Our intrepid team of festival reporters, Diane and Milo Farineau, have packed up their cameras, notepads and other necessary items, and are heading south for a dose of jam grass at this weekend’s Suwanee Springfest in Live Oak, FL. As a preview, Milo contacted a number of the artists on the 2013 roster, and asked for some thoughts about the festival.
He first spoke with Tara Nevins of Donna The Buffalo, whose new record, Tonight, Tomorrow, And Yesterday, is due June 18 from Sugar Hill.
Donna The Buffalo have been playing at Spring Fest. every year since its beginning. We definitely feel like a part of the family; always feel so great to be there.
What are your fondest memories about this festival?
Many fond memories include several of our Sunday night finale sets with its collaborations and jamming between artists. Some of the late night or should I say all night jams off stage, I will always remember. Too many memories to mention.
Next up is Larry and Jenny Keel.
We’ve played a dozen or more events there at the Spirit of Suwanee site for the past 10 years or more, meaning, we’ve played lots of ‘spring fests,’ and the fall version called ‘mag fest.’ In the past, it’s been the same promoter group that handled both events. Now, I think they’re handled by separate entities. Both are still ultra cool and tons of fun.
Can you reference any special memories from past times worthy of note?
So many memories, and so many magical encounters with wonderful folks, both artists and fans alike… We’ve met some of the absolute dearest friends of a lifetime there at spring fest, people that we now see through the year in other places and settings. Not just once a year at spring fest.
A couple of unforgettable and special musical moments: playing on the amphitheater stage with Vassar Clements in our band. We backed him up on several occasions there at spring and mag fests, and many other events and venues across the country during the last years of his life. One particularly fun set with Vassar was when his cousin Carol got up and played and sang with us. You could see how much they loved each other as family, and the songs they chose to play and sing that day were so special and meaningful. Just wonderful.
Another recent epic moment was at last year’s spring fest (2012). We were booked to play as Larry Keel and Natural Bridge featuring Tony Rice, but Tony wasn’t well and could not attend that weekend. We played the set as our band, and in true Bluegrass/Jam-Love fashion, we invited tons of our artist pickin’ buddies who were also on the bill for the weekend, to come up and play some tunes and pay tribute to TR since he couldn’t be there. A whopping 19 people joined us on stage: Drew Emmit and his band mates, fellas from Greensky Bluegrass band, Elephant Revival, Great American Taxi, Darol Anger, Jeff Mosier, many many more. It was fantastic!
Larry sort of orchestrated whole sections of mandolins, then fiddles, then guitars, banjos, whatever needed the spotlight for the point in the song we were pickin. It all worked like magic! such a huge, impromptu jam, and on stage a lot of times, those can be chaotic and sloppy fun! But this was actually fun and super tight and powerful. I think the absentee spirit of Mr. Rice was sending his ultra classy, pro good wishes to all us while we paid homage to him. Great moment!
What do you like about the event/people who put it on.
They’re true, passionate music lovers ,and most of them are musicians themselves, so they definitely know the ins and outs of what inspires artists to give their best performances and enjoy the whole experience along with the fans and audiences. They do professional, classy presentation and production, without an overbearing, stiff corporate vibe. Very natural, very easy to work with… fun.
Who else is playing this year that you are excited about?
Love that we get to be with our long long time buddies, Leftover Salmon this year. Larry grew up playing music (and working in various day jobs) with founding member of LOS, the late great Mark Vann. So, he got to see the very beginning birth of that hugely pioneering and influential band. They’re the ones that started it ALL in the jamband movement. Their impact on us all is immeasurable, and we just LOVE their approach to playing music, engaging audiences, preserving musical heritages while reaching deep for adventures in spontaneous musical mayhem! Irresistible energy!
And of course, the rest of the line up is filled with all kinds of great stuff we can’t wait to soak up. We’ll probably be doing some random campsite jams with any number of pickin buddies roaming around all weekend… love that!
Are you guys working on any new recordings or side projects you can mention?
Larry’s been a busy bee, writing all kinds of cool new music. Hope to get a recording plan goin’ for sometime later this year – stay tuned!!
Vince Herman with Leftover Salmon had a few thoughts on Springfest as well.
“I’ve probably done ten festivals at the Suwannee music park and loved every one of them. My first was on the horde tour way back in the day. Spent a rowdy night golf carting around in a high altitude state, post widespread panic. It was way past dawn when we crawled back onto the bus. Now we are sure not to leave before Monday!
The site has all you need to do the festy right. Cabins. A river. Great food and an evolving family of festivillians that’s real glad to see each other every year. The woods are so great to walk through as a break from the chaos, then you jump right back in, all refreshed.
Always have a good time with the artists there. I loved the old days with vasser sitting in. He was the embodiment of a southern gentleman and the best fiddler ever. Of course the mccourys Pete Rowan Donna and the keels are the core these days. How could that get any better?
Salmon is going into the studio in Denver after the festival this weekend. Great American Taxi is close to releasing a live record. And I’ve got a real interesting project developing with Todd Snider coming up. Of course I love playing with my kids band Gipsy Moon, but right now I’m really into planting a garden in my new Oregon home.”
And frequent Keel collaborator, Keller Williams, shared a few Springfest impressions.
“I love that site. The Spanish moss is beautiful and trippy at night when its back lit by the moving lights. There always seems to be a real sense of community there with the festavarians. Friendships and bonds are created and celebrated there.
One very memorable experience there was when a branch holding a giant snake with a squirrel halfway in his mouth fell from a tree this during a song. I could see a circle forming, as it was an odd thing to see at a festival. No one was freaked out as the snake couldn’t move due his mouth being stretched open by the squirrel.
Animal control quickly moved in and all was fine but damn….that was wild.”
We’ll have reports from the Farineaus as Internet availability allows, during and after the festival.
UPDATE (4:48 p.m.) – We just heard from Ryan Cavanaugh that he will be playing Friday with Bill Evans’ Soulgrass.