AURA Music and Arts Festival
March 6-8, 2015
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, FL
by Abi Gomez
Leaving the frigid snowstorms of the northeast and arriving in Live Oak, Florida in early March brings automatic expectations of sunshine and fun. Though the sunshine component of the Sunshine State was elusive on the first day of AURA, the weekend proved to be exceptional, although at times chilly, and there was an abundance of fun to be had by all!
Tucked away off of a rural highway in Florida’s northern panhandle, The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park hosted the 6th annual AURA Music and Arts Festival on the first weekend of March. The park is stunning, with pristine oak and cypress forests dripping with Spanish moss, a rolling river, and endless amounts of space.
AURA Music and Arts Festival is an incredible experience for music lovers, art lovers, and nature lovers, fostering peaceful and serene experiences combined with the energetic beauty and seemingly non-stop music that is a result of over 30 bands and artists, and around 5000 fans. The ambience created speaks of creative expression, generosity and brotherly love. Aura and the Suwannee Music Foundation even hosted a canned food drive outside of the entrance, emphasizing their commitment to helping others, sharing the love and fostering the kind vibe present the entire weekend.
The music at AURA was out of this world. The enthusiastic and talented musicians were able to keep the crowds dancing all day and throughout the night. Centered around jam bands, such as headliners The Disco Biscuits and MOE., the fusion of exciting sounds, like Papadosio’s jamtronica, with funk chords from The Main Squeeze and rock riffs from Jimkata, left the joyful AURA crowds invigorated, impassioned, and wanting more!
AURA’s three stages, tent and lounge allowed for music to cascade constantly over the grounds of the three-day festival, and the crowds migrated happily between the music venues for the electrically engaging performances. In front of the Amphitheater stage, set back from the dancing, were dozens of hammocks tied to forest trees, strung up for communal use and enjoyment by the people. Lounging in nature, music lovers could enjoy the exciting sounds of the talented musicians in a harmonic and peaceful setting.
Along with The Disco Biscuits, MOE., Papadosio, Jimkata and The Main Squeeze, some of the other outstanding musicians from AURA 2015 included Break Science Live Band, The Motet, Kung Fu, Dopapod, The Heavy Pets, TAUK, The Mantras, RAQ, Funkin’ Grateful, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Consider the Source, among many others.
The visual effects and light shows employed by the musicians and artists at AURA were a complete delight to the senses. During the day bright and vibrant colors bounced around the market area, stages and throughout the forest, as fans adorned in colors of the rainbow walked, danced, laughed and celebrated. The visual art tent set up in the middle of the market area of AURA hosted the art of festival painters such as Andrew Wagner, and the visual art scene extended to the Amphitheater stage and the Porch stage, as canvases and murals were set up to allow the live painters to interact with both the amazingly inspirational music and the artistic passion of the crowd, comprised of hoopers, dancers, fairies, families and fans from around the country. At night, the skies became electrified, as neon colors sparkled among the trees, and the sky was aglow with artistically timed, colorful lights. Hoops with light created beautiful spirals and sacred patterns, with the music dancing along with the illuminated brilliance. The woods and visual effects created a living space, pulsating with the power of the music, and the hearts of the fans.
AURA kicked off on Friday afternoon, with Fusik’s funky beats delighting fans on the Amphitheater stage. The Mantras followed on the Porch Stage, and the fun, energetic tone was set for the rest of the weekend. The Mantras finished their set with a brilliant mash-up of the Talking Head’s “Burning Down the House” and the Grateful Dead’s “Fire on the Mountain”. Jimkata followed The Mantras, with their electro-pop, almost 80’s sound. The Heavy Pets had a fantastic 11 song set on the Porch stage, followed by two full sets from MOE. on the Amphitheater stage. For the last song of their second set, MOE. played an extended version of “Bearsong” leading into “Meat”, joined by special guest Mike Dillon on the xylophones for a mind-blowing duet. After MOE. Dopapod took the Porch Stage, with Funkin’ Grateful’s soulful sounds lighting up the Music Hall stage. Papadosio closed down the evening at the Amphitheater, while Pigeons Playing Ping Pong played in the Music Hall until 3:30 Saturday morning. The fans still wanting to dance and enjoy music into the wee hours of the morning had the option of going to the Vibe tent for the Silent Disco, which went until 5am.
With over 12 hours of continuous music, Saturday would prove to be an incredible day as well. Consider the Source eased the festival into Saturday afternoon, followed by Ghost Owl. The Motet reinvigorated the chilly masses with an upbeat set, complete with Earth, Wind and Fire and P Funk covers, and a special appearance by Eli Winderman of Dopapod. The Main Squeeze took over the evening starting with their funky version of “PYT”, and the festival only got better from there! Papadosio thrilled viewers at the Amphitheater stage, with RAQ playing at the Porch stage afterwards. The Disco Biscuits started the first of their two full sets with “The World is Spinning”, and the dancing never stopped. They played until close to 2am, electrifying the crowds with their contagious jamtronic sound! TAUK played their first set that night in the Music Hall, staggered between the Disco Biscuit’s sets, and American Babies closed down the stage after that. For the second night, the Silent Disco was available for those still wanting to dance, from 2-5am in the Vibe tent.
It’s the last day, and it’s hard to believe it’s almost over, but the musicians and artists at AURA give no indication that the blissfully warm, sunny day will ever end, as the bands taking the stages delivered relentlessly festive sets. TAUK took over the Amphitheater stage in the afternoon with their second set of the festival, with the McLovins appearing on the Porch stage after that. One of the highlights on Sunday was The Main Squeeze’s very special tribute to Michael Jackson. The crowd was again electrified, as the music engaged the listeners in a celebratory way. Ushering out the beautiful day were Kung Fu and Break Science Live Band.
AURA Music and Arts Festival is a wonderful and engaging experience for newcomers to the festival scene, families and seasoned festival followers. The kind spirit fostered by the festival is contagious, and the loving atmosphere is a favorite of musicians, artists and fans alike. There is no such thing as a stranger at AURA, as everyone seems to share a positive outlook on life, and friends are made with the ease of a smile and a kind word. For an impressive lineup of non-stop talented musicians, access to enlightened art and a small-town, loving community vibe, be sure to make AURA Music and Arts Festival a destination. AURA is the perfect way to kick off a stellar festival season!