It was a last minute thing, but I finally got to see my first Florida Music Festival, and I’m so happy that I experienced my first taste of it.
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The festival has been entertaining Orlando music fans for fifteen years, celebrating local and indie music, and bringing some much needed culture to our city, but somehow, I never really knew much about it. This time, I literally got my invite a few days before, and had to squeeze in my festival time around previous commitments Thursday night and all day Saturday, but it was well worth it, because in the eight hours I was there, I was exposed to a plethora of fantastic new music.
The festival boasts some excellent industry events including compelling keynote speakers, special events and workshops, but for this year at least, I had to limit my participation to the musical showcases. With 125 artists packed into the three days, I had plenty of interesting, talented options to choose from.
Here are a few of my personal highlights:
- Best Bands:
- Blaine The Mono – I always enjoy these talented Orlando rockers and just love Randi Stickles vocals. Thier impromptu set-up on the floor of Bullitt Bar made this set just a bit more intimate, too.
- Magazine Society – This Miami band played in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater in the Annual Florida Grammy Showcase and stole the show. They were energetic and polished live and had an excellent sound.
- Magic City Hippies – They brought their distinctive beach flair down from South Florida and dished out an engaging and unique blend of rock, blues and ska that left me thirsting for more.
- Gary Lazer Eyes – This quartet from the Melbourne/Orlando area was my favorite new discovery. Their unique approach to rock music boasts a heavy reggae vibe that’s just a blast to listen and move to.
- Jonnie Morgan Band – The Orlando seven-piece squeezed into Side Show and delivered a raucous set punctuated by an electric three piece brass section, and highlighted by Morgan climbing up on a counter and practically singing from the sidewalk.
- Favorite Venue – My first trip into the Dr. Phillips Center’s Pugh Theatre was wonderful. The acoustics and sightlines were perfect in the cozy theater where they held the Grammy Showcase. I also LOVED the Wall Street set-up with two rotating stages bracketing the bars and party-goers inside.
- Best Bargain – the musical showcases were FREE! 125 bands for zero dollars? That’s just unheard of these days and an absolutely amazing deal for local music fans. Kudos to Coors Light, the Downtown Development Board and JetBlue for making that happen.
- The FMF Staff and Volunteers – I spoke to at least a dozen folks working the show and every single one of them was happy, gracious and patient. They took an excellent well-run event and made it just a little bit better.
- Most Dynamic Performer – Alex Baugh of The Crazy Carls just drips with charisma. Although, their music was not my favorite at the festival, Baugh is a captivating front man who demands attention… constantly…
- Lemonade – Kudos to The Jonnie Morgan Band for taking a rough situation and making the best of it. They were unexpectedly moved from the Main Stage onto the tiny stage at Side Show and still delivered a great set. They squeezed in, improvised, smiled and kicked ass.
- Lemons – The Noise Ordinance issues that sent Jonnie Morgan inside also cost me and a nice showing of fans the chance to see Kasson take the stage Thursday night. Silver lining is that they got to close that stage out on Friday night. The noise issues need to be resolved in future years.
It was really a fantastic experience, and I’m still bummed out that I basically only caught half of the festival, but there’s no doubt that I’ll be on board for the full festival in 2016!
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