Festival season is upon us once again and what better way to kick it off than to travel 807 miles to the magical place of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. With over 5,000 music lovers in attendance, the 6th installment of AURA Music Festival was one for the books.
The trip was off to a rocky start as our 12 hour drive was delayed three hours in due to inclimate weather conditions in Tennessee, but we weren’t giving up that easily. As our journey continued, we made it just in time for the last act of Thursday night’s pre-party. Once we got there, however, the car ride quickly became a distant memory. The weekend was nothing short of a good time full of lights, live art, and music.
Kudos to Daryl Wolff and Cameron Ferguson, the creators of the festival, for making such a pleasant atmosphere and providing one helluva a light show. AURA was just big enough to escape yet, small enough to find friends and make new ones. Warm feelings emerged throughout the weekend as friends and families greeted each other with embracing hugs and kisses.
The chilly weather brought people closer together as it dipped into the low 40’s. Fires ignited and groups were found gathered around them making a ruckus throughout the grounds. Yoga was offered each morning to prepare weary bodies for the day ahead, and classes continued throughout the day. For anyone who needed to take a break, hammocks donated by ENO (Eagles Nest Outfitters) could be found pre-installed throughout the campgrounds.
With this being the 6th edition of AURA what better way to give you a glimpse into this magical experience than to countdown the top 6 acts.
Local to the area and the only bluegrass band of the weekend, Uproot Hootenanny took the stage Sunday morning. There was no better way to spend the last day of the music festival than with whiskey and bluegrass. A banjo, stand-up bass, and fiddle were exactly the change up the festival needed. With high energy beaming from the band, waking up became a pleasant experience. As their tunes filled the campgrounds, I wasn’t the only one rushing to the stage for some toe-stomping jams.
5. Turbo Suit
Turbo Suit was in the Music Hall Saturday evening getting the place hot and steamy. Turbo Suit’s unique approach to live electronic music is one you can’t help but groove to. Everyone was enjoying a break from the cold weather by getting down on the dance floor with songs like “Open Mouth Kiss” and their own interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
This funky foursome played at the Amphitheater Stage (Main Stage) Sunday afternoon. It was their second set of the weekend and while I heard their true top performance was Saturday night in the Music Hall between Disco Biscuits sets, they still blew me away on Sunday. Jamming from beginning to end with an all instrumental set, they covered the Beatles “I Want You” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” – the perfect way to relax on the hottest day of the festival (which was only in the low 80’s).
Dopapod played one of the first sets of the weekend at the Thursday night pre-party. For the last song, all six members of The Motet joined the band on stage for an impromptu performance. As the last cord was strummed, Dopapod’s guitarist Rob Compa turned to the other band members and shrugged as if to say, “Meh, we tried,” as if it wasn’t one of the better collaborations of the weekend.
But the real Dopapod highlight was Saturday night after the Turbo Suit set. They were laying it on thick with songs like “Trapper Keeper” when Compa channeled his inner Gwen Stefani for a No Doubt cover of “I’m just a Girl” leaving the nostalgic crowd hungry for more.
The Biscuits took the stage beginning their set with “The World is Spinning.” As the band played and the light show truly began, the crowd gasped in awe as a fan of colorful lasers covered the night sky. At the start of “Helicopters” a giant Halloween spider web stretched overhead across the crowd, reaching from the front of the stage all the way to the back.
The second set they really brought the heat with a flawless segue into “Crix.” You could feel the crowd’s disappointment as band ended without an encore. Little did anyone know, they would make an appearance at American Babies’ late night set in the Music Hall, joining them on stage for a cover of the Greatful Dead’s “Shakedown Street.”
The Squeeze played on The Porch Stage Saturday evening. As the band played off each other, building in anticipation, lead singer Corey Frye took a long pause before busting into a cover of R Kelley’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”
The band took the stage a second time, Sunday afternoon, for a tribute to Michael Jackson set. Strategically planned out by the group, 20 of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits were packed into an hour and half set. From Black Or White > Beat It > Thriller > Billie Jean > Smooth Criminal it was hands down one of the best performances of the weekend.
While 2015 was one for the books the countdown for AURA 2016 begins…
Want to get the full experience, check out the link below to view images from the whole weekend.
Photos by: Keith Griner
Never miss a Werkout; after all, it’s for your health. The Werkout, a 3-day event filled with music, art, and all things silly, took place from August 7th-9th in Thornville, OH. An oasis of wonder and shenanigans, what more could one ask for?
After spending the time of our lives at Legends Valley, we set upon the task of reviewing the festival, recounting it for those who were there and recapping it for those who weren’t.
How to boil it down? Condensing 72 hours of bliss into simple text on a screen can be a challenge, but we’ve debated and discussed, recalled and reminisced, and this is the result. A list of 10 moments, bands, people, and situations to paint the picture of the Werkout.
10. The Comedy Stylings of Mr. Jesse Brown AKA The Blue Power Ranger
Amusing would be an understatement had you met this gentleman moseying through the grounds on Saturday night. This guy was the real deal from the costume to his swift reenactment of “It’s morphin time!” He was a true entertainer, as most witnesses would say. His comical gestures and witty dialogue were the perfect way to transition from one set to another. I walked out of the situation with stomach cramps because I was laughing so hard. Werkout citizen Kenny Beebe went on to describe him as “Eloquent. He just kept on going forever. I didn’t want him to stop talking. This guy had to be a professional; he really put on a show.”
Jesse, if you’re out there and ever decide to go on tour just know that you’ve got yourself plenty of fans.
9. El Fuego
A non-musical, yet integral, part of the festival were the performance artists throughout the weekend. Nestled near the stages was a performance area set up specifically for performance artists of all kinds: hoopers, poi spinners, fire breathers and more. Performances of this kind are not uncommon to festivals by any means; in fact, they’re almost as expected as music is. However, Saturday’s events were something special.
As nightfall came and Zoogma tore through their incendiary set, fire performers captivated throngs of audience members with their craft. The performers worked three at a time, joining forces to create choreographed masterpieces of movement and light. Bright flames circled around on smooth trajectories, tearing beautiful patterns into the cool night air. It was mesmerizing. It was unreal.
Honorable mention: Fire cannons. Specifying further, computer-controlled, propane-fueledfire-cannons… with whistles to boot! Who knows what to officially call these contraptions; they shot short blasts of gas through an exhaust whistle and past an igniter. Epic. But… why, you may ask? Because that shit is awesome.
8. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus’ Saturday Night Special
Making the list of incredible performances to hit The Werkout on Saturday night was UV Hippo’s groovy performance. Always blistering and always on point, the band set the evening vibe right with their second set of the extended weekend. Starting out with the soothing and surreal, “Medicine”, Hippo amped up the energy track after track for the duration of their hour-long set. Moving through a 6-song set bordering on an average of 10 minutes a song they jammed their way through as only Hippo can do. The result? A meandering trail of color-clad humanoids dancing their way throughout the venue.
Set List: Medicine > Verlander, Georgie (w/ Kenn Mogel on guitar), DNT, Tugboat, La Marea
7. The Werks’ Two Sets on Saturday
The Werks kept fans at attention with every beat of the night, hitting all of the right notes throughout both sets. They even brought the staff and production crew on stage for a solid moment of recognition; a grand round of applause. Zane Kesey and Derek Stevens from the Further bus did a narrative for the Anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Dave Weissman, the festival’s media organizer, and his son even joined the stage; dressed in galactic space wear (complete with capes), they played air guitar during the last song.
Plain White Toast
Hard To Find Jam
The Other One
6. The Furthur Bus
Zane Kesey (the son of famed author Ken Kesey), Derek Stevens, and the next generation of pranksters made their way to The Werkout on their 50th anniversary tour. The bus, a beautiful piece of art and history on wheels was a one stop shop for fun, games, merch, and even a wedding! The Werk Out was the 6th official stop on their tour outside of their initial travels in Oregon in June. I had the pleasure of speaking to Derek over the phone to ask a few questions, detailing their experiences on the road.
How did the Werk Out become so lucky to be one of the stops of the tour?
“Actually, we were privileged enough to be invited by Rob Chafin of the Werks. I had the pleasure of talking to him over the phone a few times, and he said that they were trying to plan something special for us out there and said he’d appreciate it if we could make it.”
Is it safe to say that the Werks was probably your favorite gig out there?
“Without a doubt. The Werks were on top of it, it was a great gig across the board. They really stepped it up.”
Were there any other bands that caught your attention? “
Actually to be honest I didn’t make it out on the grounds to explore very much until late night but hands down Zach Deputy. We had him on the bus, a little private recording session, and he just blew us all away.”
Is there any advice that you want to share with the youth of America and next generation of merry panksters?
“Best thing to keep in mind is that it’s okay to think differently. It’s okay to express yourself with music and art. Whatever it is that brings up your passion…. We’re not saying to tune in, turn on and drop out by any means. We don’t even roll like that anymore, especially right now on tour. You can be high on the hill but you end up missing those little things, you know? Be you and have fun. It’s okay to be yourself. You don’t have to go down any set path to be free and have fun. It’s all about living in the moment and not missing those little things.”
He went on to share a few intimate moments they had along the tour and added, “It’s those stories that color what this entire experience is about. You know, we actually had an opportunity to get – and I’d hate to mention it – corporate sponsors, but we turned it down. It didn’t feel right not having the bus on the road interacting with people. That’s not what this bus was about and we’re glad that we didn’t. We’ve made so many friends – lifelong friends – along the way.”
Next stop on the Bus tour will be in Baltimore, MD at The 8×10 room with special guest John Kadlecik of Furthur this Tuesday, August 19.
5. The Werks’ Stripped Down VIP Set/Q&A Meet and Greet
This may have not been a part of the main festival, and it wasn’t accessible for everyone, but it definitely deserves to be on the list. As a part of the VIP ticket package for The Werkout, ticketholders were treated with a special set from The Werks in the VIP lounge. Relaxed and laid back, it gave audience members a chance to see the band and interact with them in an uncommonly intimate setting. The session started with a heartfelt thank you from The Werks, detailing how fans and supporters are truly the reason that events like The Werkout exist. It felt good.
Seated among a group of spectators, The Werks played several stripped down songs including a new and yet-to-be released tune. They told stories and joked around. It was comfortable and enjoyable. After the short performance, they moved on to a Q&A session with the audience, prompting us to ask anything about the band, the festival, or whatever else was on our mind.
The shining moment of the Q&A session, you ask? They announced that there were 7 cinematographers filming Thursday’s Dark Side performance. The kicker? The soundboard audio and video of the set will be edited and released, FOR FREE, in several weeks once the project is completed. Another tasty tidbit? Anthony Thogmartin of Papadosio is mastering the audio. The days can’t tick by fast enough.
4. Everyone Orchestra
For those who don’t know, Everyone Orchestra is the ever changing, improvisational, brainchild of musician Matt Butler. Boiled down to its core, it’s a jam session, but not just any old jam. Featuring a rotating cast of some of the world’s top musicians (past participants have included members of The Grateful Dead, Phish, moe., String Cheese Incident, Taj Mahal, a presidential candidate and more).
For The Werkout’s incarnation, EO was a 14-piece band creating brass-laden funk fusion with Butler manning the helm as the Orchestra’s psychedelic conductor. He guided the group of musicians toward their auditory goal, creating and closing sonic space as he sees fit. As any musician will tell you, that’s easier said than done, especially with 14 people improvising at a time. Butler guided the group through the jam using vocal cues, hand gestures, and a little whiteboard that he feverishly scribbles directions to the musicians on. It truly is an awesome and silly sight of madness and music.
3. Zoogma’s Saturday Night Set
The 4-piece livetronica outfit hailing from Oxford, Mississippi, took no prisoners with Saturday’s set at The Werkout festival, their second overall performance of the weekend. Sandwiched between The Werks’ two sets that night, they had some big shoes to fill. Zoogma pulled through with what may have been the most talked about set of the weekend.
As the last notes of The Werks’ first set tapered off, the bass took hold from the opposite stage… and so it began. Contrasting the stylings of the previous act’s more traditional sound, Zoogma was a swirling synthesis of organic and electronic instrumentation. Wasting no time and starting things off with a bang, they launched into what can only be described as an electro-blues banger. “Let My Shorty Ride (RL Burnside x Young Buck)”, a seamless blend of hip-hop and righteous gritty slide guitar, foreshadowed what was to come over the course of their set: an eclectic mix of originals and reworkings of a slew of other tracks.
Additional highlights of the set were the Michael Jackson and Eagles classics “Thriller” and “Hotel Crunkafornia (Notorious B.I.G. x The Eagles)”, respectively. For those of you who weren’t there, let’s get one thing straight: these were not simply covers, but incredibly solid and innovative rehashes of the original masterpieces. One has never heard such guitar playing like this during a “Thriller” performance, guaranteed.
As “Thriller” climaxed in one final intensifying crescendo, a surprise awaited, the opening notes to “Hotel California” rang out, soon to be layered in with some Biggie vocals. Intriguing? Damn straight. With dueling guitars and saw-bass low-end, Zoogma soared on this one; imagine Joe Walsh and Don Felder duking it out on the famous solo, but only that this time through they had discovered the glory of Ableton before writing the track. Hands. Down. Breathtaking.
Let My Shorty Ride
Starrey Eyed Thriller
2. Zach Deputy
The one-man-band from Savannah, GA that kept on keepin’ on! It was almost impossible to keep from ‘to his funky tunes, even if you were just passing through for that midafternoon delight. Had the dance floor not been made of rocks, people surely would have kicked off their boogie shoes! The guitar was funky with a few flicks of beat boxing here and there and Deputy laid down smooth, soulful, swingin’ vocals. This man would have you down in New Orleans one minute then out with island fever the next.
Deputy made sure to engage the audience throughout his set to enhance the vibe and step up the jive. He kept the loop train going all throughout Friday and Saturday night, even on into Sunday morning. Even the schedule didn’t know what time he would be done! Embracing his collaborative spirit, he also provided vocals during the Dark Side and Everyone Orchestra sets as well. What ‘chu know ‘bout The Deputy?!
1. And the downright obvious of the all things epic: Dark Side of the Werk Out set!
What an incredible way to bring in the first night of the festival. There was so much zest and excitement in the air leading up to this set of epic wonder. By the time The Werks ended their last song of their first set the crowd had swelled up. One could feel the intensity and the anticipation for what was about to take place – the fifteen minute set change seemed to take forever.
Finally, each band member took their place and the lights dimmed to their appropriate state. The crowd cheered louder with every pulse that lead into the sudden stroke of “Breathe”, and then the pack got wild! Chills are currently pacing their way up and down this writer’s spine just reliving that moment. And who better to open up the tribute other than the festival director and beat master of The Werks himself, Rob Chafin.
As if the Dark Side set wasn’t enough, more surprises made their way into this grand recital. Kevin Dumont laid down the smooth and saxxy melodies during “Money.” The enchanting vocals of Mr. Zach Deputy were brought in for “Great Gig in the Sky”, and, boy did that man bring a few people down to their knees! Making their way through the crowd at that moment was the full cast of Wizard of Oz, even the Lollipop Guild, as the movie played on the backdrop. Overall, it was an inspiring sight to behold.
There it is, the Werkout in review. While this isn’t an all-inclusive list or even the big picture of what went down that weekend, it’s our little version. Short and condensed, just add water – or beer – to reconstitute. Given the chance, would we go again? Yes. As for you, the reader, should you consider it next year? That’s not for us to say, but, if this article was met with intrigue and a peaked interest, you probably already know the answer to that question.