AURA Music & Arts Festival | Saturday 02.15.14

Friday was a raging success at AURA, despite the necessity of shuffling the schedule due to weather problems farther north.  Daryl Wolf and his band of merry men and women took lemons and made outstanding fermented lemonade.  The brief storm late Friday night gave way to magnificent skies Saturday morning and very mild conditions.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, a Baltimore outfit that was able to trudge through the tundra, mile after mile to get to Florida, made the most of this opportunity with the lead-off slot at the Amphitheatre.  And immediately the quartet propelled all the early music-goers into deep funk space with their psychedelic funk grooves.  Not to mention the matching pants that were beyond description!  As I mentioned earlier, the theme of their show comes from one of their songs: “’cause all I wanna do is F-U-N-K!”  I am giddy in anticipation of their upcoming swing through Florida!

Superhuman Happiness has been getting a lot of airplay on JamOn! (SiriusXM 29).  I wasn’t knocked out by the radio tunes, but we all know the live performance is the thing.  True to form, this seven-piece collective, part of the Roayl Potato family, had a fresh, clean, diverse sound that was perfect for the beautiful afternoon.

Then I drifted into the music hall to learn about Polyester Pimpstrap; I had never managed to see them before.  I see they have been working as a trio recently, but a former member joined them after five (?) years away.  Their website says “jamband booty music.”  No argument from me.  These guys sounded great!  And I would say here what I would say about every musician at the festival: all of them were having an absolute blast!

The snow had delayed Conspirator by a day, and Kung Fu’s slot was open, since they were totally snowed in.  Mike Dillon graciously moved his set to the earlier slot to accommodate.  Dillon is an acquired taste, and I get that some people NEVER acquire it.  Others [read: ME] cannot get enough.  Mike Dillon Band, Garage a Trois, Dead Kenny Gs – I’ll see him every time.  There may be artists you may like better, but I guarantee that NOBODY BUT NOBODY brings it harder than Mike Dillon.  He is a manic maniac, the only way I can describe him as he plays the vibes and percussion, raps, prances around the stage and sings “Carly Hates the Dubstep” (no crowd-surfing this time).  And Carly!  Carly Meyers is a pixie-fied whirling dervish who plays trombone and percussion and flits around the stage like a mayfly.

Truth be told, I wasn’t thinking a lot about Marco Benevento’s upcoming set, even though I’ve seen him before and he sat in briefly with Dillon, a bandmate in Garage a Trois.  WRONG AGAIN!  Benevento delivered an uplifting, fun, funky set that captivated me so much I forgot to see Jimkata in the music hall (fortunately, they too are making a Florida run).

At the start of a remarkable bunch of music I saw and heard in July of 2012 (review still percolating), I saw Serotonic at the Dunedin Brewery.  In between their great sets, the sound man (who does a great job with the live mix) was playing something that sounded like Jimmy Herring, or, WOW, I don’t know, but it was so good!  Turns out it was Dopapod.  I ordered several CDs and finally got to see them a couple of times.  Now I was going to get two more sets in two days!  And they delivered big time.  Their website describes them as an electronic band without computers, a band that improvises.  The sound is fresh and clean.  Feels like I have used that phrase before, but it applies to many in the stable of artists we enjoy seeing at these festivals.  It certainly beats old and stale!

Now I was torn.  Particle was looming ahead, but I was dying to see Future Rock.  I have listened to their CD “Gears” for years, really enjoying that jamtronic mix of keyboards, bass and drums.  I was delighted!  And so were they; you could see how much fun they were having on stage in the music hall.  Right decision, even if it meant missing part of the Particle set.

The standard I look for is when the music is, “in the moment, as good as it gets,” when it sends me to musical nirvana.  Almost every band at AURA had at least a few of these moments if not more.  Particle had a sequence of tunes in the middle of the set for more than half an hour where I felt like I was just floating.  It didn’t hurt that I was over near the guy on the other side of the fence breathing fire (via some alcoholic liquid)!  I was surprised to see that the captain of the ship, Steve Molitz, had a new rhythm section in addition to guitarist Ben Combe, but you would never have known that; the set was seamless.

Time for more decisions.  Papadosio was back at the Amphitheatre for night two, but Cope was gearing up in the music hall.  I stayed for the beginning of the Papadosio set, a match for Friday’s great show, before walking toward the music hall.  Once again, I was waylaid by some Heavy Pets at the BLP Vibe Tent (last night it was Fat Mannequin).  This time, the Pets’ subset was Lather Up! featuring Jim Wuest on keys, Jamie Newitt on drums and Tony D’Amato on bass.  The trio was joined by Pets’ guitar player Jeff Lloyd and Mike Greenwell from Lotus!  How can you be in two places at once when… well, I was just going to be late to the Cope show.  These guys were funking the place UP!  Finally, I tore myself away to see the Hometeam boys, Cope.

I think this was my 25th show, and I have no problem declaring that it was my favorite of all of them.  This was a monster performance from all four members, and the music hall was jammed and jamming!  It was gratifying to see so many newcomers to Cope discovering what this quartet can do.  They blew up one of the fan favorites “Shake Anything > Shakedown Street > Shake Anything.”  Hell, yeah!

And back outside for Conspirator.  I am a huge Disco Biscuits fan, and I love seeing Magner and Brownstein in any capacity (although I could sure use a Bisco fix), and Chris Michetti is insane.  Just insane.  There were so many fabulous guitar players this entire weekend, and Michetti is one of the very best anywhere – a true underrated talent.  Conspirator had a long segment that started, I think, with “Velvet Red” and just kept blasting toward the stratosphere.  As good as it gets.  Again.

Lotus  Lotus  Lotus.  Clearly, they had picked up on the weekend’s themes of funk and dancing.  As they hit the amphitheatre stage, somebody said, “We’re gonna keep it funky if that’s all right with you!”  And the fans went wild!  Their hypnotic trance-dance music reels you in and twirls you every which way.  A.G.A.I.G.!  It was pure heaven.

The chilly temperatures induced many to head back inside to see The Werks prove they deserved this late-night slot.  Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much, even though I have seen them and enjoyed them before.  WRONG ONCE AGAIN!  They were tremendous, and for me Chris Houser’s guitar stood out.  And folks were somehow still on their feet dancing.  Me?  I might be the best chair dancer ever!

A glutton for punishment, I headed to the silent disco for just a WEE bit more.  Semantiks was rocking the house, but I was really impressed with Scott Solomon, who was providing just what I needed before I dragged myself back to the tent in anticipation of day three!


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