Stoked to be heading back to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP) for the third edition of the Suwannee Rising Festival which debuted in 2019. Rising has established itself as a premier mid-sized event kicking off the season in early spring in what many have described as the most magical place in the world (adult Disneyland).
Scheduled for the time of year and place where two other festivals, Wanee and Aura, were mainstays, Rising has developed its own personality as a combination of funk, jam, soul and rock, not necessarily in that order. The first version in 2019 was heavy on funk featuring Lettuce, Ghost-Note and The New Mastersounds and the second in 2021 was a pod event with two side-by-side stages labelled ‘Jam’ and ‘Funk.’
This year may be the most diverse ever and is stacked from top to bottom with top notch performers each day. The late night headliners, including Galactic, Neal Francis, George Porter and Dumpstaphunk and St. Paul and & The Broken Bones all are soul funksters but there’s a nice mix of spices in between.
For this preview, I’m gonna just hit the acts I’m most excited to see, many that I’ve seen before and quite a few that I’ll hear for the very first time. So let’s check out the daily schedule.
Thursday, April 7th
I’m gonna hit each say’s schedule from the late night back to the afternoon openers because that’s how I pace my schedule – always wanting to have enough gas in the tank to make it to the end.
Neal Francis is the closer on Thursday and I know that’s gonna be a blast. I first caught a little bit of his set at Hulaween 2021 but got a full dose back in February in Atlanta and he lit the place up. His energy, great vocal chops, lyrics and eclectic electric piano was one of my favorite shows of the year so far. Here’s a clip of his tune BNYLV from that set.
Joe Marcinek’s Band is always exciting because he brings a different crew to every show. His playing is slick and I’m pumped to hear the variations of his tunes this go ’round after also catching some of his Hula set. His 2021 album JMB4 was topnotch and reviewed here – this is what I said about it last year –
JMB4 is like a well-tailored suit — sharp, well cut and it feels good. The ‘outfit’ that Joe Marcinek put together is all the best material –a unique lineup on every album and tour to keep his material fresh and make every show a unique experience. For JMB4, he put together an all star lineup with the core of Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk), Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power), and Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy, Shaun Martin Three-O).
This is such a well-played and composed album and it’s highly recommended. Although it’s Joe’s ‘band’ he doesn’t try to dominate and gives each contributor air. In that way, each song is unique but the album is unified. It’s like a throwback album and I make some references to jazz legends but Joe definitely has a unique approach overall giving it a very fresh sound.
Looking forward to his set and his upcoming JMB5 album too!
Galactic is the band I’ve seen the most live out of all of the bands at Rising, probably over 20 times! That speaks to both their longevity at around 25 years and their popularity and one of New Orleans’ best funk band. Each member tears up their solos and their mix of vocal tunes and instrumentals makes every set interesting. Stanton Moore is one of the most exciting drummers around and Ben Ellman on sax (including baritone) and harmonica is a shredding machine. Anjelica ‘Jelly’ Joseph brings real dynamism to the vocals. My most recent set with them was at Candler Park Music Festival in the fall of 2021!
Butcher Brown is gonna surprise a lot of people at this fest and make a lot of new fans. I’ve seen them about five times so far and they are right in my sweet spot of that funk fusion that is like so much comfort food. They’ll be back up in Atlanta again for the 420 Fest so I’ll have the pleasure of seeing them twice in a month after not catching them for two years.
Here’s my brief description of their 2020 album ‘King Butch’ from the review I wrote after seeing them at Terminal West in Atlanta right before the pandemic —
“Butcher Brown is a quintet out of Richmond, VA playing a mix of jazz, funk and hip/hop, although their music is not easy to characterize nor should it be. The group’s been around since the early 2010s but only recently has begun more broad national touring. They recall some of the great fusion bands of the 70s including Weather Report and Return to Forever as well as some great individual players like Ronnie Laws, who they cover on this album with “Tidal Wave.”e album is unified. It’s like a throwback album and I make some references to jazz legends but Joe definitely has a unique approach overall giving it a very fresh sound.
There are several other badass bands on the Thursday lineup and I’m looking forward to checking them all out since there’s no overlapping performances at this well planned festival. Heather Gillis is the only one of this group that I’ve seen before in Atlanta. She’s a terrific guitar shredder that will wake up a lot of peeps. Maggie Rose is a country singer out of Maryland with great pipes.
Lemon City Trio is a band that’s on my wish list. Based out of Miami, the group has that fusion groove feel and is a favorite of one of my best music buddies. Fusion Jonez checks out real funky with a double sax horn section I believe. Erin & The Wildfire is another hidden gem, singing that old school soul with multi-part harmonies and a trumpet + sax horn supplement, something that always enhances the set for me.
Friday, April 8th
There’s no let up on Friday and there’s a number of acts that I’m unfamiliar with that I’m very much looking forward to sampling starting with the Memphis soul of Eddie 9V and finishing with the London electronic funk of Franc Moody who I’ll catch again in May in Atlanta.
Franc Moody is the duo of Ned Franc and Jon Moody out of London but they travel as a six-piece ensemble. Their late night set at the Amphitheater should be a real dance party. I’d put them in a similar category as Parcels and Jungle also out of the U.K. and definitely looking forward to their set and upcoming Terminal West date.
Polyrhythmics are a band I first caught at Hulaween in 2019 and I was hooked. Their infectious afro-beat funk with horns, heavy percussion and entrancing melodies was the highlight of that fest and I was glad to capture the full set. They were booked to play 420 fest 2020 in Atlanta and I was pumped but that was cancelled, then booked for the postponed NOLA Jazz Fest in Fall of 2021 and I had my tix for that but of course that was cancelled so now here we are and I’ll get my chance for TWO sets. What a great do over opportunity that I expect to be the top sets of this three-day musical journey.
During the pandemic, the Polyrhythmics released an album Man from the Future and an EP Fondue Party which both had tunes from that Hula set and both were reviewed on Funkcity.net as linked above. Give a listen and then come out and get your groove on with these guys!
George Porter, Jr. and Dumpstaphunk is one of the best festival pairings you’ll see anywhere including New Orleans their hometown. They’ll be playing music of The Meters, of which George was a founding member. This will be a real family affair and looking forward to a great get down session from these cats. From the looks of YouTube videos, this used to happen fairly regularly at Bear Creek and on Jam Cruise but doesn’t seem to have occurred for a while.
Electric Kif is a great funk fusion quartet out of Miami and a mainstay of the Florida festival fun including Hulaween and GroundUP Music Festival. They have a lot of great ancestry from the 70s and 80s including Herbie Hancock, Weather Report and Return to Forever. I was glad to catch them at the North Beach Music Festival back in September and expect more spacey, tasty licks from them. Their most recent album, Dreamlike is a real trip and you can read about it here.
Durand Jones & The Indications is one of my favorite new, soul bands, highly talented and sorely overlooked. Their vocals are top notch alternating between Durand as the front man and Aaron Frazer on drums. Their R&B and soul has great melodies and catchy lyrics to boot.
All their labelmates on Colemine Records fill that sweet tooth for soul and they were a favorite of mine at this past Hulaween. Also glad to see them coming up to Atlanta in June to headline the Lost Art Music Festival!
The rest of the Friday undercard is comprised of bands I’m less familiar with but have had on my radar for a while. I’ve been looking out for The Headtones since they were on the Rising 2020 schedule that was cancelled of course. The St. Petersburg funk crew plays some horn and keys tinged space funk and definitely will be up front for them.
Eddie 9V has that bluesy soul feel harkening back to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (yea, look it up) and I think some people will be singing their songs by the end of the set.
Ernie Johnson from Detroit brings a 8-piece unit featuring sax, bone and trumpet horn section for some power funk, with a touch of afro-beat as well. They’ll be well worth getting out early and getting funked up.
Saturday, April 9th
Saturday is another full day mixing soul and country and a lot more. It starts and ends strong. On the front end I’ll gladly take an intro to the Savants of Soul followed by a second helping of Polyrhythmics and closing with a full blown festival celebration of The Nth Power Ball!
The Nth Power Ball is gonna be a helluva way to polish off the festival. This power group of course featuring the core group’s players will also include Jennifer Hartswick and Scotty Flynn (trombone), James Casey (sax) Pete Levin (keys) Greg Erwin (guitar) and Melody & Vaylor Trucks from Brother and Sister who are playing earlier in the day.
According to this interview with MusicFest News, they’re “going to be pulling more from rock and roll and more stuff like that and blues. Pulling more from those kind of energies and from the great American songbook. They can expect a high energy, loud show.”
St. Paul & The Broken Bones are in a prime slot at the festival for a very good reason – they’re a party band with an overall great vibe. I first saw them at another Suwannee festival a few years ago in the middle of the afternoon in the amphitheater and I’ve been hooked ever since. Paul’s dynamic persona and the great horn section, powerhouse drumming from my bud, Kevin Leon, and overall soulfulness make this a must-see set. Here’s a little taste from a set I filmed last year as well.
North Mississippi Allstars will be a great chilling Saturday afternoon set. Just great Southern rock with beautiful vocals as well. I love the lyrics for this tune “Up and Rolling” and hope they play it this week. Also, look out in case Lamar Williams, Jr. joins them on vocals – that’ll be a treat. Lamar has been touring with The New Mastersounds in recent years.
Savants of Soul are another fine young band I’m looking forward to and seeing for the first time since I’ve become friends with their drummer Benny Cannon. Here’s what he had to say about being able to perform at Suwannee Rising
Okay! Well, for starters we’re extremely excited! Suwannee Rising was the first gig that had to be cancelled for us once the world turned upside down, so to be back at SOSMP for the first time in almost 6 years now feels like a great way to step out of the wormhole and into the new normal. We’ve just wrapped recording some new music this past December, and have got a couple of singles coming out later this spring. Really looking forward to giving everybody a heavy dose of beautiful, energetic soul to carry them through their final day of the festival!