Article and photos by Tom Wickstrom

Grits and Soul


The 1st annual Anastasia Music Festival took place in St. Augustine, FL on March 16-18, 2017. Located at the Anastasia Amphitheater adjacent to Anastasia State Park, the festival offered easy access and free parking for those attending. Although there was no on-site camping, some was available at the state park as well as hotels & other options in the area. I consider this the first festival of the year and was so excited to travel from Ohio to enjoy the magic of bluegrass & more in Florida. It’s too bad there wasn’t more attendance because the lineup was stellar from top to bottom. Those attending were treated to a weekend of live experiences one after the other. Nothing beats the felling when the bands and the fans are drawn together to form a unique bond. There were 3 stages set up-Main Amphitheater Stage, Front Porch Stage & Acoustic Stage.

Amanda Platt of The Honeycutters

I arrived early Thursday morning which gave me time to drive around & scope out the state park, beach & festival grounds prior to gates opening. No acts were scheduled for the main stage but there was still plenty of great music happening on the other 2 stages. Grits & Soul started things off at 4pm. Currently based out of Lexington Kentucky, Grits & Soul consists of Anna Kline (guitar, vocals) & John Looney (guitar, mandolin & vocals). Their opening set immediately set the tone for how the rest of the weekend would flow with their blend of Americana, roots & southern soul. The Honeycutters, out of Asheville, NC also provided an energetic set. Asheville was well represented at Anastasia with Jon Stickley Trio, Taylor Martin & others. Broomestix, a 10-piece band out of the Nashville area, sounded like no other band there that weekend. Their blend of R&B/Soul/Funk/Jazz/Pop was unique and vocalist Madi Patin took me back in time to another era. There were multiple horns & Evan McCoury (Ronnie McCoury’s son) kicked in a few good licks on electric guitar as well. Other highlights included Applebutter Express, Nikki Talley & Taylor Martin with the Honeycutters as his backup band. Fruition closed out the evening on the Front Porch Stage. Although I have seen them multiple times, it never ceases to amaze me what they bring to a live performance time & time again. There was a 10:30pm curfew for music, so afterward many people including perfomers headed to Hopzinger’s for the afterparty. I hadn’t set up camp yet so I headed back to prepare for a cold night (35 degrees).

Jay Cobb Anderson & Mimi Naja of Fruition

Although the night had gotten cold, it started warming up quickly in the morning and you could tell it was going to be an awesome day for music. It also meant that there would be music on the main stage in addition to the other 2 stages from the day before. The Honeycutters set the tone of how the day would go with their opening set. Following them on the main stage was a non-stop musical ecstasy as The Broomestix, Fruition, Cabinet, David Grisman’s Bluegrass Experience, Elephant Revival & the Del McCoury Band electrified the crowd with the energy they were shedding on stage. Main Stage highlights for me were Fruition covering “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” & Elephant Revival sitting in with Fruition & visa versa during Elephant Revival’s set. Also, Cabinet treated the crowd to covers of Elvis Costello’s “Watching The Detectives” & Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”. What can I say about David Grisman? He’s a bluegrass innovator and was joined by Billy Strings on guitar and David’s son, Samson was on bass. Watching the blend of old & new together gives one the feeling that this music will always be there. The Del McCoury Band closed down the Main Stage with, as always, a great set of bluegrass music. Del’s voice is still strong and he’s backed by the best in the business- including sons Ronnie & Robbie. Robbie’s son Evan also sat in on acoustic guitar. The other 2 stages also provided great sets of music throughout the day. Favorites were Dustbowl Revival, Traveling McCoury’s, Nikki Talley again & the Jon Stickley Trio. The Jon Stickley Trio has quickly become one of my favorites. The blend of Jon Stickley (guitar), Lyndsay Pruett (violin) & Patrick Armitage (drums) create a unique fusion of instruments that takes the listener on a magical journey without vocals. The Traveling McCoury’s are another band that takes their musical prowess and infuses into many songs ala bluegrass style that keeps you dancing on your feet. Friday was amazing!

Jay Cobb Anderson of Fruition

Saturday turned out beautiful weather wise & it was finally warm enough for just shorts & a t-shirt. I headed directly to the Main Stage to catch Joe Pug. Just him & a guitar, Joe Pug delivered a low-key set of darker-edged songs accompanied by the stories that gave birth to them. Sierra Hull on mandolin was accompanied by Ethan Jodziewicz on upright bass and they also laid out a mellow set with a much more soothing tone. After Sierra Hull, the main stage multiplied the energy level times 10 as the Jeff Austin Band, Fruition & The Del McCoury Band all delivered solid sets of musical energy. Then it was time for Sam Bush. Sam Bush is one of my all time favorites & one of the main reasons for making the trip. Sam loves to play & jam & always raises the energy to another level. Most of the crowd were grooving & singing along to his entire set. The final main stage act was the Grateful Ball. Consisting of The Traveling McCourys & the Jeff Austin Band, they presented a set of Grateful Dead music in a style of their own. The other stages also kept things going with the Dustbowl Revival, Jon Stickley Trio & Cabinet performing awesome sets as well. In tribute to Chuck Berry, Jay Cobb Anderson joined Cabinet for a great version of “Maybelline”. Taylor Martin delivered another great set of music backed by the Honeycutters as well as being joined by members of the Jon Stickley Trio. Once the music ended, we headed back to the adjacent campground in the hope that we had enticed some of the musicians to join us for a late night jam. We were rewarded when Taylor Martin, Lyndsay Pruett, Steve Pruett, Robb Parks & others found their way to the campsite. We got about 2 good hours of musical enjoyment until the park ranger shut us down.

The Dustbowl Revival

Anastasia Festival was a great time & I loved my first visit to St. Augustine. A few more in attendance would have been nice but those there had a great time and the music was stellar. Hopefully they can build on what they created and do it again.

Members of Elephant Revival jamming with Fruition

Emily Frantz of Mandolin Orange

David Grisman

Traveling McCourys

Elephant Revival

Fruition jamming with Elephant Revival

Del McCoury Band

Sierra Hull

Taylor Martin back by members of the Honeycutters & the Jon Stickley Trio

Jeff Austin Band

Jon Stickley Trio

Del McCoury Band

Sam Bush Band

Todd Kopec of Cabinet

J.P. Biondo & Pappy Biondo of Cabinet