One of the last big music events of 2021 isn’t happening in Brooklyn, NY, Denver, CO or Burlington, VT—it’s going down in Miami, FL. Set to take place on December 10 and 11 at the historic Bandshell Park in the heart of Miami, North Beach Music Festival is a two day curation of some of the most favorite names in jam, funk, fusion jazz and more.
A pretty new kind of experience for this location, North Beach is sure to be a historic occurrence for the live music scene. Headlining sets include Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Spafford, the latter of which are billed to deliver two very unique performances: one a fully improvisational set, the other a Friends set which will see them invite on stage guitar wizards Eric Krasno and Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, TAUK keyboardists Alric “A.C.” Carter and Marco Benevento, and Ghost-Note percussionist Nate Werth. Also set to perform at the festival are the likes of The Motet, Jennifer Hartswick and Brendan Bayliss, Karina Rykman, and a bunch more.
The above alone should get any lover of live funk and jam itching to hop on the next plane to Miami. But if you’re still on the fence, consider this: For what is essentially the area’s first event of this nature, North Beach is doing it up big time. How is that possible for a festival set to last just two days? Well, the lineup, which is stacked on its own already, is full of artists that have shared the stage before. North Beach is apt to feel way more like the funkiest, grooviest private party in the country than a regular two-day festival.
In the spirit of that, we’v picked out just a few of the artists from the list for some bold yet hopeful collaboration predictions. Included with our thoughts of course is some fresh listening material, so you can personally review the most recent of the brilliant musicians making up this year’s North Beach Music Festival.
Spafford’s Friends set is going to be one of those once-in-a-forever sets, something you’d kick yourself for years to come for not being in attendance for. But let’s focus on the improv set for a moment. Spafford has been priming themselves through their Fall Tour with three song, two song, and even one song sets, essentially refining and perfecting the art of arching full-band improvisation across the canvas of an hour-length live performance. North Beach, by lucky default, will get to host Spafford at their most comfortable, but also most creative, state of being so far. Listen to the from their set at Jefferson Theatre back in and then realize that North Beach you’ll get to hear the band play something as cool, if not even cooler, than this.
Prediction: North Beach will see one of the best, if not THE best, live Spafford set of the entirety of 2021.Live at The Jefferson Theatre | 10-26-21 | Charlottesville, VA by Spafford
Down there underneath the sizzling Miami sun, we’re going to need a party band—some big member, full-loaded funk-and-dance team more than capable of jacking up the energy level of a crowd to stellar heights. Good thing The Motet is on the bill for North Beach! Are they technically billed to collaborate with anybody at during the weekend? No, but we all know how these things go down. Mark our words, jazz funk sit-it veterans like keyboardist Joey Porter, drummer Dave Watts, and bassist Garrett Sayers, and the rest of The Motet, don’t come to a festival to NOT join in on the fun with everybody else.
Prediction: If Watts or Sayers somehow don’t make the rounds lending their maniacally funky technical skills to some other bands at North Beach, someone in The Motet will!
Here’s a statement: MonoNeon and Nate Werth are two of the most impressive musicians to hear at North Beach. Yeah, that’s a subjective statement. But its kind of like saying Victor Wooten is one of the best bassists on the planet—it’s almost objective fact. In the jam scene, MonoNeon and Werth have obliterated enough minds in late-night throw down slots, and collaborated with enough big names in impromptu live jam sessions around the live music circuit, that anybody familiar with the scene can speak to their individual and joint performance resumes. Literally any set of live music that MonoNeon or Werth join is automatically ensured to be that much more amazing. Werth is certainly going to help Spafford’s “Friends” set to be way more in pocket than it would already be, and MonoNeon we’re hoping takes some blistering bass slap solos in somebody’s set.
Prediction: MonoNeon will sit-in with AT least one other set at North Beach, probably Eric Krasno’s cool new jam funk project The Assembly, or possibly even with headliners Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, whose zany musical personality would invite the bassist’s own so naturally.
As we type this sentence, Holly Bowling, the classically trained, psychedelically-matured, savant solo keyboardist is probably tuning her grand piano in preparation for an all improv duo set with Tom Hamilton, lead guitarist for bands like Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Billy and The Kids, but also Ghost Light, a project started with Bowling. To say the least, like Spafford, Bowling will be more than warmed up to perform at her most freely creative for North Beach Music Festival. Even on a lineup of heavy-hitting funk, fusion and jam rock bands, Bowling is guaranteed to draw to her performance like a magnet the sustained focus and attention of festival attendees.
Prediction: It might be a far cry wish, but we think Holly is going to jump on stage for some double keyboard magic with Marco Benevento. Benevento was actually a big supporter of her since her first days, featured in the documentary about her rise to popularity Distillation of a Dream. But the two have not collaborated very much in the several years since, and North Beach would be the perfect setting to rectify.
Young but by this point in their career absolute pros of the live music circuit are the little band from Buffalo NY that could: four member prog-jam masters Aqueous. These guys, in addition to beefing up their own career of incredible tours, three-night runs, and festival appearances across the years, have been invited to share the stage with the best. Perhaps two of the coolest were the times they traded places on stage with Dopapod and moe. midway through an improvisational jam.
Prediction: One member of Aqueous at the very least, most likely lead guitarist Mike Gantzer, will get in on some of the collaboration action around North Beach. More specific part of the prediction, he’ll join Krasno and Taz in the Spafford Friends set for a four-man-guitar-mageddon throwdown. Lofty thinking, perhaps. But IMAGINE.
None of these predictions made above may come true. But what is guaranteed to happen is that North Beach Music Festival will bring a weekend of music to Miami that locals and traveling jam scene veterans, will never forget. Will you be with them?
To check out more info, and to purchase tickets, head to the festival’s website here.