Road trips always start off the same way. Slowly and sloppily. Leaving two whole hours late with no one to blame, mildly disheveled, completely broke, and in need of a set of used tires to replace the balding ones. Still we venture on with “Destination Live Oak” and the innagural Suwannee Roots Revival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. Performers like Sam Bush and Leftover Salmon stomped on the proverbial terra and tickled the throngs of music lovers for three days of fun, friends, and perfect fall weather. Don’t be discouraged by the ominous beginning, friends. This is not a sad story. It’s Camp Happiness.
Live Oak sits just west of the I-75/I-10 junction and the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is perched on the banks of the Suwannee River, it’s trails and fields scattered with tents and coaches and shadowed by North Florida’s finest collection of live and turkey oaks. This year’s line-up and music circles rhythmically revolved around a thumping of folk, bluegrass, and some serious swamp rock n roll. The vibe was cool and crispy as old school hardliners were swinging and mingling with wide-eyed Suwannee virgins. Even “Big Mamou”, the official Nail Travels spiritual advisor, recently returning a holy pilgrimage in Katanga, joined in the twisted fun when he “accidentally” seasoned his bar-b-que pork butt and egg sandwich with Dade County bath salts. Most recent reports were that he’d constructed a temporary shelter in the Suwannee bat house and was repeatedly shouting in an ancient Bantu dialect, “Make the bad man stop!”
This and other harmless missteps aside, the crowd maintained a relaxed and friendly atmosphere (as always at the SOSMP) and the music was routinely transcendental, layered river funk.
— Jason Nail (@NailTravels) October 20, 2016
Stage performers, artists, merchandise and food vendors kept the crowd busy and entertained. Again this year, the folks at the kids tent went the extra mile to make sure this venue continues to be a child-friendly destination. F’sho F’sho. What’s an important number to remember? How many children does it take to rip a hammock down the middle? Everyone finds out eventually.
Every year the Dead Cat Society nominates festival attendees for one of the coveted “Quality Counts” excellence awards. Along the lines of the Nobel Peace Prize, The Academy of Motion Picture Awards and the Riverdale High School 4H Prize Hog Scepter, this small token acknowledges rare instances of camping and music greatness.
2016 Spirit of Suwannee Music Park “Quality Counts” Awards
- Sweetest Surprise: Thank you Gumbo Limbo Cajun Band with their traditional Cajun waltzes, two steps, and, wait for my new favorite grooven, Louisiana swamp pop. Yes, that’s really a thing. A big thanks to Mike Stapleton (accordion, fiddle, vocals), David Massey (fiddle, vocals), Marietta Massey (triangle, rub-board, vocals), Bill Paine (guitar), John McEwen (bass), Susan Marynowski (drums, vocals) for bringing down the tent in the field stage. It was certainly a beautiful day to play and dance. Remember folks, when in doubt, sashay.
- Most Mexican: Beating out perennial winner, Lucienda Rosalita, the Nail Travels rescue chihuahua, a spry newcomer rose to the ranks of the elite this year. Joining that ragged band of bat house misfits known as “Camp Happiness”, this beautiful beast, Pancho, showed the crowds why the Baker Act remains a useful, important tool in modern law enforcement. Thankfully, only a few egos and inner thighs were bruised as the Suwannee crowds got a full dose of his unique, South of the Border, comedy stylings. One passerby compared his brand of “talent” with that of Jacksonville humor. Take a Spanish pause and be readily aware of Phishhead Nazis when visiting there.
- Almost Most Improved: The Nail Travels photography team was blessed again this year to work with award-winning photo journalist, Katie Egger, also known in certain gypsy fire circles as Katie Magic. Her intense focus and post-modern technique allow her to render unique, visual masterpieces that are unmatched since the second half of the last century. Her images of performing artists and casual audience shots are sure to be collected and valued for a years to come. She was an invaluable member of the travel team until her glass eye slipped out during a lengthy Ralph Stanley bluegrass salute and her depth perception was lost for the rest of the event. Some times bad things happen to good people.
- Boomsickle Award: Let it be known through the peaks to the dales that Leftover Salmon shook the very foundation of the rhythm and rock columns that hold up SOSMP. Their unique blend of funk and slick licks left drool aplenty on the bibs of many mesmerized fans. The second set on Friday night ended with The Wind Cries Mary which made many question the nature of existence, into Morning Sun, with Jon Stickley on guitar, Reuben’s Train, with Jon Stickley and Lyndsay Pruett on Fiddle and a punishing and unforgiving encore of Wake n Bake. This was one time the music actually never stopped and not one person in attendance said uncle. Yes, I can handle the truth. Yall come back, you hear?
Continued thanks goes out to Erin Scholze at Dreamspider Publicity for working with us to cover the festival and promote it through our social media outlets. Take a look at her social media sites on Facebook and Twitter. These things just don’t happen by themselves…
If you haven’t made it to a festival at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, you’re missing one of the finest concert/camping venues in the country. Visit their website and follow their social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Just visit the park one time. If you don’t think it’s a divine place to camp, play, and listen to great music, we’re wrong and you can come to the house and leave drinks on the piano without a coaster. Blaspheme!
Stay on board with Nail Travels and our social media outlets as we send daily updates from the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. Thanks to the travel team as they help festival organizers prepare Spirit Lake for Suwannee Hullaween October 28-30. Check out their website and convince yourself to venture over next week for a little Halloween fun with String Cheese Incident and many others. Don’t make this difficult now.
After the show, head toward the bat house and swing by the Dead Cat Society pleasure palace for Australian gravity lessons and loud, mediocre music. All are welcome.
Best job ever.