blowfly live review ralphfest

A Weekend Celebrating Your Best Friend | Ralphfest Live Review | February 20 – 22 2015

by • March 19, 2015

When Ralph was murdered his best friend Jeff Sweat was destroyed. But there is one weekend out of the year where Jeff gets to hang out with his best fucking friend again. That weekend? Ralphfest. And I got to stand witness of that, amongst hundreds of other folks.

Let’s start with some history. Ralph Ameduri Jr. was a driving force in the Orlando music community, a glue of sorts. He was a lover, a talented musician, a sound engineer, a graphic designer and what many recall as “one of the nicest guys in Orlando.” He was robbed at gunpoint outside of a venue between performances on September 10, 2011, and ultimately robbed of his life.

Ralphfest is a three-day local music festival. More than that, though, it’s the city’s most moving one. It focuses on Orlando’s most talented musicians with special guest performances from some of Ralph’s favorite bands. It’s organized by Jeff Sweat and visits three key locations for Orlando nightlife: The Mills/50 District, The Downtown District and The Milk District.

The first night was kind of a shit show, but in a good way. Spread across three different venues in the Mills/50 district with four stages (including the great outdoors), Friday night offered a great party platform to enjoy excellent music and to reminisce over a drink or three.

The beautiful sounds of Thomas Wynn and The Believers and The Legendary JC’s rang out back-to-back at Will’s Pub before Blowfly, the “world’s first dirty rapper,” took the stage to close the evening.

I am completely sold on the Clarence Reid (aka Blowfly) story. He wrote and produced songs for R&B artists in the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Betty Wright, Bobby Byrd and KC & the Sunshine Band. He was also a tremendously respected musical force in his own community (much like Ralph was).

Reid began by doing parodies of hit songs, replacing popular lyrics with sexual explicitness. In 1971, he went on to record the first of several “party records” under the moniker/alter ego “Blowfly.” He was the first of his kind. Some even cite him as the “father of rap music.”

Now 76 years old, Reid is still going strong. You can tell his talent is true throughout his live performance. He kept me laughing—sometimes awkwardly—and yet the performance was very humbling. Let’s face it, Blowfly is an old ass man! But he’s still fucking doing it. That is untouchably respectable.

blowfly live review dirtiest rapper

There’s a documentary on Netflix I highly recommend if you’re interested in learning some history about him. It’s called The Weird World of Blowfly.

Saturday was more low-key. The Social served as the memorial site for those coming to pay their respects, reminisce and enjoy. However, I got to see something beautifully different. There was a large banner hung up behind the stage with Ralph’s iconic face on it (you know, the one where he’s got those tired eyes and the worry-free smile). It was like he was looking down at us from atop the stage. Just telling us simplicities like “thank you” and “everything is okay.”

Ralphfest Live Review and Photos

I noticed something else: Jeff Sweat. Jeff went from dancing to rocking out in between the countless hugs he gave and received to and from those there to support the cause. He was happy. It was during this observation I realized why: He was getting to hang out with his best friend again. My hairs stood on end. The energy in the room was undeniably powerful. I’ve been to The Social hundreds of times but I’ve never felt what I felt that night. I barely know how to explain it. I just know it felt right.

ralphfest live review and concert photo

Sunday seemed like the hangover cure day. There was an all-day BBQ with live bands, children’s activities and an outdoor stage in The Milk District. Lindsay got some great shots of the gorgeous sunny day (see below). The evening was capped with a reunion party for one of Orlando’s historic live music bars, Knock-Knock, and featured many of the old resident DJs. I’m sure whiskey flowed until the time I was waking up for work the next morning, and it should have. Ralphfest was all of the rights and none of the wrongs. See you next year.

If you’d like to donate to the Ralph Ameduri Jr, Music Scholarship fund, please visit http://ralphameduri.com

Ralphfest Live Review by Mitch Foster.
Ralphfest Live Concert Photos by Martin Cardenas (day 2) and Lindsay Tompkins (days 1 & 3).

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