Like everyone, 2021 started in a dubious lockdown of live music for me. I was hoping and looking for some sore of “all clear” signal to come out of hibernation and the Covid protocols of vaccination or negative test along with mask mandates and pod concerts developed.
Starting April 2, the day I got my second shot, I ventured out again and the first show I attended was SunSquabi at the Coca-Cola Roxy in Atlanta, and I ended the year seeing them three times. That show was the first of 44 days (that I can count) that I attended live music during the year including five festivals. I figure that I saw probably 100-120 sets of music, down from my typical 200+ but not too bad. Overall, I posted 68 videos of live recordings (including some revamps) on FunkCity.net YouTube despite a curtailed schedule.
I’ve made investment in upgrading all my equipment, video and audio so looking forward to some great stuff in 2022. This Year in Review covers some of the highs of live music that I attended and recording during 2021.
April 2021 Highlight - Suwannee Rising
One week after that SunSquabi show, I headed out for my first festival in over a year, the second edition of Suwannee Rising, now designed as a reserved pod-based event. I was fortunate enough to snag a front row pod and share it with some of my best buds. It was a mix of funk and jam and some of my favorite acts were appearing including Lettuce (2X), DLO3 and for the first time in Live Oak, FL – Grammy-nominated Mark Lettieri!
Here’s a video taken of Mark and the band back at Suwannee Rising in April where a couple of the album’s tracks are included. This also happens to be my most watched video that was released this year with over 9,000 views and counting!
I was stoked to be able to catch the funkiest band on the planet today, Lettuce, from right up front and I got to break out the video/audio equipment for the first time. Here’s my video of the 1st day set and the 2nd day in two halves from my good buddy and master videographer, Randy Bayers of FunkItBlog.com.
June 2021 Highlight - St. Paul and the Broken Bones
May was a pretty dry month but things started picking up in June when I saw Funk You, Voodoo Visionary, and Papadosio with Space Kadet opening. Funk You at Sweetwater Brewing was very emotional as the first outdoor event that a bunch of our Atlanta friends were together. It was great also seeing the homies Voodoo Visionary with their new lineup after so long. Back at the Roxy, Papadosio put on the best set I’ve ever seen from them and great to see more ATLiens, Space Kadet as the opener.
The highlight was St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Lost Art Music Festival with my buddy Rad. We weathered a torrential rainstorm followed by blistering sun and near heat stroke to see this great blues band bring their own heat. Glad to be able to capture the set and the memories!
July 2021 Highlight - Lettuce at the Caverns, Pelham, TN
July started to get back to normal with five days of show going. On a Thursday night at the refined City Winery Atlanta, the wonderful Toubab Krewe brought their mix of African Mali and Appalachian music together. This group is exceptionally talented, super nice and can jam with the best of them. Check them out and make sure you don’t miss them when they come to your area.
At the end of the month, it was great to see another hometown band, POTCH, in Smith’s Olde Bar, a long time favorite Atlanta joint. It was my first show back at Smith’s and first time seeing this group as a foursome and they killed it.
On top of all of this, there was a great local festival in Roswell, GA at the end of the month. The Beaucoup Jazz & Blues fest featured some terrific acts including AJ Ghent, Papa J Sez, featuring Joey Sommerville and Dante Harmon, Kebbi Williams + Friends and the Brubeck Brothers. That was a blazing hot lineup on a blazing hot day.
By far the highlight of the month and maybe the year was the two-night Lettuce run at The Caverns in Pelham, TN. For those that aren’t familiar, the Caverns is literally an underground cave venue that’s super cool (literally) and an amazing place to see a show. I haven’t been to Red Rocks but friends that have have call the Caverns the Red Rocks of the East.
Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your vantage point, the Caverns team built an outdoor amphitheater for pod shows due to the pandemic. Lettuce put on a two-night spectacular run there and I was again lucky to get a front row pod. The boys were unbelievable. My pod crew was amazing and a few of us got to hang a little bit with the band. Reflecting back it was one of the best musical weekends of my life.
August 2021 Highlight - Juna Serita & the Sexy Beans
August was a little light on quantity but super high on the quality side. Starting off the month early, I took in Nikki Glaspie’s new supergroup Kamani at City Winery and they ran through a sparkling set of old school funk. The following weekend it was back to Smith’s Olde Bar to see Juna Serita, the “Princess of Funk” on her first U.S. tour. She is a badass bass player and everyone should keep an eye on her. I’m pleased to say that she used two songs from my recording on her own YouTube channel and combined they got 20,000 views to date!
We closed the month with back-to-back weekends at The Velvet Note (Alpharetta), one of the best jazz clubs in the country. First me and my wingman Ken K. took in The Four Korners. This Atlanta fusion band is super underrated and pounds out a great set every single time. Looking forward to seeing them again at the Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta in April. Last we got a treat in seeing Nicholas Payton and Li’l Jon Roberts tear it. It was a great month.
September 2021 Highlights - Atlanta Jazz Festival and Candler Park Music Festival
September was highlighted by two spring festivals that were postponed to the fall due to the pandemic. The Atlanta Jazz Festival, a Memorial Day standard for many, many years had to be pushed to Labor Day weekend and it was cut back somewhat from three stages to two but they really packed a phenomenal schedule into those days. The two headliners, Archie Shepp and Patti Austin are super accomplished and well renowned in the jazz world. For me, the highlight was Mike Phillips who brought his soaring sax to the Oak Hill stage at the end of the second night. It was a classic ass-kicking brass throwdown and it’s featured below. Jazzmeia Horn and Ryan Kilgore were highlights from the first day’s festivities as well.
Candler Park’s festival is also in the late spring typically the week after Memorial day and they have always brought a great mix to town – this year was no exception. Spafford (who I recorded later in the year) headlined the second night and Galactic brought that NOLA funk to headline the first night. The lineup was stacked and funk pop favorites Ripe were on fire right before Galactic. It was also great to see hometown boys from Voodoo Visionary back in action. I had a rough night the first night so unfortunately I missed recording Marco Benevento and Hedonistas on the second day, but luckily was able to see and record both of them before the year ended.
October 2021 Highlight - Suwannee Hulaween
October was the busiest month of the year by far starting out with seeing Rodrigo y Gabriela, Southern Avenue and Joslyn & The Sweet Compression and an unheralded Wire and Wood Festival in my hometown of Alpharetta, Shaun Martin (of Snarky Puppy) right back at The Velvet Note and the tight funk fusion of TAUK (who I caught again later in the year. A late month feature was a monstrous three-hour cruising organ ride with Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. I caught all three hours and show the 1st on the right.
A top, top live music highlight for me every year (except 2020) is Suwannee Hulaween. The four day extravaganza features something like 80 bands across 5 stages. It’s really a String Cheese Incident festival with them always featured. SCI is super talented and diverse in their range but I tend to gravitate toward the bottom 75% of the program and this year was no exception. It featured two of my top 5 bands – Lotus and Lettuce and they did not disappoint.
The Thursday preparty was one of the best festival days I’ve had principally because five bands that I wanted to see all lined up in succession on the Spirit Lake Stage. I was able to record, then rest and repeat throughout the day. It started with S.P.O.R.E., and progressed to lespecial (stay tuned for more on them), Break Science, SunSquabi and Lotus. What an amazing day!
Another highly anticipated set was the Turkuaz Remain In Light (Talking Heads cover) set with Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison. The band turned it up and as it turned out, it was the last set for Turkuaz who broke up just a few days later. A surprise fave was West End Blend with some buttery soul and funk. Other highlights that weren’t fully captured were Jungle (crazy good), Durand Jones and the Indications and Cautious Clay. And the grand finale was my friend the Dr. – Roosevelt Collier back on the Spirit Lake Stage.
November 2021 Highlight - Space Kadet & Hedonistas
In a “normal” year, five shows in November might be considered “light” but I was happy to catch Goose, Dopapod, Andy Frasco and the UN, Space Kadet and Hedonistas.
Goose was my first time inside the main area of The Eastern, Atlanta’s newest, top notch live music venue. It holds around 2,200 and has absolutely the best sight lines with a stadium like tiered standing area. The band sold out two nights and it was a great event. Dopapod and Andy Frasco were back and my favorite all time venue, Terminal West so it was like being reunited with family.
The highlights however, were capturing two hometown bands and good friends whoe traveled far and come a long way, Space Kadet and Hedonistas. Both these groups should be on your radar.
December 2021 Highlights - Four-Night Birthday Run and North Beach Music Festival
December was expected to be the biggest month of the year and despite some pandemic related cancellations, it was really a blast. The first week was my 4 consecutive night birthday run of Khruangbin (The Eastern), Funk You/Potch (Terminal West), Ghost-Note (City Winery) and King Baby (From the Earth Brewing.
Khruangbin sold out, over 8,000 tickets over 4 nights at The Eastern. I had seen the band early in their career a few years ago at Terminal West (capacity around 600) and a couple of times since so I thought I knew what to expect. But. I. Did. Not! The band put on one of the best stage shows I’ve seen and it was an amazing experience. I’m a full blown fan boy now.
Just one week later, I was off to Miami Beach for the inaugural North Beach Music Festival. The two-day event featured some of my favorite bands at the North Beach Bandshell where Snarky Puppy’s annual GroundUP Music Festival is held.
The crew headed by Gideon Plotnicki, put on an amazing event where every single band crushed it. The Horn Section (formerly of Turkuaz) and Jennifer Hartswick deserve special shout outs as they seemed to be on stage ALL the time and it upped the level of excitement considerably. I’ll definitely be back for next year’s event.
That’s a wrap for the year – while it wasn’t as full as it could have been, I’m happy with how full it was. I’d like to thank all of the bands and management for allowing me to capture their magic live and spread the love of music. I appreciate each and every one of you and every minute I get to do this. Thanks to anyone who reads my stuff, watches and of my videos and puts up with my shit. And special thanks to all my friends who support live music with me, party with me and stop by for a hello or hug at an event! See you in 2022!