“I’m the mascot for the greatest group of people!” Cody Bean of Viking Productions reciprocates the love from the crowd with a raspy voice at the end of the 8th Hometeam New Years Rally. Once again, he and his team have thrown one hell of a party. I arrive to the get-down on Friday in the early evening and drive through the muddy, soggy ground to my camping spot. Lucky to find a bit of high ground next to a tree, I set up my tent and belongings while listening to Bonnie Blue play their Southern rock. Maddox Ranch is a beautiful property with sprawling fields and great shade for camping around their old wooden stage. I love that they have some outdoor showers so I can gaze at the stars while I scrub. After unpacking and meeting new friends, I head out to explore this boutique music festival. The Rally features 22 bands, 4 stages, a selection of food vendors and clothing outlets. James PK Williams leads the masses as this weekend’s master of ceremonies.
The first music for me of the weekend is Anthill Cinema (formerly The Difference). They are an experimental fusion seven-piece from St. Petersburg, FL. That really means that they touch on all kinds of genres. This set includes flares of hip-hop and even has some thrashing rock moments. They entertain the growing crowd while fire spinners light up the left side of the stage. No matter the style, these guys rock out! Check out their “Pop Song:”
Immediately following them is Between Bluffs. They are a prog-rock and bluegrass fusion band from St. Pete., FL. The bassist, Justin Davis, impresses immediately with a bow on his upright bass. Comeback Alice’s Dani Jaye joins the fun with a rockin’ solo on fiddle. Next, they cover “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam, tapping into their grunge side and even take on “Man in the Box” by Alice in Chains. Be on the lookout for their upcoming album, Type I Civilization.
When Ajeva plays, I make sure I’m there. Recently dropping their self-titled album Ajeva in early October, 2019. Their lead singer, Reed Skahill is dressed in all black and brings all kinds of energy to the stage. He sings their soulful jam music which is sometimes electronic, other times it’s jazzy or a bit rockin’. They perform great tunes like, “Off the Mountain,” “Something Else,” and “Funky Green Men.” Michael Nivens scores a touchdown with his solos and noodling by weaving through and around his band like a streaking running back navigating the defense. They close down the main stage with style, leaving me wanting more.
The late night shows include sounds from Free Range Strange, a bluegrass jam band that centers around the power duo of Sunny Rae (vocals, ukulele) and Timber (guitar, mandolin, vocals). These two and their band play rowdy covers including what’s most likely a nod to the Merl Sanders and Jerry Garcia cover of “After Midnight.” But at the same time, the festival has a second late night stage going with Tony Tyler (guitar) of Comeback Alice hosting an all-star session. He has Matt Lapham (Roosevelt Collier Trio, Shak Nasti) on bass and a stream of amazing artists coming up to the stage. Stephanie Perez of Somatic impresses on stage as they perform Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” Then they play some Beatles with “Daytripper” and “Don’t Let Me Down.” Cody Moore (The Hip Abduction, Anthill Cinema) unleashes a big solo on his saxophone with support from Brad Elliot (Comeback Alice) on drums. The group continues with covers of “Bad Little Doggie” from Gov’t Mule featuring Kenny “Bonesaw” Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) on bass , “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, and “Dreams” by The Allman Brothers. Nivens (Ajeva) helps out on the set as well as Yral “DatDudeOnDrums” Morris (Anthill Cinema). I walk back and forth from camp in the early morning, rubbing elbows with new friends and enjoy the misting rainy weather.
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Waking up on Saturday I survey the ground around us. Rain boots come in handy as people tip-toe through the mess to get where they’re going. There is still a dry patch of ground between my camp and the stages, so I get ready and head down the music. Somatic is the first set of the day. They are serious collection of talent that is from the blues side of town. Today they are so light and fluffy as I walk up to the set with Stephanie Perez and Max Kipnis providing jazzy guitars. Sean Hartley’s bass is soft and fuzzy while Cody Moore on sax/keys sprinkles in droplets of funk, perfect for this slow and soggy morning. They cover Queens of the Stone Age’s “Make It Wit Chu” where Perez rips a lengthy solo with poise. Shredding on her ax, she fills Maddox Ranch with remarkable soul and power. Later in the set, Jamal Wright (drums, Holey Miss Moley) and Hartley pair up and take on Vulfpeck’s “Beastly” with skill and precision.
I move back to camp for a while after this set, but can hear the great sounds of The Good Wood Band from my tent and cooler. They hail from Jacksonville, FL and pack a punch even from across the ranch. They rile up my campsite with a “Coconuts>Franklin’s Tower>Coconuts” sandwich that pays tribute to both Widespread Panic and The Grateful Dead. In addition, they cover “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young. I also have a camp set for The Applebutter Express. They cycle through all their great uncut ukulele funk over the course of their two hour set. This includes “Handguns & Hammocks,” “Smile,” and the fan favorite, “Hot Pussy.” It was cool to hear the last set with the original cast as they announce that Joe (fiddle) is leaving the band to pursue other opportunities. Good Luck Joe! They finish out with a hot take on The Allman Brother’s “Whipping Post.”
Guavatron from West Palm Beach, FL is bad ass. They are so much fun to dance to! Conor Crookham (bass) seems to shoulder the biggest workload as this party pops off. His plush, heavy tone is dreamy all set long. They sit in the pocket so well, with little flares and changes to the steady cycle. The sun has begun to set and the lights on stage make the stage and band illuminate with fresh colors. The lights move to just behind the band, providing silhouettes and sounds that are more than impressive. The Guava Train keeps on rollin’ as the band never stops playing during their two hour set. “Jam>Awake>Spring Roll>Jam>Xilla>All Systems Go>Ray Gun.” Adonis Frangiskakis brings the grooves on guitar while Casey Luden (Drums / Vocals) and Rodney Hansen (Keyboards) round out this jamtronica band on the rise.
The rain begins to fall again as Melody Trucks Band takes the stage. They hail from Jacksonville, FL and are promoting their new album, Walking in Gratitude. They are an awesome Southern rock and blues band that brings the heat to every show. They start off strong with a cover of “Strange Brew” by Cream and move into their standard, “Freight Train.” They push through the pouring rain and perform a tasty “Dear Prudence>Can’t Find My Way Home>Dear Prudence” sandwich from the pantries of The Beatles and Blind Faith. Next the Honey Hounds, a booty shakin’ blues trio from Jax, FL sounds great from across the venue. I hear them cover “Fame” by David Bowie during their set.
Following their set and the end of the rain, Cope takes the stage to once again wow the crowd and show why they are Tampa Bay’s premiere jam band. I brought my dancin’ shoes for this party! They entertain the crowd with funk, jam and rock. The star of the show tonight is Juanjamon. He dazzles with keys and sax solos that are more than impressive. Each song he takes to the next level with his elevated playing. Every now and then lead guitarist Dennis Stadelman would take over for a short but intense solo. They come out of a jam back to the structure of the song and the crowd goes nuts! Just then, glowing jellyfish on poles appear above the crowd, dancing and floating to the music. They invite up Sean Maloney of Legacy Orchestra Collective to sing a heartfelt “Going Home.” Their clean transitions and bubbly songs have the crowd worked into a full lather when they play their biggest hit, “Shake Anything.” Roosevelt Collier has since joined the party and brings his electric slide guitar for a spin. The set ends with a birthday celebration for bassist extraordinaire Kenny Stadelman. His kids and inner circle present him with a homemade cake and we all hoot and holler. After all, this IS a family affair. After the music we have fun with our friends in the dark, bouncing from campsite to campsite.
After sleeping for a little while. I did sleep. Didn’t I? Este Loves is the first band and they serenade me while I struggle to take on the day. Weather conditions are improving: the ground is drying up, and the sun is shining. They cover “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley as well as some other lovely songs on this breezy afternoon. I’m not planning on leaving camp anytime soon, but the next band, Golden Era, starts their set with a cover of Eminem’s “Drug Ballad.” This song/artist is a favorite of mine and I’ve never heard this track performed live. I hustle to get my socks and shoes on, grab a bag of Doritos, and skip down to the front of the stage where Nook Nguyen dominates the lyrics and Michelle Caudle sings backup vocals. Whoaaa So good! They play another song called “Vietnam on Acid,” that blows my mind. Rockin’ with an anarchist vibe, it sounds like a Rage Against the Machine song. They continue with a cover of “Juicy” by Notorious B.I.G. but twist it to be their own halfway through, changing the instrumental track to fit their style while still rippin’ the lyrics over top. Artist at large, Matt Lapham, comes out to help with Warren G. & Nate Dogg’s “Regulators.”
From there I spend some time at camp, getting to know Hometeamers and furthering my network of friends on the Westcoast of Florida. I miss The Ain’t Sisters, who hail from Atlanta, Georgia, and I’m sorry I did. I heard really good things from my friends. My next music is a phenomenal up and coming quartet called The Reality from Tampa. They are bringing the funk to this weekend’s adult playground. Dan Jones is a sick guitarist and adds a lot to the band with his vocals and occasional trombone solos, especially during “Sweetness!” I kick up the dirt to their intoxicating funk and at the same time get a chance to hang with a ranch dog. This good boy just roams the festival and hangs out, as laid back as a pup can be. The guys never stop playing as they move through their set list. Starting the show with the only “Auld Lang Syne,” I heard all weekend. They also cover Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” along the way. I really like the song “Hall of the Mountain King,” and “All My Time” scores with the ladies, but my favorite of their set is the rager at the end: “Sweet Tooth.” I can’t wait to see this band again. They brought it!
I miss the next band for dinner and friends, but make it back to the stage for S.P.O.R.E. This high energy band brings it! They brought in lighting pro Griff Collins to projection map onto the stage and that set their light show apart from everyone else’s. They bring up both Trey Miller on harmonica for one song and Juanjamon on saxophone for another. Each are pointed and piercing. Intense is an understatement for this head banging electronic and metal music. They are a Spontaneous Progression Of Recurring Energy – S.P.O.R.E. They play a new track, “Too Soon” and have Matt Weiss (Antelope) on guitar, sit in for another. Their guitartist and OG (original greaser) Joe Knoebel crushes song after song with ear splitting solos that ramp up my heart rate. They end the set with the song “Respect.” Something they say begins here at Hometeam New Years Rally and is at the heart of this music community.
Holey Miss Moley brings the funk for the final set on the main stage. They have a round of sit ins with Matt Lapham, Stephanie Perez, and Dan Jones contributing to the big sound on stage. Christian “Awesomesauce” Ryan lets loose a lengthy sax solo on a salsa number and the crowd loves it! People grab their dance partner and begin couples dancing to this spicy Spanish tune. Suddenly, Dennis Stadelman from Cope comes on stage and peppers in a short but strong solo on guitar. Then he exits as quickly as he appeared. They continue the set with a cover of Orgone’s “Don’t Stop” on the way to Cody Bean the Viking taking the stage to tell the crowd how much they mean to him. He gives his emotions to the crowd and they do a fake NYE countdown that ends with the band playing “We Are Family,” “Do It Like You Do,” by Lettuce and also Parliament Funkadelic’s inclusive tune “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks.” What a set!
From here we get a few hours of the Florida and Georgia based string sensation, Tire Fire. Led by supreme guitarist Chris “Critter” Ricker, they play for the remaining Rally fans. Later in the evening, a lot of the best musicians of the weekend congregated for one last campfire set. Artists join and drop out like popcorn cooking over a fire. You never know who will walk up and contribute to the fun. Although we have to trek across the muck and the mire to get there, the jams are great and the festival organizers show up to the music with a fresh keg of cold beer to make it more than worthwhile and keep the party going all night.
I had a great time at Hometeam New Years Rally once again and can’t wait to see what unfolds for this perfectly intimate festival. Just remember, your New Years Resolution doesn’t start until you take down your Christmas decorations.
Hometeam New Years Rally Live Review by Spencer Storch
Hometeam New Years Rally Live Review Edited by Megan “Poppins” Collier
Hometeam New Years Rally Photos by Mandi Nulph
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