“I love these small festivals!”
That was Paul Levine, speaking about Roosevelt Collier’s Summer Splashdown and Disc Golf Tournament, an intimate festival at the beach, in the Music Hall, in the courtyard, and in the pavilion at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak.
Levine, who also runs Purple Hatter’s Ball and Suwannee Roots Revival (a new fest coming October 13-16), combined forces with Vlad the Inhaler, Matthew Connor, Trey Hebron and Roosevelt Collier to produce last weekend’s wonderful event.
Music kicked off early Friday night with Miami’s dynamic fusion band Electric Kif. They played a great tune called “Little Louie” heavy with synth, covered Radiohead, and hit a great jam that began with “Chameleon” before, you know, changing its colors. An old rocker, “The Heist,” was followed by brilliant fusion that channeled Return to Forever and TAUK!
Out in the courtyard, DJs had sets between the band sets inside, with some overlap. Self Mayde featured a DJ and a keyboard player, and it was outstanding dance music. Great electric piano and swinging clavinet worked perfectly with the dance tracks pumping.
PK jumped on stage inside to welcome Come Back Alice, for this show featuring a SoSMP favorite on bass in Kenny Stadelman, long a member of CopE. Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris was so excited he broke his kick drum head on the first song. Jimmy Rector on percussion grabbed his washboard to accompany the music sans drums. Problem remedied, CBA blew out a wicked version of “Ugly Rumors.”
Tony Tyler switched back and forth from guitar to Hammond B3, and Dani Jaye alternately played guitar and violin. “Along for the Ride” contained a great clavinet break, and a simply unreal spacey jam emerged during “Dead Lock.” Stadelman had a wonderful set. They closed their brilliant set with “Coraline,” “Fast Train” and “Whole Lotta Love!”
M:Z:G was blowing up a great set in the courtyard, but now sets were really overlapping, and we jetted back inside to see the main event, Roosevelt Collier and Friends. Collier, one of if not the premier pedal steel players, was joined by my favorite bass player, Matt Lapham, and the drumming mastery of Anthony A.C. Cole, and let’s not forget his incredible sense of humor!
They wasted no time getting to the deepest funk. Things got over-the-top hot when A.C. began singing “Unfunky UFO.” It got more ridiculous the farther into the jam they got. It transitioned into “Manic Depression” with an outrageous jam, and Jamar Woods and Jeremy Hendrickson of The Fritz joined in the romp that somehow returned to “Unfunky UFO.” Matt Lapham was just incredible.
Outside, Lucidea Live Band had a tremendous set. This was music we missed at Great Outdoors Jam during the rain. Their electro-fusion was perfect for the crowd of dancers.
That left it to The Fritz to shut down the Music Hall. These North Carolina boys love playing in Florida, having just played Great Outdoors Jam and now set to headline Hometeam New Year’s Rally again this year. Woods and Co. jumped right into “Better Way,” and from there on it was a stunning set. Jake O’Connor once again laid down nasty bass lines while the Mikes — Mikey Spice on percussion and Mike Tillis on drums — drove the beat along with O’Connor. And of course Hendrickson was grinning and shredding with abandon.
There were six DJs over at the Silent Disco pavilion, but we were done for the night.
The beach plan that has worked well at a number of warm-weather fests is to alternate live band and DJ. Music fans have the option of sitting in the sun or the shade or in the Suwannee River; it’s great to cool off, then climb the sand dune to watch the bands at the top.
Ism was slated to start at noon, but PA problems pushed everything back an hour, which still worked out just fine. Ism had released their debut album Unity just two weeks back, so it was great to see the band with a fine album to their credit. Ian McLeod’s band is an octet, but for this show (as often happens) he had four subs filling in, and it was still a tremendous set. The entire horn section was filling in (including Christian Ryan on alto sax and flute), Mark Mayea (Ajeva) was on keyboards, and Ian’s brother Grant (Flat Land) added percussion.
The excellent set featured most of the tunes from Unity, starting with “Hip Bop,” the only tune with vocals: drummer Nik Ritchie’s jazzed-up hip-hop lyrics. From there, “Mind Grapes,” “Gimme Summa Dat!” and more originals spilled out over the beach. Ian’s vibes sounded superb. The band closed with two great covers: Lord Kitchener’s “Pan in A Minor” and “Steppin’” by Soulive.
Brother Dan was next up on the turntables, or computer, or however it is you describe a DJ’s rig these days. Whatever, Brother Dan was terrific, a truly superb set of deep house and acid jazz (to my ears, anyway).
Flat Land featured many of the tunes from their new album, Arrow to the Sun, and Ian McLeod returned the favor, playing percussion with brother Grant on drums. Also pulling double-duty was Greg Jungbluth of Ism subbing on bass. This continues to be one of the greatest aspects of the jam scene: that musicians willingly fill in where needed and that they fill in seamlessly.
Fae Nae sounded wonderful on “Poco a Poco,” the first single from Arrow to the Sun, and every song in the set, for that matter. (I wish she’d worn that gorgeous floppy hat!) “Say You Cared > Black Rain” was also great, and she and Chris Storey dueled back and forth on violin and guitar throughout the set. “Relax Retry” was just shimmering beauty.
Nick Fresh began his DJ set right about the time I decided to go hunting for my misplaced golf cart key (not recommended, by the way). But I made it back for S.P.O.R.E. There is a reason I have seen this quartet nine times this year (maybe more): they do an amazing job of intertwining prog rock and funk, melting faces every time out. This was no exception. Even their sound-check tune was great. Keyboard player Alex Sears’s brother Greg joined in the fun on guitar for “Hamster Hash.”
I missed Kolourz but returned in time for The Galbraith Group. The core of this band is the Galbraiths: Josh on guitar, Ashley on bass, and Taylor on drums. The band has been through an evolution of personnel additions and subtractions; this version also featured Matt Walker on guitar and Kid Royal on guitar and vocals. It was a really solid set of blues but perhaps less adventurous than setlists from some previous shows.
That was the end of the beach phase with music now shifting to the Music Hall and courtyard. Holy Miss Moley was first up in the evening’s superb lineup. Their set started out with great originals and a Meters cover (“Doodle Oop”), including “Bermuda Triangle,” “Naugatuck” and “Devil Funk.”
Previewing their upcoming P-Funk reprise show at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa August 27th, they invited Roosevelt on stage for “Red Hot Mama.” Jimmy Rector (percussion) and Mark Mayea (keyboards) were there all set. “Red Hot Mama” was exactly that, with everybody wailing away.
That led to the incredible original “Afroshaft,” with solos from Christian Ryan, tenor, Jacob Cox, guitar, Roosevelt, lap steel, and Ryan again, this time on flute. Miss Robyn Alleman had her best outing ever on “Don’t Stop,” the Orgōne tune, and they threw down a deep, deep version of the Meters’ “Ain’t No Use.”
Matthew Connor was out in the courtyard with a nice long set of dance music, having a great time. It was great seeing his mom and dad in the crowd; the courtyard was filling up on a perfect evening.
And it was time to check out a soul revue band I’ll match with anybody you want: the Legendary JCs from Orlando, under the tutelage of Eugene Snowden. This set also featured Anthony Cole on tenor sax, Ryan on alto, Roland Simmonds on guitar, and Clay Watson on trombone and washboard.
Snowden and Cole should do stand-up comedy. Wait. They already do, every time they play. It makes for a great show. JCs originals kicked the set off: “Save Me,” “Lifted” and “You Bring Me Joy.” Simmonds was blistering on guitar. Roosevelt joined in the fun, and Snowden played bongos on an ancient tune from back when the band was called The Joint Chiefs. They closed with a heartfelt “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”
I was truly excited to hear Lava again; they were so excellent at Little Econ Love Fest. This set was less compelling for me. I love Leo Kulishevskiy’s violin work, but this time, instead of a band, he played with two DJs. It was good, just not as exciting from my perspective.
Roosevelt was primed and ready for round two, and this time there were instruments set up all over the stage; it was clear a huge jam would ensue. The set began with Roosevelt, Cole and Lapham, plus Vlad the Inhaler with his DJ equipment. The first tune was enormous, almost country-western at times, with Cole standing out. The second tune was also unreal.
Cole grabbed his microphone as the next song began, singing (for all you Sesame Street fans out there) “Pinball Number Count (One Two Three FOUR Five… Six Seven Eight NINE Ten… Eleven Twelve).” And that vamp lasted for more than ten minutes! It veered into “Don’t Knock It ’Til You’ve Tried It,” at which point Ian McLeod, Christian Ryan, Mark Mayea, Jacob Cox, Yral Morris and the sound man who played tenor all came up.
During the jam, Cole continued with the “Pinball Number Count” lyrics as he gave his kit to Jimmy Rector. Mayea had been killing it on clavinet, but he then produced, for me, the best several moments of the weekend with a simply brilliant electric piano solo. Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright (currently with S.P.O.R.E) replaced Rector. Ryan had a great solo, and at some point they referenced “Killer Joe,” and now Tony Tyler was on kit!
Roosevelt called Snowden back to the stage to sing “Shaky Ground” with Cole, which morphed into “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker” and back into an a cappella thing. WOW. I should also point out that this was for me the best set I’ve ever heard from Matt Lapham, and that’s counting 50+ shows.
Bells and Robes sounded great out in the courtyard. This Gainesville duo recently released a great EP, How Could We Have Known. Sometimes Luke Sipka was on keyboards, other times programming, while Dean Spaniol was programming and drumming. Crowd response was well deserved.
Cory Wythe, from Burlington VT, appears as Marvel Years. He is a DJ-programmer who plays bass, keyboards and guitars. This was an interesting set which got firecracker-red hot when he was playing guitar. Meanwhile, Bit Deff was working out in the courtyard. This was more on the club mix side, less melodic than I prefer. Once again, I was not in the majority, as there were many listening.
This year’s event was sponsored by Reunion, the group including Vlad the Inhaler, Matthew Connor and Trey Hebron who produced last year’s superb Reunion: Campout Concert. One of the true highlights last year was DYNOHUNTER’S stunning set. Would they repeat that again?
Oh, YES, they would! Clark Smith (sax/keys/DJ/percussion) and Fred Reisen (bass/synth), along with Steve Kuzma (drums) from Unlimited Aspect (filling in for Nic Thornsberry), were primed and ready to go, blasting off immediately. There were brief moments when that karaoke stuff was too much (some vocal tune that doesn’t speak to me, with them playing on top of it), but that was more than compensated by the superb tenor sax playing and huge bass lines, simple and powerful. Everything synced up when Roosevelt joined them on stage. Thornsberry’s propulsive work lit up the entire set.
I often complain about sound, mainly volume too loud. To my delight, that was never an issue in the Music Hall (or anywhere else); sound was as close to perfect as you can get. Also, you have probably experienced tests where the lighting is very pedestrian until the headliners get on. Russ Bowers of Receptor Sound and Lighting made the very first set by Electric Kif shimmer and shine, and he did the same for every set after that. It is this attention to detail which is a highlight of shows at the music park.
Kudos as well to Griff Collins for the terrific projections in the courtyard and to Phairground for the tepee outside the Silent Disco!
Then it was off to the silent disco, the one I missed the previous night. On channel one was Brother Dan, who had delivered such a superb set at the beach earlier. On channel 2 was Booty Boo. Brother Dan was still working his deep house and acid jazz; Booty Boo, meanwhile, was spinning that club mix stuff. It doesn’t speak to me as much, but by my estimate she had more than half the headphone-clad folks bobbing their heads in time to the music.
During the transition, Samsun Rising began on channel two. It was interesting, but not more interesting than I was tired. Hopkins out.
This was an all-beach day, and we hurried to catch Rims and Keys with Dave McSweeney. The Chattanooga duo — Jordan Adams on keys and Jay Rims on drums — play “nu gangsta jazz,” so you know McSweeney, whose last official Greenhouse Lounge set was at AURA in March, was all up in this. No matter how good I was hoping it would be, once again I greatly underestimated. This was the sleeper set of the festival: jamtronic goodness from each member of the trio. McSweeney was the perfect fit.
It was time for Vlad the Inhaler to “relax” after working tirelessly making sure everything went according to Hoyle. He gave us a nice dance club mix while we splashed around in the Suwannee.
The Psychedelic Monks were next on the program. I’ve seen them twice this year and truly enjoyed both sets, but this beach set was remarkable. Perhaps I never noticed just how jazzy they are. This was a glorious set for a warm (OK, hot) sunny Sunday. There was certainly a psychedelic bent to their music, but the jazz and funk were so good. Alto sax player p soared on “Green Air,” and they threw out an excellent cover of “Hot ‘Lanta.”
DJ Ruby had the next slot, followed by Lucky Costello. We missed those sets, and I truly regret missing Lucky Costello, because they were brilliant at AURA and at last year’s Reunion.
It’s tough to beat the intimacy of a small festival. We love them, too, Paul!
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