Wednesday, October 26, 2011

MagnoliaFest 2011.10.20 - 2011.10.23 Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park Like Oak, FL

Design by Ariane B. Davis 

The Fall season in Florida might not have the aesthetic transformation of our Northern counterparts, but the music climate certainly changes and takes a turn for the great. Dedicated patrons flock down to the peninsula for moderate temperatures balanced by choice weather and copious amounts of sunshine. The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park becomes the ideal venue for music spectating and camping for East Coasters hell bent on pushing the congested festival season a few months further.
This past weekend a smaller, more intimate gathering of bluegrass enthusiasts, folk faithful and jam rock addicts invaded Live Oak to witness four full days of power players like moe., Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, The Travelin' McCourys with Keller Williams, Railroad Earth, Cornmeal, Steel Pulse, 7 Walkers, Col. Bruce Hampton and a collaboration between Toubab Krewe and The Infamous String Dusters.
After a stacked day proceeding them, moe. set the pace on Friday night with a standout marathon set pushing close to two and a half hours. When they took the stage the crowd couldn't have been more than 200 people, but an explosive twenty minute "Meat" opener got the ball rolling in the right direction.
A string of segues came from the Wormwood pairing of "Not Coming Down" and "Wormwood" before slipping into the monster twang-rock anthem "32 Things."  The temperature dropped significantly during the 47-minute sequence, and bassist Rob Derhak was quick to point out, "damn it's cold, I think my oranges are frozen."
The set coasted to a particular strong "Wind It Up," but the true highlight was a smothered "McBain" sandwich with an extended "Time Ed" serving up the heat that "Meat" had started at the beginning of the set.

The combination of cold and an older crowd didn't provide much in the way of a post-party beyond personal camp fires and RV private sessions. An unusual, yet calming quiet camping experience where I was set up allowed for a good nights rest and an early start on Saturday.
Catching up on my exploring, a wandering mission from each of the four stages to the next provided a better representation of the individuals that comprise MagFest. Most of them are Southern baby boomers using the weekend as a vacation with activities geared towards setting up camp chairs in front of stage and watching some of the most talented musicians in the country show off. Booze were flowing in a moderate fashion and the energy is subdued yet intent on catching each note.
A series of sit-ins and unsuspecting collaborations defined the marathon of foot stomping good sets. Jim Lauderdale welcomed the String Dusters to the Amphitheater Stage for a few true blood bluegrass songs. The Lee Boys brought out the bass master Victor Wooten for an earth shattering guitar duel. The Infamous Krewe, a Toubab Krewe and The Infamous String Dusters super-group, has some sound problems but eventually the combination of the two groups resulted in an interesting melding of the former's psychedelic afrobeat and the latter's string work.
Back in the enchanted forest vibe of the Amphitheater, Cornmeal was setting the stage on fire and took it to fifth gear with an extended sit in by Bela Fleck during "Shady Groove."
When Bela reunited with the Flecktones later that night they would bring out violist extraordinaire Casey Driessen to add some textures and build up to more than one peaking jam during the 90-minute set. Just when the uniqueness of seeing all these musicians creating and improvising with each other couldn't get much better, lap steel guitar prodigy Roosevelt Collier stole the show when he sat in for "St. Augustine" and "Downward Facing Dog."
That would be the highlight of the night, along with a 25-minute "Recreational Chemistry", as the Buffalo jam rockers took a more relaxed approach, and played their all too familiar standard festival set style.

A lazy Sunday brought multiple encore presentations from bands booked the day previous. All in all, MagnoliaFest is an unsuspecting weekend with lots of room for fun and lacks the hectic nature that comes with bigger events boasting taller lineups and higher capacities. Having braved the weekend solo, I managed to make some new friends and for once a festival felt more like a vacation. Suggestions for future attempts would include a prime recreational vehicle, a crew rolling deep and more whiskey.
A big thank you to Marcus Barnett for getting these recordings of moe. up so quickly and letting me post them here.


Chef Earthspice said...

Don't worry smith -
the prime Recreational Rage Vehicle and copious amounts of krew rollin d33p is set for Brrrrrr Creek. Oh yea whiskey is a flowin! Maker's Mark anyone?

PS... since when is a 2.5 hour set a "marathon set" maybe for the old southerners w/ lawn chairs and Budweiser coozys...

Molly said...

Magfest 2011 was my first festival, and first time at Suwannee, and I think I will be back for every festival next year, if my schedule allows. moe. was awesome both nights, the light show was amazing, and though the weather was a bit chilly for sleeping, it was perfect otherwise.

My boyfriend is going to bear creek tomorrow and I couldn't be more depressed that I have to work!!!

Thanks for the review!