The Best of Blackwater Music Festival 2014

The Best of Blackwater Music Festival 2014

Slightly Stoopid

Date: August 21-23, 2014
Line Up: Slightly Stoopid, Stephen Marly, Steel Pulse Fishbone, Easy Star All-Stars, The Expendables, Tribal Seeds, Passafire, Ballyhoo! and many more.
Location: Spirit of Suwannee Music Park. Live Oak, FL

After attending festivals and shows all across the nation, over the past four months The Pier has had one jam-packed summer. To put a cap on this seemingly endless season we were fortunate enough to attend the Blackwater Music Festival down in Live Oak, Florida for one more summer party.

For The Pier, this festival was special with a bill that boasted two sets of Slightly Stoopid plus Stephen Marley, Steel Pulse, Fishbone, Easy Star All-Stars The Expendables, Tribal Seeds, Ballyhoo!, Passafire and so many more. The revival of Blackwater brought together a great grouping of some of our favorite artists performing at one of our favorite place to watch live music – the beautiful Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.

Centered among the forest and fields of the the park’s 800 acres is the most infamous stage in Florida. A band shell built in a natural amphitheater, with wood from trees cut down in the park’s initial clearing, the stage has hosted its fair share of notable acts over the years. Typically these grounds are filled with thousands and thousands of festival goers, posted up on blankets, camping chairs and hammocks. During the three days of Blackwater however, the area in front of this special stage held just a under a thousand fans, but those who were there got to see some of the most intimate sets from their favorite bands.

Be sure to follow through the rest of the article to check out some of the best moments from this year’s Blackwater Music Festival.

Gary Dread:

Following an afternoon of setting up camp, the early attendees headed down to the amphitheater stage for a set from Gary Dread & Jahmen. At 6pm, the band started off the weekend of tunes in proper fashion. Also known as Gary Jackson, drummer of The Movement, when performing solo Gary is billed as Gary Dread, playing with Jahmen as his backing band. Now, we have always wanted to see Gary’s solo act ever since he started DJing when The Movement initially dissolved a few years ago. After listening to his recent solo releases, we were stoked to finally get a chance to see the full act, and they did not disappoint. Gary burst out on to the stage and kept the energy going for an hour. A student of artists from the inception of the genre, Gary moved around the stage like a veteran front-man. Not an emulation of all the famed performers that have come before him, but like an embodiment, moving naturally with his own style. There wasn’t but maybe a hundred people watching & Gary connected with them all, spreading his own inspiring messages and catchy tunes. All that we can really say is that we now know Gary “Dread” Jackson is killer on the drum-kit as well the mic!

Easy Star All-Stars:

Thursday night continued with music from three bands, all based around Florida with Resinated, Trial By Stone and Hor!zen. Headlining the night was a midnight set from none other than the legendary Easy Star All-Stars. A group that has spent their fair share of time in the studio and on the road, Easy Star is known for their epic Dub-Reggae tributes of albums from The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, and Radiohead.

The Pier was fortunate to begin our summer in Orlando with a headlining set from Easy Star at Reggae On The Block festival. The set lists of the two performances were similar, a run through of Dub Side Of The Moon along with a few tracks from some of the other cover records. But that night, the sound emitted off the stage, sounded so much better as it bounced around the trees and into my hammock. Finishing out the set with a jam of funky electronic riffs, the band played into “Lovely Rita” and then ended with that infamous Reggae version of “Karma Police.” Be sure to check out the set list from that night below:

Electioneering- Promised Land
Just A Little Song
Billie Jean
Pass The Lighter
Breathe On The Run
Time Great Gig In The Sky
Us & Them
Any Colour You Like
Brain Damage
With A Little Help
One Likkle Draw
Lovely Rita
Karma Police

The Beach Sets:

Day two started how every day should start, some eggs and bacon and a trip down to the beach! There is not many venues that offer a beach or a river to enjoy, but at Spirit of Suwannee they have both. Of the many music festivals at this park there are not many that actually schedule and set up a stage for bands to perform live music. At Blackwater, for several hours on Friday and Saturday afternoon, a total of seven bands helped bring the party to the beach. With live original music flowing, the river was the place for everybody looking to stay cool in the Florida heat.



Anytime you get to watch the legendary Fishbone perform live it is a good moment to be alive. Friday at 4pm, with the heat of the afternoon still thick in the air, Angelo, Norwood and the crew spread out on the amphitheater stage for a nice hour long set. Unfortunately there was not many people there and the band may have seemed a bit dissappointed, as Angelo Moore sang to rally up a crowd: “walk this way, walk this way… the Swamp Monster came out here.. a special delivery just for you!”. As always the band rocked through their set playing hits like “Ma & Pa” and “Party At Ground Zero”. Dr, Madd Vibe even got on the theremin for a few measures! Be sure to check out the set list from that afternoon below:

Party At Ground Zero
Ma and Pa
Lyin’ Ass Bitch
Everyday Sunshine
Whipper Snapper
Date Rape
Kung Fu Grip
Bonin’ In The boneyard
Sunless Saturday
(*As written on stage.)

The Expendables:

Over the years The Expendables have become the quintessential opening act for Slightly Stoopid, probably playing direct support for Stoopid more times that any other group. For us, it’s a classic pairing & one of our favorite line-ups. Geoff Weers, one of the best frontman out there, leads a band with more talent than most. Together, The Expendables rock-like party demeanor and list of hits always lights up a crowd. Its the perfect paring, both bands play music created from the same coast, but they play it so differently. The Expendables deliver a harder set of singles with a focus set on energy and emotion filled tracks. Whereas Stoopid is more of an unstructured Jam – The best of both worlds!

We have seen The Expendables’ set many times, but the band never fails to surprise us. On this particular set after “Driftaway”, a personal favorite, they transitioned nicely into a cover of “Five On It. Later in the set we were treated to their version of UB40’s “Red Red wine”, a true highlight from the festival. Twice during the set, The Expendables tested out a new track, four songs in playing the rocker “Up All Night” and towards the end of the set “Starry Night”. Both of which are from their forthcoming record. Be sure to look for details about that project soon! To end the set, The Expendables went into a old beloved sign-along of their fan favorite, “Bowl For Two. To see all the tracks played that evening check out the set below:

Ganja Smuggling
Right Time
Let Loose
Up All Night
Come Get High
Down Down Down
Drift Away > Five On It
Positive Mind
Red Red Wine (UB40 Cover)
Anti Social
One Drop
Starry Night
Bowl For Two
(*As written on stage.)

Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley:

Of all the sets that took place at Blackwater the most surprising, special, cereal, and intimate one had to be a Friday night set from Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley. Playing the two hour 10pm headlining slot, this was no ordinary Stephen Marley headlining set. Over the summer we have see Stephen’s full electric set played prior to Slightly Stoopid on their Summer Sessions tour. Just days off the tour, after a long run of shows, Stephen decided to once again sit down and unplug at Suwannee.

Playing most of the set with just his voice and a hand drum between his knees, Stephen Marley belted out song after song of his original music and classic Marley hits. Its worth repeating that the amphitheater stage makes all shows better and this one was no exception. A stage that bows out into the crowd, fans stand just feet from the music. With the stage filled with musicians it felt as if we were all home with the Marley family watching them play out on the back patio. Watch a clip from the set, and be sure to check out the set list from that night below:

Small Axe
Rainbow Country
Mind Control
Iron Bars
Rude Boy
Rock It Baby
No Women No Cry
Three Little Birds
Good Time
Hold On To This Feeling
Guava Jelly
Hey Baby
Traffic Jam
Revelation Party
Could You be Loved

Steel Pulse:

Steel Pulse is another band that we feel has moments that should always be cherished when watching them perform live. The group has been around for so long, they’re a band that has influenced and even taught many artist performing Reggae today. With their list of hits they have been able to keep the show going for so long, bringing their music to new fans every night.

On this night the band played through a great set list with a crowd fired up and singing along. One noticeable moment happened three songs in, during one of their bigger hits “Roller Skates”. The crowd so into signing along to the chorus of “Life, life without music” and so close to the stage, front man David Hinds couldn’t get out all of the verses of the song. He just smirked and kept on jamming the chorus. It was Great! Be sure to check out the set list from that night below:

Blues Dance Raid
Rally Round
Roller Skates
Chant A Psalm
No Justice No Peace
Not King James Version
Your House
A Who’s Responsible
Black and Proud
Drug Squad
Steppin Out
Franklin’s Tower
Dont Be Afrid
Whirlwind Romance
*As written on stage.


Passafire, scheduled to play 9-10pm, had the coveted spot between Steel Pulse and Slightly Stoopid. Over the past few years the band has been working hard on their live show. Stretching out with a few instrumental jams on several songs. Kicking off with many Passafarians’ favorite song “Barcelona” the band kept the set moving, squeezing in as many tracks as they could into their hour on stage. Playing several tracks off their recently released record, Vines a long with tracks from their four previous records, it was like a Passafire greatest-hits set! It didn’t rain all weekend, and we thought it was going to hold off till Sunday, but Passafire really heating up the place brought the storm into the festival grounds. Just as they were finishing up with “Ghostman”, the wind blew in and the rain began to pour – The perfect way to end a set! Check out the set list from that night below:

Dimming Sky
Kiss My Head
Right Thing
Phony Imposter
Shapes and Colors
Start From Scratch
Feet It
Ghost Man
(*As written on stage.)

Slightly Stoopid:

Now, we’ve seen Slightly Stoopid many times before. Just this summer alone we were able to watch the band at Big Guava Fest, Bonnaroo, Red Rocks and several of their Summer shows. Stoopid is a band that tops our list and we’ll catch them any time they play near us. Not only have they carved out their own hole in the music industry, but Slightly Stoopid has planted a seed that has grown to be its own flourishing musical genre. That said, after almost 20 years of work the band is still writing, still evolving, and still impressing. The two sets seen at Blackwater were some of the best we have seen, showcasing everything that has become their unique sound, and at times, revealing where their sound is heading. With Kyle and Miles plucking away on the bass and guitar, a full horn section, including a trombone and the renown Karl Denson, plus a hard hitting rhythm section, Stoopid continued to work on that big band jam Reggae fusion sound they have become known for.

Between these two sets we saw Stoopid play riffs we havn’t heard live in quite awhile as well as riffs that could be developed throughout sets for years to come. After weeks on the road playing their annual summer tour, this time the crew settled down taking two nights to work out a few things out. A bit janky at times, the freshness made for many great moments during the sets. A favorite came before going into Bandelero, when Kyle, switching back over to the acoustic guitars admited “We just playin’ some shit that we ain’t played in a long time right here so..” And another a few songs before when Miles, forgetting a few of the words to Know You Rider got full support from the crowd singing along.

Stoopid brought out Angelo Moore of Fishbone to sing the verse he recorded for their track “Ska Diddy”. Afterwards, Dr. Madd Vibe stayed on stage for an entertaining version of “older” that saw Angelo dancing and karate kicking his way around the stage. As Miles sang the verses trying to keep a strait face, Kyle just stood back in the shadows, trying hard to hold it down and not crack up as he plucked along on the bass line. It all came together when Angelo settled down and joined Miles at the head of the stage for a beautiful version of Ebony and Ivory.”

Watch the full video from Angelos’ appearance below:

There were so many cool moments in these sets, especially for the big Stoopid Heads out there. As huge fans it was amazing to watch the band experiment. On the second set, they were really working on things – For example, just before going into “Anywhere I Go”, Kyle turns around instructing the band to play the intro longer. Later in the set, Kyle says “Play some Hip-Hop shit!” leading the band to bust out an Eazy E “Real Muthaphukkin G” Jam which lead into a funk-mellow fusion of “Pon the Horizon”

Check out that moment in the video below:

Out of all of it, one moment that people are still talking about is Mike DeGuzman’s Keytar sit-in. The Passafire keyboardist/guitarists electrified the amphitheater with his futuristic axe, jamming right along side Kyle and Miles! Check out footage from his appearance below:

After starting the weekend acoustic and then plugging in, Miles walked out to play the encore with a few solo acoustic songs. Playing a run through “Collie Man”, Miles treated us to a reworking of “Prophet”. Bringing the rest of the band back out, they finished with some tracks we would love to hear more of in the future, jams like the “3 Piece Chicken Meal.” Check out the set lists from the two nights below:

Set 1:
Aint Got A lot Of Money
Underneath The Pressure
Fat Spliffs
Devils Door
Know You Rider
Anywhere I Go
Fire Shot
Everything You Need
Baby I Like It
Open Road
Couldn’t Get High w/ OG > Zeplike
Closer To the Sun
Ska Diddy
Set 2:
Medley (Champion, Don’t Stop, Don’t Care, Wickedz, 2AM)
Til It Gets Wet
Hold Onto The One
Don’t Stop
Don’t Care
Wicked Rebelz
Way You Move
Dem Fruits
Up On A Plane
Anywhere I Go
Serious Man
False Rythms
Devils Door
Rythm Streets
Del Roy
2 AM
Pon the Horizon
Dancin Mood
Runnin With A Gunz
We Dont Wanna GO

Collie Man / Open Road
Tighten up
3 Piece Chicken Meal
No Cocaine?
(*As written on stage.)

For more about the bands that played this event, their music and information about their tour dates please check out the details below.

Blackwater 2014 Line-Up:

Related Links:
Blackwater Website
Blackwater Facebook
SOSMP Website

Article and Photos By: Aaron Solomon

Blackwater 2014 Photos: