Aura Music and Arts Festival Review
by Bryan Bailey
photos copyright August J Photography
People come to festivals from all different directions and intentions. We started off our trip from the mountains of Virginia, ecstatic to become a part of such the wonderful Aura Music and Arts Festival. The drive was supposed to be 11 hour trip, but due to the crazy storm that decided to grace us with its presence in most the states we had to travel through to reach the festival, it became an adventure right off the bat. We drove through snow, ice, wind, and even witnessed trees falling all over the place, but nothing was going to stop us from reaching our destination. We drove straight on through the night and treacherous weather.
Once we saw our last exit into Suwannee we knew we were home. Spirit of the Suwannee park greets us with Spanish moss stretching out through the trees, and a new billboard with lights shining us to the entrance into the festival. Thankfully Car Camping is available at Suwannee because we brought way too much stuff then was needed. As soon as we parked we started to set up camp, with our star shade tent stretching right out onto one of the decks that comes out on the water, facing directly toward the three geese in beautiful Spirit Lake. All three geese were lit up and we were told by our neighbor that they had not been lit at the same time for quite a while.
The campground was once again transforming into a festival wonderland with lights and tapestries turning the once just woods into small communities and roads. It was great at Aura because you never had to walk too far. The main stages were the Amphitheater stage, Porch Stage, and the Technaflora Music Hall. There was also a silent disco and tent stage that was mostly for yoga and similar things. Food vending was off the main road on the way down from camping and on the way to the main two stages which was very convenient so you never had to wander to far from your music or campsite to get some great food.
On Friday the music kicked off at 2PM with Displace and then the Resolvers to greet everyone still coming into the venue and unpacking their things. As soon as Papadosio took the stage you knew immediately they were a big reason a lot of people had come to get down, you could tell by the energy and dancing of everyone in the crowd. Conspirator and Kung Fu who were supposed to play on Friday night got caught up in the storm and couldn’t make it out that night, so Earth Cry went on to fill in. Even though the crowd wished the other headliners would play, all were to happy to hear and sway. After the music ended we strolled on back to the campsite to drink and laugh and talk about the eventful day.
Saturday one of my favorite bands Pigeons Playing Ping Pong kicked it off right with their funk and soul, even throwing in some old school Mario tunes. They had the crowd getting down the whole time. We were gazing around the wonderful visionary art tent that had been set up and found one of my favorite people and painters Annie Bennett. She told me that Marco Benevento was coming on around 5, and that I could not miss it, so we decided to go set up and paint live for his set. It was an amazing set to paint to, and I definitely won’t miss a chance to catch him again! As the day progressed the weather rapidly dropped. I had to go grab a heavy jacket and gloves to be able to finish off the night after Papadosio. Lotus came on and brought some heat, which we all needed. We were dancing so hard to keep warm while we could see every breath we exhaled. When they played “Ball of Wax” every single person was dancing and getting into the groove. Some of the live painters were using their hair dryers, which was usually used for paint, to warm each other up. The Werks closed out Saturday in style in the Technaflora Music Hall. They were definitely ready to put it all out there for the fans, and it was one of the best sets I’ve seen them play. As everyone left the music hall they quickly ran back to their campsites or to the closest fire possible to get away from the cold.
As the light started to come through the Spanish moss over Spirit Lake and the mist started to flow away from our deck I knew we better call it a night because we had one more to go and we had to close it out right. As I awoke Sunday to the ever-playing music and tunes from the surrounding campsites the weather was already so much warmer and brighter.
Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and at ease. We strolled on down to get coffee and some delicious food from the food vendors just in time to catch Lucky Costello and then Earphunk start off the day and get everybody back in their dancing shoes. I moseyed on over and set up to paint for The Werks, but could barely paint because they were getting down so hard that I just had to keep dancing. Everyone in the crowd just wanted them to keep playing more and more. Dopapod killed it on the Porch Stage it was the biggest crowd all weekend at that stage, so full of energy. Lotus came back on to seal the deal. The crowd was just ready to keep on going forever. Finally it came to an end as we all packed up our easels and the crowd started to disperse back to campsites or to just roam around and meet new friends. We made our way out to the fields in the far back of the campsite to a bonfire we had heard was going on with a nice bit of people. When we finally found it we all sat around with new friends and old and laughed and told each other funny things that had been happened to people in our groups. After the conversation wound down, we went back to our site and closed the night out with a little more drinks and some food.
The next day we were excited to finally catch the “All You Can Eat Breakfast” we had been trying to take advantage of the whole time but never seemed to be able to make it. It was delicious and just what we all needed to end the festival right. We began the dreaded pack up but were all in good moods and talking about how we couldn’t wait to be back in this magical venue for Aura once again. As we left back out I made sure to take a long look and mental picture at the lake and Spanish moss to last me until next time.