The Ides of October are ready to herald the return of Magnolia Fest to the heavenly Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak FL. Over the space of four days, 43 bands play 56 sets on four stages. Better catch up on your beauty rest now.
Historically, highs should be in the low 80s and lows near 60, likely dry. But this is Florida, so you never know. No matter. The musical forecast will blow you away!
Prepare to “Go to Glory!” Early arrivals will be greeted by the sweetest, most uplifting sounds courtesy of The Lee Boys, the premier sacred steel band in all the land. And Roosevelt Collier, the original steel in the Lee Boys, will join them at the Amphitheater to kick MagFest off right!
The Ivey-West Band (Jacksonville) is up next. Music Thursday alternates between the amphitheater and the Porch Stage. Then Austin’s Band of Heathens brings the Texas version of Americana rock and roll to the park.
Back at the Porch Stage, prepare yourself for two truly heavenly voices, as Juanita Parkerurban and Myrna Stallings sing their way into your hearts with The Parker Urban Band. Absolutely mesmerizing, lifting you even higher. Pat knows!
Music is heading to MagFest from all over the country, and The Congress will represent for Denver with a blast of rock and roll. The Corbitt Brothers from Jacksonville boast a man many call the premier harp player in the U.S. You decide!
And then it’s Motet time! At a show in August, vocalist Jans Ingber said the band was as disappointed as the fans to hear about the cancellation of this year’s Bear Creek festival. “We want to play at the park,” he said. “We’re excited to get to play Magnolia Fest.” WE are just as excited, Mr. Ingber! The Motet (another Colorado export) throws down the funk, Afrobeat and jazz with the best of them.
Folk-Americana artist Nikki Talley (Asheville) will help everyone decompress a bit before Lake Street Dive closes out Friday. This remarkable quartet will gain many new fans, and Rachael Price has a spectacular voice that will be remembered all weekend long.
Now, even if you’re seeing double, you won’t be able to see everybody (OK, in theory, you could jog the grounds for 14 hours straight and see all 21 sets. Ready? Didn’t think so). Look at the schedule carefully. Make sure you know the ones you definitely want to see, but… be sure you check out some you don’t know… yet. That’s the beauty of a festival, especially at SoSMP.
There are four stages to contend with now. The Meadow Stage hosts acts at the top of the bill, and the Music Hall is in play as well. Grits & Soul (Asheville) play Americana roots and soul, and Bonnie Blue (Jacksonville) delivers Southern rock, Florida style. The Mojo Gurus’ bluesy rock and roll comes from the Tampa area, and the delightful Applebutter Express plays bluegrass with plenty of twists and a double entendre or three, not to mention a “Smile, Smile, Smile!”
Berry Oakley’s Skylab presents the psychedelic portion of the rock and blues program (yep, that was his dad). The Lee Boys return for round two; if you missed them Thursday, you know you need a fix today. If you grooved with them yesterday, you’ll be back for more. Nikki Talley and The Corbitt Brothers also play another set each.
And then things get even more interesting and difficult to choose from. Ready for New Orleans Cajun music? Lost Bayou Ramblers. Honest-to-goodness Delta blues by way of Arkansas? That’d be Cedell Davis. Or maybe the Habanero Honeys, whose genre is listed as “we will let you know when we figure it out…” That could work, too!
The Granddaddy of us all, Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) deserves everyone’s attention and will grace the Porch Stage before dinnertime. And then it really starts stacking up. Steep Canyon Rangers bring the heart and soul of bluegrass from Asheville, but so does the legendary Del McCoury Band, and Quartermoon blends outlaw country with bluegrass and folk. Throw darts or something.
The Congress gets round two. The London Souls, stripped down to guitar and drums, deliver New York rock and roll, and Doyle Bramhall II is… Doyle. Enough said. And the Travelin’ McCourys grab Roosevelt Collier for more joy. After that traffic stops, because…
The Tedeschi Trucks Band is ready to show you how to “Learn How to Love!” This is the modern definition of the big band, 21st-century-style. And they know plenty about the Spirit of the Suwannee. Musically speaking, they’re part owners! TTB combines beauty and power into a true tour de force.
The Motet gets their wish doubled with another set, closing down the official festivities for the evening. Whether they’re playing “Cheap Shit” (Afrobeat), “Extraordinary High” (soaring funky jazz) or “Handcuffs” (yep, the Parliament tune), they will rule the amphitheater “Like We Own It!”
You’re halfway through. How are you holding up? Better double-shot that espresso; your musical cup runneth over again!
Alt-folk Brooklyn duo The Frontier Needs Heroes is in the Music Hall to start your day, while at the same time The Bryce Alastair Band from Saginaw plays rock and blues. AND there is rock-grass from Steve Pruett’s Back from the Brink. You can’t go wrong whichever you pick. More Jacksonville music comes your way in the form of Flagship Romance with harmonic alternative folk. You get another chance to see Quartermoon and Berry Oakley’s Skylab, and The Corbitt Brothers delight one more time, as do Col. Bruce and The Steep Canyon Rangers.
Folksinger-songwriter Nicholas Williams performs as Whetherman, and there is more alt-folk and rock from JacksonVegas (the Jacksonville scene is truly exploding!). Sloppy Joe plays — what else? — slopgrass via Wisconsin. And Grits & Soul takes another turn on the stage.
And now things get heavy, heavy, heavy. Jerry Joseph and the Jackmormons (LaJolla) are nationally revered; you’ll find out why. The Quebe Sisters are three young ladies with fiddles (plus a couple of dudes) from Dallas coming to show you just how it’s done, and the supreme mandolin player, Jeff Austin, fronts his band.
And, yes, these boys too are from Jacksonville, but they deserve to be intergalactically known: Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. If’n you wanna hear songs about ‘shine, trackin’ pedophiles, takin’ bribes, and beggin’ for release (yep, that kind), these are your boys.
Jim Lauderdale is an Americana monster whose repertoire includes country, bluegrass, soul, R&B and rock (anything missing?). And The New Orleans Suspects slam Crescent City funk with ridiculous resumes.
Ready for The Avett Brothers? They’re ready to rock you with their take on Americana and roots music. They have worked relentless on honing their craft to bring them to just such a headlining moment.
Heck, no, you’re not done yet! Get down to the amphitheater for Donna the Buffalo, a true MagFest institution. Roots, rock, Cajun, folk, reggae — you want it, they got it. Dance the night away. Then go to bed. As if, with dozens upon dozens of campfire jams burning late into the night/early morning.
You made it! Almost. And you can chillax! Only one stage Sunday to contend with: the glorious and storied amphitheater, certainly one of the greatest music venues anywhere (just ask the hammockfolk).
Why, exactly, is there a Magnolia Fest? The man who knows will tell you all about it, and does he have some stories! “He” is Big Cosmo.
So just who is Big Cosmo? We can’t touch the festival press release:
“Probably best-known as Americana music festival producer Randy Judy, co-creator of Live Oak’s annual Suwannee Springfest and MagnoliaFest, he’s also a musical cosmic cowboy who’s part Americana music evangelist, part earnest student and plain-spoken proponent of simple, sustainable living practices and universal spirituality in pursuit of wisdom & peace through music.
And he is shamelessly Southern. When he speaks and sings, he can come on like a rocking, roaring house ablaze and then tenderly touch the heartstrings with a moving ballad or poignant story. And all the while he’s pitching his subtle, welcome, positive message of love, hope, reconciliation, redemption, joy, and happiness in the face of pain, guilt and injustice.
Big Cosmo is nothing less than a carnival barker with real-life experience, a showman’s showman, with a stellar reputation built with over 40 years of entertainment industry experience. He’s a faithful visionary out to see the world improved, enlightened, and enhanced through the employment of Americana music, art, culture, history, sustainable living, and community-building resources everywhere. And he likes nothing less than enjoying large times communicating creatively with others who seek solutions where none have come before.”
Now you know, and, believe me, you are better for it!
Grandpa’s Cough Medicine now has your undivided attention (Carmen’s, too). So do Jim Lauderdale and Donna the Buffalo, closing the weekend in style. All three are playing for the second time, in the event you missed them or, more likely, you want to hear them again.
And the one wonderful addition, right before Donna the Buffalo turns out the lights, is Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel. Just WOW.
If you were hunting for heavy metal, polka, or EDM, you were probably disappointed. Otherwise, we bet you just had a brilliantly, astoundingly marvelous weekend with a ton of friends and family, and you’re leaving with more than you had when you arrived.
MagFest will do that to ya!