AURA Music Festival | Florida | Review

Words by: Natasha Gaye | Images by: Natasha Gaye & Travis Rathburn

AURA Music & Arts Festival :: 01.14.11-01.16.11 :: Crescent J Ranch :: St. Cloud, FL

AURA Festival 2011
After the success of last year’s event, this year’s AURA Music & Arts Festival would be a three day function held at the Crescent J Ranch , located on a 4,700 acre natural wildlife conservation found on the secluded outskirts of town. After hearing about the amazing music that took place the previous year, I looked forward to spending my time confined to the open spaces of this beautiful conservation wilderness during the best season for natives of the Sunshine State. The lineup was stacked with some 34 bands and DJs local to the region and the roaring Southeast circuit. The creators of this affordable grassroots festival also included workshops for the hungry, yoga classes for the able bodied, a drum clinic/workshop for dexterous percussionists and a songwriting workshop for assiduous poets. This year’s inaugural Greencyle Program offered incentives to leave only your footprints upon departure, offering festival attendees tools to separate and recycle their own trash. Positioned central to the north and south regions of the state, this festival was accessible and affordable for the zealous music enthusiasts that claim domain in Florida.

Labyrinth :: AURA Festival 2011
The general camp grounds were along a straight path a mile in length situated between the lush eco-friendly landscape. Trees and native tropical plants filled the vast space on the surrounding sides. The short walk to the stage was a definite pleasure. The Burnin Smyrnans had begun and this five-piece band was creating a fierce, ample sound with technical, psychedelic guitar licks that were complimented by a tenacious rhythm section. This was a great way to celebrate the sun traveling past the western horizon.

Due to the stages being set up next to each other, the only overlapping that would take place were the artists that played in the Rage Tent. Aquarium and Labyrinth, who might know better as Brandon Maynard and Elliott Vaughn from The Malah. These two side projects bring a resonant drench of ambient sounds and minimalist tropical beats.

After getting my fill I hoofed over to the energetic trio Diocious. It was fun watching them play as their sound dispersed like electricity through a strong current, going in and out of spacey transitions with punkish fragments in their solos. You could see this wasn’t just a gig but an act of pure enjoyment as they teased Michael Jackson and Santana.

Green Hit :: AURA Festival 2011
Green Hit was a festival favorite, blending organic instruments and effects with a touch of synths to create an overwhelming, blissful tone that ruptured the monitors. Then, The Malah hit the stage for their first of two sets of the weekend. Arranging abstract, exotic soundscapes that flowed through the crowd and filled the air as the fog covered the grounds and created an eerie, incongruous spectrum during the night.

Next, Greenhouse Lounge was geared up and ready to drop some electronic heavy dub beats to take the night into a dance party. The music was scheduled to stop around 6 am but Zoogma would make sure they passed their curfew. Traveling from the Midwest, this five-piece was ready to deliver heavy grooves that fluxed into electronic mayhem that ranged far enough to grab any listeners attention.



Saturday

AURA Festival 2011
A new day had begun and was filled with more diverse artists to indulge in. The temperature was rising as the tents began to shake and people headed to the grounds. Sosos was the right band to get the day started with. The bass resonated through beautifully on the upright, and the brushes grazing the drum kit only added to their appeal, though it was the pump organ that made their acoustic soul sound the perfect combination.

The day was filled with auditory and visual treats everywhere you turned. A month prior to the turning of the new year, Crazy Fingers had just celebrated their 20th anniversary. I know many bands love to cover their favorite Grateful Dead songs but this South Florida band knows how to do it better than most. Cohesive to a T, this afternoon delight was exactly what was needed.

AURA Festival 2011
NOISE [ORG], Damn Right! and a handful of DJs that were showcased impressed me. I was glad the lineup was eclectic enough to add such great finds, though it was the funky electronic jam fusion band Aquaphonics that really blew me away and then some. Dropping a cover of Miike Snow’s “Animal” displayed their capabilities at taking a sound and making it into their own.

The Heavy Pets were a man down but they still put on a great show, and Lather Up, a Pets side project, threw down in the Rage Tent in the wee hours of the morning. Papadosio has been taking the East Coast jam scene by storm. With two sets at AURA this year, this up and coming, positive, lyrical jamtronica band is sweeping the scene and causing a lust for live music. The early morning was closed out with some deep house from DJ Craig Heneveld. The bewitched allure of his hypnotizing beats captured the sleepless bodies as they greeted the sun.

Sunday

Sunday afternoon showcased an abundance of positive, uplifting music to get you in check and at peace with the beautiful surroundings. The Savi Fernandez Band had a light touch of reggae wrapped in constructive lyrics, and it wasn’t too long before Roosevelt from The Lee Boys jumped on stage and sat in with his new custom pedal steel guitar.

Next, Cypress continued the feel good semblance with some funk and delightful grooves. I was fortunate to catch The Resolvers. This uplifting reggae band had a four-piece horn section that added so much to their roots reggae sound. Impressed with their guitarist, lead vocals and extremely talented drummer, I was assured of my convictions when they dubbed out Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.”

Shak Nasti w/ Roosevelt :: AURA Festival 2011
As the sun set and the cool breeze sat in I was excited to see Shak Nasti plugging in for their set. This trio is a fine example of raw talent, creating an ample sounds that’s anything but meek. Acid jazz, funk, soul, blues and even some dubbed out break beats are layered over soothing vocals and meticulous rhythmic drum patterns that compliment the heavy, funky bass licks and intricate guitar chords. This sound was only heightened when Roosevelt joined in for half of their set and made his lap steel scream and dispense a boisterous rough twang that ripped right through the polished sound this band creates. This is a must-see collaboration for any music enthusiast.

This beautiful January weekend was filled with choice local and regional bands, and it was more than uplifting to see the community come out to support local music. This sold out festival was a grassroots production for all ages to enjoy. Thank you Daryl Wolff, Brotherly Love Productions , Hurricane Mountain Sound , Music Is Our Therapy and Hellbent Productions for making this festival possible. The volunteers and entire production crew made this a wonderful weekend for diehard music admirers. I can only imagine what next year’s winter will hold.

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