Blackwater Music Festival: Friday
Words By Joe Davidson
Photos By Joe Davidson & Amy Castaldo
I woke to the taps of raindrops falling on the rain fly of the tent to start my day. I rose from the air mattress and my feet splashed in the puddle that had formed on the floor while we slept.
This set the tone of the day, wet. I dried up the tent, had a bite to eat, and made my way up the amphitheater stage to see Cope. With their high energy, infectious tunes, this band was a great way to start the day of music. I really enjoyed the set. The keyboardist was the first member to catch my eye. He played on the keys for a few songs and then busted out the sax. After a few more songs he pulled out an acoustic guitar and strummed for a few more songs. I love musicians that trade off instruments throughout a show; it’s nice to keep things fresh.
The guitar playing lead vocalist was another great addition to the group. He threw in a great bluesy touch that balanced out the feel good jammy sound the band had. The front man also busted out a banjo to mix things up halfway through the set playing an excellent cover of “Sober” from Tool.
After Cope finished up we made our way over to the porch stage to see Saltwater Grass. The beach-inspired sound from this Jacksonville band was a great follow up to Cope breaking away from the electronic vibe that dominated the previous night of performances. The saxophone player was a strong point throughout the entire set. He was mixing really well with the hand percussionist to craft a great base for the rest of the band to build upon. I could tell these guys were very excited to be playing the festival. They were bouncing around the stage with huge smiles the entire show. The band mixed up their sound with some ska songs and then went back to their beach inspired sound.
Amy and I then walked over to the VIP building between sets and took a load off and dumped some pictures on to my computer. Amy ran back to camp to get something to eat and I took off to watch and get some pictures of Tea Leaf Green.
I took my shots and walked over to where I was going to meet up with Amy and couldn’t find her. I waited for a few minutes and decided to go find her. I found her at camp frustrated because security turned her away because she had a box of candy in her bag. I must say that the majority of the security staff was a pain in the ass all weekend. I’ve worked festivals for six years now; I understand you have to protect your vendors. I understand you want to keep everyone safe. What I don’t understand is having to open my camera bag in the rain being that I have passed by your gate a dozen times today with no incident or contraband or Amy being turned away for a box of Good and Plenty’s.
After another round of shakedown we made our way back to catch the last song of the Tea Leaf Green set. After they finished we walked over to see Boombox. I was very excited to see this band for the first time. The rain started to pick up during sound check and grew into a downpour as they were about to hit the stage. We ran over to the shelter of the VIP area and ended up listening to the set from there while hanging out with some photographer/writer friends we made the night before. After an hour or so we made our way to check out Toubab Krewe. All I can say is wow. What a unique, high energy show. The dynamic of the powerful percussion and the funky bass and guitar created a blissful cacophony, absolutely amazing.
After Toubab we walked back to camp to take a load off and so I could change into my last dry shirt. We had a bite to eat and headed to see the JJ Grey solo set. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him and I must say that I was very impressed with his improved guitar skills.
He played a mix of old and new songs including “Brighter Days,” one of my personal favorites. There were a couple times I noticed him struggling with sweat flowing down into his eyes but he didn’t miss a beat.
JJ Grey and MOFRO Live at Blackwater Music Festival Park on August 27, 2010.
We then made our way over to listen to the first main stage performance of the day, G Love. I love the simplicity of his solo sound. I was extremely impressed with his harmonica skills considering he was playing away on his guitar at the same time. His infectious laughter and smiles showered the crowd with positivity throughout the entire set.
We ran back to camp after G Love and ran into an old friend along the way who had a house right off the festival grounds. She offered for us to go up and do laundry and grab a hot shower. We quickly took her up on her offer because we were both feeling pretty skummy and I was out of dry clothes.
Once we made it back to camp we made our way over to the main stage to catch the end of the Rebelution set. I’ve been listening to So Cal dub for a while and these guys stayed true to that sound. The bass lines and guitar work were perfect but the lead vocalist had effects on the mic for most of the songs I saw and cluttered everything up a little bit. On a couple occasions one of the members would walk down the stairway coming down from the stage getting the crowd more into it.
We walked up to VIP and got ready for Michael Franti & Spearhead. The crowd stayed in between sets which quickly evolved into a massive dance party. I was thrown off a little when the sound guy started to DJ but the crowd responded to it increasing the vibe. The stage went black during the last house song and then a funky dance tune started to play. I thought it was another song coming from the board but it ended up being the first song from Franti. They came out hard, every member of the band jumping and running around the large stage from side to side and climbing on whatever speaker box was around. I’ve always felt that their sound is a little to “poppy” for me, but they are so good at what they do and really love doing it. They broke into a calypso jam which was a refreshing treat. The fast paced part got the crowd going crazy and I could feel energy bouncing back and forth from the stage to the crowd.
Towards the end of the set I was walking around getting pictures of hoopers and all of the sudden I noticed Franti on a pedestal in the middle of the audience. I’ve always loved the way he connects with his crowd and this was the most intimate I’ve ever experienced.
As the Franti set was coming to an end we made our way over to the amphitheater stage to see the late night set from Disco Biscuits. I was amped to see these guys because they were another band I had never seen before. I jumped into the photo pit to get some shots but the lights made it very difficult. With that being said, the light display was absolutely mesmerizing. With a plethora of lasers shooting all across the Live Oak trees it made me space out more than a few times being completely sober. I was extremely impressed with the craftsmanship of the songs. They had such a strong connection creating amazingly intricate transitions with nothing more than a quick glance to each other.
We stayed for an hour and both decided we should head back to camp before we passed out at the stage. The band had just started a new song as we were walking away and continued that jam well after we got back to camp fifteen minutes later, epic. I tried to rummage for something to eat but my body had no patience for this, time to crash.