Florida is home to dozens of music festivals throughout the year, blessed by the wonderful Florida weather year-round. From Miami out to the Panhandle, you can find just about any sort of festival you want. National acts, regional bands and locals all come to perform here.
What, then, you might ask, is so darn special about the Orange Blossom Jamboree, held at the Sertoma Ranch in Brooksville May 14-17? OBJ is all about Florida music, pure and simple. Exclusively Florida musicians from the jam scene, playing bluegrass, funk, rock, jazz, reggae, jamtronic, sacred steel, soul – you name it, OBJ’s got it.
OBJ is a reaffirmation of the enormous prominence of the Florida music scene. Florida’s Got Talent! So much, in fact, that dozens of bands did not make this year’s cut. Russ Bowers and Andy Lytle have the unenviable job of determining each year who can – and who cannot – perform. There is only so much room, so many time slots. They work hard to include bands on a rotating basis.
Andy says, “Everyone here at OBJ is very excited for everyone to come back to Serotoma Youth Ranch for another great year at OBJ!” The festival is sponsored by the OBJ crew and the Dunedin Brewery.
The ranch site is a beautiful wooded campground ideal for this festival. Three stages around the grounds allow for continuous music – with overlaps. You do have to pick and choose, and there is so much to hear again this year, the sixth time OBJ has been staged.
The music starts early Thursday, with Root of All bringing their “aggressive dub/roots/reggae” from St. Augustine and Clearwater’s Row Jomah presenting their jammy rock styles. By the time Green Sunshine closes down the Dunedin Brewery Stage, you will have heard music from Palm Beach to Pensacola and everywhere in between.
There is more reggae, funk and rock from Currentz and Morning Fatty. Looking for rock and fusion? Try Ancient Sun, Post Pluto and The Groove Orient. The Funky Nuggets plan to deliver their jamtronic version of funk jams, and there is sweet funky jazz courtesy of Public Sounds Collective. Better get some rest. Three days to go!
Friday goes off the rails right from the start. That’s what happens when you let the Bath Salt Zombies lead off. They call it “hell-billy cabaret;” you’ll say it’s bluegrass insanity. There is music with nuance, from songstress Laura Shepherd and Between Bluffs to delightfully feel-good music by Endless Flow. Dropin Pickup claims to play “you name it” (and they do it well), and shoeless soul plays “Prozac pop” – and a lot more. No telling who will run sound while Andy Lytle is on stage with the Happy Campers, including Legacy, who returns later with just about everybody for the Legacy Orchestra Collective (you’ve been warned).
If funk and soul are the grooves you’re searching for, the Legendary JCs (featuring the incomparable Eugene), Herd of Watts, and Wester Joseph’s Stereo Vudu will hook you up. Or you can go straight to church with the best sacred steel band on the planet, the Lee Boys.
Savi Fernandez Band will be playing reggae and funk music from their spectacular new album From My Heart, and the one, the only, the real CopE headlines again this year. Better get some energy drinks. Two amazing days to go!
Saturday is nuts. It starts innocently enough (or so it would appear) with the Applebutter Express, who might or might NOT sing “Gang Bang” at noon, you never know! Munchkins appear in the form of Grumpy Ole Trolls, some very young musicians we will no doubt be seeing for years to come! And Troy Youngblood and the SoulFish offer their American roots alternative, with great vocals, and how can you miss a keyboard player named the Eloquent Barbarian? Really!
I-Resolution and the Resolvers get the reggae dancehall grooves floating through the park, and from Suénalo you’ll hear “AfroLatinBabymakin’DescargaFunk.” Yikes! Maybe you need a real shot of electrofunk jam, brought to you in blistering fashion by S.P.O.R.E.
You can never have too much funky jazz, or jazzy funk for that matter. Five – count ‘em – five excellent exponents of this mixed-up genre will send you into a dancing frenzy. Squeedlepuss, Serotonic, Ajeva, Leisure Chief and Holey Miss Moley will all represent, big time. Collaborations seem inevitable.
But save some energy for the last two bands on the line-up. The Heavy Pets come roaring out of South Florida. They can do whatever they want, as they demonstrated again at the Dunedin Brewery Spring Beer Jam. Classic rock? Disco? Their “old” stuff? Jams ‘til they won’t stop? You’ll say “So Thank You Music!”
And then Come Back Alice throw down their Southern gypsy funk to shut down Saturday’s festivities. Florida’s Got Talent indeed!
Sunday offers everybody a chance to listen – and recover, just a bit. Sosos brings their acoustic folk and rock from Ft. Lauderdale. The other five performances Sunday are all tributes, which should make for a deluxe day. Boxcar Hollow honors Bob Dylan, and Tangle Mangos does a Little Feat set. Next, Funkin’ Grateful plays… well, you can probably guess. Then High Cotton does a nice job with Widespread Panic’s music. Unlimited Devotion closes out the festival, and you can probably guess that one, too.
Throughout the extended weekend, artists-at-large will be invading the stages: Juanjamon, Trae Pierce, Dre Mack, Tony Shugart, Carl Schmid, Nico Swarley, Corey Peterson and Billy Gilmore: for the insomniac, the Audioplayground Renegade Silent Disco will keep you raging into the night. And MCs P.K. and Adam Brass will keep you in the know!
And go ahead and mark your calendars in pen for July 3-5, when more than a dozen of these bands perform at the Great Outdoors Jam at the Maddox Ranch in Lakeland.
Photos courtesy of Bryan Edward and David Lee / Gypsyshooter