FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Blackwater Music Festival
As festival season draws to an end in the North and Midwest, we Southerners rejoice as our most coveted fests of the year are right around the corner. What’s more is that fall in Florida has become just as enticing to festival enthusiasts around the country as it has to retired snow birds looking to escape the harsh, approaching winters. Blackwater,
Langerado, and Bear Creek Music Festival are all in sight, as well as a seemingly full calendar of kick-ass shows to boot. So, while the rest of the country gears up for frigid temperatures and a resulting decline in shows, America’s wang, otherwise known as Florida, gears up for the only true season this state has to offer — festival season.
Kicking off the Florida festival season is Blackwater Music and Arts Festival, being held September 22-24, at the beautiful Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park. Now in its second year, Blackwater has once again proved that they’re batting in the big leagues. This year by hosting mega-headliners, and Suwanee first timers, The Flaming Lips.
STS9 tops this year’s lineup once again, along with Girl Talk, Ghostland Observatory, Easy Star All-Stars, Perpetual Groove and EOTO. With 50 plus acts on five stages, Blackwater has one of the most eclectic lineups Suwanee Music Park has to offer. From electronic to reggae to indie and everything in between, Blackwater has a little something for everyone.
Festival producers Judy Van Zant and Tim Hall, owners of Freebird Live in Jacksonville, along with partner Lyle Williams of Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival, have put together another seriously impressive line-up full of national and regional acts. If the second annual Blackwater goes off anything like the first one, then attendees are in for one hell of a good time.
Nearly 3,000 were in attendance for Blackwater 2010, which was previously held in August and made for a very hot and wet party (and not like the kind they have on Jersey Shore.) This year the fest has been pushed back nearly a month, which should make for cooler nights and Festival Gods-willing, less rain. As well as undoubtedly more attendees as the good word about Blackwater has spread like wild fire since its inception.
This year the festival has stepped it up to five stages, with the newly welcomed addition of a Beach Side Stage. Nestled on the banks of the Suwanee River alongside the “Blackwater,” in which the festival is named for, the Beach stage will undoubtedly be a nice break from the mid-day September heat. Take a dip, catch some tunes. That’s a win/win.
While many festivals at SSMP have been pigeonholedinto a specific scene or genre, festivals like Blackwater and Bear Creek are for the all-encompassing music fan. With such a diverse line-up, navigating which bands to see can be a chore. Here at Suburban Apologist we strive to make your life easier so here’s a breakdown of which bands may be up your alley according to genre, sound and style.
If you’re an electro-lovin, high energy havin’, beats fanatic: You might be into….
Greenhouse Lounge: This three piece from Jacksonville, FL has been leaving an impressionable mark on jam-tronic enthusiasts across the state and beyond. Fusing elements of electronic, jam, jazz, funk, break beats and dub, this Florida favorite takes listeners on an aesthetic journey through sound space and back. Recently reduced to a three piece, the band has been bringing their certified A-Game to live shows and seem to have really come into their own performing as a trio. The growling bass lines served up by Dave McSweeny are complemented graciously by the subtle guitar and electronica beats of Zach Weiner. Paired with the vivacious drumming of Jason Hunnicutt, and some no holds barred samples, the end result is a trifecta met in sound space. Their latest release, Right on Time, is available for free download here.
Flight Risk: What started as a project between Athens based musicians J.B. Lawrence, Matt W. and Matt G. (Both of the Athens based band Dubconcious) has turned into quite the force to be reckoned with. Flight Risk has been making a respectable name for themselves over the last year with their un-paralleled sound. Matt and Matt, the dynamic drum and bass duo of Flight Risk serve as a musical canvas to Lawrence’s keyboard and production craftsmanship. No realm is untouched with this band; tracks can go from soft and ambient to fluttery dance beats and their live show keeps listeners fully engaged. Skillfully crafted songs, their disregard for fads or trends, and their ability to effortlessly weave in and out of several elements of electronic music have allowed the guys to stand out in an over-saturated and often analogous market.
Zoogma: This five piece band from Oxford, Mississippi has been blowing up on the festival circuit over the last few years. With appearances at Wakarusa, Camp Bisco, Root Wire plus many more, Zoogma has emerged as one of the top acts in the live-electronic game. Armed with the prestige of a super tight-knit rock group, and the hard hitting electronic beats to light up a dance floor, a Zoogma show is truly the best of both Worlds. If you’re a Suwanee regular you may be familiar with the band’s infamous catch phrase, “What the fuck is Zoogma?” Well the cat is out of the bag; Fans across the country have caught on, cementing the staying power of this talented, fresh young act.
If you’re a doobie passin’, Reggae lovin’, Rasta-son of Jah: You might be into….
Easy Star All-Stars: Arguably the most innovative force in reggae music today, Easy Star All-stars have been leaving their mark all over the globe. With their re-invention, concept albums such as Dub Side of the Moon, Radiodread and the most recent, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band, Easy Star is much more than a cover band. The NYC based reggae legends have found a way to merge classic reggaeton sounds with an innovative spin, and the outcome is nothing short of brilliant.
The Expendables: Here in Florida if you were raised in any proximity to the beach then you’ve most likely been near bludgeoned to death by the genre known as surf rock. Since the demise of Sublime not many bands of similar sound have had the ability to hold my attention for more than 60 seconds. The Expendables is one of the exceptions. This reggae/punk foursome from Santa Cruz, California goes beyond the realm of cheesy beach side, Trustafarian reggae. Blending traditional elements of reggae and punk rock, with the added bonus of heavy metal like riffs, has set this band apart from the rest. Their cover of Eek a Mouse’s, “Ganga Smugglin,” is one of the best around.
If you’re an indie-lovin, rock-n-rollin, skinny jean enthusiast: You might be into…
The Flaming Lips: This super headliner and Suwanee first time act is sure to become a defining moment in the history of the beloved Music Park. The Lips are known for their wild onstage antics such as elaborate costumed brigades, massive confetti drops and crowd surfing bubbles, and the psychedelic rock veterans have been in the scene since the 1980’s, before most of the current festival circuit crowd was even born. Three Grammy awards later, The Flaming Lips are still blowing minds all over the globe.
Sunbears: Much like their above inspiration, The Flaming Lips, Sunbears are an indie/physacadelic rock/pop duo from Jacksonville, FL also known for their unpredictable onstage folly. Soaring synth lines, bustling piano, and the melancholy vocals of front-man Jonathon Berlin make for a show just as pleasing to the ears as it is to the eyes. Sunbears have truly captured their own unique sound, taking listeners on a journey that evokes a wide array of emotions at each show.
Le Blorr: Bastard Love Child of Rock and Roll, aka Le Blorr, is the psychedelic, rock-n-roll outfit of Chris Hess and Adam Winn. Self-proclaimed as being “spawned from the sass of divas past and the acid trips of rock-n-roll ghosts,” this description is not too far off from their actual sound. Clad in glam-rock get-ups the band definitely has that glam-rock/pop synth sound. The added element of nitty-gritty rock-n-roll and blues is what sets them apart from the dozens of other acts out there doing the same thing.
Blackwater Music Festival goes down on September 22-24 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Fla. Passes to the festival start at $165 and detailed ticketing and camping information is available here.