Sunshine Music Fest ’17
I first heard about the band Railroad Earth from a good friend a couple of months back. She told me they were coming in concert and asked if I was interested in going. After some research on Spotify, I was instantly blown away. From lead singer Todd Sheaffer’s voice to Tim Carbone’s awe striking violin, something about their raw energy and genuine emotion connected with me. I knew I wasn’t going to miss this one, even though I already had plans to be hundreds of miles away for Umphrey’s McGee that weekend. When I learned the band was playing Sunshine Music Festival, headlined by Tedeschi Trucks Band, it was all the more reason to be there. As I read more of the lineup… Joe Russo, Mississippi All-stars, Mavis Stapleton, and Bruce Hornsby, I had to slow myself down and check what time my flight landed in Fort Lauderdale. Everything aligned perfectly with my flight landing at the right time and finding a Groupon to go to the show for almost half price.
The adventure was set to take place Sunday, January 15 at Mizner Park Amphitheatre, also known as The Count de Hoernle Amphitheater, which opened in 2002. In 2010, Boca Raton took over the ownership of the venue that holds 4,200 fans. It is a cultural and educational hub now, hosting events from community to commercial and is said to have entertained over a million people since it opened and now I have added myself to that number.
The security and staff at the gate were very friendly, and we made our way through the check with no problems at all. Just walking into the main courtyard I could feel I found another great venue. Our first stop was for a beer, as it should be. Hope you like Lagunitas as they sponsored the event. No worries from me as I drink many different beers and don’t mind trying a new one. As we began to walk around it wasn’t that crowded but it was still early as it did get full by the end of the day. The crowd was very diverse in age. There were very young kids to people I could have said were my parents or even grandparents, if only my grandparents had been deadheads.
My friend and I were waiting in the crowd for Railroad Earth to play, and we spotted Todd Sheaffer. He was gracious in taking a few photos with us and we thanked him for sharing his music. The show started soon after and from the first note they struck I knew I under estimated them. I had heard many great things about their improvisational skills, but I wasn’t fully prepared. Their take on Americana based newgrass style of jam is like no other. As Todd, Tim, John, Andy, Carey, and Andrew took turns playing solos the crowd danced without care and cheered them on. This is the kind of stuff I live for. As they finished playing, someone in the crowd yell out, “I’m quitting my job and following them on tour.” Their music has that effect on people.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead came on with a flood of dead heads of all ages in tow. The vibe was heady and the music flowed through the crowd and no one stood still. Russo has some credibility with Dead Heads. He was in the band Further with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir. His other credits are just as impressive. He is in Led Zeppelin tribute band, Bustle In Your Hedgerow, and Sphongle. (Side note, I saw Bustle at Bonnaroo in 2013 play a crazy late night set that was criminally under attended.) The band played some greats like “I Know You Rider”, “Sugar Magnolia”, and “Fire on the Mountain.” Although I am too young to have ever witnessed Jerry Garcia live myself, I was fortunate to see Dead & Co with John Mayer last summer at Bonnaroo in Tennessee. This show captured the same spirit and feeling as that one. The music of The Dead is somehow personal and universal at the same time. This show lived up to that legend.
I originally stumbled on the music of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks in a bit of an accident. My sister recommended I check them out after confusing them with another act with a similar sounding name. What a great accident it was. I’ve seen Tedeschi Trucks Band before, but it was nothing as well put together as they were on Sunday. They are well known for their soulful blues style jam rock. Susan has a voice like Janis Joplin and the fingers like Jimi Hendrix. Both Susan and Derek are well-known and well honored musicians. They have spent their lives as working musicians, Susan fronting her own bands and Derek as a member of The Allman Brothers Band. Their experience and passion for guitar, blues, and soul is alive in every performance. Susan came out for an encore to honor the late Leon Russell, then brought the house down finishing off the four song encore with “With a Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles.
Music is a special and important part of any live music show, but the people in the crowd build the atmosphere the musicians feed off. There was some fun, energetic people at Sunshine, but I must mention Walt. I met Walt during Bruce Hornsby. I bumped into him and apologized, and he thanked me. He stood with a cane. He told me I was the first to say something to him all day after an accidental bumping. We started talking about a positive life, being kind to others, live music and all the acts we had seen. We said goodbye after a bit and were on our way. I figured I’d never see him again, but I came across him after Tedeschi and we spoke for a minute. He said someone in the seats noticed he was having a hard time standing and gave him their seat. I don’t know who it was or if they will ever see this, but I thank them for their kindness. We are all here together and must learn to love one another. For me this was a positive end to a weekend filled with music, dancing, friends, and love. While saying goodbye to a good friend I’d spent the day with, she told me Moe is playing a pre Jam Cruise set in Fort Lauderdale this Thursday. The board was set and the next course was plotted. I’ll see you out there.