A Half-Dozen Bands You Might Not Know Set to Blow It Up at Great Outdoors Jam

The Great Outdoors Jam is just one week away, with thousands ready to get nestled in at Maddox Ranch in Lakeland FL for four magical days (September 28 – October 1). With two side-by-side stages, you don’t ever have to miss a single note. That works, at least, for us obsessive types, but normal people will take breaks between the music, catch a nap or two, enjoy afternoon delight, eat dinner, you know — life.

With that in mind, we wanted to highlight six performances we recommend highly. Frankly, we could recommend almost everybody on the lineup, but chances are you don’t know as much about these seven as you probably do about some of the Hometeam regulars.

Several years ago, Jordan Garno (guitarist for Leisure Chief and Serotonic) whispered these words in my ear, then just nodded: Naughty Professor. Seldom have I received such solid advice. Naughty Professor are a stunning young sextet from New Orleans with one foot firmly in the tradition and the other just as clearly planted in the future. Their performances are at once an homage to the NOLA masters who have come before them and at the same time in the vanguard of new funky jazz. Whether playing as the sextet, working with Chali 2Na, or backing Dumpstaphunk with horns, Naughty Professor is a whirlwind force of talent. They are: “Wild” Bill Daniel, guitar; Noah Young, bass; Sam Shahin, drums; Nick Ellman, alto & baritone saxophones; Ian Bowman, tenor saxophone; and John Culbreth, trumpet. They will take the Purplebear Stage Friday from 10:00-11:30.

Between Bluffs has been out of the public eye for some time, on hiatus. This fine band has always impressed with their intelligent lyrics and great musicianship. They purport to play “Jamericana, psychedelic, and Southern surf rock.” That’s at least a good starting place. Between Bluffs are: Jerrod Simpson, Justin Davis, Joseph Russek III, and Melbourne Walsh (who also plays guitar in Row Jomah). Expect a great turnout at their Friday evening set on the Zonk Family Stage (11:30 PM – 1:00) as those familiar are set to welcome them back. You should join them.

Full disclosure (as I always point out): Donna Hopkins is no relation to me. Except as a wonderful musical sister. Hopkins hails from Atlanta, where she tears it up regularly. Her trio plays hard rock ’n’ roots and plenty of blues. Drummer Richie Jones calls the band Gov’t Hopkins; that is entirely accurate. She is a superb singer as well. And seriously, with a name like Hopkins, how can you possibly go wrong? The trio plays the Purplebear Stage Thursday from 7:00 to 8:00 PM.

Guavatron will be in town Friday evening at Dunedin Brewery and will return for GOJ. Guavatron are: Roddy Hansen– keyboards/synths; Conor Crookham– bass guitar; Adonis Frangiskakis– guitar/vocals; and Casey Luden– drums. We just did a profile piece on this excellent quartet that plays amazing fusion, jamtronica, and experimental grooves. They played a killer set at Orange Blossom Jamboree (OK — who didn’t?!); you should expect more of the same at Maddox from 5:00 to 6:00 PM Friday.

It had been a while since New Earth Army had ventured south from the Panhandle to perform in peninsular Florida. During that time, wonderful vocalist Carly Foster and family moved away. How would the band adjust? Find another wonderful singer, of course, this time Melissa Joiner, a real blues and funk belter. And the band was tighter than ever: Michael Flatau, bass; Chavis Hobbs, guitar; Breyson, drums; Josh Zook, alto sax; and Matt McCarthy, tenor sax. This is some serious funk, and Hobbs is one badass guitarist. Check them out Saturday from 2:00 to 3:00 PM.

New Earth Army

Here is my Llamas story from GOJ 2015, and I am sticking with it:

Two men stood on stage. Sam All was playing guitar, and Frenchie was on keyboards. Whatever I thought was going to happen, I was deliriously wrong. This was an excellent set from the duo, starting with an unexpected “Without a warning, you broke my heart” from Sam (Bobby Blue Bland’s “Turn On Your Lovelight.” All’s voice was perfect for this setting, and Frenchie added great colors to every song. All started on acoustic guitar. As they began “Call Me the Breeze,” All played bass, then looped it and went back to guitar.

Next up was a funk tune with the lyrics “It doesn’t have to be about money.” Well, that’s what my notes say. Dani then joined them for a Railroad Earth song, “Got a Long Way to Go.” They’re playing this beautiful set, and then All said, “If anyone will book me after this, I’ll take it. Kenny Blair is the only one who will book me.” So, first, bravo to Blair for recognizing real talent. And second, HEY, CLUB OWNERS! Book these guys! They’re good! Llamas closed the set with “Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain,” joined by Niko Swarley on bass.

Llamas plays Sunday from 2:00 to 3:00 PM on the Zonk Family Stage.

We hope you like these artists if you have the chance to hear them. Just remember that the most important thing you can do is to SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC. (And buy their merch. And hit that tip jar. And tell your friends.)