Live Oak Florida played host to an amazing festival April 6 – 9. Review by Joel Shover
(April 6th) From the moment I pulled off the exit on I-10 and made the customary stop at the cleanest place in town, The Busy Bee truck stop, for all my forgotten needs for The Suwannee Rising festival weekend. I couldn’t help but imagine the southern voice of Devon Allman singing “Down to The River”. For this was the place he meant for sure. Up over a short hill and you are immediately transformed into a state of rejuvenation. A family feeling of sorts. There is magic here and there is music here, most of all there is something special here.
Once checked into the park it was off for a reunion six years in the making. Yes, hard to believe my last Wannee Festival was 2016. The drive up river road past the field and the “Mushroom stage” was nothing short of nostalgic as I thought to myself why has it taken me this long to come back to a place so beautiful and peaceful? With countless hugs and hellos, it was like I had never left. For that transformation that happened over the hill transformed me right into the heart and arms of my Brothers and Sisters of Suwannee.
(April 7th) Spirit of Suwannee Music Park boast the saying “Music Lives Here”. This is where music is born and new tastes are found. Appropriately the festival’s name is Suwannee Rising and the fact it’s being held in April signifies new life, new music, new times.
Everyone’s camping set-up skills for the weekend were tested with Mother Nature sending severe thunderstorms throughout the area overnight. As the birds chirped and the sun rose, even the mushrooms were coming alive with the morning dew. The campground had survived and there was new life and a new stage front as the crew at the park worked effortlessly to haul out all the mud and bring in fresh dirt for the fans! How’s that for hospitality?
Coffee brewing, it was now time to plan the day of music: two stages, and nine bands. Who not to miss and what surprises were in store for the fans? This Thursday of music would start off with the beautiful and talented Erin and The Wildfire promoting their new album Touchy Feely. Not even halfway through here first number she had officially had the fans at Suwannee dancing again. Erin also showed the crowd she had more than mad vocal skills, she had guitar skills as well. Pay attention to this band: they are going places.
Fusion Jonez brought the funk styles from Charleston, SC to the porch stage and had the fans funkin’ and grooving for their whole set. Next up on the main stage was Butcher Brown. He and his band brought their Virginia funk-style, R&B, hip-hop-rap grooves to the Spanish moss-filled park and the new fans were impressed along with the loyal following they already have. The organ playing was enough to make you look for Melvin Seals himself.
To always come out of The Suwannee Park with a new taste in music is a main part of why we make the pilgrimage. This next band is just that. Follow along with me if you will I’ll put it in Chef terms. 1 Cup Meters, 1 Cup Phish, ¼ Cup Talking Heads, ¼ Cup Joe Satriani, and 1 big bag of funk.
Miami-based Lemon City Trio is just that and much more with lengthy jams that move you in and out of their musical realm while transforming you into another time and space. These guys could easily be on the main stage on Saturday.
Next up for me was a young lady I have watched grow up on a stage as she has played guitar for the legendary Butch Trucks Freight Train Band. When I tell you that Heather Gillis is nothing short of phenomenal, I mean she is nothing short of phenomenal. Her set stole the day for me hands down and I haven’t even started writing about Galactic! Her presence on the stage is glowing as she makes it look so easy to slay that guitar while singing in that magical voice. You will be hearing a lot of Heather for decades to come. Don’t take my word for it, watch her version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.”
I’m sure when Joan Jett woke and saw this video while having her morning coffee she said “who the f*ck is this!” Wow, just wow! Heather YOU ROCK!
It was time to regroup with friends for the Headliner from N’Awlins, Galactic. The crowd was ready to get down and get down they did. Galactic brought all the funk they could fit in the bus from the Big Easy. I think they had some tied to the roof too because things got higher and hotter the more they played.
I couldn’t help but look around and the fans spinning and grooving under the lights and moss, ahh Wannee how I have missed you! Those vocals for Galactic ladies and gentleman were phenomenal and you never disappoint.
Joe Marcinek Band was next and he had the surprises we were seeking. We knew this when Melody Trucks stepped up to the microphone and said she was now “Home”. Weren’t we all? They rocked the crowd until it was time to make the way over to the main stage finally with the ultra-funky Neal Francis.
Neal Francis and his band funked the crowd to wee hours of the morning. The party did not stop there and traveled right to the campgrounds, just as it should. You never know who’s playing at that campfire under the moon it could be Headtones next to you.
(April 8th 2022) The Suwannee sun was rising through the tents and smoldering campfires and signaled a new day and new music. As my morning stroll took me straight to the amphitheater, I was introduced to the Otis Redding soul-filled-funk styles of Eddie 9V.
He brought his Atlanta style, blues-funk jams, and these jams may have been even funkier than the night before. The band was having just as much fun as the crowd as there was that special glow in the Suwannee air. He played hits like “The Come Up”, “Little Black Flies”, and “Traveling Man”.
A few steps over to the next stage but not without a pit stop to the great Coffee Shack for another tall brew. Coffee in hand it was time to really feel back at home here at Suwannee Rising. The Café staple solo-guitarist, Albert Simpson had taken his seat on the Porch Stage and poetically sang to a large and welcoming crowd. He sang hits like “I Fell Off the Wagon and Got Stuck in The Spokes” and the fan favorite “Pieces.”
The day was rolling along and music was filling the air. There was something forming at the Amphitheater stage. Ernie Johnson from Detroit was assembling. The band hit the stage, dressed the part and ready to take the crowd into a trance of 1970’s psychedelic rock mixed with a sound of a funked-up big band. The toe-tapping twirling sounds of these guys had the fans smiling and buzzing about from the amphitheater stage all the way to Pound Town.
The Headtones were up next and they had a guitar slayer themselves. Stephanie from the Headtones, a St Petersburg based funky jam band, must be put on everyone’s radar.
In 2017 Bonnie Blue released their album “No Looking Back”.
They haven’t looked back since while playing many gigs and festivals with their southern style rock influenced by the likes of The Grateful Dead & The Allman Brothers. The band hails from Jacksonville, FL. Check these guys out for “Something New” on a new album coming soon.
The band Revival gave us the first fix of the famous Allman Brothers music that we know and love so much. Their set on the porch stage had everyone reviving their souls to the great sounds.
The next artist to take the Amphitheater was Durand Jones & The Indications. Imagine if you will that Freddie Jackson meets James Brown, this gave us the soul-filled songs that put even more love into the Suwannee Rising festival.
Be sure to catch these guys early summer on the East Coast supporting Jack Johnson on his tour, then it’s off to Europe for an extensive trek.
Electric Kif took the full charge of the porch stage while totally electrifying their set to the amazement of the audience. They are 4 musicians from Miami, FL that combine rock, and cosmic funk to make “Dreamlike” music for your Soul. Put your ear to one of their many albums out. Most of all catch them live to dance in a bubble-filled trance.
The time has come for the FUNK OF ALL FUNK! The master himself, George Porter Jr. & Dumpstaphunk took the amphitheater stage to perform the songs of The Meters. Playing the funkadelic chart-toppers like “The World is A Little Under the Weather.” The set continued with “Just Kissed My Baby”. “Cissy Strut”, and “Hey Pocky A-Way”. The bass was never heard so crisp and loud until this band hit the stage with all their glory! A true highlight of the weekend!
The porch stage had one final act for the evening. Seattle Washington’s own Polyrhythmics a classic rock-soul inspired show that took us on a sonic exploration of their jams. With glowing hula hoops and bubbles flowing with Winnie the Pooh it was hard to not see and feel the Rhythm of the Polyrhythmics.
The glow sticks and party didn’t stop the fun. Suwannee Rising’s own Richard, the beer man, stated that “If you have enough batteries, you can stay lit all night!” UK’s own Franc Moody was up next to show us how to really stay lit with his trancelike beats gave us all the elevated “Dopamine” we were looking for! Watch here! This set took us to the 2am mark when the campgrounds took over with acoustic sets from musicians of all sorts that went till the sun came up.
(April 9th 2022)
For most of the folks camping in the Brothers and Sisters Camp, the sun was coming up through the trees of a cold, but fun-filled night by the fire. Plenty of old songs along with new ones born under the Spanish moss-filled moon were played. Where did the night go? There are no strangers in this park; there are only friends that haven’t met yet.
An act you don’t want to miss is Beartoe. They took the amphitheater stage first on the final day of the festival to awake the campers that had just fallen asleep. Playing their folk-style blues including hits like “Mando”. You can catch them in the Central Florida music circuit when they’re not opening for acts like Donna the Buffalo and Devon Allman.
Savants of Soul a 9-piece band influenced by 60’s rock and Chicago Blues with a touch of Punk Rock and Soul took the porch stage by storm. This little stage was producing some serious talent this whole weekend. You can catch them around the Southeast.
From the porch stage yesterday to the amphitheater stage today, The Polyrhythmics took us back into a sonic trance perhaps left off from the previous night, either way we were going with it. This band can transcend you into musical realms from every genre of music. If want jams with your early morning coffee you came to the right place!
Cowford brought their Jacksonville, FL country-rock sounds of ZZ Top meets Marshall Tucker to the porch stage. The hard-hitting drums and full force guitar and vocals made this a fun band to rock out to. Magnolia Boulevard greeted the eager fans at the amphitheater stage. The poetic vocals on the hit “Sister” were enough to tug at your heart. I’d love to hear more of these gals!
Anthill Cinema had the crowd marching to their synth-funked jams that feature some heavy percussion and signature heavy-hitting bass lines. You can experience them for yourselves at The Orange Blossom Jamboree on May 19th 2022 in Brooksville, FL.
The amphitheater stage was completely packed with fans standing and relaxing in hammocks alike. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t super excited for The North Mississippi Allstars. I was ready to get down with the rest of the crowd as the band promoted their new album and graciously played “Up and Rolling” along with many other hits. Luther Dickinson is one of those super talented guitar players that just makes it look to friggin easy with his finesse up and down that fret board and signature sound. If you’re crossing guitar gods off your bucket list you should come see Luther and his band of North Mississippi Allstars.
North Mississippi Allstars setlist:
Goin Down South
Call that Gone > Drums
See the Moon
Up n Rollin
Pray for Peace > Free
Shake ‘Em on Down
Brother & Sister set the tone that everyone was waiting for! When I tell you big things come in small packages that’s exactly what happened on the porch stage all weekend and this set was no different, but it was more special than any other for sure. From the first note struck fans were heard saying, “Why didn’t they play Wednesday night for all us early birds?” From as many folks as I heard that from, they have a couple gigs lined up next April that I’m sure they are just reading about now.
Don’t want you no more》
Not my cross to bear
Please Call Home (w/ Astrid Trucks)
Jessica (w/ Astrid Trucks)
In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
Every now and then you find yourself at the right place at the very right time. This is where I found myself once again this magical weekend at this very stage when Melody Trucks introduced Vaylor Trucks’ child Astrid Trucks for the most beautiful performance of “Please Call Home” that left everyone in the crowd in awe including myself. This marked three generations of the Trucks’ family on the stage! Take a look for yourself.
Astrid also showed off great guitar skills while sitting in on the famed Allman Brothers classic “Jessica”. “Take my money” was another chant heard among the crowd. Brother & Sister are the real deal and we hope to see more and more of them.
St Paul & The Broken Bones took over at the amphitheater stage what a show they put on! The high energy from lead singer Paul Janeway makes it no surprise he could have been the next famous preacher, but thankfully he took the music path at the crossroads! He had the crowd rocking and rolling all night with his seven other bandmates based out of Birmingham, Alabama.
Daniel Donato took country and made it cosmic. What else would you expect from musicians at Suwanee Rising. Daniel from Nashville, TN is truly living the music dream influenced by Merle Haggard & The Grateful Dead what could possibly happen? His music is truly magical and an inspiration to all.
The Nth Power Ball is the finally that will be talked about for years to come! An all-star band with multi=talented award-winning musicians like, Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), Valor & Melody Trucks (Brother & Sister), Greg Erwin (Magnolia Boulevard), Pete Levin (Gregg Allman Band), Scotty Flynn (ODESZA) Nick Cassarino, Nikki Glaspie, Nate Edgar, and Daniel Donato, and more that grooved and funked songs like “Hey Jude” (The Beatles), “Maggie’s Farm” (Bob Dylan), “Terrapin Station” (The Grateful Dead) to name a few. “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” (Greg Allman)
My apologies to anyone that I may have left out of this review. If I did, I owe you an interview, without each and every one of you this wouldn’t be the magic of Suwannee Rising.
Although one would want to catch every note from every musician here at SOSMP and the Suwannee Rising Festival but let’s face it, the only ears that heard every note played were that of, Duane, Gregg, & Butch.
The Music and the road go on forever and may that road take you to live music.
Till The Next Festival…..Joel
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