The warm sun Valentine’s Day morning was a welcome relief after the chill from the previous night. It was a gorgeous morning at Maddox Ranch on Day 3 of Gov-Fest 2015. Vendors were open for business, and the early risers were meandering around, greeting each other and the day. Not Tuna seemed to be the perfect 11 AM wake-up call. This low-key trio (guitar, bass and drums) had fun working their way through all sorts of covers, including Hot Tuna (natch), Airplane (“Good Shepherd”) and the Dead (“Eyes of the World”). Right set in the right place. In fact, Adam Pierce and cohorts had done an excellent job pacing the music throughout the festival. I was excited to get to hear the Happy Campers – finally. I had met Andy Lytle a year before, and in the interim I had watched him working his soundboard magic working to perfect the music sonically. Andy was playing bass. But then… Legacy (Sean Maloney) had recently joined the group, matching guitar and vocals with Colin Getts. Rev. D sat in on keyboards for a bit, before Trey Miller took his usual slot. Joey Colella held down the drum slot. And they threw down a funkified rocking set, great musically and very entertaining as well. Dave Schwartz took a shot on harmonica, and Miller played his as well. Corey Peterson and Cody Moore invaded the stage with their saxophones (they were photo-bombing all festival, luckily for us). Somewhere along the line, they hit “Avenue” and “East Coast Reggae.” The proverbial good time WAS had by all. The Groove Orient is a Winter Park quintet who claims to play rock and roll, but they do just about everything. They were a good fit for the festival, and their enthusiasm on stage showed. You can catch them all along the I-4 corridor. I was anticipating that earlier set by the Happy Campers, but I doubt anything could have prepared me for what was about to transpire with Fungus Garden Reverb. Lytle’s soundboard compatriot, Russ Bowers, king of Orange Blossom Jamboree, had imported his rhythm section buddies from Wisconsin for a wonderful romp. I had no idea. It was a blast. The Wisconsin boys (Dennis Martin, drums, and John Woodmansee, bass) had clearly thawed out, because they sounded great stomping through this set of covers and fun, including “Midnight Hour,” “Deal,” “Easy Wind” and “Me and My Uncle. Bowers is a great guitar player, and this trio rocked all set long. Tampa sextet Dropin Pickup claims that they play “everything.” When your band includes a viola and a trumpet, that might be accurate. According to my scrawled notes, there was a female vocalist in addition to the other members. Their eclectic set offered a welcome afternoon alternative, again in keeping with the music schedule all festival long. Their high-energy closer was the perfect punctuation to their set. And then you have the Bath Salt Zombies. The name should be some indication of which way their music leans, when in fact it is careening in that direction: macabre, humorous, quirky, fun. The thing about comedy music is that the comedy works only if the music is good. And these boys are very good. First exposure to BSZ was at the Hometeam New Year’s Rally, and Sulana quoted her friend Dan describing similar music as “circus music gone wrong.” This time, Dan was there to confirm his remark. Almost immediately, they broke into “Bearded Lady” (sadly, no dancing bearded lady this time). They covered the Clovers’ “Love Potion Number 9” (and they should think about covering “Fortune Teller” and “Cosmik Debris” in a medley). Zane Bowman put down his banjo to give his theramin a work out, always fun, and a perfect sound for BSZ. They played a Doc Watson song straight up (“Walk on Down the Road”) and had a great outing with “I Put a Spell on You.” “Whoa Betsy,” from their recent EP, featured a break-dancing, yoga-workout cow, and they closed with a nice interpretation of “St. James Infirmary.” And everybody knew there was more BSZ craziness to be had late in the night at Electric Zombieland. Yamadeo offered a different musical tangent, bringing ska and reggae to the forefront. The quartet counts Tallahassee and Valdosta as homes, and they brought high energy to the stage. Tenor sax and guitar bounced on top of the rhythm section for “Forever Young” and “Don’t Worry.” They played an edgy song about the beloved Gulf with nice harmony vocal. At Bear Creek, Charles and Tami made sure I finally got to hear their Atlanta homies Copious Jones. I saw later that they listed their genre as “to be determined.” Which is accurate, because this quartet can do anything it wants. Their Gov-Fest set was excellent. They made this an extended Florida vacation, hitting all of the usual suspect venues to play, and they were primed and ready for this set. Critter was huge on guitar all night, but Davin on bass was THE MAN. They introduced a song called “No Way Out,” and I know what you’re thinking, because I certainly was, but instead we got a thoughtful tune, one of many well-crafted songs in the set. Este Loves joined them for a tune as well. Looping is a dangerous game. When it goes well, it is truly a blast, but it can certainly go off the rails just as easily. Chris Sgammato of Displace pulled off a nice set, with guitar, bass (I think), alto sax, percussive sounds, vocals, and Fae Nageon De Lestang from Flat Land joining him for several songs, starting with “Let’s Get It On,” a song Sgammato loves to perform. During the middle of that tune, some girl suddenly appeared at the mike. At the instant I was wondering “Who is this chick?” Rev. D added to his job description by escorting her off stage. Near the end of the set Sgammato and Fae performed a nice PG version of “Forget You.” Come Back Alice were up next on the main stage. CBA has been on a tear of late, deserving of national recognition. First, the rhythm section. Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris is exactly that, great time and talent. He has demonstrated the ability to sit in with anybody, any time, and fit in seamlessly, with a huge personality to match. And Big Bad John Werner is every bit of big and bad. It’s sometimes easy to ignore Morris and Werner because of those other two people in the band, but that would be a huge mistake. Werner had a stunning set. And then there are those other two people in the band. Tony Tyler has the greatest collection of rock’n’roll threads anywhere, and he totally rocks. Listen, if you got it flaunt, it. He looks every bit the rock star. That wouldn’t mean anything if he couldn’t back it up. However… Tyler is an amazing triple threat on guitar, Hammond B3 and vocal. He belongs right in the soul belters choir with Allman, Haynes, Grey, Bell and Finnigan. Dani Jaye is a beautiful woman with a glowing personality and monster talent on both violin and guitar. This set was smoking hot from first note to last. They came out of the gate with a funky instrumental, then dedicated “I Can’t Stand the Cold” to Russ Bowers. “Ugly Rumors” was simply wicked, with Werner driving. “Fast Train Coming” somehow morphed into a song about the ever-popular “jelly roll.” They closed with crowd favorite “Coraline.” Adam Pierce was really excited to add Dangermuffin to the line-up, but few people seemed to know much about them. I guarantee you they do now. Their recent CD Songs for the Universe is high on the jambands.com charts. As you watch them play, you are thinking, I see two guitars and drums, but I’d swear there is a bass. This set was really enjoyable, smiles all around. A dub version of Floyd’s “Breathe” made an appearance, and that rolled into a great jazzy piece that found its way back to reggae. Then they called their friend and fan favorite Savi Fernandez up on stage for a couple of tunes, including “Franklin’s Tower.” Once again, great call, Adam. It was time for headlining wonderment and silliness from Beebs and Her Money Makers, and that is exactly what they delivered, drenched in funk, deep-fried funk. Early on, there was a spectacular song with the refrain “I need some shoes” (well, that’s what I heard). The entire was dressed in awesomeness, but nobody, not even Beebs, could match Corey Peterson’s zoot suit. Flaming red zoot suit. Glowed in the dark, I think. How about “You Should Be Dancing?” Perhaps “You Don’t Owe Me Shit.” The O’Jays’ “Money.” It was a massacre. Unbelievable. And the highlight might have been a stunning cover of “Uptown Funk.” I mean, damn! Marvelous Funkshun, had a very, very tough act to follow. How should they approach it? Of all the options you did consider, you most probably did NOT consider “Get Low” by Lil John and the East Side Boyz, done totally redneck country style. My head was turning like Linda Blair’s. Maybe we should make ourselves scarce for a wee bit if that is what’s going to happen. PSYCH! GOTCHA! They immediately made a u-turn and funked up “Shaky Ground,” which maneuvered its way into “We Want the Funk (Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples).” It was red hot. Then they slowed things down with a slow, slinky take on “Hear My Train A-Comin’.” Psychedelic rock? They had that covered, too, thank you very much. They can come back to visit from Winston-Salem any time. It took a while for Future Vintage to get set up for the final (official) performance of the night, since it was on the same stage that Marvelous Funkshun had just tried to tear down. Also because Matt Giancola has a LOT of toys – all manner of keyboards and synths. Artist-at-large Alex Sears, the keyboard player for S.P.O.R.E. who had many great sit-ins during the fest, assures me you can never have too many toys! Giancola and bassist Trevor McDannel had played the night before with the Juanjamon Band and were itching to show off their original music. It was worth the wait. Dancers who still had energy were grooving to “Duke Meets the Booty.” After several songs, Sears joined FV on stage along with Cameron on trumpet and Corey Peterson, and the jamtronic dance party continued until 3:30, or maybe it was 3:45. Kinda hard to say at that point. That darn Bath Salt Zombies installation was directly between the stage area and my tent, so what could I do? It was unavoidable. BSZ ran through a number of their amusing and/or macabre originals and covers. At some point, Jeremy Lovelady, guitarist for Beebs and Her Money Makers, arrived and sat down to play his guitar (no strap). Then Graham Woodard, fine guitar player and front man for BSZ, handed his guitar to Lovelady, and we were treated to 20 to 30 minutes of excellent straight-ahead acoustic-style jamming. The meter ran out around 5:20. When the sun rose Sunday morning (February 15th), or, more accurately, when most of us rose to see it, the cold snap had abated, and it was glorious out. Adam Pierce had decided some weeks back that Sunday should be a day for “an amplified acoustic campfire jam.” Except that we skipped the campfire part, that is precisely what unfolded. Nobody was moving around a great deal early on, but shortly before two Tony Tyler (Come Back Alice) set up on the ground near the main stage with a percussionist and drummer, and music commenced. As the afternoon progressed, a succession of musicians came and went, making for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Tyler was joined along the way by Dani Jaye and Fae Nageon De Lestang on violins. They had been on stage together several times during the festival, and it was a sheer delight watching the two ladies playing to each other as if the rest of the world was nowhere nearby. Tyler sang a great Billy Joe Shaver song called “Georgia on a Fast Train:” “Got a good Christian raisin’ and an eighth-grade education. Ain’t no need in y’all a-treatin’ me this way.” Yral grabbed the traps at some point, and James Croley and Jesse James from the Bath Salt Zombies joined in on wooden box (that’s the technical term) and violin, respectively. Three violins! More people hopped in and out. A man who looked a bit out of place stood by with his violin case. Finally, he brought it out and stepped up to the microphone. He was great, too! Four violins! What an afternoon! My most lasting memory will be seeing Dani and Fae sitting on the ground, laughing and comparing notes and loving life. Thanks to Brian Hensley, Gypsyshooter/David Lee and Tami Emory for photographs. Thanks to all my brothers and sisters. You know who you are. Gov-Fest. It’s good for what ails you. Bravo, Adam Pierce. Only problem now is, everybody expects you to do it again next year!