Sierra Hull packs Eddies Attic in Atlanta

Sierra Hull
Eddies Attic
Atlanta, Georgia
January 29, 2016
Photographer: Michael Podrid

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Sierra Hull‘s, “Weighted Mind,” Tour

Spring Tour
Feb 4 Sellersville Theatre Sellersville, PA
Feb 5 The Beacon Theatre w/ Sam Lewis Hopewell, VA
Feb 6 Altamont Theatre Asheville, NC
Feb 9 Lake Wales Arts Center Lake Wales, FL
Feb 10 Lake Wales Arts Center Lake Wales, FL
Feb 11 The Lyric Theatre Stuart, FL
Feb 12 Ruby Diamond Auditorium w/ David Grisman Tallahassee, FL
Feb 18 Redstone Room w/ Ghost of Paul Revere Davenport, IA
Feb 19 Dakota Jazz Club Minneapolis, MN
Feb 20 Stoughton Opera House Stoughton, WI
Feb 21 City Winery Chicago, IL
Feb 25 Southland Ballroom Raleigh, NC
Feb 26 Neighborhood Theatre Charlotte, NC
Feb 27 Historic Earle Theatre Mt. Airy, NC
Mar 10 Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts Hammond, LA
Mar 11 The Forum Theater at the BJCC Birmingham, AL
Mar 12 Sheldon Concert Hall w/ The Del McCoury Band St. Louis, MO
Mar 18 Swallow Hill Music Association Denver, CO
Mar 19 High Street Concert Series Lyons, CO
Mar 21 Musical Instrument Museum Phoenix, AZ
Mar 22 Hotel Café Los Angeles, CA
Mar 23 Grand Annex San Pedro, CA
Mar 24 SOHO Restaurant & Music Club Santa Barbara, CA
Mar 25 Freight & Salvage Berkeley, CA
Mar 31 International Bluegrass Music Museum Owensboro, KY
Apr 1 Bluegrass Underground McMinnville, TN
Apr 16 Old Settler’s Music Festival Driftwood, TX
Apr 28 Pittsburgh Winery Pittsburgh, PA
Apr 30 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival Baltimore, MD

New Year’s Eve in the Windy City with Cornmeal and Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth with special guest Cornmeal
The Vic Theater
Chicago, Illinois
December 31, 2015 – New Year’s Eve
Photographer: Amber Jennings/Crowe Light Photography
Writers: Amber Jennings/Nik Earl

The hub for the Midwest music scene, Chicago, Illinois houses some of the finest music venues in the region. The Vic Theater located in the Central Lakeview area is one of the top contenders in the well-known realm of Chicago venues. Built in 1912 the ostentatious five-story vaudeville house still has most of the original ornate wall sculptures within and accommodates 1400 people. The eclectic neighborhood is home to great restaurants, theater, and shopping. One of the greatest perks of the venue is the Vic’s parking garage directly across the street and the easy access to the train for ease to and from the venue.

The old yellow streetlights that have yet to be replaced with the sharp white metal-halide lights at the cross streets of West Belmont Avenue and North Sheffield Avenue cast a soft golden color across the Vic Theater creating the ambiance of a by gone era. The bulbs under the marquee that announce the New Year’s Eve event for Railroad Earth and Cornmeal greet the soft golden hues with their own hues of warmth and welcome to the excited concert goers against the cold Chicago night.

Attendees adorned in dazzly disco-ball shirts, New Year’s Eve glasses and headwear shuffled into the Vic excited to bring in the New Year with the prodigious Chicago bluegrass band Cornmeal and Americana-based newgrass jam band Railroad Earth from Stillwater, New Jersey. As attendees made their way through the grand foyer into the theater the balcony overhang protruding steeply over a quarter of the floor hid the awe-inspiring historical styled Montgolfier brothers’ balloon, Aerostat Réveillon, recreations until you stepped out onto the dance floor. The hot air balloon’s loomed, two each, on each side of the stage, nestled in between was a giant discoball. The backdrop behind the stage was embellished with paintings of the antique balloons and tucked away on either side of the stage hung two more of the giant recreated balloons.

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As Cornmeal took the stage, they were met with a wave of fanfare from the audience. The band celebrating it’s 15 milestone year and also it’s first studio album in 9 years had much to celebrate at the close of 2015 and the response from the audience confirmed the triumph and love for the local bluegrass band. Founders of the band, Chris Gangi (upright bass) and Wavy Dave Burlingame (banjo, vocals) with 2013 appointed band mates, Scott Tipping (acoustic guitar, vocals) and Drew Littell (drums, percussion) also welcomed this past year Phillip Roach (fiddle, vocals) to the band. This final addition solidified the reinvention of the bluegrass band and helped pave the way for a successful year.

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A quick walk down the bass line by Gangi led to a warm welcome to the audience from the bass player while his bandmates led their instruments through an instrumental warm up of welcome that echoed Gangi’s greeting. Lilting the intro Roach took the band into “When the World’s Got You Down.” The tightness of the group during the performance showcased the ability and capability of cultivation, the timing and harmony ripe in perfection. Tipping on vocals would interweave his acoustic guitar with Roach’s fiddle building a crescendo that would dip into a soft dreamy meltyness between fiddle and banjo. The song would wind around all instruments for a full ten minutes before one final burst of energy carrying the song to its end.

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Gangi’s whoop of ‘come on’ would take the band into, “My Wasted Life,” a tune that was introduced during 2015 tour. Heavy on drums, the backbone of rock from Tipping’s guitar would call out in a straight out jam of low growly intenseness. The seamlessly blends and lightning fast tempos had the dance floor moving while smiles spread across faces. The tune ended with a staple Gangi bass jump.

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Gangi would give a shout out to the audience, ‘How you doing Chicago, we’re Cornmeal, thanks for being here and thanks to Railroad for having us on such a special day.’ Wavy Dave Burlingame would take vocals on another tune introduced during 2015 tour, “River Rolls On.” The tune steeped in a dark earthy feel slowed things down as it meandered into sweet banjo rolled solo from Wavy sparkling and flickering into a Grateful Dead’ish solo from Tipping before ripping into a fast paced solo from Roach, dipping and splurging back into Wavy on vocals.

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The only break between songs was another shout from Gangi of ‘let’s dance!’ and a quick plunge into a short fast, “Jenny in the Middle.” The song had Wavy on vocals and blasted through super clean notes that hit straight and precise. Littell’s drum stick frayed from the madness of beats. The audience at the end of the song let loose with applause.

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Cornmeal continued treating the audience with fresh off the tour songs, “All I had.” Littell would kick the song off with heavy bass drum rolls and Tipping took vocals on the country-rock tune. Wavy would own, “Rise Above,” his vocals calling out paying homage to the last few years of change with the band. Again the band would reflect the tightness and cohering mindfulness of a well oiled machine. The almost 20 minute song would showcase the gritty, deep and psychedelic song drenching the audience in all it’s glory. The close of the song was met with applause and Gangi thanking the audience and Railroad Earth. Gangi also made an excited announcement of the return of Cornmeal Winter Wednesdays at Martyrs‘ in Chicago before the band went into their last song, another newbie from 2015 tour, “Burn My Body.” Wavy took vocals on the fast paced number, driven and well executed it was the perfect song to end the set.

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During break, the Cornmeal kid’s on the rail and floor seemed to be over run by the Railroad Earth fans, the hobos. The somewhat cranky, pushy hobos sauntered through pushing their way and domineering the space sending the sweet faced kid’s backwards to find other dancing areas for the headliners for the evening, Railroad Earth.

The dim house lights of the Vic were replaced with Railroad Earth lights and the stage lit up as the members of Railroad Earth made their way onto the stage. The band Todd Sheaffer (guitar, vocals), Tim Carbone (fiddle, guitar, vocals), John Skehan (mandolin, vocals), Andy Goessling (multi-instrumentalist, vocals), Carey Harmon (drums, vocals) and Andrew Altman (upright bass, bass, vocals) dressed sharply in suits met the audience with smiles and cheer.

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Railroad opened with a snappy instrumental piece, “420,” with a slight pause they went into, “Happy Song.” The fast paced song reflects the title and the audience drifted into a steady bounce of dancing as the well orchestrated six piece took hold of the night and continued with, ” Just So You Know, Potter’s Field> Lone Croft Farewell, Walk Beside Me, Untitled 13, Been Down This Road, Colorado, Right in Tune> 1759.” The first set would conclude with, “Walls of Time.” The second set would kick off with, “Monkey,” a Railroad Earth tune that has not been played often during the bands career. Father Time would make an appearance for the countdown to 2016 with a message that “We must transcend the bullshit.” The 2016 year was brought in with streamers and confetti from the stage, joyous cheering from the audience and the band kicked into a fantastic, “Butterfly and the Tree.” During the song giant cloth butterflies on sticks bounced and traveled through the floor, the colorful lights reflecting off the material in iridescent beauty. The set continued with “Magic Foot>Luxury Liner, Goat> Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites> Drag Him Down, Railroad Earth, Hard Livin’ and Elko.” The close of the evening’s festivities was a heart felt “Long Way To Go.”

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The evening was a wonderful tribute to 2015 and a great way to bring in the New Year. Fans were bright faced and happy as they made their way to the streets of Chicago to the start of a new year!

Widespread Panic New Year’s Eve

Widespread Panic
New Year’s Eve
The Fox Theater, Atlanta GA
December 31, 2015

Photographer: Michael Saba

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moe. defrosts the Palace for NYE

moe.
2015-12-31
Palace Theater
Albany, NY

Photographer: Greg Gouwens

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Set 1
Defrost (first since 30 Aug. 2008) (>) Akimbo, Y.O.Y., Canned Pastries, Po’ Sadie (first since 30 Dec. 1998), Timmy Tucker (>) Don’t Fuck with Flo

Set 2
Happy Hour Hero (>) Seat of My Pants, Montego (instrumental) (live debut), Four

Set 3
Time (Pink Floyd cover) (>) Breathe (Pink Floyd cover) (> countdown to New Year’s >) Auld Lang Syne (Robert Burns cover), Jump Around (House of Pain cover) (Jim on lead vocals) (live… more), Billy Goat (>) Meat (>) Brent Black, Wind It Up

Encore
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads cover) (live debut by moe.)

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Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger’s 13th Annual Holiday Show

Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger’s 13th Annual Holiday Show
December 12, 2015
Park West, Chicago

Photographer: Charles Izenstark

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2015 Ghoul Train Hulaween

2015 Ghoul Train Hulaween

Spirit of the Suwannee

Live Oaks, Florida

Photographer: Brad Kuntz

Writer: James Kastriches

 

If your Halloween wasn’t spent at Suwannee this year, you really missed out, the third annual Hulaween, in Live Oak, Florida was by far the best Hulaween to date, a complete success in every way. This year the festival topped all other festival attendance at the park to date breaching 21,000 freaky people!

 

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The weather was breathtaking, compared to last year’s bone chilling nights, cloudy but in the upper 70’s for the duration of the weekend.  It actually was a bit too humid during the day the 2nd half of the weekend but bearable.

 

The art installations, live paintings and decorations that are scattered throughout the park seem to get better each year, the creativity is unsurpassable. Spirit Lake is a treat in itself with the spectacular light show that lasts all night long, casting patterns of color onto the tall cypress trees and the long tangles of dangling Spanish moss and the adult playground in a Spirit lake area with its own stage, fire dancers, fire statures, swing sets, moving lights, mazes and mouths to sit in and pose with, landscape art and much more.

 

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This year’s lineup was stacked, capable to suit all. Bluegrass, EDM, Jam rock, whatever you wanted, was only a stage away, at most times. With headliners String Cheese Incident (of course..7 sets), Railroad Earth, Pretty Lights, Primus, STS9, Slightly Stoopid, Lettuce, Elephant Revival, Papadosio, etc.

 

The Thursday night pre-party included 5 bands on the amphitheater stage.  A relatively light crowd compared to the weekend, making a slightly more intimate setting. EOTO really got the party started, the duo made up of Jason Hann and Michael Travis of SCI, the dynamic drummer/percussion duo, paying their version of electronic jam.

 

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Dumpstaphunk donned costumes and had an epic cover of Ramble On.  Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, arguably the best touring Grateful Dead “cover band” with an all-star cast super group of musicians, playing their own twist of Dead tunes, belted out a spectacular  Estimated Prophet (SM) -> Eyes Of The World (TH) -> The Music Never Stopped -> Jam # -> The Music Never Stopped Reprise +-> Jam $ -> Help On The Way (TH) -> Myxomatosis Jam %+ -> Slipknot! -> China Cat Sunflower Jam +-> Jam ^ -> China Cat Sunflower to end the evening around camp fires, guitars and Spirit lake and stars.

 

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Friday got started on the Main stage with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds followed by Railroad Earth and then The String Cheese Incident.  After just finishing up fall tour, The String Cheese Incident are absolutely on top of their game, pulling out rare treats, musicianship is top notch.  Cheese started off Friday with ‘Song in my head’, followed by ‘Can’t wait another day’. Tim Carbone and Todd Sheaffer of Railroad Earth sat in for ‘Sometimes a River’, a song Keith Moseley and Todd Sheaffer co-wrote in 2005 in Colorado.  It was clear the barefoot boys wanted to get those songs out of the way and get straight to the jam. The rarely played ‘Indian Creek’ had an appearance, as well as Kang’s rendition of the old tune, ‘red haired boy’: ‘Valley of the Jig’. ‘Round the wheel’ had some really psychedelic elements in the middle of the song that were really unique, as a huge fan, it’s most definitely my favorite version that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing.  ‘On the road’ also had some killer jams added to its usual sound.

 

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The second set started out strong with a funky ‘Colliding’. This set was packed full of fan favorites such as, ‘Restless Wind’, Joyful Sound, Mouna Bowa. Shantytown was a favorite of the night, for obvious reasons, it’s such a fitting song for Suwannee.  We got a Zeppelin cover for the encore, ‘Ramble On’, an excellent way to end the first incident. 

 

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Primus and Pretty Lights closed out the night at the Amphitheater and Main stages, the grounds were peaking out, it was nearly overflowing onto the pavement at Primus and hard to see much if you didn’t get there early.  Likewise at Pretty lights the field was completely packed like never before at this venue from stage to vendors and very difficult to traverse once it packed it.  Both sets were amazing and full of energy.  Primus played classics including Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver, American Life, My Name is Mud and Jerry was a Racecar Driver.  Pretty Lights had a lot of very nice lights and tons of energy from the crowd.  There was no stopping the tall flags and polls in the crowd at this show even though they were supposedly banned at this years festival.  Jon Stickley and Friends played on the Spirit lake Stage until 4am, a great performance to close out the live music

 

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Saturday Halloween..

Bluegrass started the day off at the main stage, first with the Jon Stickley trio beginning the dat as it had ended the night before.  The the Sam Bush Band.  With a Slightly Stupid detour to the Amphitheater Stage, it was SCI again for an epic Hulaween three set stand at the main stage.   ‘Dudleys Kitchen’ (classic cheese instrumental) started things off and got everyone moving! The favorite from the first set was “XAI”, formerly known as “Skat”, another instrumental jam, with Kang heavy on the fiddle. Only the 3rd time played all tour, and only the 3rd time played in the last 10 years!  Such a welcomed appearance. A first set ‘Rivertrance’ was also a nice Halloween treat. Michael Kang told us before walking off stage for a brief intermission, “I hope yall are wearing your fucking bell bottoms!”

 

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Set 2, (the Halloween set), was a straight up disco, it was simply incredible. The boys came out dressed in their late 70’s-early 80’s attire, Afros and all. Along with a horn section and people professional dancers dancing on each side of the stage with RZA (from Wutang) as emcee. The crowd went nuts as the 1977 classic ‘Brick House’ began. The whole set was all songs from the disco era, that everyone whose anyone is familiar with, ‘Carwash’, ‘Dance to the music’, ‘Got to be real’, ‘I’m your boogie man’ a much different Halloween set than we’re used to seeing.

 

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Set 3 began with the fiddle tune “Bollymunster”, waking everyone back up from the set break and it was all Gouda from there, ‘Desert Dawn’, ‘Best feeling’, ‘Exodus’, ‘Rosie’ this set was a heater. The encore was special, a ‘Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours’ followed by ‘We are family’

 

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We closed the night with a set from the New Mastersounds at the Spirit lake Stage.

 

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Sunday Last Day

Following a main stage opener Sunday morning from Elephant Revival, Billy Nershi announced to us that they were feeling “A little rough around the edges” as they took the stage on Sunday afternoon, and that this was the “hangover set.” But it was in every way one of the favorite parts of the festival, since it was a bluegrass hoedown! With guests Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Elephant revival on nearly every song on the first set. The set list was out of this world, for a die-hard cheeser. Opening with a stellar version of a Flatt & Scruggs cover ‘Blue Ridge Cabin Home’.

‘Lester had a Coconut’ was dusted off, and it sounded great. It’s been years since they’ve pulled that one out of the bag. The hangover set was literally full of bluegrass favorites, ‘Catfish John’, 9 pound hammer’, ‘Will the circle be unbroken’.

 

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They wrapped up their last set with a smaller but killer set, ‘Little Hands’, ‘Outside and Inside’, followed by ‘Windy Mountain’, ‘Bumpin Reel’ and ‘Colorado Bluebird Sky’, with a Bob Marley cover/encore ‘Could you be loved’. A perfect way to close their final act.

 

Lettuce played an stellar set at the amphitheater stage with some new songs off their latest album.

 

STS9 closed out the main stage as they had a the first Suwanee Hulaween three years before.  With a new female bass player  Alana Rocklin  and Zach Velmer the drummer (arguably the hardest working band member and musician in general) along with tons of crowd energy and crazy awesome light show, played jam based electronic jam.  Starting off with a favorite ‘Vapors’ and ‘Inspire Strikes Back’ and closing with ‘World Go Round’ and ‘Instantly’, the only thing wrong was it was just barely a warm up.

 

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Once again, this was the best festival put on a Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and in a dead heat for best festival on land these days.  We will all be back next year!

Greensky Bluegrass Halloween Bash

Greensky Bluegrass Halloween Bash
October 31, 2015
Fox Theater, Oakland, CA
Photography: Susan J. Weiand

 

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Caleb Stine & The Brakemen new album due Nov 7; exclusive track premiere

 

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Roots-rockers Caleb Stine & The Brakemen will release their latest album, Time I Let It Go, Novemeber 7.  The band will celebrate the release of the album with a show at the Mobtown Ballroom in their hometown of Baltimore, MD.   Brooks Long & the Mad Dog No Good, and the Weisstronauts will open.

Time I Let It Go  was recorded when the band decamped to Vermont over the winter.   The recording process was captured by filmmaker Michael Patrick O’Leary and will be released as a documentary about the band and what it means to make music.

THE BRAKEMEN – ‘It Would Not Let Me Be’ – Trailer from Michael Patrick O’Leary on Vimeo.

The new album showcases the band’s timeless style that is colored with deeply personal lyrics which lead one on a journey through the soul of American music.  Time I Let It Go  moves with ease from the foot-stomping funk of “Hey There Mister,” to the brooding intensity of “Edge of the Riverside,” to the unrestrained joy of simple pleasures in “Butter.”  It is an album for all four seasons and every mood.

Time I Let It Go--CoverTrack Listing for Time I Let It Go:

  1. Hey There Mister
  2. Mississippi Mark
  3. Voodoo
  4. Spirit
  5. Edge of the Riverside
  6. You Bet He Was My Friend
  7. Eight Hour Haul
  8. Baby’s Got the Business
  9. Place You Used to Call Home
  10. Butter
  11. Time I Let It Go
  12. Two Worlds

Check out Honest Tune’s exclusive premiere of “Hey There Mister” from Time I Let It Go:

For further information please visit: Calebstine.com

For ticket information please visit: Album Release Show Information

 

Brakemen photo by Michael Patrick O’Leary

The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest

Magnolia Fest 2015
The 19th Annual Magnolia Fest
Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL

Writer: Niklaus Earl
Photographer: Amber Jennings/Crowe Light Photography

Here’s what you missed: the fall season kick off at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak Florida on October 15th – 18th that celebrated the 19th Annual Magnolia Fest.

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To elaborate, the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park is a 500+ acre, premier campground and music park located on the banks of the Suwannee river with accommodations for any type of camper, ranging from primitive sites for those who like to truly rough it, to rental cabins for those who like to camp with all of the modern creature comforts at hand. A campground of this nature provides a venue for even those who shiver in dread at the word ‘camping’ to enjoy a music festival. The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park does it’s level best to provide everything that a guest could need while camping, so that the guest can get on with the business of relaxing and enjoying the many musical offerings to be found on their four stages over the course of four days.

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At around four in the afternoon on Thursday, the Florida-grown Lee Boys took the stage at the Amphitheater and kicked things off under a clear, blue Florida sky. Their unique, ‘sacred steel’ music is a form of Gospel music with deep roots in blues, but which also embraces and beautifully blends soul, funk, rock, jazz, country, and hip-hop. Their style of music was the perfect way to begin the festival as it faultlessly embraced the core message of Magnolia Fest; All Are Welcome. After the warm festy welcome by the Lee Boys eight more bands would keep the music flowing between the Amphitheater stage and the Porch stage; the Ivey West Band, Band of Heathens, Parker Urban Band, The Congress, The Corbitt Brothers, The Motet, Nikki Talley and Lake Street Dive until 1:30 in the morning.

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By ten in the evening the temperatures had dropped thirty degrees from the daytime highs in the mid 80’s to the low to mid 50’s but did little diminish the enthusiasm of festival-goers as The Motet, a disco-funk revival band out of Colorado, laid down a sound that blew away any thoughts of being chilly and installed a single, musical imperative in their place: You Must Boogie! Children new to this sound danced alongside folks in their sixties and seventies who were remembering younger days in the Age of Funk and Disco as decades-old muscle-memory awakened within them and drove them to shake their aged-yet-still-funky booties. Joy suffused the faces of fans as The Motet put every effort into shaking the leaves from the trees of the outdoor theater with their mighty sound. Bass, two-piece brass, drums, keyboards, percussion, guitar, and vocals all came together flawlessly to create a modern tapestry of those musical elements that made the Disco-Funk era great, while leaving behind those elements that made it cringe-worthy.

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Following The Motet, western North Carolinian Nikki Talley kept things rolling from eleven to midnight on the Porch Stage, offering a more intimate country duet set with herself and husband Jason Sharp playing and harmonizing sweetly, allowing guests to cool off without going cold.

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At midnight, the final set of the night was performed by Lake Street Dive back at the Amphitheater Stage. The three-piece, four member band makes up for any possible lack of sound they might have compared to larger bands by adding their voices to the mix in precise harmonies that work to supplement and support the drums, double-bass, and guitar and/or trumpet, all of which work together to provide a framework for the strong lead vocals. Taken as a whole, the artists provide a cohesive sound where every part exists in a musical symbiosis and no element offers discord by trying to outshine its fellows. All fancy talk aside, Lake Street Dive laid down a sound big enough to keep festival-goers dancing until 1:30 in the morning.

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By noon on Friday, the temperatures were back up in the 80’s where they would stay for the rest of the day, with the light clouds and mild breezes typical of a Florida fall day. The first full day of the festival was in swing as all of the park’s four stages came to life. Merchants and food vendors were fully operational and ready to greet ever increasing numbers of attendees who arrived throughout the day that hurriedly set up camp and then made their way to the main festival area. Here the festival-goers wandered back and forth between the three outdoor stages and the refreshingly dark and air-conditioned Music Hall, catching the bands that they had come to see as well as becoming fans of bands that had been, until now, unknown to them. With twenty-one bands playing on four stages in a thirteen-and-a-half hour time frame, it would be just as impossible to not find a band that tickled your fancy as it would be to see every single performance, though there were those who certainly made a valiant effort at doing the latter. Artists performing bluegrass, country, blues, rock and roll, Cajun, funk, and endless variations of all of the above could be found all day and night throughout the park.

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Of the many great artists to be seen performing on Friday, one absolute, not-to-be-missed set was that of The Del McCoury Band. At 76 years of age, Del is the epitome of the classic, classy bluegrass performer. He and his band, including sons Ronnie and Rob, took the Meadow Stage at six in the evening. Dressed in suits and ties in spite of the 84 degree heat they played in the finest bluegrass tradition with the sun kissing their faces as it sank below the cypress.

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More often than not, in spite of having the expanse of the massive Meadow Stage on which to perform, the band clustered closely together in a tight knot, singing into a single mic in much the same way as Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys did seventy years prior. To see Del perform is to see a man who appears to be the happiest man in music. In spite of the heat and the sun shining in his eyes and the gnats in his face – several of which he claims to have swallowed while singing, “…they went down pretty easy, though…” he complained not at all, but rather grinned his infectious grin and laughed like the possessor of the world’s funniest joke. Singing songs about being sad and blue while seemingly tickled pink at life, Del McCoury looks to be the living example of the person that we all wish that we could be: the person who has found the thing they love to do the most in the world, and then got paid to do it.

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The sun set as the Del McCoury Band played the last songs of their set. The heat fell away while fans smiled and tapped their feet to the music or danced in happy abandon. The dust kicked up by feet mingled with the smoke of campfires while the evening mist of the cooling humid Florida air worked to soften the view of the meadow. Happy festy folk danced and smiled as dragon flies flew overhead while Del continued his set. Children and families played without care or concern, content to exist in the moment as night fell and Del and his band bowed and left the stage. There were moments throughout the weekend that perfectly crystallized the nature and intent of what Magnolia Fest was meant to be, and this was certainly one of them.

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Though the Del McCoury Band set might seem like the perfect ending to a great day, there were still six and a half hours of shows left to be enjoyed, starting with The London Souls on the Porch Stage. The New York City based power-duo turned the page as day became night and their music filled the vending area with a massive sound that was surprising in its strength for having been made by only two men. Doyle Bramhall II took to the Meadow Stage and The Congress filled the Music Hall with their sound, each band doing their part to remind attendees that, though the sun was down, the day was far from over. Then the Amphitheater Stage was mounted by The Travelin’ McCourys with guest musicians, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel) and Earl Walker (drums) of The Lee Boys as well as Ronnie McCoury’s eldest son, Evan, on guitar. As an additional special guest, Del McCoury took the stage in order to lend his talents to the performance of ‘My Love Will Not Change’.

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After the Travelin’ McCoury’s, the Tedeschi Trucks Band took over the Meadow Stage for a two hour set. The twelve member band filled the night with their southern-style rock and Gospel sound. The superb skills of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks were generously supported by a fat brass section, a trio of backup singers, keyboards, bass, and, not one, but two drum kits, all orchestrated in such a way that never was the sound cacophonous or overwhelming, but always a perfect mix of the right sound in the right place.

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By 11:30, many festival-goers thought themselves spent for the night and ready to return to their camps until The Motet began their second set of the weekend. People who thought themselves depleted of energy found themselves recharged and ready to shake to the funk for the next two hours. Finally, at 1:30 in the morning, the music on the main stages came to an end. As attendees made their way back to their campsites the gentle picking of Slopry Land would divert their attention and call to them to enjoy the late night festivals throughout the campground.

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Saturday was another beautiful fall Florida day with highs in the low 80’s. Attendees marveled at how early noon comes when you stay up until the wee hours of the morning the night previous, but put on their happy faces and were present in respectable numbers when the first of twenty-two bands to play that day took their places on the stages. It would be another thirteen-and-a-half hour marathon with some bands like Berry Oakley’s Skylab, Col. Bruce Hampton, Steep Canyon Rangers and more giving repeat performances, much to the relief of many fans who had been forced to choose between seeing these bands and others who were only playing on Friday.

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Fans that missed the performance of Steep Canyon Rangers on Friday were able to catch them on the Meadow Stage Saturday afternoon. The sextet thoroughly entertained the crowd with a modern bluegrass sound which is still firmly rooted in its ancestral soil. To the joy of many present, they invited Jeff Austin and two of his band members to join them on stage to play, demonstrating one of the key elements of bluegrass; a love of playing and picking with friends.

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One of the most notable moments of the Steep Canyon Rangers’ set was when fiddle player, Nicky Sanders, left the stage to come down to play along the rail where he was given a bear-hug by an enthusiastic fan. Upon extracting himself, Sanders backed up and tripped over the stairs leading back up to the stage. Though stumbling, Sanders managed to keep his feet without doing himself an injury or dropping a single note in his furious fiddle playing.

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Adding another musical element to the festival, the Rebirth Brass Band took the Meadow Stage and filled the evening air with a prime example of New Orleans jazz brass. Fans in the know danced energetically while waving hankies, scarves, bandanas, or just index and middle fingers held together in the air to signal their approval of the sounds this band of thirty-two years was laying down.

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Jeff Austin Band returned to the stage with his band for his scheduled set at 7:30 pm, giving fans another example of solid, jam-grass. The thing that distinguishes Jeff Austin from so many other excellent bluegrass musicians is the obvious punk-rock soul that seems to seethe just beneath the surface and which influences both the lyrics and the beat of many of his songs. The overall feel of much of his music speaks of a vision of the world that is greyer and less ‘bright and shiny’ than traditional bluegrass and watching him perform is like watching a bluegrass version of Angus Young as he shreds on his mandolin. As always, it is an exhilarating performance.

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The headliners of the night were The Avett Brothers with a much expanded lineup, taking the stage at 9:30 pm to the joy of their adoring fans. A crowd of smiling, upturned faces reflected stage light back at the band as music spilled across the meadow and drew the greatest number of fans for any performance of the weekend. In spite of chilly temperatures in the upper 50’s, fans in shorts and t-shirts would sooner have sawn off a limb than leave for warmer clothes and risk missing a single minute of the two hour set. Their love of the band would be enough to keep them warm.

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Finally, rounding off the evening back at the Amphitheater Stage, Donna the Buffalo, a core band of Magnolia Fest, played their first set of the weekend. They lead festival-goers out of the last hours of Saturday and into the first hours of Sunday with their distinctive sound that had fans, as always, dancing almost nonstop.

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Scattering outward into the darkness after the last notes of Donna The Buffalo had faded away, many a camper drifted back to their respective campsites to wind down before turning in, but no small number of people made their ways through the darkness to seek out the many islands of sound that drew them in back into Slopery Land like moths to an audible flame. Here, musical guests and festival attendees alike played long into the small hours of the morning, keeping the music going on a lower key, though with no less earnestness than any of the performances which had come before.

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Sunday dawned cool and breezy and had a distinct, ‘the party is winding down’ feeling to it. It was the kind of morning that encouraged one to enjoy breakfast slowly and to linger over hot, fragrant coffee while mulling over the events of the preceding days and nights. Only a single stage, the Amphitheater Stage, would be in use by five bands for a piddling eight-and-a-half hour day of music. O, what luxurious and relaxing bliss does a lazy Sunday bring!

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Looking out over the meadow where the now-silent Meadow Stage stood, one was given sight of yet another of those moments that perfectly crystallized the core notion that Magnolia Fest was founded on. Children laughed, played and giggled with the pure abandon that is the sole province of the innocence of youth, while adults looked on and smiled to see such beauty in the world. Here was a moment in time where the grinding concerns of life could be set aside momentarily and one could embrace the joy to be found in a world of music and the camaraderie one finds in the company of others in whose souls also dwells an appreciation for beauty in all its varied forms.

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At noon the music started off with Big Cosmo, followed by Grandpa’s Cough Medicine and Jim Lauderdale, all of whom drew solid attendance and put out enough energy to keep exhausted festival-goers, if not dancing outright, smiling and tapping their feet at the very least. Unsurprisingly, the majority of those folks dancing on Sunday were aged roughly 12 and below, as they seem tapped into an energy source to which the rest of us have long since lost access.

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By 4:00 in the late afternoon when Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel took the stage, the batteries of most of the adults had recharged enough that they were able to dance along with the tireless children. The previously clear air of the day is now dissected by shafts of sunlight because of the amount of dust kicked into the air by happy feet. Bubbles float lazily overhead, hula-hoops are enthusiastically, if not always professionally, spun, little children are bounced on the shoulders of parents, hammocks rock, and fans sing along as Keller plays.

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Last, but not least by any stretch, Donna The Buffalo takes the stage once again for the final set of the day, giving fans two more hours of music with which to enfold their spirits before taking their leave of the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and picking back up their burdens of daily life. Though the music of Magnolia Fest has come to an end for another year, the memory of the music and the joyful festival-goers and the perfect weather will linger on in our minds and, in times of need, hopefully be a balm to our souls when we are sometimes battered by the casual indifference of daily life. It is in the memory of joy and beauty that we find the strength to straighten our backs and smile when we might otherwise bow our heads and let the innumerable little burdens of life break us down. It is for those memories that Magnolia Fest exists, and we hope next year to see you there, so that next time, You, dear reader, are the one who can begin the story with, ‘Here’s what you missed…’

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