Superb weather, amazing music and appreciative family descended upon the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park early for the Thursday opener of Magnolia Fest. And it began in style, with The Lee Boys elevating the conversation immediately.
By the time I was able to roll in, Jacksonville’s Ivey-West Band had already inaugurated the Porch Stage for 2015, followed by Band of Heathens back at the Amphitheater. I was determined to make it in time for one of the best bands I have encountered in the past year, The Parker Urban Band (also out of Jacksonville’s rich music vein).
PUB, led by John Parkerurban on guitar and vocals, launched immediately into “Ain’t It Funky” (for them, a rhetorical question). This set unveiled some great new songs, including “Don’t Stare into the Sun,” which was a magnificent showcase for the soul-stirring vocals of Juanita Parkerurban and Myrna Stallings. Then John had a heartfelt intro to “Get It Together.”
Myrna then asked, “How do you feel? I feel GOOD!” And they debuted a new song titled “Everything.” Finally, the all-too-short set concluded with a powerful if abbreviated “Jupiter’s Brew > Fire in My Soul.” And no review would be complete without a story about Carmen, the four-year-old wunderkind who loves Brett Bass of Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. Carmen was totally captivated with Myrna and Juanita, and backstage Carmen ran over to Myrna and hugged her, then Juanita. Sadly, when Myrna picked her up for another big hug, there wasn’t a camera in sight. (And Myrna asked the next day, “Where is your little friend?”) Rats…
The Congress (from Denver) had a solid set, driven by solid drumming and excellent Hammond B3 work courtesy of the keyboard player. Looking forward to a second dose today.
The Corbitt Brothers (more Jax folks!) nearly destroyed the Porch Stage. They have always been excellent, but they injected steroids in the form of bass player Jake Alessandrini, who sent this set into another dimension. He also inspired drummer Brandon Buck, who had an amazing set. Heck, they all did. Newsome Corbitt sounded better than ever on guitar and vocals, and tenor sax man Thomas Roe was superb. And Bean Spence was painting on stage!
That other guy? For my money, Isaac Corbitt is the best harp player anywhere. It was an incredible set, and then they called up Mikey Banjo Boy Coker and Brett Bass from Grandpa’s Cough Medicine (Jax, of course). Two things that were new to me. Brett was playing a lap steel guitar; I had only seen him on acoustic. He was spectacular. And Banjo Boy? For one thing, he was playing an electric banjo, and he was dancing and looking around, more animated that we’ve ever seen him. What a superb set!
When Bear Creek was unceremoniously cancelled, the boys from The Motet were disappointed not to get to play at the park. When the opportunity arose for them to come to MagFest, they jumped at the chance. Twice. Thursday’s set was simply magic. I did not see any formal declaration, but it must have been Garrett Sayers Day (well, Night), because he owned the entire set on bass. Everybody was talking about. Seriously.
They mixed tunes from their recent eponymous album with some classic and covers, leading off with “Like We Own It” (because they do). Singer and percussionist Jans Ingber kept checking to make sure we were the funky music crowd (we were!). After “It’s No Secret,” they blasted the Isleys’ “Fight the Power.” Sayers was huge. One of their magic Afrobeat tunes was followed by “Shake My Booty,” the Gap Band song. Dave Watts drove the set on kit, with a powerful “Keep On Don’t Stopping.”
There was a lovely respite before the Lake Street Dive set presented by Nikki Talley, joined by Jason Shore. Her beautiful voice rang clearly in the cooling air (it got downright chilly later!). Looking forward to her next set as well.
Lonni and numerous others have been raving about Lake Street Dive, but I had only seen videos. And, as usual, videos simply don’t do them justice. You are looking at three musicians and a singer and wondering just how this powerful music is emerging. Incredible. Front lady Rachael Price was absolutely superb, but then everyone was. Drummer Mike Calabrese also sang, and Bridget Kearney on upright bass was a true wonder. I need to familiarize myself with song titles, but “Easy On You Baby” certainly stood out for me. Mike Olson was switching between guitar and trumpet! And the crowd was with them every second. Me too.
Later, Kerri, Lindsay and I went on tour, looking for campfire jams. Thursday night, most people were apparently saving their energy. In retrospect, that would have been wise!