The magnificent Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park plays host annually to a dozen music festivals and one hundred plus other events. The festivals in particular have their own focus, vibe, aura. You can find weekends full of country, bluegrass, rock, jam, funk and more. Each has its own feel and story.
None is more diverse nor has a more remarkable story than the Purple Hatter’s Ball, with the 2016 edition scheduled for June 17-19. The musical diversity is amazing, from jamtronic rock to funk to bluegrass to performance art to jazz to soul to… But it’s the story of the Purple Hatter’s Ball that makes it unique, truly in a class of its own.
Rachel Morningstar Hoffman loved going to festivals at SoSMP such as Bear Creek. She was easily identifiable with her big fluffy purple hat, loving life, music and the festival vibe. You might not know her name, but you do know her story. For a minor drug offense, she was conscripted by the Tallahassee police to work as a confidential informant. During the course of a blown drug sting that would have embarrassed the Keystone Kops, she was brutally murdered.
In the process of trying to establish a law that would prevent future misfeasance on the part of police, her parents set up a festival to raise funds and to celebrate Rachel’s far-too-short 23-year life. Thus the Purple Hatter’s Ball was born, and it continues to fund the Morningstar Foundation, which is why you see her name at the top of the festival website. Rachel’s Law did come into being, and now festival organizers such as Paul Levine hope that the law will be adopted throughout the nation and be strengthened here in Florida.
So we celebrate her life in music, art, performance, brotherhood/sisterhood and good times. This year’s collection of talent will certainly be a wonderful celebration. The aforementioned musical diversity can be examined most easily by looking at the top of the bill: Papadosio, the Floozies, The Polish Ambassador, and DubConscious.
(If you are accusing me of plagiarism, I plagiarized myself. This was my intro last year, and I found I couldn’t improve on it.)
Purple Hat Productions has announced the phase one lineup for the ninth annual Purple Hatter’s Ball.
The 2016 Purple Hatter’s Ball (PHB) line-up features organic livetronica artists Papadosio, cutting edge producer/guitarist and drummer duo The Floozies, jumpsuit-wearing musician and activist The Polish Ambassador, the conscious world-reggae sounds of DubConscious (Rachel’s favorite band), progressive rock and jam band The Mantras, the one-and-only sacred steel master Roosevelt Collier and his band, rising stars The Hip Abduction, and many more.
There is so much to do at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park festival grounds. You may have attended Wanee, Hulaween, AURA, Magnolia Fest, Springfest and other events, so you know there are many other activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, biking and disc golf.
PHB 2016 will utilize three stages including the famed Amphitheater Stage, a Beach Stage located along the wild black water Suwannee River and a Campground Stage which will morph into the Silent Disco late night. The event also features live art, yoga and workshops. The most memorable moment of the weekend is when Rachel’s loving mother, Margie Weiss (aka Mama Margie), leads an emotional ceremony celebrating her daughter’s memory. Each year, she, Levine and others release 24 monarch butterflies – 23 to represent Rachel’s age when she was taken from this world and one for her spirit that lives on.
In addition to the headliners already mentioned, there is much, much more music in store for you at PHB 2016. The Malah (Denver) bring their brand of jamtronic goodness to the park; they have played often at SoSMP fests. From Syracuse comes Sophistafunk, blending funk and hip-hop.
Funk You (from Augusta) had never crossed our path until Hometeam New Year’s Rally, when they tore our heads off with a brilliant set of… funk, of course! And Atlanta’s Voodoo Visionary makes their first foray to the park. Their superb brand of “improvisational funk and dance grooves” was highlighted in a MusicFestNews feature last year.
Of course, the Sunshine State is well represented at every PHB. Several bands come from the state capital, Tallahassee. At PHB 2015, the Scott Campbell Band with Avis Cherry blew everybody away with their brilliant cover of the Blind Faith album. We cannot wait to see what they have in store for us this year! Trial by Stone plays a deliriously glorious conglomeration of reggae, ska and punk with true exuberance. And Catfish Alliance plays… sex rock. If you’ve seen them, then you know. If you haven’t, well, hide the children, at the very least!
Seven of the Florida bands have been regulars at SoSMP and at fest around the state, including Roosevelt Collier’s Suwannee Getdowns, Reunion: Campout Concert Series, Orange Blossom Jamboree, The Great Outdoors Jam, Hometeam New Year’s Rally and Little Econ Love Fest. And all seven have continually raised the bar on performance level every time out.
Pensacola’s Post Pluto has been on a tear of late, playing great jam music full of prog rock and funk. Mike Garcia is a great singer and front man for the band. Two of Orlando’s best bands will also join the party. Leisure Chief is a tremendous jazzy funky band which can rock out just as well. Christian Ryan, man of a 1000 bands, puts a great face on the band. They just released their first full-length album, King of Nothing, a true gem. And The Groove Orient, another excellent rockin’ quintet, recently completed tours with JJ Grey & MOFRO and with Tom Hamilton’s American Babies. They will be appearing with blues belter Kaleigh Baker; they have combined forces before with great results.
Jacksonville is well represented at PHB 2016, a tribute to the burgeoning music scene there. Herd of Watts, Squeedlepuss, the Corbitt-Clampitt Experience and S.P.O.R.E. have all played at SoSMP often, and all four bands were at the most recent of Roosevelt Collier’s Suwannee Getdowns. For our money, every band delivered superb if not best-ever sets there; all have been killing it every time out.
Herd of Watts played a monster set at RCSG4, driven by Jamal “Music City” Wright’s powerful drums and Ben Strok’s blistering guitar runs. Squeedlepuss practically bounced us right out of the Music Hall with their blend of funk and rock.
The Corbitt-Clampitt Experience is a relatively new combination, and they are making the most of it. Brady Clampitt is a great guitar player, and Isaac Corbitt is — to many people’s minds — THE premier harmonica player. Anywhere. Period. The end. And then there is S.P.O.R.E. w/ Zahira. Zahira is a singer/dancer from San Francisco who lists “pop, reggae, soul, world & electronic fusion” in her repertoire. This one is personal to me. I had the opportunity to see S.P.O.R.E. three times in February, and I know I heard some of the best music in my life. They refer to themselves as a “live instrumentated electrofunk jam band,” which I would say is accurate. This should be a wonderful collaboration.
Rounding out the line-up on this initial release is MZG, or, if you prefer, MonoZyGotic, with electronic grooves. Make your plans now to join MusicFestNews at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park for the Purple Hatter’s Ball. Learn more on the official website.
About The Rachel Morningstar Foundation:
The Rachel Morningstar Foundation exists to help the public understand the benefit of guidelines for law enforcement’s use of confidential informants (CIs). Currently each state, county, city, college campus or law enforcement agency sets their own standards, laws or guidelines as it relates to recruiting and using CIs. The efforts of this foundation are dedicated to the memory of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman (December 17, 1984 – May 7, 2008) a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate. She was murdered while acting as a police informant during a drug sting that started on May 7, 2008. The first of its kind in the U.S., Rachel’s Law, a Florida law that went into effect on July 1, 2009, established new guidelines for law enforcement when dealing with confidential informants.