Sunshine Music Festival Takes Over Downtown Boca Raton for Fun Filled Day of Music, Merch, and Sunshine – Review of the Sunshine Music Festival at Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton, FL
The crowd began filling in early Sunday afternoon January 14th at Mizner Park Amphitheater for a full day of blues, funk, and jam music at Sunshine Music Festival in Boca Raton. Seven bands were set to rock the day away, while dozens of vendors and food trucks took over the park next to the amphitheater. Grateful Dead merchandisers, hippie tye-dye clothes, and hand-crafted Bali imports were the bulk of the merch to be sold, and local food trucks produced a variety of sumptuous concoctions to be consumed by the thousands of blues fans. The music swiftly began at 1 pm with The Suffers opening the cool sun-shiny day on the main amphitheater stage.
The Suffers, a 10-piece soul, funk, and R&B ensemble brought Sunshine Music Fest forth into fruition. Hailing from Houston, Texas they categorize their sound as “Gulf Coast Soul” due to their influences from the city comprising of soul, blues, R&B, Cajun and Caribbean, and hip hop musical styles.
Foundation of Funk kicked of the second stage in the park with some of the originators of funk, Zigaboo Modeliste on drums/vocals and George Porter Jr. on bass/background vocals (both of The Meters) grooving along with special guests Eric Krasno (Soulive)on guitar and John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood) on keys.
Next up Medeski Martin & Wood performed some spacey blues and funk jams on the main stage as the crowd continued to increase in size.
Taking up the middle block of the day’s festivities, the great Galactic laid down some jazzy jam grooves with plenty of explosively epic saxophone, French horn and harmonica solos. The New Orleans jam band brought along singer Erica Falls once again to serenade the audience with her mesmerizing singing and her groovy dance moves. They performed classics such as Blackbird Special, Right On, Hey Na Na, Higher and Higher, and finishing off with Going Down Slowly.
Phish fanatics were in for a special treat because the band’s bassist, Mike Gordon, treated the crowd to his new solo work. Mike Gordon’s sound was more of a slow, spacey, and chill funk style, with some excellent percussive rhythms. His guitarist, Scott Murawski, provided superb guitar flourishes and background vocals, while “synth-master” Robert Walter (The Greyboy Allstars) jammed hard on the keys/organ, and percussionist Craig Myers pounded on the bongos and other random percussion instruments and even busted out a n’goni, an African string instrument that resembles a hybrid of a harp and a guitar. They introduced some new original pieces from their new album, OGOGO, some Phish covers, and even played an epic cover of Rancid’s Ruby Soho.
Next up Hot Tuna, a Jefferson Airplane side project, started by guitarist/vocalist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Kasady, headlined the side stage with their electric blues covers and jams. Mostly a cover band since their foundation almost 50 years ago (1969), they performed several blues band covers by Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Blake, and several other well-known blues and jazz musicians. Despite their age and the dropping temperature, the two Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers jammed like they were still in their 20s, back to the days of the Counterculture era in which they played a significant role in accelerating the musical aspect of the culture.
As the day transitioned into night, the chilly breeze was not enough to deter true blues lovers from leaving before headliners Tedeschi Trucks Band were set to hit the stage. Married couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks (nephew of the recently deceased Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks), decided to collaborate and merge both of their bands back in 2010 and have been touring and releasing critically-acclaimed albums ever since. The couple, along with their numerous other band members (12 altogether with three back-up singers and three horn players), started off their set with Stevie Wonder cover Love Having You Around, and the crowd began to storm the front of the stage in front of the reserved seating section, no longer giving a hoot about only having General Admission tickets. They continued to jam on with several originals like Shame, Don’t Know What It Means, and Midnight in Harlem, before bringing on special guest, Eric Krasno, to sing Leaving Trunk by Sleeping John Estes. After they played crowd favorite Bound For Glory and then some originals by Susan Tedeschi (Talking About/Sugaree), they continued on with a John Prine cover, Angel From Montgomery. Before they resumed several more covers, TTB played Made Up Mind, followed by Wings’ Let Me Roll It (with special guest Chris Wood), Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free, and Johnny Moore’s Three Blazer’s How Blue Can You Get? After some impressive and extravagant, two-hour long jamming, TTB concluded their set with an original, The Storm, followed by an epic Allman Brothers cover of Whipping Post, where Derek Trucks shredded the guitar in an Allman-like finesse. However, the two and a half hour jam session was yet to be concluded until they came back out to perform their final encore song, a cover of The Coasters’ Let’s Go Get Stoned, and completed one of the most satisfying and remarkable blues jam sets this writer has ever witnessed and was well worth leaving my comfort zone of reggae music to experience some of the greatest blues, jazz, funk, and jam musicians in existence today.