Great Outdoors Jam – Magnificent Music – As Good As It Gets

Here is a topic for debate: once again, I don’t care where you were last weekend, you didn’t hear music better than what we heard at Great Outdoors Jam (June 30 – July 3) in Mt. Dora FL. As good? OK. Better. Nope.

There’s no debate in Florida. We know. Hometeam New Year’s Rally, Little Econ Love Fest, Wanee, Mother Earth Fest, Orange Blossom Jamboree, Purple Hatter’s Ball, Great Outdoors Jam, Roosevelt Collier’s tests, and more. Not to mention the big boys: Okeechobee and Suwannee Hulaween.

This third edition of Great Outdoors Jam, the first at Fields of Renninger’s, was the best yet. MusicFestNews posted our halftime report Saturday (you can read it here): SICK AS FUNK! The highlight, and there many, may have been our first time hearing a stunning set from Philadelphia’s Tweed. On to…


Controlled Fall had the first set, which I heard while finishing the halftime report at our campsite. I owe them a real review; I didn’t care for the vocals, but the guitar playing was very good. Next time.

And that’s when it rained. With occasional lightning. In the distance, I could hear Lucidea, sort of. Those who were already at the side stage were able to stay dry under the enormous flea market open-air structure near the stage. Reports said it was great. I really want to hear them again.

St. Petersburg’s remarkable funk sextet Ajeva had the next set on the main stage. This was the best set I’ve ever heard from them (and I’ve heard at least 16). Maybe it was because they played my most favorite of their compositions, but everyone else was fully in the groove. They began with “Better Off,” and it was ON! Taylor Gilchrist and Travis Young (bass and drums) pushed the entire set, with Dean Arscott’s percussion the perfect coloring. Reed Skahill’s vocals were soaring above it all.

And those new kids on the block! Mark Mayea has established himself as an incredible keyboard wizard; he crushed on “Do Not Command.” Guitarist Skyler Golden shredded with abandon on “Floating Molecules.” And Ajeva closed with a very “Funky Situation.”

Voodoo Visionary had their second set at GOJ; the first was a ’70s set that included “Holy Ghost.” All of the band members and many of their better half hung out all weekend, sharing their Atlanta vibes with everyone. Saturday’s set of originals was a blast. After “Bring It Back,” Mike Wilson shredded “Hero On the Horizon,” with new alto sax player offering a great solo as well. “Salt” featured great instrumental harmony from Wilson, sax, and keyboard player Dennis Dowd. They closed with two great tunes from their fine album Spirit of the Groove: “Testify” and “Harmony.”

Then it was Groove Fetish’s turn to funk on. Two guitars fronted bass, drums and keyboards. In addition to a great set of originals, they tossed out a great cover of Smashing Pumpkins’ “1984.”

Backup Planet (Nashville) was also back for a second time. Sound was excellent on the main stage (Receptor Lights and Sound), but there were several times on the side stage where the music was just too damn loud. This was one of those sets. Still, the music was great. This quartet has melted our faces every time they venture to the Sunshine State, and this was no exception.

Most vocals were handled by keyboard player Carson Brown, who made great use of his talk box as well. And Ben Cooper was — by far — the most fun drummer to watch. This was a great set.

This was my third opportunity to hear Cleveland’s Broccoli Samurai. And the best. If you’re a jamtronic fool like me, you need these boys in your life. They opened with one of their signature tunes, “Spiritualize,” then slowed the pace — slightly — with “More than Acceptable.”

During “Buddy’s Song,” guitarist Michael Vincent (so young I wouldn’t serve him even if he had a legal ID) quoted “Softly As In a Morning Sunrise.” He had a brilliant set, full of jazz, funk and rock. From there, BS went deep, deep jamtronic with “Be Creative for Yourself,” with a quick “People Make the World Go ‘Round” tease from Vincent (which he used again later). This was a deluxe set.

Much anticipated was the set by Come Back Alice, the first time for most of us since the recent wedding of Dani Jaye and Tony Tyler and the deluxe celebration that followed. Jimmy Rector stage-rushed with his percussion toys and sounded great, pairing with Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris. The first Allman Brothers-like tune featured the newlyweds both on guitar. For “Ugly Rumors,” Dani switched to violin; Kenny Harvey totally owned this tune with a huge bass intro.

Tony moved to Hammond B3 and Dani to guitar for “Whispers.” Then Critter joined them, adding a second guitar. “You Don’t Love Me” went stratospheric as Mark Mayea jumped on the second keyboard and Juanjamon wailed on tenor sax. Magic!

Aqueous offered up a set of originals (Friday’s set was entirely moe. covers). Friday’s set was too loud; this was much better, and the set was absolutely killer.

Once again, Holey Miss Moley opted to concentrate on a specific genre; this time it was ‘90s hip-hop. Check this set list: “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” (Ol’ Dirty Bastard), “What’s My Name” (Snoop Dogg), “Ready or Not” (Fugees), “You Got Me” (the Roots), “The Next Movement” (The Roots), “Gangsta’s Paradise” (Coolio), “Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik” (Outkast), “All I Need” (Method Man, Mary J Blige), “Keep Your Head Up” (TuPac), and “Atliens” (Outkast). In addition to HMM vocalists Danny Clemmons and Miss Robyn Alleman, B True Brian, Travis Young, Kela Rothrock, Optimus Rhyme, Bam Forza, David Oliver Willis and Mike (owner/food vendor of Off the Griddle!) joined in the fun.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong had had the honor of closing the electric stage for a second night. I have had the pleasure of seeing the Pigeons a number of times (including the night before, a mind-blowing set). But Saturday’s two-hour-plus blowout was a thing apart.

I have always appreciated the Pigeons’ incredible musical talents and enjoyed their amazing funk jams. All of that was in evidence, but there was more. I have rarely seen them play more than a hour or an hour and a quarter. This set blasted off with equal measures of jamtronica and straight-up jam. The first half hour was simply mesmerizing, and it just got better from there.

Reiterating remarks from Friday: Ben Carrey is one of the deepest, baddest bass players on the planet. Absolutely incredible. Jeremy Schon is one of the astounding young guitar players (I’m also looking at you, Michael Vincent, Jamie Hendrickson and more). Scrambled Greg Ormont is one of the best front men in the business, and Alex Petropulos constantly propels the music on his drum kit. (And please don’t forget their excellent light engineer Manny Newman.) The fireworks during their set were the perfect icing on the cake, while the band played “Auld Lang Syne” (you know, because).

Toward the end, PPPP launched into “Shakedown Street,” but that quickly morphed into “Whole Lotta Love,” back to “Shake,” then back into a very spacy “Whole Lotta Love.” During “F.U.” the set was stage-rushed by GOJ king Kenny Blair, who apparently knew all the words! Encore? Sure: “Celebrate the People You Love:” the perfect message for our times.

Oak Hay held the bluegrass jam on the acoustic stage. I faded to black.


In addition to all of the wonderful music, many others were involved. Kenny Blair’s crew, with Goddess Jillian Melucci, did an amazing job. The sound and lights folks were always working hard to get things just right. Rising Light held yoga sessions and workshops. Trey Miller had an awesome dome set up behind the acoustic stage. There were children’s activities and lots of great food vendors and vendors of all sorts of other items, including art, jewelry and clothes. All of this help to make us feel like a complete community.

I had no idea who the band Wild Root was. I do now. This excellent jazz quintet (think Leisure Chief) is fronted by Paul Fournier on guitar and Justin Green on tenor saxophone. Jeremy Egglefield on keys was adept on clavinet and synthesizer in addition to electric piano. I cannot wait to hear this band again. I especially liked “Tesla Man” and a tune that was very “Naima”-like.

Next up was Athens’ The Orange Constant. Their excellent first album, Time to Go, is great, and we were looking forward to their first tour to Florida. And we were not disappointed! The set was full of new music and tunes from Time to Go, including a superb reading of “Emily.” They closed with a brilliant cover of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” (a My Morning Jacket cover). They can visit Florida again any time!

Este Loves had played an amazing set at Orange Blossom Jamboree, and she and bandmates delivered once again with another marvelous performance. Again, Sean Hartley (guitar) and Brad Elliott (drums) were tremendous. Early in the set, they played a song set to the lyrics of a poem written by Tina Praino, a superb writer and one of our scene’s best supporters. Later, they offered a wonderful “Where the Water Meets the Land,” followed by a great cover of “Lochloosa” that featured Juanjamon on tenor and the ubiquitous Kenny Blair on bass!

For many, this was our first opportunity to see the Tony Tyler Band, a Come Back Alice side project. This deluxe collective featured two Ajeva boys on bass and keys (Taylor Gilchrist and Mark Mayea), Brad Elliott on drums (hey, he was just on the other stage!), Jimmy Rector on percussion, and the vocal harmonies of Alexa and Bella Toro and Courtney Calo. WOW! Start to finish, it was a wonderful, emotional set.

Next up were more Georgia invaders in the form of Copious Jones. We will always enjoy the sentiment of their song “Expect Me Any Time.” Yes, please! It was a blast. They invited Harmonica Man Trey Miller up to blow harp on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” a tune that this band always nails. Tony Tyler joined in on the Come Back Alice song “Fast Train.”

And that left Russ Bowers to shut the door on another festival (this band also closed Orange Blossom Jamboree). Once again, Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet was a remarkable talent collective, and once again many musicians sat in on various tunes. Kenny Blair on bass? You bet!

“Bertha” opened the set, followed by “Mister Charlie.” Ironically, it was during “Fire on the Mountain” that the skies opened up, with occasional lightning. Soaked to the bone (and my magic black bag, too), we left before the main part of the set resumed… après la pluie. That would be my mistake.

To reiterate, I don’t care where you were or what you heard, it wasn’t better than Great Outdoors Jam. Period. The end.


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