Date:August 4th – 6th, 2011
Line up: 311, Sublime With Rome, Dirty Heads, SOJA, G. Love, Ballyhoo, The Movement, Supervillains & More
Location: Florida’s Suwannee Music Park in Northern Florida
What: 311 Pow Wow Festival
“I def left my heart at Pow Wow! I’m hooked and can’t wait to go to another!”
“Pow Wow was an experience I will be talking about in 30 years. Thanks for putting together an AMAZING weekend!”
“Words can’t describe!!! It was more than a concert – it was a community of positivity and love!”
“The only thing that could possibly top what went on there would be Pow Wow 2012.”
The above sentiments are just a small stash of the abundance of love being out-poured on Facebook and Twitter showing appreciation in the aftermath of 311’s first annual Pow Wow Festival held the weekend of August 4, 2011.
The vibe of musical-unity oozing from the enthusiasm is just a natural carryover from a concert-experience that had a chief aim of bringing people together in a celebration of melodies and lyrics.
It was revelry of song, dance and community that spread across the 500 acres of Florida’s Suwannee Music Park for three days. The Dixieland-like environment provided an ideal backdrop and honed in a picturesque “pow wow” ambiance, with its old-time scenery of cypress trees, Spanish moss and spring-fed lakes.
A tie-dyed scene of tents, RVs, canopies and pavilions bustling with mostly-bare bodies clad in bathing suits and colored with tattoos sprawled across Suwannee’s nestled campgrounds. Over the course of the three-day festival, the feet of thousands of music lovers frolicked and danced across the winding trails and sprawling fields of the park with a common mission of letting go and letting the loving take a hold. We were there to soak up the bouncing bass lines, thrashing drums, shinning horn sections, howling harmonicas and scratching vinyl of bands and DJs like Ozomatli, The Supervillains, Dirty Heads, Streetlight Manifesto, Ballyhoo!, G. Love and the Special Sauce, DJ Soulman, SOJA, Deftones, Sublime with Rome and, the host of the whole shindig, 311.
By day, concertgoers of 311’s first fest spent afternoons doing whatever they could to deal with the wrath of Florida heat at its worst, which was made possible by the perfect combination of a cloudless sky and beaming sunshine mixed with plenty of humidity. To deal, methods included posting up under the nearest shady tree, which would provide an automatic relief, escaping to vehicles pumping air conditioners, walking through brilliantly provided spray mister-fan areas, or taking a dip in the coffee-colored and cool Suwannee River.
I am super disappointed to admit that where I camped was a hike by foot to the river, so I never made it down. However, I was given various first-hand accounts from some fellow campers hailing from Pennsylvania. I was told it was a whole lotta naked guys and gals jumping from rocks and enjoying complete freedom in the great outdoors. Again, not-so-stoked I missed out on these scenes of inhibition-less, carefree fun in the name of music.
People-watching at Pow Wow organically became a pastime, with one memorable snapshot being girls in trippy tutus twirling about with hot pink, yellow and purple feather headdresses as the Dirty Heads sang what they sang and everyone just sailed away on their percussion-infused rock-rap. As the Huntington Beach bros flowed on sudsy bass lines, I watched as their smart-ass yet silly and sensitive stylee washed over the crowd. By the middle of DH’s set, everyone was dancing, up off their tapestry blankets, hula hooping, blowing bubbles and grooving to the beach-street sounds of songs like “Believe,” “Stand Tall,” “Ring the Alarm,” “Paint it Black,” “Check the Level” and more off their debut album, Any Port in a Storm (EMG, 2010).
Rome Ramirez of Sublime with Rome joined the guys on stage to perform their collaboration radio hit, “Lay Me Down,” with a little rendition of Bob Marley’s “Hammer” mixed in as a prelude. A natural camaraderie between Ramirez and the urban-beach boys could be felt in the musical chemistry of the song, which personified what Ramirez told The Pier in a recent interview, “Anytime I get to kick it with the Dirty Heads I’m a happy guy.”
Following the Dirty Heads on Friday night, it was Ramirez’s turn to rage the Pow Wow stage as the front guy for a little band known as Sublime. Sublime with Rome played to a slightly sauced crowd and took the audience into a nighttime vibe, with the sun setting while the resurrected band mixed in tracks from their new album, Yours Truly (Fueled by Ramen, 2011), with the classics of OG Sublime. In the same interview, Ramirez told The Pier that the new tunes off Yours Truly were blending in nicely to sets on their 2011 tour. The sentiment was backed up on Friday as Bug Gaugh thrashed the drums and Eric Wilson walked the bass, jamming out tunes like “Panic,” “Badfish,” “What I Got,” “Lovers Rock,” “Date Rape,” and “Same Old Situation” for a set that was raucous and full of verve.
Each night, when the sun was gone and evening fell upon Pow Wow there was an electricity in the air accented by glow sticks and streams of string lights illuminating pathways to music and little tent communities that were beginning to feel more and more comfortable to those inhabiting the grounds for the weekend.
SOJA played the first night, Thursday, conjuring a musical-infused buzz that hummed through the air and exuded freedom and a no-worry vibe for all those taking part. The D.C.-bred, dread-head rockers dominated the stage with go-go infused reggae blended with bombastic bass lines, vibrant horn sections and Jacob Hemphill’s passionate and prolific lyricisms.
G. Love played into the sunset on Saturday night, serving up a stellar set of classics like “Cold Beverage” and “Basketball” mixed with the jug-chuggin’, down-home tracks off his latest release Fixin’ to Die (Brushfire Records, 2011). Songs like “Milk and Sugar,” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” were well received in the Suwannee venue and the raw, tangy-fresh energy of G. Love was an undeniable force that got everyone moving and shaking on the Pow Wow field.
311 played stellar sets on both Friday and Saturday evenings – each approximately two to three hours long. The hosts of the show played all of Transistor (Capricorn Records, 1997), tracks off their latest release, Universal Pulse (311 Records, 2011), and many 311 classics like “Come Original” and “All Mixed Up.” On Saturday night, I was right up at the front-right of the stage and definitely lost myself in song after song, while watching Nick Hexum guide and play to the energy from the stage. Sometimes it seemed that as the audience sang and screamed with 311-love he was getting off on it all more than we were, and it was a special thing to watch the whole sonic-wave interaction between audience and rock star on the final night of a music celebration.
I’m sure a lot of amazing parts and performances of Pow Wow didn’t get mentioned in this recap, but feel free to share your stories in the comments. Ultimately, it was a weekend of musical escape from society where everyone was free to enjoy summertime when the living’s easy. I’m counting on a 2012 Pow Wow, but my only suggestion would be a different time of year, like spring or fall. It was so damn hot.
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