Saturday, April 2, 2011

Suwannee Springfest 2011 Report

Black Betty and I returned to our favorite harbinger of spring the Suwannee Springfest near Live Oak, Florida, last weekend. The weather provided a perfect stage for four days of music, fun, and camping with several thousand of our best friends. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and were joined in Gnometown by our daughter Becky, and friends, Marie, Nate, and Phil.

Gnometown
After setting up camp and reuniting with fellow Festivarians we headed down to the stages and caught kick ass performances by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Scythian, and Greensky Bluegrass. As a special treat Larry Keel joined Greensky to rip it up on the jammy King Of The Hill.
We couldn't hang for the midnight show by The Motet, but we happily boogied in our sleep to their tunes.
Mark Schimick and Larry Keel
Friday the tough decisions had to be made. Who do we see? Worse yet, who do we miss? It's always a dilemma, I just try to limit the losses. So Friday we were fortunate enough to catch Trampled by Turtles. They were actually standing on stage and not sitting down (as we'd seen them before). As always they picked hard, fast, and precise.  We also caught the unique Sacred Grass sound of the Travelin' McCourys with The Lee Boys. Now that's my kind of Praise Music, bluegrass meets sacred steel! 
Ampitheater Stage
The Gnometown gang was especially excited about the late shows on Friday night. As everyone who knows us understands, we are BIG Greensky Bluegrass and Emmitt Nershi fans. Although we have seen Greensky Bluegrass numerous times, this was their first time playing Springfest. I knew the Friday night Meadow Stage show, which followed Cornmeal would be spectacular. They surely did not disappoint. Greensky ripped it up to a loving and enthusiastic crowd in the midnight hour. The highlight performance of the weekend had to be when Allie, Kris, and JP of Cornmeal joined Greensky on stage to perform the Grateful Dead's China Cat Sunflower/I know You Rider. What a show, what a show! 
 

As soon as the Greensky show ended, we hauled it over to the Emmitt/Nershi Colorado Jam featuring Michael Kang and just about everyone else. There were too many fine musicians joining them on stage to mention them all. Suffice to say the tunes were awesome and Bill Nershi and Drew Emmitt know how to host a super jam!
Black Betty, Becky, Hometown, Marie with Greensky Bluegrass.
The big show for us on Saturday night had to be The Avett Brothers. Four years ago when they played Springfest we were among the few who had seen them before. We ran around telling people not to miss their performance, and I remember them tearing it up on the Meadow stage in front of a small crowd of about 100 people. Of course, now they return to their little festival roots in the big bus as conquering rock stars, hot off their Grammy performance with none other than Bob Dylan! Big time, big time! Their show was hot and inspired. I thought the sound was really terrible for the first half of the set. It was like they were trying to crank them up too loud and it resulted in a constant buzzing for at least six songs. After a LONG time they finally got the sound worked out. They played lots of old favorites, the crowd loved them. Oh yeah, did I mention that they have a drum set now?

A crew of happy Festivarians!

Sunday is always our favorite day of music at Springfest. We can't always stay but this year we could. The highlight of Sunday is always the Donna the Buffalo and friends jam. Once again it was spectacular. Donna was joined by Randy Judy, Galen Kipar, Verlon Thompson, Acoustic Syndicate (Big Daddy sang Rainbow Rollercoaster and the band tossed out Lassie Pops), Rushad Eggleston, Ralph Roddenbery, and, of course, Jim Lauderdale. Wow, each performance was spectacular to say the least. We spent hours smiling and dancing and once again you just can't beat a Donna the Buffalo show.



Bands we managed to see over the weekend: Acoustic Syndicate, Cornmeal, Danny Barnes, David Grisman, Donna The Buffalo, Dread Clampitt, Emmitt-Nershi Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Jim Lauderdale, Larry Keel, Ralph Roddenbery, Scythian, Sol Driven Train, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Avett Brothers, The Lee Boys, The Mosier Brothers, The Travelin' McCourys, Trampled By Turtles, and Verlon Thompson.
 Jim Lauderdale

We were a little worried about the future of Springfest last year. I think between the poor economy and a huge 2010 Wannee Festival, the 2010 Springfest took a hit. They did manage to come back bigger and better this year, with the addition of a campground stage. Hopefully, Suwanne Springfest will be around for years to come!
Black Betty and Becky on the beach.

Suwannee Sweets:  Reuniting with old friends, making new friends, Boogie Cat, Sweet Revenge's apple crisp, as always great vibes, killer line-up, the best primitive camping at any festival, my new solar shower, riding bicycles, the river, Jim Lauderdale's corny jokes, Larry Keel's guitar, Allie Kral's fiddle, and Dave McCracken's keys.

Bummers: Not a Peter Rowan in sight, nor did we see any configuration of  The Duhks or Turtle Duhks at the Spirit of the Suwannee all weekend!