Perhaps elsewhere Friday the 13th was unlucky, but at Gov-Fest good fortune and wonderful music surrounded us all day long (OK, it was a little chilly for the Floridians). It was a remarkable day, with the two side-by-side stages keeping the party going continuously from 11 AM to 3:30 AM, at which point festivities shifted to various locations, including the Bath Salt Zombies installation.
I missed the Greenes and hope to see them soon. The first band up on the Gov-Fest main stage was Flat Land, a Gainesville collective identifying themselves as soulful funk pop. That might be the understatement of the century. They were remarkable, and everybody who caught their noon set was blown away. Guitar, bass and drums were fronted by a lady with a magnificent voice and an equally amazing violin.
More about Fae Nageon De Lestang in a moment, but the gentlemen of the band were superb. Chris Storey, Nate Garland and Grant MacLeod (guitar, bass and drums) just knocked us down with their deep funk and solid rock. I kept hearing Rubblebucket without the horns. Fae’s voice is beautiful, and it reminded me at times of Kalmia Traver and at others Alley of Wise Monkey Orchestra and Ellen McIlwaine. She rocked the violin and made judicious use of her voice box, giving her the ability to harmonize with herself, which was pretty awesome. I felt sure Thursday night that the Displace set would be the epitome of the fest. Now I was getting the feeling there were more peaks to come. In the moment, for me, this Flat Land set was as good as it gets.
The Travis Reynolds Project, on the Love Fest stage, was a welcome respite from the funk on the other stage. And this was one of the few opportunities to catch your breath during the constant musical flow. This was a nice, low-key set, good in it slot. It was just begging for a campfire to sit around.
Christian Ryan introduced me to Mike Garcia at Bear Creek. Garcia is the vocalist for Post Pluto, a quintet from Pensacola who accurately bill themselves as ‘indie blues jam funk fusion.’ Sounds about right. PP put on a rocking, spirited set. Garcia is fun to watch, as much cheerleader for his bandmates as singer. They also enjoyed enthusiastic response for their early-afternoon set. It was a joyful and joy-filled set, often featuring beautiful four-part harmony. More Post Pluto is in my future.
Back on the Love Fest stage, those wild outlaw bluegrass boys from the other Florida end of I-10 were back for more mayhem. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine have a great – and well-deserved – following. I am proud to join them. I noted that the two words to describe them are “pickin’ and grinnin’,” because that’s what they do and that’s what you’ll do. In fact, they kicked off with “Time to Do Some Pickin’” (that might not be the right title, but it’s for sure the correct sentiment). We got another round of vigilante “Blood and Justice,” and they did a fitting song called “(I Haven’t Worked Since I Was) Paid to Play.” How this trio isn’t a national sensation is beyond me. I take that back, looking at the state of the music industry. These boys are too damn good!
I had heard Lucky Costello once, at AURA, and they had a brilliant set, and I got their live CD, which was dynamite. I was truly looking forward to seeing them again. They did not disappoint. They reminded me at times of Phish and of Dopapod, so their self-description of ‘organic electro-fusion” is pretty spot-on. The Jax Beach quartet had an excellent set that climaxed with a 17-minute set closer that absolutely soared. Will I catch them at AURA? You bet.
My first exposure to Freddy’s Finest was at Bear Creek in November, when they played a jazz-tinged funky rock set. They started the set as a trio rocking the blues, but when keyboard player Spencer Pope arrived (a bit late), the proceedings got jammier (is that a word?) and jazzier. Gov-Fest was on a roll now.
The Savi Fernandez Band has been incendiary of late. They ripped it up at the Downtown River Jam and went full-frontal ballistic last week at two Gov-Fest pre-parties. The Orlando show was ridiculous. Savi is a superb guitarist, and he also had a great set at Hometeam New Year’s Rally with the Juanjamon Band. His magnetism stems from his playing and his shimmering personality. That was in evidence all set long.
In addition to a strong rhythm section (it’s ALL about the bass… and drums), Savi was joined by the ubiquitous Christian Ryan and his saxophones. Christian and Savi have worked together extensively, and it was great to see them back together. The band tore up the blistering rocker “Skunk” and grooved everyone with “Viva La Tierra.”
The Donna Hopkins Band out of Atlanta has a strong following in Florida, and it was great to see her back in the area. Donna (no relation, but I’d claim her in a minute) is a fine guitar player backed by rhythm section and percussion. During the course of the well-received set, the band rocked, dug deep into the blues and swung like crazy. They closed with a deluxe jazzy “Whipping Post!”
The jam community has adopted a number of words to describe outrageously good music such as ‘sick’ and ‘stupid.’ At the Hometeam New Year’s Rally, the Juanjamon Band hit every one of those and then went on beyond zebra. What would the CopE keyboard and sax player have up his sleeve this time?
It was exponentially superb, sick to the power of stupid, or something. Juanjamon had grabbed Matt Giancola and Trevor McDannel from Future Vintage (playing Saturday) on keyboards and bass, Sesame Street’s Animal on drums (or maybe it was Michael Garrie), and Dre Mack on guitar. They blasted off with “Hey Dog,” which wound its way into “May We Funk You (Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples). Insanity prevailed.
Because Juanjamon had in Giancola a master of a dozen keyboards and synths, he was able to concentrate on tenor, EWI and organ, and it was great hearing him on all three. Este Loves, one of the at-large artists, joined the band for a great song titled “Where the Water Meets the Land.” Juanjamon made sure we knew “That’s her song!”
And then things sailed completely out of hand. “Who’s That” is about as bad as bad can get, and “She’s got a Real Nice Booty” was a crowd-pleaser. And that was overshadowed by the stage rush of Savi Fernandez, Christian Ryan, Corey Peterson, Alex Sears and Johnny Nichol for a bad-to-the-bone “Sexy M.F.”
In the tension-and-release portion of the program, everyone needed to simmer down just a bit, and the Stadelman Brothers (more CopE) had the perfect answer: a low-key set of Beatles tune that was just right. Tony Tyler (Come Back Alice) and Este Loves joined in the festivities.
The last slot on the main stage was saved for Big Something, the Burlington NC sextet having themselves a big year. They host their own festival, Big What?, annually in June, and they had been on a Florida swing including a couple of Gov-Fest pre-parties in Orlando and Gainesville. Their most recent CD, Truth Serum, has met with great national acclaim.
Apparently, the boys decided to BLOW. IT. OUT. This was huge. People were talking about it the next two days. A truly spacy intro gave way to “Love Generator,” followed by “Megalodon,” both from Truth Serum, with “Blast Off” by Lettuce in the middle. After “UFOs are Real,” they headed to Floyd territory for an inspired “Welcome to the Machine” that eventually twisted and turned through “Saturday Night Zombie” into “Frankenstein.” Everybody was lit up. Nick McDaniels was bouncing like a superball, and Jesse Hensley had a monster night on guitar. Encore? “Wake Up” by Rage Against the Machine! I’m thinking about Big What? as we speak.
New Earth Army had the unenviable task of following the BS blow-out, but they met the challenge head-on and rocked it. And funked it. And jazzed it up. Carly Foster’s beautiful voice filled up the night, as NEA grabbed songs from their first CD and recent release Musikizinew, highlighted by “Lens of Love.” They closed their solid set with the very accurate “Love Is an Action.”
The last feature of the night was the Legacy Orchestra Collective. In order to facilitate matters and speed things up, New Earth Army left their equipment on stage and allowed the sound bosses to get everything set, which made for a very short set break. Sean Legacy Maloney wisely led off with “Shakedown Street,” a jam community anthem and a song Legacy plays often and well. Sandwiched in the middle was another Floyd tune, “Another Brick in the Wall” (and don’t get me started).
The only slight misstep for me was a mediocre if spirited “Two Tickets to Paradise” (except that we were already in paradise!), but then the set soared toward deep space with “Ridiculous Elephant” into something equally wonderful. It was fun, fun, fun! “Superstition” featured Fae Nageon De Lestang (Flat Land) and Dani Jaye (Come Back Alice) rocking their violins and singing with Este Loves. WOW!
And that should have been it, except that those naughty Bath Salt Zombie boys were intent on keeping everybody up even later. Their Electric Zombieland was bathed in day-glow paint, as were they, this night dressed as Batman villains (Two-Face, Scarecrow, Joker and Riddler), since it was still (technically) Villains’ Night.
They played some of their macabre and crazy originals, such as “Lowly Worm,” and fun covers, including “Fulsom Prison Blues.” This was inspired fun, a preview to their set Saturday afternoon.
There was still music at the bonfire near my tent, but… I was cold (despite the deluxe blanket Kerri threw on me earlier), and it was 4:30 AM. Time for bed.
Great to see Sulana and Dan, Volke and Ms. Volke, Brandi, Pat, Lindsay, Tom, and Captain Mark.
Thanks again to Brian Hensley for photographs. You can see lots more on his Facebook page. Thanks also to Gypsyshooter/David Lee for photographs!