06 Mar 2013
Aura Music & Arts Festival was the perfect way to start the 2013 festival season. The Florida weather was not as warm as expected, but the cold just encouraged everyone to get a little closer. Aura’s relocation to the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida ended up being a seamless transition. Aura’s grassroots promotion style has increased the number of attendees every year- it has outgrown its previous festival sites and will hopefully call Suwannee its permanent home. The decision to skip set up of Suwannee’s main stage ended up being a good one because it kept the 3,000+ people in a tighter area and encouraged more interaction between the festival-goers.
People slowly trickled in the entire first day as many had traveled long distances to make it to Live Oak, located about an hour west of Jacksonville, Florida. Everyone seemed to have arrived by the time Conspirator hit the stage. At first, it seemed like Conspirator borrowed the Disco Biscuits lasers for their headlining spot at Aura, but it was pleasantly surprising to find out that the lasers were there to stay and were used throughout the weekend. The trees at the amphitheatre stage provided a beautiful background for the laser beams to end their journey. Kung Fu’s set gave the crowd the opportunity to take a break from the EDM inspired music and get a little funky. They are one of the more underrated bands in the scene now and are slowly building a solid fan base. I noticed multiple “sour faces” as I gazed the crowd during some of Tim Palmieri’s solos. Their Stevie Wonder tribute set on Saturday with Nigel Hall ended up being a family jam as the stage was packed with musicians and vocalists.
I was worried about having all of the late night acts as Silent Disco sets but it ended up being a great time. Some smaller festivals’ Silent Discos have flopped due to a lack of crowd participation and/or poor quality headphones, but Aura did not disappoint. I forgot multiple times that I was actually at a Silent Disco and would have to remember that I needed to take the headphones off to converse with my friends.
The cold weather forced people to huddle up and start drum circles and fires once the Silent Disco sets ended. No festival that I have ever been to has allowed open fires in the camping sections, but almost every campsite gathering had a fire at Aura. The fires ended up being a great icebreaker – or should I say, icemelter – as I got to meet most of my neighbors at camp fire congregations.
Dr. Fameus’ set on Saturday not only had everybody gettin down, but brought the sun down along with them. Allen Aucoin has mentioned that he is interested in adding more musicians to the permanent lineup instead of just him. This set featured DJ:DRIZNO and Chase Nichols on the guitar. While his music is still heavily inspired by drum ‘n’ bass, the guitar added a different element to this set. Paul Levin, the founder of Bear Creek, gave Perpetual Groove a beautiful introduction to the stage. It was hard to swallow the fact that it was probably the last time that many of us would see Perpetual Groove since they are about to break up. The fact that they closed their last set with “It Starts Where It Ends” was truly emotional as the crowd sang along: “You live, you love, you die… Some things in life will never go away.” It was a fitting ending to their final set at Suwannee, after close to a dozen festival appearances there.
The sets by Greenhouse Lounge and Sir Charles proved that Trap has officially staked its place in the EDM scene. There was an hour long spot where Earthcry, Anthony from Papadosio’s DJ moniker, and Sir Charles were both performing at the Silent Disco. It was fun to switch from Earthycry’s soothing sounds to Sir Charles’ dirty trap beats. UDNTPRTY, or Craig Heneveld, once again brought the nu-disco dance party to Aura and maybe had the crowd grooving more than any other act.
The last night was headlined by Papadosio, The Heavy Pets and Dopapod. The three acts had already played the night before but the crowd came back for seconds. They probably best represent the core of what Aura is all about. All three are undoubtedly up-and-coming bands with rapidly growing fan bases. The sit-ins between these bands always bestow the family feeling upon the crowd, a feeling that Aura has become famous for.
Aura’s move to Suwannee and its recognition for quality lineups will most likely make it the best way to ring in the start of the next year’s festival season. I’ll be extremely interested in the lineup as the festival grows. The bands that have become the mainstays in previous Aura lineups seem to really enjoy themselves at this still smaller festival. As these bands become more popular I hope they still manage to fit this festival in their soon-to-be packed schedules. If the last 2 years of Aura experiences and knowledge of these bands stand then Aura Music & Arts Festival will be prepared to ascend as these bands become more well-known. It is hard for me to imagine a 2014 without Aura in it, and I hope to see the rest of you there.
Article coverage brought to you by Aaron Roe~ sparkle spreader of the south east.