You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Well, at least you shouldn’t. This weekend you’ll not only get the chance to pick your friends, but some family members, too! The Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville, FL is the perfect place to foster fast relationships. Start with a hug on the first day and finish each others sentences by the last. Often you leave your crews with tears in your eyes and a beaker full of inside jokes swirling in your head. The friends you make at Orange Blossom Jamboree become your family.
The 10th Orange Blossom Jamboree is only 90 minutes from my house. Making it an easy drive over and a smooth check in as always. I don’t even need to get out of my car! The grounds feature a large stage and pavilion area along with several rows of RV power/water sites for those with a “glamping” lifestyle. The rest of the fans will spread out under the numerous trees of the woods or out in the meadow. The campus includes plenty of real bathrooms, showers and attendants to keep them in shape. OBJX has a bunch of great food vendors as well as a beer vendor for those who don’t care to drag their cooler from camp to the front of the the stage. That’s right you can do that because there’s no security check point! There’s no need: patrons to this festival are courteous, responsible, and mature.
So on Wednesday my very courteous friend is responsible for holding down a spot for his much more mature buddies. 😎 He grabs a great plot of land that put us under the trees and shade all day long. I arrive on the scene and set up my huge tent and front porch for four days of shenanigans. Big hugs and shit talking are the name of the game for the next few hours as my friends begin to stink up the campsite.
I peel myself away from camp for music when Guavatron starts playing “Day Man” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I rush towards the stage but I can’t even get close to the music without hugs and high-fives. This place is crawling with friendly faces. Native to West Palm Beach, Guavatron’s four members come together to form one fierce jamtronica juggernaut. This well-oiled machine flexes between styles as they take the audience for a ride. We move from noodle jamming to the waltz in just a few moments time. The band takes off again with guitarist Adonis Frangiskakis piloting our starship. I can’t help but feel like I’m hurling through space and right on cue — stars begin to fly towards us on the screen behind the band. Artist at large, Carl Schmid joins the guys on his electric violin. “Schmiddle Fiddle” as he is affectionately known, is a from Asheville, NC. Bringing a ton of talent to the stage, Schmid and Adonis battle back and forth during this brilliant performance.
A quick stop at camp and we’re back for the end of Tallahassee’s High Test. Antelope’s sax-man Juanjamon joins Carl Schmid for some fun with this funk/soul/blues band. They work through a few originals and finish up a great set with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” These guys are impressive and shouldn’t be missed!
Here at OBJ, the music never stops. It only pauses for a moment for fans to re-position themselves to catch the next freshly squeezed set. The next course is Holey Miss Moley: a buffet of funk and groove that goes on for hours. Top that with a handful of amazing vocalists and you have one mouthwatering set. Orlando Rapper & Artist At Large, Brian Blanchard aka B.True joins them on stage for “Put It in the Wind” and they are amazing together. He finds a moment in the song after he raps to organize the jam a little more. He tells the singers and the crowd to come at him with a “Put it in the wind,” every time he stops rapping. Just a moment of instruction and he’s off, rapping about the festival and such when he suddenly stops. Neither the band, nor the crowd miss a beat and call back with “Put it in the wind!” These guys are so good! This well-dressed group remind me of Turkuaz, with their ability to work the crowd into a frenzy! They move into a drum and percussion portion that features Jamal Wright and Antonio Morales respectively. They get spacey and weird while Mikey Guzman gets jazzy on the keys. Christian Ryan won’t be left out and arrives with abstract flute effects during “Afrojack.” They close the set with a more than fitting “We Are Family,” by Sister Sledge.
Just a quick turn and tune up and Bonnie Blue takes the stage. Jacksonville’s baddest jamband always brings the heat. They start with a song off of their upcoming album with a heavy southern rock vibe. Bradley Churchman swoops in quickly with a screeching guitar and shows the way before they wrap it up with a big finish. Willis Gore won’t be outdone and shines bright in the next song with stellar support from John Wilson on the keys. Sax man Juanjamon visits for a slow and jazzy segment before Comeback Alice’s guitarist Tony Tyler comes in. He plays fast, shooting us up to the tops of the trees and then, like leaves, we float back down on the tone of his sweet, slide guitar. They finish another pipping hot set with a cover of Hot Chocolate’s, “Everyone’s a Winner.” I do love this song!
Camp time is an important time for this festival. A bunch of the folks I am camping with are friends of friends and it is awesome to get to know new people in your camp. We swap business cards and feed each others, like good Southern hippies.
“Brothers and Sisters” encore is the only tune I caught from Grass is Dead today, but they are so good! I recently saw them at Suwannee Spring Reunion. Today’s full crowd cheer and whistle as the set comes to a close for a great Thursday of music. Still left is Dizzlephunk in the Silent Disco, and he’s got the party poppin’. Groups dance and sing together while wearing blinky light up headphones. Dizzle splits and fuses songs together like a mad scientist who’s musical monster comes alive late night at the Zombie Stage.
I get a late start to Friday’s full day of music. Tucked in under the trees, my eyes are shielded from the sun until the afternoon. When I finally emerge from my cocoon, my friends are already stoked to go check out some tunes. So I hurry to put on my shoes and sunglasses and head down to the music with my squad. Recently I had the pleasure of covering Ella Jet and Future Soul at Suwannee Rising Music Festival in April, and they were great! Today I arrive to them playing a slower song that reminds me of “Tyrone” by Erykah Badu. Their set continues with originals “Fibonacci Sequence” and “Set You Free.” In addition, the group covers The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” which showcases Ella’s powerful voice.
I have to miss Orlando’s Leisure Chief in order to reel in some friends who are having trouble with security and getting back to our camp. After a successful negotiation with staff, all of my friends are safely tucked in at camp. I make a break from the tent party to see Shak Nasti. This powerhouse jazz/funk band from Orlando brings the funk to all of their performances. Guitarist Tim Turner reminds me of John Scofield with his tone and action; bassist Matt Lapham is simply the truth. Match them with Rion “Machine Guns” Smith on drums and you have one bad ass trio. Getting the crowd going, the guys play “Buzz” and “Simian Fringe.” Soon after they welcome Heavy Pets’ keys player Jim Wuest to solo during “A Way Inside.” He dazzles the crowd with his playing and even teases Robert Randolph’s “I Need More Love.” Here the fellas take a moment to tune and decide on the next song. I have known the band for a long time and feel comfortable shouting out a request for their biggest song, “Lisa.” “This one goes out to Spencer,” Turner says as the percussion and drum intro to “Lisa” begins. I feel the love and this crowd is feeling this set.
Uncle John’s Band is the longest running Grateful Dead cover band in Florida. Since 1989, Tampa has been the home for this group that just won’t let the music stop. I arrive to the set as they get into the thick of “Shakedown Street.” All of a sudden the sound drops out from behind the band. I can only hear the drummers while the band looks around confused. The sound staff rush to the stage to troubleshoot the issue while the crowd dances to the beats provided by Dan DeGregory and Mike Bortz. It seems “Drums” and “Space,” a staple of Grateful Dead shows, has come a little early in the set. They discover that a faulty power strip is to blame for the issue and they move fast to rectify the problem. The crowd cheers and chants for the sound crew as they leave the stage. A confetti cannon sprays the crowd as we all celebrate! They play “Ramble on Rose” before artist-at-large Chris Sgammato joins the band to play his saxophone on “Estimated Profit.” He twists and distorts his horn to fit the trippy nature of the jam. Sgammato shows off his creativity, adding crazy noises and tweets to the already abstract jam. At this point, I’m lost in the jam and didn’t realize that we have evolved into “Eyes of the World.” Encore is a lengthy “Terrapin Station” I listen to all the way back to camp. These guys sounds great like always!
Rallying my friends, I come back to the music for Comeback Alice’s Friday headlining set. As I approach the stage I hear them covering Eric Clapton’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Guitarist Tony Tyler lets loose some serious solos and shifts this party in high gear. They play a bunch of originals and one in particular which had a very EDM vibe to it. Bassist Sean Hartley takes the crowd on a journey of a solo visiting the Pink Panther theme as well as Rush’s “YYZ.” The rock and jam odyssey continues with a big performance from Tommy Shugart on keys and guitar. Their music is good for the soul, but when you add Dani Jaye on violin/guitar you have an equation for both a huge sound and a earthy vibe. They continue by covering Allman Brother’s “Jessica” and nail every note! B.True and drummer-at-large Dave Watts of The Motet throw their hats in the ring for a round of bars and beats respectively during Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters.” Wow! What a set! Just when I think it’s over, they let the band reconvene for one last song: “Scream,” by Michael and Janet Jackson.
The live music hasn’t ended just yet, an hour later I catch Guavatron’s “All 80’s Set.” Awesome after party for a great day of music. Fun to watch everyone sing along to their favorites while wearing headphones. People who shouldn’t sing, howl and squeal, loud and proud oblivious to the hilarious racket they are creating! I finish the evening at the Hometeam Jam Lounge, a space created by the festival to host the after party scene. All kinds of people show up with their instrument to join in the wonderful chaos that is late night jams.
I wake up a little earlier today, Saturday, and make it out to see Legacy Orchestra Collective. LOC prides themselves on improv and they showcase it right away inside of “Walkin’.” These guys are fun and funky, and have a bunch of friends! A revolving door of guests grace the stage including lyrical genius Jon Ditty, OBJ’s Sound Guru Andy Lytle, members of CopE, and Motet drummer Dave Watts joins for a cover of The Meters “Ain’t No Use.” I’ve filled up on music, but now I need to fill up on food! I head back to camp where my friends are cooking up all kinds of delicious food to keep our energy up for the rest of the day.
Fat and happy I return to the stage to hear the OBJ staple, Apple Butter Express. Not quite folk music, and not quite bluegrass this beloved string band takes the stage to find a full audience. Dancing and singing along I can see people are beaming with love and happiness. They take a moment to dedicate the song “Home” to a couple in the crowd, informing us of the wedding they loved playing. Next, they ramp things up with ABB’s “Whipping Post.” The crowd knows every word of the cover, and then every word of the originals to follow! You just can’t have OBJX without “Handguns and Hammocks,” “Riley,” and of course “Hot Pussy.”
The next set is also a last set. The Groove Orient is playing together for their “final show” at OBJX. The announcement comes as a surprise considering the guys have just finished a big Southeastern tour supporting successful bands and they are about to drop an album in the coming days. The sun is setting when they light up the stage together, one last time. Keys player Tommy Shugart slays the crowd with a killer guitar performance during his original, “One Foot.” Bassist Harry Ong steps up to the microphone and sings for a slower rock ballad. The next groove starts slow, building and growing until its a titan jam. Here, guitarist Chuck Magid slices and dices while matching his vocals to his ninja moves (hard to capture, see shitty photo above). Sparkling Fireworks shoot upward from the stage, highlighting the last song and the last hurrah for Orlando’s favorite rock band.
The night isn’t complete without the shape-shifting musical adventures of The Heavy Pets. This funked-up rock n roll jamband from South Florida prompt the people to dance while fire spinners warm up the fans just off to the side. Juanjamon chips in a long solo before I walk back to the comforts of camp.
After the music, I already have friends who are packing up their belongings: preparing for an early escape when the sun comes up. But, the thought of leaving this full moon party makes the hair on my back stand up. So, I leave camp with my pack to explore the howling coming from the dark woods.
Sunday morning comes quickly, so after just a few hours of sleep I join my family making breakfast, telling stories, and cleaning up our camp from the night before. Soon the rounds of hugs begin as one-by-one they finish packing their cars and head off back to reality. This wasssss my plan, but today’s music looks too good and my friend is in town from far away. So let’s dive in just one more day!
Shaw Davis & The Black Ties is a blues/rock trio from Pompano Beach, FL. I can’t believe my ears, they are covering Hendrix’ “Little Wing” in spectacular form. Guitarist and front-man Shaw Davis is incredible! Rocking a headband and robot fingers, Davis shreds on originals, “Mama Told Me,” and “Atomic Groove.” His timing and feel are jaw dropping, really. Over at the side of the stage Dennis Stadelman (guitar, CopE) and Tony Tyler (guitar, Comeback Alice) share impressed expressions as if to say, “who is this guy?!” Impressive is the least of what I can say about these three. Make sure you check them out on their remaining summer tour.
So each day of this festival has had a theme: Thr- Hawaiian Shirts Fri- Masquerade Ball Sat- Wizards, Witches, Warlocks and Sun- Twins! Thursday had the most participation, followed by the wizards night. But the best costume of the weekend happened on Sunday afternoon when Hometeam Viking Cody Bean combined forces with the Immortal Receptor Sound Boss Russ Bowers.
Just when I think my day can’t get any better, I walk with friends to an RV where I meet Harvey the RV Rabbit! He is humongous and the first rabbit I’ve ever had on my lap. He’s so soft and sweet. I’m so fuckin’ smitten right now. You just never know at OBJ!
I skip with happiness back to the stage for Roosevelt Collier Trio. Slide guitarist Roosevelt Collier greets the crowd by naming all the cities in Florida that feel like home to him, each is greeted with a cheer. They play some big time covers with “Power of Soul” by Band of Gypsies and Lettuce’s “The Dump.” George Benson steps up on stage and delivers a lengthy blues sermon with his guitar, his message so potent that it somehow blows his amplifier. Picking up the slack, Matt Lapham begins a fast paced solo on bass guitar. They welcome up Tony Tyler (Comeback Alice) to play congas, and trombonist Clay Watson (Legendary JC’s) for an interesting mashup. “We Want the Funk” by George Clinton is the instrumental, while the lyrics were Delbert McClinton’s “Standing On Shaky Ground.” Clay holds down the riff on trombone, Anthony Cole sings while drumming, and Rosie pierces my soul with the white hot squeal of his guitar. They cover “Them Changes” by Buddy Miles and invite artist-at-large Stephanie Perez to the stage to show off her skills. The rhythm section does an excellent job supporting her as she starts and stops with technical outbursts. She has free range and is, at times, a maniac on the guitar. Rosie steps back to the mic giving George another chance with a non-blown amp. He lets out a non-stop flow of notes before Rosie takes back the reigns. Finishing the end of the song, the crowd lets the band hear it with a loud ovation. The tenth annual Orange Blossom Jamboree has come to an end and I start walking back to camp. Oh wait! What’s that? One more song? Russ Bowers (Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet) comes on stage for their encore: “The Way You Make Me Feel,” by Michael Jackson. Russ and Rosie battle back and fourth in the middle of the song before a smooth landing.
I walk back to camp to finish packing up my things when I hear of a secret CopE set happening underneath the parachute top at Hometeam! I hurry to pack up all of my things and barely get my trunk closed before the group pulls me away to the coolest place on the planet (at least for right now). Two hours of nostalgic songs and friendships as OBJ lifers gather round to complete a fantastic weekend. They play “Into Mine” and “Shake What?” Their jamming is on point as they take an voyage through space in time, reminding me of Sound Tribe. It’s the icing on top of the cake, and as the song peaks, the parachute begins to shake. “Shake what? Shake EVERYTHING!”
Thank You Orange Blossom Jamboree! We ARE FAMILY!
Orange Blossom Jamboree Live Review By Spencer Storch.
Orange Blossom Jamboree Photos by Carmelo Conte III.
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