This past weekend was a holiday for some, but not for me. I was only able to attend 24 hours of the three-day Aura Music Festival, but I certainly made the most of it. Held at the sublime Seratoma Youth Ranch in Brooksville, Florida (about 45 miles outside of Tampa), this inaugural edition of the event exceeded expectations.
Arriving during Greenhouse Lounge's daytime set, I was instantly rewarded for my drive and devotion by their rumbling dub basslines and pumping electronica beats. Although the afternoon untz aided campsite set-up, I hear the Jacksonville five-piece's Friday late-night set created a more accommodating atmosphere.
Then Tampa's Cope, who recently played at Fort Lauderdale's Dive Bar, took the main stage with a mix of covers and originals that had party people bopping in all corners of the campground. But Papadosio was the first band to really start the magnetic migration towards the main stage, with their signature brand of electro-funk and jam tendencies.
While feeding the resident cattle Spanish moss over a barbed wire fence, my group discussed the success of this event. It really says something about the dedication and strength of our underground music community. Aura was designed as a gateway to Florida for regional acts from around the country, and was promoted exclusively through word of mouth and regulated entirely by volunteers. And still, more than 700 music lovers were able to share each other's company in a beautiful, stress-free environment that afforded bands the opportunity to perform for many new ears.
The show turned into a fiery roast and a hell of a send-off to one of the most talented bands in the Florida jam scene: Brother Bean
. It was hard to believe that what started four-and-a-half years ago at a Melbourne house party was coming to an end on this night in such grand fashion. It was fitting that this fest would host the band's smashing send-off, as it was organized by the band's long-time sound tech, Daryl Wolff, and his newly formed, Boca-based Aura Music Events.
Not only is Brother Bean made up of a great group of guys with a tremendously dedicated fan base, they have a serious knack for entertaining. You have to admire their acute focus on production quality; from early on, the band has enlisted a lighting director and that aforementioned sound technician.
Gazing upon the stage through a haze of fog machines electrified by strobing LED light effects and surrounded by a steady shower of winter rain, I was immersed in a crowd of frenzied fans. Easing into their first of two sets with "Crateful" and "The Way", it was the "Circle Round" and Russ Neidhardt's ultra funky bass bombs that jammed into "Stratosphere" that really got the crowd rockin'. Known for mixing in amusing covers, the boys of Bean then added The Rentals' "Friends of P" to ease the mood. The somber yet intense "Black Tie Affair" acted as a launch pad for the visceral "Patterns," landing on the funky bounce and reggae chops of a phenomenal version of "Sight (unseen)" before closing the set with "The Scene Before" amidst Eric Flint's ripping guitar riffs and the thumping bass drum and accenting cymbal crashes of Pat Livezey.
A brief setbreak/rainbreak allowed all to regroup, refresh, and make necessary adjustments to mind, body, and soul. The main acts performed under a covered pavilion that festival goers furnished with picnic tables and there was at least one cooler front and center to alleviate fans' need to run off for refreshments. Adjacent to the main stage, there was the "Rage Tent" for DJ acts to keep the beat alive, including Tampa's DJ Craig Heneveld at this particular break.
Brother Bean's second set took off immediately with a rip-roaring "William III," the moe.-like stop/start jams of "Auntie Em," and the bass-driven "Tomorrow's Song." A bourbon-inspired take on Ween's "Booze Me Up and Get Me High" followed as an impromptu dedication to an extremely grateful fan. The the band delved back into Bean standards and fan favorites "Yo Mamma," a "Better Days" segue into "Sake of Names," and "Fast Times;" the atter built into the Fun Loving Criminals' "Scooby Snacks." The set ended with the synth-heavy "All Good," band favorite "Au Jeah!," and a nod to the future with "Better Days."
Festival organizer and sound guy extraordinaire Wolff then jumped on keys. And to Pat's initial dismay, an emotional Russ then invited fans on stage for the "Famous Amos" encore that instrumentally quoted Phish's "Down With Disease." Those fans added the lyrics, "This has all been wonderful but now I'm on my way" for a fitting end to a blissful night of music and the final stop of a band's magical journey.
Personal Bias: Brother Bean has been an integral part of the development of my company, Brotherly Love Production. The band has performed at two of our legendary parties, and will be sorely missed by our crew.
Random Detail: Boca Raton's angelic Emily Carroll and Deerfield Beach's big bad Bill Talley did South Florida proud, performing solo acoustic sets Sunday afternoon before Stuart's Aquaphonics brought their electric aqua-boogie to the main stage. Make sure to keep an eye out for these two up-and-coming local acts.
By The Way: Cope (from Tampa), Papadosio (from Athens, Ohio), and the Malah (from Greenville, South Carolina) are high-quality, genre-bending bands that are worth checking out. They all will most likely swing through South Florida in the not-too-distant future.