Blackwater Music Festival: Saturday
Words By Joe Davidson
Photos By Joe Davidson & Amy Castaldo
Saturday brought out the diversity of the line-up for the last day of music. Sunny weather greeted me when I woke up which put a huge smile on my face, finally, a break from the constant dampness. A great reggae band call Groundation started the day off. There were a few dub bands that played throughout the weekend and this was by far the best. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day, the music felt like a vast prayer session for everyone to repent from the mischief of the night before.
I must say it was so nice to hear a reggae band that didn’t sing about smoking sensi every other song. After taking some pictures Amy and I sat down to enjoy the rest of the set while Darryl Hance, formally of Mofro, began to sound check.
The familiar guitar work of Darryl was quite pleasant but he looked very uncomfortable on stage. In between each song he would mutter a few words in his monotone voice and seemed to rush into the next song. His vocals seemed a bit shaky at first but he settled down halfway through his set. He played a few Florida summer songs in honor of the humid weather and wrapped up his time on stage with a nice blues jam.
After Darryl’s set I took off for the amphitheater to check out the Zach Deputy set. As soon as I got there I noticed that the Lee Boys had arrived. I went backstage to greet them and they asked us to do some promo photos. We gladly said yes and started to look for a cozy spot. After searching the backstage area we decided to take them up to the farm field camping area to get a nice background free of generators and trailers. The ride up was fun, we caught golf cart ride and the boys followed in their van. It proved to be quite a challenge navigating through all the wookie kids who couldn’t grasp the concept of,” big van coming through, move please.” We made it up to the location, took some shots, and headed back. It’s always such a pleasure hangin’ with the Lee Boys, such a great group of genuine people.
As we escorted the van back through the labyrinth we made it in time to catch the last few songs from Zach Deputy. There are a lot of people who seem to be over the one man band thing but Zach has always impressed me every time I have seen him. I think his biggest strength is his ability to keep the crowd involved with his set, whether it is old cover songs or sing-alongs. After his set, Zach walked out the backstage entrance to meet his fans.
I love seeing acts like this. Its people like Zach that make me proud to be a part of this scene. After twenty minutes or so of laughter and photo ops, Zach found a comfy spot for his hammock and we prepared for The Lee Boys.
With storm clouds brewing up around the three o’clock hour The Lee Boys hit the stage. I’ve been listening to these guys for five or six years now and this was the best set I have ever seen. So much energy.
Roosevelt threw down some of the nastiest pedal steel I’ve ever witnessed. Just like the last Lee Boys show I covered in Tampa, I had to put the camera down a few times and just groove. A nice breeze came through halfway into the set which was heaven sent. More and more people made their way to the stage dancing and jumping around, adding to the vibe.
After the last song we met up with the band and went into their trailer to load video of the set and enjoy some refreshing air conditioning. We hung out with Zach and his manager for a few minutes before they took off and then got a plate of food thanks to Uncle Al from the Lee Boys and took a load off.
The rain started to fall just before Particle hit the stage. I wasn’t thrilled to see the rain come back but it was a well needed temperature drop. I was so excited to hear that Michael Kang would be joining them. I’ve always been a huge Particle fan and was taken back to see how much the band has evolved since I saw them five years ago. As the rain steadily picked up so did the band. The dynamic between Kang and the band was nothing less than stellar, simply perfect. Steve Molitz had a huge smile on his face as always which infectiously spreads throughout the crowd. As they were wrapping up their last song of the set the band played a breakdown that kept crawling and crawling. As they hit the final note the crowd lost it and began jumping around and hugging each other in pure delight, a great moment.
The rain continued at a steady pace in between sets but the crowd remained. Up next was a crowd favorite, JJ Grey and Mofro. I rigged up a fancy camera cover out of a water bottle six-pack sleeve and made my way into the monsoon. The photo pit in front of the main stage was a hazard all weekend. Between the muddy spots I always slipped on or the massive ant pile that I continued to forget about and stomp on, the pit certainly made me earn my keep this time. I was very impressed with the sound crew all weekend keeping the stages alive amidst sudden downpours but something went all kinds of wrong during the Mofro set. The vocals went out for twenty seconds during the second song. I was setting up a shot and suddenly I could hear JJ’s voice unamplified. I looked up and saw extreme frustration on his face. As soon as the vocal mic was fixed he started to play his guitar and nothing. A couple seconds later the guitar came in so loud everyone had to cover their ears for a split second. The guitar level quickly dropped to normal and the show continued on. I have to give it to the seasoned group of performers because they didn’t miss a beat amidst all the difficulties. A few songs went by problem free and the set paused for a wedding proposal. A little cheesy of course but everyone does their own thing.
The vocal continued to sway up and down through the second half of the show. It’s not the worst thing ever but this misfortune was really taking away from the vibe being built up. As for the music I was pretty impressed. The last time I saw this act was back in 2005. I’ve noticed a strong change in the studio releases in the past few years but the magic I saw in the past was still present in the live show. The passion that spews out of JJ is intense. He had that crowd wrapped around his finger the entire show. The band broke out with “Lochloosa” towards the end of the set and everyone joined together to sing the lyrics back to the creator. The band closed with one of my personal favorites “Brighter Days” with a guest spot from former guitarist Darryl Hance. The song slowly faded out, the lights went black, and everyone joined in on a dance party in anticipation of Slightly Stoopid.
I was very surprised to see Slightly Stoopid on the bill. Ever since the release of Live and Direct: Acoustic Roots in 2001, the band has taken a more commercial tone to their studio releases. As with some of the other bands from the weekend I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the show. Playing a blend of old and new songs from their arsenal, every song had the signature So Cal sound that always sounds good to me. I’ve always loved the fact that the two front men, Miles and Kyle, continually trade off the guitar and bass and take turns singing throughout their sets to keep the sound fresh.
I stayed down at the stage for a few songs and made my way to the shelter of the VIP area. After a few minutes of making sure all my gear was good I hiked over to camp to switch out cards for my camera and get a bite to eat. Slightly Stoopid finished up their set and the crowd all migrated to the amphitheater for the final show of the weekend, Galactic ft. Cyril Neville.
All I can say is “wow”. I was so exhausted all I could think about was sleep but I posted up in my chair and enjoyed the hell out of this show. The composition of the instrumentals was divine; it’s always a real treat to watch real musicians get down. The band started with “Bakers Dozen,” one of my favorites. The addition of Neville was the great highlight for me. His skills on the trombone shined through and mixed perfectly with the Galactic sound. Neville’s ability to work the crowd with his vocals was another great aspect of his contributions, creating an extraordinary Galactic set. I watched in awe as the funk nasty spewed from every corner of the stage. Smooth transitions and great bridges were constructed with nothing more than a quick glance and a head nod. I haven’t seen a crowd this wild in a while. Halfway through the set I could no longer fight the exhaustion coursing through my body and made way for the tent.
I could hear the crowd roaring from my campsite half a mile away. What a great way to end a weekend of music. The rain lingered all weekend but failed to damper our spirits. Amy and I woke up early Sunday morning and packed up as fast as we could. We weren’t ready to leave but we were definitely ready to be dry. We made our way to our friend Misha’s house thirty miles away to readjust ourselves to the “real” world. All in all, this festival was a great time. With an assorted line-up, a mix of all breeds of people, and one of Florida’s premiere outdoor venues, the first-annual Blackwater Music Festival was a delight and I look forward to getting’ down next year.