The Sunshine State Shows Off, Deservedly So: Orange Blossom Jamboree

Sean Hartley. Kenny Harvey. Caleb Bone. Conor Crookham. Taylor Gilchrist. Steve Honig. Michael Flatau. Tom Pelkowski. Zach Rogers. Alvin Cordy. Trevor McDannel. Digo. Vinny Svoboda. Harry Ong. Tony D’Amato. Andy Lytle. Juan Santana. Chris Brown.

OK, it’s not all about that bass, but Orange Blossom Jamboree was certainly A LOT about that bass. The gentlemen mentioned above absolutely CRUSHED last weekend (and I’m sure I missed some).

If a festival is a marathon, not a sprint, then OBJ (May 17-21) was an ultra-marathon, five amazing days of music in an idyllic setting (Sertoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville). OBJ is a family gathering, and every year the family gets larger and more tightly interwoven.

There were a couple of glitches, sadly inevitable when people gather; we are certain that Russ and Toby Bowers and their incredible crew are working to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Speaking of crew, the moment we begin to list those who worked tirelessly to give us an amazing weekend (plus), we are sure to forget some, but thanks to: Megan Baker, Jillian and Mark Mellucci, Jules Pereira, and Buzz.

WEDNESDAY

Pre-party? Why not? It’s an ultra-marathon! Music began in the afternoon with a twisted set from Free Range Strange, the perfect start to the weekend. We listened while setting up camp and dinner. I think Juanjamon got his first of myriad sit-ins on this set.

Free Range Strange

Next was an amazing event. Unique is an absolute modifier, like dead and pregnant. The set by Veird was, in every sense of the word, unique. OBJ is sponsored by Dunedin Brewery, and Veird is the brainchild of DunBrew’s owner, Michael Lyn Bryant. Best I could tell, there were four musicians on stage, with Bryant and others switching back and forth from keyboards and synthesizers to bass and guitar. And then there was a short monk in full-length brown hooded robe, singing death-metal style on top of the music. After an opening tune, as advertised, the band played Veird Side of the Moon, their take on the Pink Floyd classic. Juanjamon on “Money?” You bet.

Veird

After completing Veird Side, it seemed only natural to bust out with… “Beat It?” Amazing. Then they called Jon Ditty to the stage for some freestyle over improvised music. It was… unique. And I loved it.

It was time to run like an Antelope, out of control. This Phish tribute band has truly flourished since they emerged some six months ago. Juanjamon  (keyboards) and Matt Weis (guitar) front this band, and they delivered big-time. Opening with “46 Days,” they showed from the outset that this would be special. They hit full stride by “Birds of a Feather” and never let up, with a great setlist including “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Tweezer” and “Down with Disease.” Mike ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie and Sean Hartley make a powerful rhythm section. Russ jumped in on the encore.

Antelope

At last year’s OBJ, Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet closed Sunday night. It was fun but perhaps a bit loose, given that everyone was toast by that point. This early slot delivered great benefits, as the band came out roaring. “Eyes of the World” was the perfect opener, with The Rev. Funky D on keyboards, Trey Miller on banjo, Juanjamon on tenor sax, and Russ and Weis on guitars. And lots of vocals. Russ sang “Deal,” and the choruses were glorious. Andy Lytle was having a blast on percussion.

Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet
Do NOT feed the bears!

Garrie stayed at drum kit, and Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley) was playing bass. Harvey has been doing his homework. Somewhere around “West L.A. Fadeaway,” Harvey jumped to the fore with his excellent playing. Miller’s harp graced “Easy Wind,” and Weis and Juanjamon went nuts during a massive “Shakedown Street.” “Me and My Uncle” was wonderful, and then we got Kacey Bowers signing “Ripple!” MusicFestNews writer Betsie Green, attending her first OBJ, correctly observed the rarity of seeing banjo and tenor sax on stage together. Appropriately, the music ended with “The Music Never Stopped,” because it was still playing in our heads!

Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet w/ Kacey Bowers
Russ Bowers Isn’t Dead Yet

I have always appreciated the talents of Matt Weis, especially in his band Boxcar Hollow, and I enjoy his work on all these projects. This particular night, his guitar skills were truly peaking. He absolutely crushed the Phish songs a la Trey Anastasio and the Dead songs a la Jerry. Bravo!

Matt Weis

THURSDAY

Cosmic Groove Ensemble had the honor of getting OBJ officially underway, and they poured out a tremendous set of cosmic funk, led by vocalist Lisa Ogden. Their original music is uplifting and joyous, propelled by Dillon Reeder on drums. Once again, keyboard player Jeremy Layel was a beast, reminiscent of great synths men such as Steve Molitz. This band can’t use a guitar player; there’s no room! Jimmy Rector sat in all set on percussion, and Sara ‘Mama Bone’ Phillips brought her trombone to the conversation.

Steve Barry painting to Cosmic Groove Ensemble
Cosmic Groove Ensemble

Jon Ditty had the next set, doing what he does best: rap and entertain. He was joined by Stick Martin on guitar, vocals, and keyboards and by MC Foundation and Eric Gabriel Puniska on drums. They were having a blast. Ditty’s whole persona is so upbeat that you can’t help but smile.

Jon Ditty

We ventured for the first time to the Zombie Stage. That is the stage constructed by The Bath Salt Zombies at their enclave. Laura Shepherd, playing mandolin, was joined by a flautist. We heard several lovely songs before heading back for the much-awaited set by The Reality. “Set the Sun” and “Something’s Gonna Happen” were favorites.

Since we first “discovered” The Reality last year, the band has made huge strides, releasing two albums and touring throughout the Southeast. They also added keyboard player Kyle Sareyani, who also sings and plays flute, adding tremendous depth to the band’s sound. This was the most prominent appearance for this quartet, and they made the most out of it.

The Reality

They opened with “All My Time,” and everyone within listening distance immediately paid attention. These boys rock and funk so hard. On “Do It for Yourself,” Sareyani had a fine synthesizer solo, followed by a crusher from Dan Jones on guitar. Caleb Bone had lead vocals on “Get Funky,” but it was his background vocals which really propelled the set to great heights. Dan Jones uses some deliberately terrible verbal segues, by the way. They closed with a massive take on their opus “Dancin’ with D.” OBJ was impressed.

Dan Jones

What I love about music festivals (in no particular order): family, bands I’ve seen a lot, bands I’ve only seen a couple of time, and bands I’ve never seen. Nothing illustrates the latter better than the set by The Daniel Heitz Band. They blew us all away; people were buzzing about them all weekend long. They funked, and they rocked, with plenty of blues and soul. Heinz is an excellent young guitar slinger.

The Daniel Heitz Band

They opened with “Dry Land” and “Get Up” before inviting Heather Gillis and Nick Landess to join them on “Let Me Be,” a great Southern rocker. “Yellow Moon” was killer with great electric piano from Jack Bumgarner before a “Jingo”-like Latin workout on “S.O.S.” with Bumgarner huge on Hammond B3. For an encore, they invited up Tommy Shugart (The Groove Orient) to play B3 as they jammed “Left My Heart” into “Third Stone from the Sun” and then into “Mountain Jam.” Remember this name: Daniel Heitz.

Guavatron

I was really geared up to see Guavatron again. In the process, we missed Uncle SCotchy O.M.B. Guavatron greeted us with “Intro > Things I Forget > Spring Roll.” There was prog, Floyd-ish at times, vocals here and there. It turned into a Biscuit-like romp that had us dancing. “Get It On > Xilla” began as heavy prog, Hammond B3 prominent courtesy of Roddy Hansen, and again it settled into some great jamtronica. Magical set.

Roddy Hansen

Savi Fernandez was on fire all weekend, beginning with his own set. Tommy Shugart was on keyboards. The music moved from funk to ska to rock to reggae and wherever it wanted to go. “Blessed” is always a highlight, as were “One More Minute” and “Opportunity.” For the last number, Savi invited Heather Gillis (guitar), Isaac Corbitt (harp), and two of the Groove Orient boys, Bucky Buckingham (drums) and Chuck Magid (guitar), and it was glorious.

Savi Fernandez Band
Savi Fernandez Band w/ B-True Brian & Isaac Corbitt

I really like The Psychedelic Monks but did not make it to the Zombie Stage to see them this time. We were waiting with anticipation for Ajeva. This St. Petersburg sextet had played a stunning headlining set two weeks earlier at Backwoods Fam Jam, and we were prepared for more of the same. They came out raging immediately with “Off the Mountain,” vocals from Reed Skahill deluxe. Mark Mayea was a wildman on keyboards on “Try Not To” before “Ducks from Outer Space” soared into P-Funk territory, including a wicked guitar solo from Skyler Golden.

Ajeva
Mark Mayea

“Metaphysics” went jazzy and funky before they segued into… “Funky Green Men from Mars.” They blew up some fine fusion and more funk before closing, appropriately, with “Funky Situation.” Bassist Taylor Gilchrist and Travis Young on drums were so deep in the pocket all set.

Ajeva

As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I’ll see your Charles Bradley and your Sharon Jones (may she rest in peace) and raise you a Eugene Snowden, the man responsible for The Legendary JCs. Eugene is THE MAN. This set once again was filled with favorites such as “Lifted” and “Save Me” and featured the usual starts and stops as the band reacted to Eugene’s quirks. They started with a blues romp, turning to funk as guitarist Roland Simmons blew up his first of several great solos. There were sing-alongs, go-go vamps, great band solos, and excellent vocals from singer Katie Burkess. Clay Watson was his normal double-threat self on washboard and trombone.

The Legendary JCs
The Legendary JCs

Come Back Alice were the evening’s headliners. When Ajeva’s Mayea joins the band, it allows Tony Tyler to concentrate on guitar (although he is a superb keyboard player as well). They lit up the Cypress Stage instantly, the massive sound washing over everyone. The band was on fire. Three songs in, they invited Isaac Corbitt and Branson Welsh on stage for “Give It Up,” Welsh with a solo. Mayea offered fine electric piano work  next on a Latin outing, followed by “Ugly Rumors.” Dani Jaye was alternating between guitar and violin.

Come Back Alice

“Coraline” featured a monster jam, and then the set went interstellar with “Tijuana Trance,” a blistering instrumental. When CBA did an Allman Brothers tribute in March, we observed that it was Dani’s strongest outing on guitar. This was better, all set long, but especially here. The song turned into a jazz jam with Mayea singing vocals along with electric piano, then Dani roaring again, Gilchrist powerful on bass, Jimmy Rector taking a turn on percussion, leaving the last word to Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris. After closing with their brilliant new tune “Love Is the Answer,” they simply stunned as Tyler dug deep inside to sing… “Tom Sawyer!” BOOM!

I made my way back to Zombie-Land so that The Bath Salt Zombies could cap the evening off properly, and they did not disappoint. As I arrived, they were in the midst of “Whoa, Betsy,” many in the crowd singing along. Sara ‘Mama Bone’ Phillips joined in on “Scratchin’ at My Door” before Dan Crowley growled through “I Put a Spell On You.” Two unexpected tunes followed: “I’ve Got a Brand-New Pair of Roller-skates” and Toto’s “Africa,” the latter shifting pace several times. The set was almost over — just enough time for… “Boris the Spider!” The John Entwistle tune always takes a demented turn into “I’m Your Boogie Man!” Suddenly, somebody kicked out the main power chord. Incredibly, it was exactly the perfect spot for, as Graham Woodard declared, “Drum solo!” Crowley took a monster tour around the kit until finally power was restored, giving Zane Bowman the opportunity to do his banjo boogie thing. What a great way to end the night!

FRIDAY

I rolled out early, intent upon checking out the new Jacksonville collective Blackwater Grease. This was hardass Southern rock and more, with Joe Knoebel, Greg Sears and Joe Verseput all on guitars. They crushed a great version of “Down by the River” (Joe: no more singing for you), then a fine original, “At the Crossroads.” Verseput dedicated “That’s What Love Will make You Do” to his wife for their anniversary; Steve Honig, excellent on bass all set, really tore this one up.

Taller Trees opened the Citrus Stage, highlighted when they invited Heather Gillis up for some shredding. We were determined to make it to the Zombie Stage in time to grab a “meow-mosa,” but, alas, we were too late. The lure of alcohol and Row Jomah resulted in a nice gathering for a very good set from Joe Roma and company.

The set included numerous favorites from Cat People! and the recently released Live at Dunedin Brewery. Mama Bone and Cody Moore (tenor sax, NoNeed) joined in on “Outhouse.” Roma does so well singing Talking heads tunes such as this “Once in a Lifetime,” and the band closed with a romping “Cat People” (you know, the song not on Cat People!).

We hustled back to the main stage (might have been a gold cart lift) to catch The Corbitt Clampitt Experience. Corbitt and Brady Clampitt work so well together, and they had Savi Fernandez join them for a tune. Next, Melody Trucks Dugger (Butch’s daughter) and Heather Gillis came up, Melody singing “Leave My Blues At Home.” And Corbitt remains at the top of the list of harp players on the scene.

We had not seen New Earth Army in more than a year, and a new singer has joined the band. I am an enormous fan of the previous singer, Carly Foster, but new vocalist Melissa Joiner takes the band from more ethereal territory to some deep-down blues and funk. The first song was good, but by song three they were firing on all cylinders. A fun cover of The Stones’ “Miss You” led to a jam that eventually emerged as “Get Down.” That could have gone on for an hour. Guitarist Chavis Hobbs told me later that the jam just began to evolve and comes out differently very time they play it. New tenor sax player Matt McCarthy soloed first. Then Josh Zook, who left the band to go to Berklee School of Music (some excuse, right?), had flown in to join his Panhandle bandmates and blew a world of alto before Hobbs ripped his solo. He and bassist Michael Flatau were dynamite the entire set.

New Earth Army

Another band from from way west Florida, Post Pluto, were up next. They had a great set at Hulaween under Hula circumstances, so it was great to see them on the main stage, and they made the most of it with the best set I’ve ever heard from them, barreling out with “Spicy” and “Whisky.” Somewhere in there was a great reggae transition. There were country-ish romps and plenty of funk. “Secret Sea” from their soon-to-be-released album New Horizons was huge funk, twisting from a “West L.A. Fadeaway”-like vamp to synths and a great vocalese section at the end. Several other new tunes also really impressed, including “Funky Bus” and “Point of View.” And tell me Michael Garcia’s hair doesn’t look just like Davey Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies!

Post Pluto
Michael Garcia

Between taking care of dinner and refueling, we missed two sets at Zombie: Wild Root and shoeless soul. Those are both bands I truly admire; at festivals such as OBJ, you simply cannot do everything. Not effectively, anyway.

A well-deserved nap

It had been so long since I’d seen The Funky Seeds that I didn’t remember anything, but they took about a song and a half to hit fourth gear and pop a wheelie as Miss Robyn Alleman (Holey Miss Moley) crooned “Let Me See Your Booty Shake,” The Rev. Funky D grinning ear to ear the entire set. What followed was one of the weekend’s highlights (before 6 PM on Friday, no less!) when they busted out with “Monkey Dance” with a monkey go-go dancer absolutely KILLING it. I mean DAMN!

The Funky Seeds

Grass is Dead is so much more than the band name implies. Certainly, they approach the music of The Dead from a bluegrass perspective, but it goes far beyond that. They opened with a long intro that took its time developing into “Shakedown Street.” Amazingly, Billy Gilmore was getting those great Jerry Garcia horn effects out of his banjo! The tune was powered by Jon Murphy’s bass, and Steve Pruett rocked the electric mandolin. In the midst of Dead songs, out spilled a bouncy “The Harder They Come.” They simply slayed a huge “Samson and Delilah,” Murphy all over it, with Pruett’s mandolin and Gilmore’s banjo soaring. And “Dark Star” turned out to be a lovely vehicle for Jared Womack’s dobro.

The Grass is Dead

We heard the beginning of Kaleigh Baker’s set with the new band, Her Enablers before heading off to dance up a storm with Twisty Chris and The Puddin’ Packs. For one thing, they set an OBJ record by playing 22 songs in their hour set (although Twisty Chris was certain they could have squeezed in one more). The band’s music glides over the various intersections of power pop, punk, new wave, rave, surf, shag, and [make your own up]. The bottom line is: pure unadulterated fun.

Kaleigh Baker & Her Enablers

They came out screaming with “Fireball XL5,” “St. Pete Hop” and “Twist It Up.” After “Jugs,” Twisty and Co. had us in stitches with “If You Don’t Twist (Then You Ain’t Shit)” and “Bomb the Twist.” Somewhere around that time Miss Robyn Alleman, Loe Sanz and Caitlyn McLaw joined in (on the ground in front of the tiny stage) on “Do You Love Me?” and the delightful “Ballroom Blitz.” It’s for certain that the Zombies and others built that stage rock-solid, because Twisty was trying to destroy it with his twists and leaps and jumps.

Twisty Chris & the Puddin’ Packs

We really loved “Panties (Don’t Get Your Panties in a Twist).” “Stingray Shuffle” and “Twisticutioner” were a blast, and they played “Diana” straight up. My favorite cover of the set was an obscure but excellent Standells tune called “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White.” They got many smiles for the theme to Mystery Science Theater 3000 and finally Chubby’s “The Twist.” I was correct — it was the sleeper of the weekend, although there was no chance sleeping while they were on!

Twisty Chris & the Puddin’ Packs & the Pack-ettes

The Applebutter Express continued to do what they do best, offering up bluegrass versions of songs of various perversions and debaucheries, all with huge grins and amazing playing. They wasted no time, moving directly into “Shit Ain’t Illegal If You Don’t Get Caught” and “Hot Pussy.” Zach Rogers sounded so fine on the bass fiddle, Joe Trivette soaring on fiddle as the set progressed. Kyle Biss’s wrist was a blur over his ukulele the entire set, and his vocals, intertwined with those of Shannon Biss, again were a marriage made in heaven.

Now things got tricky for me, as two of my most favorite bands were about to overlap. The Lee Boys, kings of sacred steel music, were up first. Chris Johnson was in the pedal steel chair, and he had a simply marvelous night. An opening jam led to “I’m Not Tired,” Keith and Derrick Lee on vocals. There are few rhythm sections anywhere that can match the power of Alvin Cordy on bass and Earl ‘Big Easy’ Walker on drums.

Earl ‘Big Easy’ Walker & Al Cordy
Chris Johnson of The Lee Boys

The jam continued to roll, morphing into “Dance with Me,” an even hotter jam, fireworks from Johnson, and “I’ll Take You There.” Another weekend highlight occurred when Heather Gillis and Eric Garcia (harp, JukE) came on stage during the Blues Brothers tribute. Whatever song it was, Johnson, Gillis and Garcia started trading passages, and for me it was good as any battle I’ve ever seen, except that the theme was cooperation, not competition, as they pushed each other higher and higher. It was transcendent.

The Lee Boys

Then we jetted back to ZombieLand for Future Vintage. This trio’s jamtronic brilliance goes directly to my soul, and they were crushing. Keyboard wizard Matt Giancola had a great space helmet on, Eric Layana was pushing the beat, and Trevor McDannel was having himself another incredible set on bass. As if the heat were not cranked up enough, Reed Skahill appeared with full native American headdress to channel Jamiroquai on “Cosmic Girl,” sent absolutely over the top with vocals by Loe Sanz and Robyn Alleman. Still not enough? How about Juanjamon and Cody Moore stepping on stage, saxes in hand, to blow up a monster version of “Doin’ It Right” to close the set.

Future Vintage
Reed Skahill w/ Future Vintage

The evening’s headliners were Thomas Wynn and The Believers. This was a very good set from them, although I preferred their Wanee set from last year. You shouldn’t judge this set by me, as most in attendance were blown away. The set included staples such as “I Don’t Regret” and “You Can’t Hurt Me No More.” Olivia Wynn sounded great on vocals. Thomas gave an impassioned speech before closing with “I Feel the Good.” They included “Atlantic City” in the encore.

Thomas & Olivia Wynn
Thomas Wynn & the Believers

Wynn is a very good guitar player and handled all of the solos in the part of the set I saw. Which left me mystified as to why Tim Turner of Shak Nasti was there on guitar. Turner has played off and on for years with Wynn, and Turner is truly one of the best players I have ever seen. But this night his talents were squandered. Nobody asked me. I’m just sayin’…

Tim Turner

And this was the only set all weekend that was too loud. Everything else seemed to be dialed in perfectly.

The Bath Salt Zombies were up, but I was down.

SATURDAY

I do regret missing six of the day’s 17 sets, but that is festival life. For the weekend, I missed 14 and caught 45. I’ll take it.

There was great anticipation for the opening set from Harmonica Man and the Sawgrass Band, the brainchild of Trey Miller. He handles lead vocals along with Arielle D’Ornellas (who is also a fine photographer). This band has expanded greatly, here including Colin Christopher (guitar), Jesse James (violin), and Jason ‘Fancy Pants’ Miller (mandolin). Perhaps the most important new addition was drummer Dillon Reeder. Miller confided that he wasn’t sure how adding a drummer would do; after the set he was properly delighted.

The set bounced back an forth between originals and interesting covers, starting with “Alive” before “Fat Bottom Girls” and then “Time/Breath Reprise” (Pink Floyd). After another original featuring Getts, they covered one of The Groove Orient’s signature songs, “Hot Bandit Woman” and did a great job with it. “Everything” was a lovely original ballad, after which Miller described his love for Maddox Ranch, home of many of our beloved festivals, before unveiling “Going Back to Maddox.”

Arielle D’Ornellas

With campsite duties calling, we missed The Good Wood Band, the group photo, and NoNeed’s bouncy set, although we could hear it just fine from camp. We also missed Somatic’s set, which friends described as a joyous Hometeam party, with neighbor Brad Elliott on drums.

The Good Wood Band
NoNeed
Somatic

I was totally stoked for Electric Kif, still high on their new album Heist. It was a dynamic set of fusion jazz. Early on, they roped us in with “Hang Up Your Hangups,” then treating us to some of the new material, starting with “Little Louie” and “White Girl.” Digo was killer on bass, and Jason Matthews was a great showman and better keyboard player. By turns, we heard references to Lotus, STS9 and The New Deal in their great music.

Electric Kif

We check out the beginning of the set by The Stereo Type before heading back to ZombieWorld to hear the band that had created the biggest buzz of the festival. That would be Joose. This band emerged as a stunning fusion quintet last year, first covering Herbie Hancock’s Thrust, later playing some more great jazz covers. The group expanded to six with the addition of Justino Lee Walker, one of the best guitar-slingers in the state. Their first outing with him, while Christian Ryan was on tour with Holey Miss Moley, was a jaw-dropper. We were dying to see what the full band would do.

The Stereo Type

“Hit us with hurricane force” would be the correct response. You need a program for this one. They are working on five acts of a musical concerning the five stage of life. Acts 4 and 5 are still in the creative stage. They opened with “Act 1: Birth – Prologue – Neoshi – Genesis.” It was really powerful fusion, jazz, nearly classical in approach at times. The crowd was in awe. For a breather, they blasted “Oh Sheit It’s X” (Thundercat), with vocals and solos from Mayea and Justino.

Then came “Act 2: Childhood – We’ve Got A Lot of Work to Do – Flight of the Kiwi – Pandora’s Box.” There was madness at times, Morris an octopus on the drums, Ryan blowing free. Abruptly, they covered Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” I was bored with the song when it suddenly took off like a rocket, Ryan first on alto, then Mayea and Gilchrist with a keyboards/bass battle before Justino stepped in.

Finally, “Act 3: Adolescence – Efflorescent Atonement – The Long and Difficult Conflict of Kronos and Bones” closed the set. Response was so strong that we insisted on an encore, which came in the form of Snarky Puppy’s “Binky.” Bravo, gents.

By the time we returned to the main stages, Unlimited Devotion was in the midst of their set, whereupon they knocked out a great “Dark Star” and then “Not Fade Away.” And Eric Garcia hopped on stage to blow some harp on “Turn On Your Lovelight.” They were locked in.

Unlimited Devotion

The schedule got convoluted for me again, as the Locochino set in ZombieTown overlapped Displace and The Groove Orient. Displace was up first. They had played a brilliant set at The Ale and the Witch the week before, and again they sounded great. Guitarist Josh Formanek was not available for OBJ. As has become the norm for this magical Florida scene, the band’s former guitarist, Jordan Garno, was there to fill in, although you would never have known he was a ‘fill-in.’ And Dave Gerulat (shoeless soul) sat in on percussion.

The first song was a long, jammed-out take on “The Flight of Admiral Archibald,” from their most recent album Undertow. Bassist (see what I mean) Vinny Svoboda really propelled this one, joined by Tucker Sody on drums. Next was “Valerie,” the Zutons’ song that everyone likes to cover, it would seem. I have always been underwhelmed with this song — until now. This version was so powerful, for several reasons. Chris Sgammato is playing lots of keyboard now in addition to alto sax (and lead vocals); he is a fine guitar player, but with Garno or Formanek in the band, it allows him to concentrate on keyboards, which gives the band a great “new” dimension. Also, Heather Gillis, who covers this song herself, joined in. Her voice and Sgammato’s wrapped around each other perfectly, and she took a great solo. Then Sgammato soloed on keyboards, Gillis with another turn, then Garno. That song’s OK now!

Displace

Garno was featured on a funky tune he wrote called “The Shark” before Tony Tyler and Dani Jaye joined the band for “Don’t Let Me Down.” “Generation: Sloan,” one of the band’s great jams from first album Eureka!, got a tight reading, Svoboda on walking bass and Sgammato on alto. For closer “Friction,” the horns invaded in the form of Christian Ryan (alto) and trombones Mama Bone and Dan Jones. YES!

Displace

Back to ZombieNation to catch part of the Locochino set. This fine Gainesville band has a number of strengths, and when I arrived they were crushing some jamtronica, much to the crowd’s apparent delight. It was “Progadelic Jamfunk” for certain! We heard full sets from them and from The Groove Orient at Backwoods Fam Jam, so I was willing to split time between them here.

This was Harry Ong night on The Groove Orient stage. The quintet opened with “Midnight” and “Hot Bandit Woman.” Bassist Ong was on top from the get-go. Heather Gillis was the first to sit in on a tune she wrote name “Iced Tea;” she works really well with this band. When Christian Ryan (flute) and Jason Matthews (keyboards) jumped in, the tune veered into Latin jazz, Matthews and Tommy Shugart grinning ear to ear as they played together. Ong blew this one up. When the song returned to the head, David Vanegas (percussion) and Bucky Buckingham (drums) took a turn. Then Daniel Heitz was invited to play on “L.A. Woman.”

The Groove Orient
Heather Gillis w/ The Groove Orient

Holey Miss Moley had played several gigs since returning from their national tour, but this was their first big home showcase. They owned it with a wicked “Shake It with Me” that went all Afrobeat and then “Devil Funk” (OH YEAH). Miss Robyn Alleman came out to sing “Baby Love” (Mother’s Finest, not the Supremes), so lovely. B-True Brian offered hip hop flavors to “Bermuda Triangle,” which was followed by “All I Need,” Christian Ryan on flute. Jon Ditty, B-True and Michelangelo all joined in a a new hip hop tune the band wrote on tour (no name yet).

Miss Robyn Alleman & Danny Clemmons

Tony Tyler blistered some guitar as Danny Clemmons did his best “Big Bad Wolf” impression. Finally, it was time for the band’s magnum opus, “Afroshaft.” Ryan blew two great alto solos, followed by Jacob Cox, who had another powerful set on guitar, then a percussion feature with Vernon Suber, Tony Morales and Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright, and back to Ryan on flute before jamming it to a close. Close? Forget that. Danny Clemmons in a full-on Rick James wig begging “Give It to Me Baby!”

Holey Miss Moley

Sadly, I never made it back to ZombieState, missing in the process Last Electric Rodeo (loved them last year), The Bath Salt Zombies, and Grass is Dead. I was told that technical difficulties forced the delay of the BSZ set until after Grass is Dead and that both sets were killer. No doubt.

Last Electric Rodeo. Photo courtesy of Christian August Wenger

The Juanjamon Band had the next go on the Citrus Stage, and by now we were primed and ready. So were they, nattily attired and bedecked with Fedoras. “Mr. Juanjamon” was a great opener, and then a long string of tunes tumbled out, beginning with “I Don’t Mind,” then went full reggae funk when Derrickk MacDonald joined in on “Mushroom Summa;” the stage lights, superb every day, peaked as the stage was bathed in red, yellow and green light. The music segued into “Knockin’ Boots > Real Nice Booty > Tech9 Jam > Chester.”

The Juanjamon Band

This band lights it up every time, with Trevor McDannel huge again on bass and Michael ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie driving the funk. And Dre Mack was a monster; there were a number of people unfamiliar with his work clearly blown away. After “Hey Chester > Night of the Thumpasaurus Peoples,” Dillon Reeder added percussion to a straight-up Brecker Brothers “Some Skunk Funk.” Michaelangelo Chavarro, Brian B-True Blanchard, and Jon Ditty all sang and Brandon Welsh played guitar on “Can I Tell You?”

Juanjamon

The Heavy Pets roared into their set with “Shariar’s Rage,” featuring Mike Garulli on vocals and guitar. The quintet demonstrated once again why they are the premier jamband from the Sunshine State. Bass? Oh, yes. Tony D’Amato was simply incredible, his smile beaming all set long. Next was the reggae lilt of “Carry the Man,” Jeff Lloyd out front on this one. After “Strawberry Mansion,” they covered Floyd’s “Fearless,” which morphed into Velvet Underground-like “Invisible Coyotes.” It turned funky as Jim Wuest sang “Rainy Days.” There were excellent solos from Garulli, Lloyd and Wuest (keyboards) on “EBR.”

The Heavy Pets

The Pets have played often at Dunedin Brewery (sponsor of OBJ), including a recent four-day residency during the Spring Beer Jam, so it was logical they would call up Jon Ditty (who works at DunBrew). Savi Fernandez (guitar) and Jimmy Rector (percussion) also played, and Michael Garrie took over the drumkit, allowing drummer Jamie Newitt to come up front to beatbox along with Ditty’s raps, all tangled up in “Girl You Make Me Stupid.” The rocker “Holy Holy” was sandwiched around “What is Love?” After “Higher,” they surprised with a fine version of “Casey Jones.”

The Heavy Pets

Heart be still! They came out for the encore and used a slightly different intro before slamming into “Dewpoint.” Can I get an Amen?

The Heavy Pets

SUNDAY

It was time for church. Este Loves’ church, to be specific. I kept counting and recounting, and I think there were 18 or 19 chorus members, all draped in white, some with orange accents, plus five or six in the band (seriously, that stage was packed). It was a soulful, moving experience, as everyone who got up early will attest.

Este Loves Church

“I’ve Got Friends on the Outside” was a soul-grabber, and there was a lot of emotion when they got to “Transforming,” which was written in the Rising Light tent during Hometeam New Year’s Rally. Then Juanjamon delivered soul-stirring testimony during “This Time.”

The Grumpy Ol’ Trolls are neither grumpy nor old, just a bunch of children learning to be rock stars. They have a great time every year. We were grabbing lunch but enjoyed their set from campsite.

Grumpy Ol’ Trolls

It never seems to matter who is playing when Sean Maloney constructs his Legacy Orchestra Collective. But this batch was very special indeed, backed by six members of Holey Miss Moley (Morales, Suber, Cox, Wright, Kenny Harvey and Mikey Guzman), two members of the Happy Campers (Andy Lytle and Colin Christopher — three, counting Maloney), Juanjamon, and Dani Jaye.

Legacy Orchestra Collective

There were many aspects deserving of remark. Colin Getts’ guitar-playing was superb, Andy Lyle was brilliant on bass, as was Harvey, and Dani Jaye was her amazing self. After “It Ain’t Right,” Danny Clemmons sang “Sun is Shining,” followed by “Haji.” For me, the set blew up with my favorite of Legacy’s compositions, “Ridiculous Elephant,” B-True adding his rap. Jamie Newitt played drums on “Get Down/Inertia.” They invited Gillis and Landess up for “I Want You.” Jaye and Juanjamon were awesome. Legacy really has a gift for putting these together.

Andy Lytle & Legacy
Leg-acy

Another much-anticipated set was by Justino and the Difference. Justino was joined by Joose bandmates Mark Mayea on keyboards and Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris on drums and his regular bass player, Juan Santana. It was a tremendous set. Earlier, Morris confided this set was the one he was most worried about, because Justino’s music is extremely complex. Of course he nailed it. Justino has been playing “Black Hole Sun” for a long time (and killing it), but obviously this time was special, given the recent passing of Chris Cornell.

Justino & the Difference

The prog of “Nobody” turned into a beautiful piano solo from Mayea, then great bass courtesy of Santana. A straight-up reading of “A Change is Gonna Come” was a surprise, and then there was a discussion about, well, dicks, before they played “When Smaller Gets Small.” The band’s signature tune, “The Ever-Receding Hairline of Dunjavich Adams,” was excellent.

Justino Lee Walker

Another group not many of us had heard before was the Evan Taylor Jones Band from Orlando. Rosemarie Camp assured us that we would really love them. Of course she was right! Also, throwing this out there, Jones was the hottest male on stage all OBJ. Just sayin’…

Evan Taylor Jones

Jones is a very good guitarist, great vocalist, and superb front man. They wowed us from the very first song of a solid set. Mikey Guzman (Holey Miss Moley) is a regular band member. Jones’s vocals on “Stay with Me” were amazing. After “Wealth Again,” Christian Ryan played alto on “Highway” before Jones gave us everything on “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Comment: I swear a lot myself, but I didn’t think his use of the phrase “no MFing good” was necessary in this context. And there was a Red Lion request (I am suspicioning Rosemarie Camp) for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” which was excellent.

The Evan Taylor Jones Band

One way to handle an hour set is to play four songs (as opposed to Twisty Chris’s 22), and Troy Youngblood and the Soulfish went that route. But something was fishy. I somehow got lured towards the stage by Donna, who was fully complicit in what next occurred, which was that Skull N’ Bone bandmate Mountain Mike Sherman joined Youngblood and band on stage to sing me happy birthday. But it wasn’t the birthday song, it was a delightfully nasty ten-minute jam! I *might* have been grinning ear to ear!

Al, also known as Thee Eloquent Barbarian, was prominent on “Hoochie Coochie Man,” playing both harp and organ. He is great at both. Youngblood poured himself into this one. Youngblood then began to explain the next song, about something that happened in New Orleans. Those familiar with the band knew he was talking about an “adventure” Chris Brown had there. That would be the Chris Brown on stage crushing on bass. This was my most favorite version yet, lasting more than 15 minutes. George Pennington, Jr., another of the amazing young guitar players on the scene, threw down an amazing solo, as did Al on keyboards. And of course there was much story-telling and laughing, although Brown did a pretty good job keeping a straight face.

Troy Youngblood & the Soulfish

The last tune was “Devil Smells Like Bourbon.” Youngblood’s deep tenor (baritone?) is absolute perfection for all of these low-down bluesy tunes, and the band tore this up. Bob Feckner added tremendous accents throughout the set on trumpet and flugelhorn, with Reggie Scott keeping great time on drum kit. And don’t forget Zane Bowman of The Bath Salt Zombies, whose banjo was a great addition on all four songs. Did I say four? “Devil” segued into the rollicking “Roadhouse Blues.” Now that was a birthday present (and I’m sharing that with Tina Praino)!

Speaking of birthdays just on the horizon, Uncle John’s Band started with “Tangled Up in Blue” (Dylan’s birthday was also May 24th). After that intro, the band proceeded to pay tribute to the Grateful Dead show 40 years ago this day (May 21) at the Lakeland Civic Center. And they did a fine job. You can read our review about the Dead show here.

Uncle John’s Band

If I would have changed one thing, it would have been to find a female singer to handle the Donna Jean Godchaux parts for this set. I missed her especially on “Passenger” and on “Samson and Delilah,” probably my favorite of the show. That said, UJB did a fine job presenting this two-set show. “Bertha” and “Me and My Uncle” were such a great way to begin. “New Minglewood Blues” was a highlight, and they handled this sequence well: “Estimated Prophet > He’s Gone > Drums > The Other One > Comes a Time > St. Stephen > Not Fade Away > St. Stephen > One More Saturday Night.” With all that has been going on, “U.S. Blues” was just the right way to cap off OBJ 8.

Uncle John’s Band

Great thanks to Toby and Russ Bowers for Orange Blossom Jamboree, including the amazing staff, with Buzz, Jillian and Mark Melucci, Julius Pereira, and Megan Baker.

Russ Bowers

A huge shout-out as well goes to the sound and light folks under the direction of Andy Lytle: Jerry Chambers, Obuasi Boulware, Dillon Reeder, Jared Rhodes, Grant BamBam Phillips.

Also thanks to Rising Light and all those who organized workshops and children’s activities.

Jesse James doing a children’s violin workshop.

We have one hell of an extended family!