[Article and Photos by Hunter Fries and Teresa Taylor]
Oh Aura – how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. What started as a misting, chilly Friday night (New England snow delayed my arrival to the beautiful park at Suwannee), turned into a blissful, sun-filled weekend full of wide smiles, roaring campfires and beaming lasers lighting up the festival-goer’s funkiest dance moves. Every smile was instantly returned, every hug was squeezed tight, and every kiss was caught and blown right back.
The Mantras were the first we were able to catch, and we are so glad we did. The sun was shining, bubbles were blowing and the funk was alive. The highlight of the set was a masterfully executed “Burning Down the House” (Talking Heads) / “Fire on the Mountain” (The Grateful Dead) mash-up that set the remix standard extremely high for the weekend to follow. The crowd was elated and the Suwannee Spirit was on fire.
Other Friday highlights included The Heavy Pets, McLovins, Moe., and the one and only Turbo Suit. Funkin Grateful (including members of The Heavy Pets) was one of the best sets of the night. Not only was the Music Hall a pleasant refuge from the bitter cold outside, but the funky guys brought the heat and were we ever grateful. To pile it on, Papadosio and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, with a soulful sit-in from the one and only Tom Hamilton fed the fire and brought Friday to a well-rounded end.
The highlight, however, of the late nights was the Silent Disco. Wine and whiskey flowed while drum and bass, gangster rap, hip hop classics, and a full funky, mesmerizing horn section filled hundreds of headphones. Wrapped in blankets and good friends’ hugs, the energy in the Vibe Tent was electric until the sunrise took over. Saturday was a whirlwind of awesome. There were so many great bands to see in a day with not nearly enough hours to do it. It all started with Ghost Owl on the Porch Stage, which instilled nostalgia and excitement for the return of Perpetual Groove. Due to the arrival delay, we missed all Thursday’s pre-party, so catching The Motet’s on Saturday set was absolutely mandatory.
They came. They funked. They conquered.
We snuck away from The Motet to catch the second half of Lucky Costello’s high-energy dance party that shook the Music Hall and foreshadowed the coming storm The Disco Biscuits silently brewing. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, The Fritz was a must see, and you guys heeded the call. Saturday evening’s theme was Saturday Night Fever, and the boogie truly lived. There is no question the Disco Biscuits were the fire-most headliner that Suwannee could have ever asked for. Not only did the play with absolute power and rage, the played with the utmost respect and eloquence. The Biscuits created a beautiful laser net for first-time listeners to be caught up in the sexy disco set.
We were so satisfied with The Disco Biscuits that it somehow slipped our mind that the American Babies were about to blow the roof off the Music Hall. The Biscuits joined the Babies for some American Disco, leading to the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein joined the Babies for “Shakedown Street” and Barber also joined in for “Little Lai”.
However, our evening once again ended and our morning began with debauchery and new friends at the Silent Disco. The only difference was that everyone got the swanky memo and arrived looking like the straight up 70s disco kings and queens with their sequins, wigs and flair. Style points for Aura: all the points. You win.
Then came Sunday. We woke up to a beautiful morning, which was in stark contrast of the evening before. A young man in a bathrobe and a fishing hat with a megaphone called “Bring out your dead.” The reference was lost on younger generations, but I chuckled to myself with delight and decided it was going to be a magnificent day.
The first order of business was a hot shower and a slice of breakfast pizza. If you haven’t tried this game-changing combination, add it to your festival essentials list immediately. After crushing our pizza in style in the Eno Hammock DJ Tent, we strolled over to the Wake Up Flow with Barbie in the Vibe Tent. There’s nothing like showers, food and yoga to start Sunday off proper.
Refueled, we laced up our dancing shoes one more time and boogied to some “Whiskey for Breakfast” and bluegrass by Uproot Tomfoolery at the Amphitheater Stage. Tauk took the stage afterward, who brought their stylish New York vibes down South, playing tracks from their new album Collisions in addition to a raging cover of The Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy”. Come to think of it, Sunday might as well have been called the day of covers. The McLovins broke out a The Doors cover causing mayhem with “L.A. Woman”.
The real MVP of the Swanky Cover Sunday get down was The Main Squeeze who absolutely crushed all the Michael Jackson classics. For the first time all weekend, I was sweating as the funky renditions pumped musical magic through my bones and got me dancing as hard as Mike would. There were more smiles than hammocks in the amphitheater that day and the Spirit of Suwannee was dripping in soul and sunshine.
As the Sunday sun went down, the bass turned up. To close out this magical weekend, Break Science, the electronic duo Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee, took the novel vision of backing an electronic act with a live band and introduced Break Science Live to the world. They played some epic gangster jams, a “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” remix into “Let’s Groove, and knocked us off our feet with their Tycho cover of “A Walk.”
This weekend at AURA Music and Arts Festival was an incredible combination of stunning sites, funky, soulful music with sit-ins from unstoppable artists, the tightest hugs from strangers and the happiest people on earth. There was so much perfect planning that created the most well-balanced and free-flowing festival I’ve ever attended. Some words of advice: prioritize your Aura. Don’t miss this beautiful festival next year!
Oh, by the way, IT’S FESTIVAL SEASON. Have fun, dance safe, and most importantly treat your peers as family. See you all soon!
Thank you so much to the AURA Music Group (Daryl Wolff and Cameron Ferguson) and also to Brotherly Love Productions. Thanks for the epic lasers Thai-Ghai Laser Productions!
Tee Tay (Teresa Taylor of Proper Perceptions) has been a dedicated Sensible Reason contributor since 2011. As a Master of Architecture, lover of music dance and creative expression, and The Ambassador of Fun - her interests and passions embody all things aesthetically lovely and creative. As founder, Boss Lady and creative mind behind Proper Perceptions, she ventures and experiments with many visually stimulating mediums, including photography, spray paints and layering templates, and psychedelic graphic art and photo-editing. Her photography experience ranges from architectural captures from world-wide adventures, to thorough and professional site documentation, to capturing musicians passionate live show facial expressions and covering the full festival experience with her trusty Nikon D90. Most of her time outside of work is spent deep in and around the music and festival scene, as well as taking significant time with nature and outdoor adventures. She is thrilled to be able to continue her work with Sensible Reason - the ultimate dream team.