So, asleep around 7:30, up at 11, packing up before going to hear music. Wait! It’s starting! I forgot there was a noon kick-off. I never made it to the stage, sadly, but fortunately I was close and could hear all of the set by the Sarasota Steel Pan Band, with John Werner. This was a great way to start the day (except for Sulana having to jump-start my car because I let the battery drain). The band played ABB and the Dead, the marvelous Sonny Rollins tune “St. Thomas,” and Marley’s “Lively Up Yourself.” They sounded great.
My biggest surprise of the weekend was about to arrive on stage. I had seen Este Loves perform at Gov-Fest and enjoyed it, and she sang Friday night, but I had never seen her with her band. Just WOW. This set mirrored for me the Endless Flow performance, because the centerpiece is the vocal pairing of Este and her sister, Carly. They were superb.
And what a great band! As I looked from left to right, I saw the bass player, Carly, Este, Critter, Dani, and… could it be? YES! It was the Rev. Funky D, at the keyboards. It’s hard to say who was smiling bigger: D or all of us. Yet another emotional highlight.
I sent out this FB message: “THE most beautiful sight I can possibly imagine: seeing the Rev. Funky D out of the hospital AND on stage at The Great Outdoors Jam with Este Loves.”
Este and Carly also sing in unison and in harmony, and it was glorious. They band got everyone’s attention with the opener, “Funk,” and we were all drawn to the stage. “Beautiful Child” was followed by the appropriately named “Bluegrass Song.” One of her best and strongest songs, “Come Inside,” says “I want you to come inside my mind.” Brad Elliot and Christian (flute) played on that one which featured a tremendous jam.
They treated us to a second wonderful cover of “Lochloosa.” And this: one of the very best moments of the entire fest for me, but, sadly, I realized, not for very many. They played a stunning reworking of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” brilliantly played and sung on this day after Independence Day. And then I realized: most people had no idea what this song was. I almost cried. When I was in elementary school (here we go), every child knew how to sing all the stanzas of that song. You can call it propaganda if you want, but I wouldn’t characterize Woody that way.
Let’s talk about setlists for a moment. There are four basic ways to handle them.  Don’t have a written one.  Have fans come and ask for them after the set.  Post your setlists on line the day after each show. This is how Displace and Big Something handle theirs, and fans (and writers) love it.  Put the ones not yet claimed out on the merch table. That is what Este Loves did with hers, thank you very much!
What followed was a lot of fun: Dem Lil Econ Boyz. I’m blaming Trey Miller for having too much fun. There were lots of sit-ins, lots of smiles, lots of laughter, and the band figuring out how to work Christian into a folky bluegrassy set. They did, of course.
Flat Land from Gainesville was up next. Fortunately, they haven’t taken a restraining order out on me — yet. This is a superb quintet fronted by Fae Nageon de Lestang on vocals and violin. Fae likes to use a voice box to get some interesting effects, but after the first song it was apparent that the sound system and the box did not like each other. It mattered not, as they band knocked out another great set. The next two songs had a distinct Latin tinge. Nate Garland and Grant MacLeod were rhythm kings once again, supported by Ian MacLeod’s percussion.
“Rufio’s Last Stand” is a favorite of mine, a great showcase for Chris Storey, yet another excellent guitar player on this amazing weekend. And then Fae called Dani to the stage. These two ladies had forged a relationship some time last year, and I saw it cemented at Gov-Fest, at a show with Flat Land and Come Back Alice at Skipper’s Smokehouse, and at the Red Lion Pub in Winter Park, when Tony took Dani there for her birthday to see Fae.
When these two ladies get together, the rest of the world disappears, if only for a bit. The boys broke into those opening strains of “Burning Down the House,” and then it was solo time. Yet another emotional peak, as these ladies faced off and blew everything away. Astounding is putting it mildly. Even if you couldn’t hear, the looks on their faces would have told you everything you needed to know. Thank you.
Sets were running a bit late, and I was determined to be home in time to watch the Women’s World Cup Final (good thing, too!), so I made it through part of the Black Peters (there’s a joke there; I’m just sayin’) set featuring the Stadelman brothers and friends. I know I heard “Friend of the Devil” and “Turn On Your Lovelight.” As I was leaving, Christian was on stage for his 20th or 21st sit-in. He IS the man.
So I missed the second set by The Family, and I suspect I missed the monsoon I drove through on the way home which must have headed that way.
There are so, so many people on the crew to thank, and surely somebody’s name will be missed, but unending thanks to Todd Bryant, Krista Knisley, Travis Arendes, and all the people Boxcar Mike Lynn listed for me below.
Thanks also to the folks from haveyouherdradio.com, to Richie Williams (Sober Goat Productions) for his videography, Arielle D’Ornellas for her photography, and Robin Denman for his Beautiful Streamers (red, white, and blue!).
I have abused my list of superlatives, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Boxcar Mike Lynn: “Wow, what an amazing weekend full of fun, laughs, friends phamily and love. Kenny Blair words fail to to express how incredible of a festival Great Outdoors Jam was. Jenelle Muir, Fred DiPinto, Russ Bowers, Andy Lytle, Jillian Marshall Melucci, and Mark Melucci: your hard work and dedication was something magical to behold, it was such an honor to work with you all. To have an epic camp site with the always awesome All brothers was something very special for me. All the bands were amazing, especially Come Back Alice playing ‘Eat a Peach’ and the beautiful acoustic song Tony Tyler did at the end. Can’t wait for next year’s Epic Outdoors Jam.”
Travis Harden: “Thanks again to everyone who had a hand in this wonderful festival. I was able to bond with the most beautiful people this weekend, through the most beautiful music. One for the books Kenny Blair!”
Meredith Canough: “Thank you Kenny Blair!!! It was our first time at Maddox Ranch and our first Hometeam event! We had an amazing weekend! Great music, great people and we felt like we were HOME!!! Peace and love to all you beautiful people.”
It is only fair that Kenny Blair get the last word:
“Word can’t express the feeling I’m having after this past weekend at the Great Outdoors! It was probally the most amazing weekend of my life and I couldn’t be happier with the way things turned out! I wanna thank everyone that had a helping hand and made my job a little easier this weekend (you know who you are). I feel like the luckiest man on the planet to have such an amazing family that supports my dreams! I love all of you and can’t wait to do it again. Thank you guys so much!”
One last thought. Nobody danced and enjoyed himself more than Kenny Blair. Because he deserved to. Thank you!