Preview: Candler Park Music and Arts Festival 2021

Candler Park’s Music and Food Festival has been going on for thirteen years and has evolved from a small Atlanta neighborhood affair to a full blown regional music blowout with nationally famous touring acts. The fest traditionally held in late May-early June has been pushed back due to Covid-19 and this will be the first held since 2019.  Each day is packed with some great acts and here’s the rundown that we’re looking forward to.

Friday Highlights

Galactic is one of my favorite all-time New Orleans funk bands, on the scene for nearly 25 years.  Their mix of skill and danceable tunes is sure to be a highlight of the fall season here in Atlanta.  Stanton Moore, is a bad mofo on the kit and his showmanship is unmatched.  In addition to playing with Galactic, he’s also a founding member of Garage a Trois.  Ben Ellman shreds on harmonica and kicks butt on tenor and bari sax. Rob Mercurio on bass is one of the band’s founders and is locked in with Stanton for the rhythm section.  Jeffrey Raines on guitar and Richard Vogel on keys bring the funk with the best of them.  Galactic has just the right mix of instrumentals and vocal tunes and has changed out their lead touring vocalists every few years to mix it up. This year and for the last several that slot has been handled by Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph from Tank and the Bangas and she can match the band’s powerful grooves note for note.  Galactic last headlined Candler Park in 2016. I can already feel the adrenaline pumping – check out their full set from Hulaween 2018 and you’ll see what I mean.

Ripe first came to my attention when they played at The Loft in Atlanta in 2018.  Their brand of soul-funk and high energy immediately sucks you in.  I knew from the first set that I would be following them for the long haul.  Robbie Wulfsohn is a charismatic energetic lead singer and draws the crowd’s attention and participation throughout the show.  Of course, I dig bands with horns and they’ve got  Josh Shpak (Trumpet, EWI) and Calvin Barthel (Trombone). After that first set, I’ve been lucky to catch Ripe 4 or 5 times since as they’ve moved up the hierarchy to Terminal West, Variety Playhouse and even Hulaween 2019.  They’re a super fun party band that will definitely highlight Friday night.

Voodoo Visionary are Atlanta  hometown juggernaut that has risen from the unknown to a local Atlanta staple to a national touring act. The band has a broad repertoire of funk including their own catchy tunes and massively great covers.  My personal favorite is Cold Shallow Moon from the Off the Ground release.  The current lineup sees the return of Dennis Dowd on keys and adds Austin Cobb on lead vocals. Mike Wilson on guitar is a young phenom that has sat in with some major touring acts,. Trent Gilson (bass), Mac Schmitz (drums), and Jose Rivera Robert (percussion) are a fist tight rhythm section. I know I’ll be there at the start to kickoff the festival in funky style.

Saturday Highlights

The Infamous Stringdusters are a five-piece acoustic bluegrass band out of Nashville, TN.  Now bluegrass is not typically a genre that I go deep into but since the first time I saw them probably 6 years ago, they hooked me.  They go deep and bring it to every show- these guys are super talented and swing big time.  They’re another band that has risen the ranks and justifiably so and have played monster venues like Bluegrass Underground Caverns, TN and Red Rocks in Colorado. This will be a monster closeout for the festival.

Spafford is one of the most popular jam bands on the scene today. They play a mix of massively complex jams intertwined with very cohesive melodies.  Since first seeing them at Hulaween in 2017, they’ve exploded — I particularly appreciate their connection to their fanbase as they have a direct link on their website to the fan curated site that has setlists and taper recordings (including mine) from all their shows. They are another gigantic draw to this mega Saturday lineup.  

Marco Benevento is a magician on the keys, creating some increadible mindscapes that will transition you to another world. This is one act that is guaranteed to make you happy and it’s hard to say whether the band or the fans have more fun during the set.  He mixes it up with instrumentals and vocals and on keys will switch up between piano, synth and organ with intricate melodies.  My personal favorites are Limbs of a Pine and It Came From You. His band also features Karina Rykman on bass and she’s a breakout star on here own.  Be ready for takeoff and strap in!

Hedonistas are another rising hometown rock and soul band. They’ve played at such local staples as Aisle 5 and Terminal West and multiple appearances at Sweetwater 420 Fest.  They are fronted by the dynamic Jake Keeble on vocals and keys and feature the dual guitars of Pete Brazeal and Max Blount.  Hunter Treadway  (bass) and Sawyer Drummond (yea on drums) propel their great original tunes. They’ve released two albums, The Way Things Were in 2018 that was highlighted by Vulfpeck’s Cory Wong sitting in on their hit song “On the Run.” and the Bad Decisions EP released this year.  My personal favorite is Spanish Lava Lamp off their first release.  Can’t wait to see my friends light up the stage.

That’s already a stacked lineup but I’m also expect to be turned on to the rest of the lineup which includes The Vegabonds, Airwolf, The Dirty Guv’nahs, Webster, and Moneyshot. It’s so wonderful to have this loaded lineup for this mainstay festival of the Atlanta music universe.  I’m so looking forward to a fabulous weekend.