"That was amazing," said one Aura Fest attendee, gazing out into the clear, blue sky. It was Monday morning, and the mood on the grounds was calm, like the rest period at the end of a yoga session. "I worked through some stuff that I really needed to work through."
He went on to say how healing it was to connect with his fellow festgoers. "Usually, the way life is set up these days, we're encouraged to tune out, to hide, to watch TV or stay in our private little rooms. Here, none of that is available. All there is to do is be with each other."
Just then, from behind, another young guy holding a large, styrofoam cup came walking up announcing: "Free beer!" It being time to go home, people were giving away all that they didn't feel like lugging back to their everyday worlds, including beer.
The way the fest was organized allowed for high-flying, joyous celebration as well as self-reflection, healing, and insight. It was small, intimate, and friendly. And these qualities did not come about accidentally. The organizers of the fest did a great job of creating an environment that was conducive to fun while at the same time remaining attentive so that people's needs were met and things never got out of hand.
Friday night the rain came down steadily, for hours and hours. People set up their tents in the rain, cheered the beginning of the fest in the rain, and migrated to the stages together, in the rain, to watch the bands play. There were groans at the weather, but almost always followed by laughter. Mother Nature was not being questioned or criticized.
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Boca's Funky Nuggets were among the bands to kick off the fest on Friday afternoon. There was much buzz into the evening not only about their jams but about guitarist Frankie Sensimilla shedding more than just his shoes while rocking the stage.
Monday morning, he came riding by in the passenger seat of a golf cart. "Did you hear about the guy from the Funky Nuggets getting naked on stage?"
"I did," I said. "Am I looking at him right now?"
"Fuck yeah, I'm him," he said, laughing proudly.
He then asked that I call his penis a "wee wee" in my article.
Later on Friday night, the Heavy Pets hit the stage for a blast-off late-night set. By the time they came on, the rain had passed, to the delight of everyone ready to shed their ponchos and party. The band was energized and on point, getting into deep, textured jams and rocking out their poppy tunes with precision. It was a fun set, right on time to set things into a good forward motion on night one.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville's Greenhouse Lounge reportedly performed one of the best sets many of its fans had ever seen it play. And the people kept rocking on into the soggy night.