break out, but one thing is sure, this guy is a master guitar player who just keeps topping his own magic.

Dr. John – who replaced his long-time band (The Lower 911) with new musicians (The Nite Trippers) last year -- brought a big-time show, spinning out his hits and some deep New Orleans funk. The set featured a seriously cool trombone solo performance by Sarah Morrow, who toured previously with Ray Charles and was introduced by Dr. John as his "Musical Directress."

Dr. John (Michael Kaiz photo)

As is always the case at this musical bonanza of riches, there were quite a few lesser-known acts I had to miss due to cool campfire picking and general socializing (plus a wee bit of sleep.) But here are some younger bands and artists I saw who are worth seeing if you get the chance:

March Fourth Marching Band is simply a phenomenon: a Burlesque, acrobatic marching band that delivers hard-charging power funk and world beat. They have outrageous costumes, and hot go-go dancers and pole dancers on stilts, doing acrobatic tricks. Just amazing. This Portland, Oregon act had everybody talking, just like they did at their last Spirit of the Suwannee performance (at Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival.) I don't care what you have to do to get to see this band, just do it!

March Fourth Marching Band (Robert Pollock photo0
The Nikki Talley Trio owned the ampitheater stage for their first-ever performance on the big stage there, and they are an up-and-coming act to watch. Nikki Talley has soul and powerful vocal chops, and both were on glorious display. Her guitarist husband, Jason, and collaborator bassist Ashleigh Caudill, put on the harmonies to blend with Talley’s gorgeous vocals. If you have not heard this girl sing, do yourself a favor and look her up, she is touring the South quite a bit.

Nikki Talley (festgrrl photo)

Chris Mule of the Honey Island Swamp Band (festgrrl photo)
Aaron Wilkinson from Honey Island Swamp Band (festgrrl photo)
The Honey Island Swamp Band brought their catchy, high-energy power-rock from New Orleans for two shows, causing a crowd frenzy as usual. I absolutely love this band! The Parker Urban Band out of Jacksonville turned out soulful and steppy R & B and jazz; Tornado Rider brought their California brand of hilariously sly classical punkgrass; Grandpa’s Cough Medicine spun out blindlingly fast licks; the Duhks, featuring strong lead vocalist Jessee Havey (but without singer-fiddler Tanya Elizabeth, now with The Avett Brothers,) gave a strong roots performance on the Meadow stage Friday during Happy Hour.

Jessee Havey of The Duhks (Robert Pollock photo)
Keller Williams shed his hippie-boy ways, showing up Friday night wearing a suit (Robert Palmer style) with a full-on nasty funk band (“More than a Little,”) complete with backup dancer-singers, and presided over a dance party hoot.

Keller Williams (Mandy Pichler photo.)

Tonya Lazenby Jackson (Mandy Pichler photo.)

Sugah Davis (Mandy Pichler photo.)

The Parker Urban Band from Jacksonville killin' it (festgrrl photo)

Sunday night closed out with The New Orleans Suspects (excellent) followed by a beautiful set by our friends Donna The Buffalo, which was part Cajun-dance party, part folk revival and just a jamtastic treat for the die-hards still hanging on at the end of a beautiful weekend.

Jeb Puryeat of  Donna the Buffalo (festgrrl photo)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Suwannee Hulaween This Week!

Art by Bean at Spirit Lake (festgrrl photo)

“Music is everything. It's my passion, my feelings, my business, my escape, my expression, my social life, my frustrations, and my soundtrack. Do you happen to know where I can get a 'lil more?”

That quote is from Suwannee Hulaween promoter Michael Berg, in an interview on the Huffington Post

We are the lucky beneficiaries of Berg's musical passion this week, when Suwannee Hulaween  hits the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fl., starting with a preparty Thursday and then the festival proper Friday through Sunday night.(Oct. 31-Nov. 2)

A ferris wheel at the main stage - yes! (festgrrl photo)
This is the second-ever Suwannee Hulaween to take place at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Hosted by the eclectic national touring band The String Cheese Incident (bluegrass meets jam, electronica, and funk) in Live Oak, FL October 31-November 2. 

String Cheese was mind-blowingly good last year, and this year they will play three nights (seven sets,) along with a surprise-filled three-set Halloween show themed ‘The Afterlife,’ asking fans: What do YOU want to be in the afterlife? The costume theme is interpreting life after death -- mythology, philosophy, religion and the supernatural.

The talented Michael Kang of String Cheese (festgrrl photo)
The fest has a packed roster of other performers as well, including Keller Williams Bluegrass Surprise, Big Gigantic, Thievery Corporation, Beats Antique, the New Deal, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Shpongle (DJ Set), Nahko and Medicine for the People, Greensky Bluegrass, EOTO, The Dean Ween Group, Conspirator, Emanicipator and many more.You can check out the schedule here.

Weekend tickets  (which include primitive camping) are $239 advanced this week, and $269 at the gate. Single day tickets (do not include camping) are $90. Tickets for the Thursday night pre-party featuring Particle, Electron, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, MZG, and Modern Measure are $40 advanced or $50 at the gate. Be advised: If you want to camp in the park Wednesday or Thursday night, you are required to have a ticket to the pre-party.

Hooper at Spirit Lake (festgrrl photo)
One of the coolest things about Suwannee Hulaween is the psychedelic "Spirit Lake" art installation. The park's cypress lake is expertly lighted, and acrobatics, jugglers, hoopers and fire dancers perform. There's a blacklight mural, huge amazing sculptures, swings, hammocks, a lighted mandala, and more. Trust me, the artists go all out making it. This is NOT TO MISS!!!!

Here is your lineup:
The String Cheese Incident (3 nights)
§  Keller Williams – Bluegrass Suprise
§  Thievery Corporation
§  Big Gigantic
§  Beats Antique
§  The New Deal
§  Shpongle (Simon Posford DJ set)
§  Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
§  Emancipator
§  Greensky Bluegrass
§  The Dean Ween Group
§  Conspirator
§  Future Rock
§  Nahko & Medicine For The People
§  Rising Appalachia
§  Rob Garza (DJ Set)
§  Kung Fu
§  The Soul Rebels
§  Judah and the Lion
§  Van Ghost
§  The Heavy Pets
§  Ghost Owl
§  Greenhouse Lounge
§  Cope
§  Strung Like A Horse
§  Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
§  Shane Pruitt Band
§  Suenalo
§  Dustin Thomas
§  Beartoe
§  Post Pluto

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

See Shovels and Rope, Clarence Carter, John Anderson and More at Big Pine Music Festival This Weekend in Albany, Ga.

Shovels and Rope

The first-ever  Big Pine Music Festival  happens this weekend at the fairgrounds in Albany, Ga. It's a country-funk-Americana mish-mash with some excellent acts, including the haunting Americana duo, Shovels and Rope, singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton, Drake White and the Big Fire Band, the legendary R &B singer Clarence Carter ("Strokin'") and country artist John Anderson.

Chris Stapleton

festgrrl recommends one of the lesser-known acts, a young, new funk band out of Augusta, Ga.,  Funk You  (they play at midnight Saturday.) There's also a Jerry Garcia Band cover band for your dancing pleasure.

In all, more than 40 acts will perform on four stages Friday and Saturday. You can check out the schedule here

Weekend passes for Big Pine are $50. You can get a full-service RV hook-up for $100, Primitive camping passes are $10. Day passes are $30.