311's Pow Wow Festival in Live Oak, FL
Veteran rockers 311 recently held their first ever three day music festival at the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Veteran rockers 311 recently held their first ever three day music festival at the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park in Live Oak Florida. From August 4th- 6th, fans from around the country witnessed 17 bands and djs perform on two stages. In true festival spirit, the audience of 20,000 also participated in camping, hiking, swimming, and canoeing along the historic and beautiful Suwanee River. Each day was a new adventure full of highlights for 311 fans and everybody on the grounds.
Day 1: Thursday August 4th
Arriving throughout the day, ticketed fans were given access to primitive camping sites as well as RV parking and VIP tents and spent the day setting up camp, touring the campgrounds and enjoying the natural essence of the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park. Promptly at 6 pm, DJ Trichrome began spinning classic reggae and dancehall hits on the second stage. One of the great things about the Pow Wow Festival was that every performance began promptly according to schedule. Mixing reggae greats from Buju Banton to Bob Marley, DJ Trichrome spun hits throughout the dinner hour, with many campers dancing around tents and playing a few rounds of beer pong.
As 7:30 pm rolled around, audience members made their way to the main stage to witness hip hop artist Murs take the stage. Murs began his set with a few of his hip hop pieces, but quickly changed direction as he introduced Jacksonville's Whole Wheat Bread, a punk rock trio that, together with Murs, made up the group they called The Invincibles. The foursome played punk covers for the bulk of their set, including a rocking medley of 90's dance hits like "It Takes Two," and a punk cover of "Walk Like An Egyptian," at which time Murs and the crowd displayed their best dance impressions of Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. While Murs may have admitted to missing a verse, and guitarist Aaron Abraham may have inadvertently knocked the 1/4" inch cable out of his guitar, who cares? This was punk rock, and Murs and Whole Wheat Bread proved that punk's not dead.
Following Murs was a breathtaking performance on the main stage by Virginia-based reggae band SOJA. Playing for over an hour, SOJA captivated its audience with lead singer Jacob Hemphill's Bob Marley-like stage presence. Their set was highlighted by a twenty-something minute long medley that introduced bassist Bobby Lee's baritone vocals and knee length dreads, and crossed genres from rocksteady to ska, metal to punk. The sound engineer did an immaculate job balancing the horns, backing vocals, and guitars as they played their single "I Don't Wanna Wait." SOJA was truly a highlight of the festival, bringing an essence to the atmosphere that must have transcended from Jah.
After SOJA's performance, Sacramento's Deftones took the stage at 10:30, rounding off the night on the main stage. While lead singer Chino Moreno's vocals were way to low in the mix, it was guitarist Stephen Carpenter's lack of stage presence and typical one or two chord patterns that left this writer unimpressed. Of course, I have never been much of a fan of the Deftones, even after seeing them live approximately four to five times. Plenty of audience members were impressed, however, and that's what counts. It was apparent though, that the Deftones have become a more cohesive band recently as opposed to seeing them live several years ago.
DJ Soulman brought the night to its end as he turned the second stage into a nightclub, playing club hits that encouraged the continuation of alcohol consumption till the 2 am marker.
Day 2: Friday August 5th
The main stage sound engineer did a wonderfully sarcastic job waking up the near 20,000 attendants by playing Britney Spear's "Hit Me Baby One More Time" for a 9:30 am sound check. At one point during the sound check, Jacob Hemphill and Bobby Lee of SOJA joined Whole Wheat Bread on the second stage for an impromptu jam session in which they covered Outkast's "Rosa Parks" among others. Scheduled bands started shortly after, with The Movement at noon, followed by Full Service and Streetlight Manifesto.
The main stage started off the afternoon hosting The Dirty Heads at 4 pm, and it was during this set that fans witnessed Sublime's lead singer, Rome take the stage for the first time that day. The Dirty Heads and Rome played their current single "Lay Me Down" at the close of their set, which was well played throughout its entirety.
Reel Big Fish, the next scheduled performance, cancelled their set at Pow Wow due to lead singer/guitarist Aaron Barrett falling ill. According to Absolutepunk.net, the band cancelled the Pow Wow Festival and one other tour date after doctors decided it best to hold Barrett overnight for monitoring.
To compensate for the dead time on stage, Sublime with Rome took the stage at 6:30 as opposed to 7 pm. The crowd at the main stage had grown to bountiful numbers by that time, and all in attendance joined in karaoke-style for every original sublime song the quartet played (a dj took the stage with them). The highlight of the performance occurred as Sublime with Rome played several songs from "Yours Truly," their new album. These songs, including "Take It Or Leave It" and "Lovers Rock," rival original sublime hits with their lyrical quality and add new dimensions as Rome's vocals take a slightly different direction from Bradley Nowell's. The new songs from "Yours Truly" should see radio success and plenty of spins in the near future.
As the sun went down, and Sublime with Rome wrapped up their mosh-pit and karaoke inducing set with "What I Got," the crowd centered their chi, and everyone prepared for 311's first night of double sets. 311's first set rocked the audience with solos by drummer Chad Sexton and legendary bassist P-Nut. Of course, the hoards of nearby Florida State University students initiated the Seminole warchant during the set, adding meaning to 311's already crisp and intricate performance.
The stage lighting was on point during both sets, adding an additional visionary realm to their well-rehearsed and energetic performance. The sound was crystal clear as everything from Doug Martinez's scratching to Tim Mahoney's guitar riffs were perfectly nestled in place. The crowd was on point with glow sticks and lighters as they added to the visual stimulation of the performance. After the double-set by 311, DJ Soulman again ended the night on the second stage by recreating your classic nightclub scene... except in this nightclub, everyone wore bikinis and boardshorts.
Day 3: Saturday August 6th
The sound engineer once again thought it would be hilarious to wake up all the campers with obnoxious music during sound check. This time, he played a bit of John Travolta and "Grease Lightning." Congratulations to him, he successfully pissed off everybody at once for the second day in a row.
DJ Trichrome again started the day by spinning on the second stage, drawing a crowd of noon-time drunk partiers to enjoy the sunshine and reggae/dancehall mix. Shinobi Ninja followed with a shockingly energetic performance at 1:30 pm. A mix of rap, metal and ska, Shinobi Ninja left an impression for many audience members seeing them for the first time. The only female vocalist on the festival's bill, Baby G sounded somewhat similar to Zack de la Rocha of Rage, which helped for songs like "Blaow," and when they went into a montage of metal/rap in the middle of their set.
Ballyhoo followed with a 3 pm performance. The Baltimore quartet delivered their signature ska sound, trumping The Supervillians, who followed immediately after on the main stage. Their socially awkward pop-punk/ska sound was a bit disappointing as it didn't translate to the stage as well as one might have imagined. Ozomatli's performance was one of the highlights of the festival, as they initiated a drum-circle jam session amidst the crowd only to conclude their set with thousands howling the "Ole, Ole" soccer chant as they marched backstage.
G-Love freshened up the atmosphere, paying tribute to the land of the Suwanee with his southern blues swagger and down-south-grit harp. Breaking out covers from the Wu and others, he jazzed his way through some unusual combinations of rap, delta blues, and zydeco influences.
Doug Benson, star of the cult-classic documentary "Super High Me," took the stage with Graham Elwood, but they were too high to tell any jokes.
311 played the second night of their show, which felt like a continuation of the first night. Oddly enough, frontmen Doug Martinez and Nick Hexum were wearing the same clothes, and guitarist Tim Mahoney forgot to change his pants. It was almost as if they were planning to edit the two nights together for a 4-hour live dvd. I had honestly expected that, given the artistic freedom that comes from playing four 90 minute sets, 311 might have experimented a bit more. An acoustic set would have been amazing, or at the least a few more breakdowns and solos.
Mixmaster Mike wrapped up the 3-day event by taking over the club scene at stage two, with a superior mix of hip hop, rock and trance. His drops, scratching patterns, and heavy trance and techno grooves completed the rave vibe under-toning the entire festival. The set ended around 2 am, at which time the campers continued with their own sporadic jam sessions until the wee hours of the morning.
Throughout the festival, there seemed to be no serious problems over the three days. The park staff was friendly and inviting, the crowd was fun-loving and responsible. The sound guy was a jerk, but the resulting comedy was well worth it. 311's first attempt at hosting a three day festival was a success. The highlights for me were Murs, SOJA and Ozomatli's performances. Doug Benson still didn't tell any jokes. Overall, 311's Pow Wow festival was a good investment in time and money. But really, Doug... no jokes?