Aura Music and Arts Festival 2012
Upon arriving at Aura Music Festival we were all unsure what to expect. Driving down route 441 in Florida and ending up in a swamp is usually not the start to a great story. The opposite holds true in the case of Aura Music and Arts Festival. Before reaching the gate, we turned into the unassuming Forever Florida—a 4700 acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area– only to behold not one, but three peacocks roosting up and down the dirt road we were on. These magnificent birds sat and watched as revelers from across Florida and the country streamed into what I can only assume is usually a tranquil place, lacking all of the flat brims and stealies that were arriving in force.
After the check-in station and security check, you we were directed down a dirt path that turned and twisted through the swamps until we came out on a rarely used grass landing strip that became home for the next three days. There is something to be said for a festival where, even with a line up of almost all jamtronica, 70 percent of the music echoing through the campgrounds is the Grateful Dead.
Aura was set in one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves. Driving into the campgrounds felt like driving through the Amazon. Filled with gators, snakes, and red ants, it was a true camping experience, including the crazy storm that swept through the campgrounds right as we set up camp.
This review of Aura Music Festival was the combined efforts of Adam Scott and Greg Sarafan. Photography and video By Greg Sarafan.
Adam: Although Aura was the smallest festival I’ve ever been to, there was a positive vibe like no other. There were a few hiccups with ice, and a bit of questionable planning, but let me tell you, they have the right idea going on. What they lacked in preparation, they made up for ineverything else. Aura was not only a music festival, but was equally if not more about the art.
There were live painters capturing every essence of the music at each performance, which added a new perspective to jam and jamtronica for me. Some of the artists took me to a whole new place. I really enjoyed their style of incorporating changing light patterns to reveal different images of one painting that you didn’t know was possible.
As soon as we parked the car and set up camp, it was time to crack a cold beer and explore the grounds. It was great to be able to walk around and see everything all in a 20-minute walk. One of my first stops was to get food; not just any food, but a Jerry Roll. For those of you who haven’t had one before, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. It’s shredded veggies– i.e. cabbage, carrots, raddish, etc.– deep fried into an eggroll the size of a football, filled with duck sauce and/or hot sauce. Next stop we checked out the local vendors. Pins, hats, hoops, crystals– you name it, they had it. With a hoop troop of friends, I figured I’d go ahead and buy my own hoop to play with, just a beginning practice for what’s going to be a stellar festie season. It was not much longer afterward that the clouds began to roll it. The next few hours involved slapping the bag and relaxing to the Dead in our sopping wet tent. It was no Camp Bisco 9 storm, but it sure did put a damper on the night. BUT hey! Who’s going to get a little rain get in their way? It was no time before we stumbled out of the tent, put on our (dry) dancing shoes and headed to the main stage for the festivities.
With only 5 of us at the festival it was not long before we were all off on our own making new friends. As I said before, I had never experienced such a positive vibe from a festival, everyone smiling and loving life as if we were all a big family. Up here in New York you can see that sometimes, but to look around and see and feel such a sense of understanding and pure happiness was unbelievable. The southern mentality is not to be underestimated.
As for the music, there was not one set that I really hated. Surprisingly, the only acts I didn’t care for that much were Bang Bang and DrFameus. The Dr. was good, but I’m not that into Drum and Bass. All weekend I had been hearing about Greenhouse Lounge from Jacksonville, Florida, so while everyone raged Allen and guests, I decided to check it out. Although I have heard of them before, I was unfamiliar with their music and even the genre. Once I got to the Brotherly Love Productions stage, I immediately began to rage to their high energy live electronica. This Florida-based trio blew me away with their heavy bass lines, live drums and ripping guitar leads that made for an awesome late night live fusion party. I was only fortunate enough to catch the tail end of their set.
Some of my other favorite sets included the obvious Papadosio, who never ceases to please the crowd, Zoogma, Dopapod, The Werks (who played a spot on cover of Phish’s version of “2001”) and The Heavy Pets. Also from South Florida, this jam band brought something different to Aura. Unlike most of the other jamtronica bands at the festival, The Heavy Pets are what I would call an “All American jam band.” I personally like their balance of rock and roll mixed with jazz-fusion and blues. Their night set after the storm Friday got me out of our wet tent and down to the main stage as I rocked out to their sweet melodies and funky tunes. I was happy to get to see them again on Saturday.
Greg: I, on the other hand, was really excited for Bang Bangs set and they did not disappoint. And as for the Dr., I’ve seen DrFameus a few times and this was by far the best set I have seen him play. With such high energy and dynamism, really, what’s not to like? Allen brought down the house and closed out the night in a fashion only fit for a Biscuit. Damn Right was an act that I had heard of before, but didn’t really know anything about leading up to the festival. A few days before I checked them out on YouTube and really liked the down tempo electro dance sound, so I made sure not to miss it. Being a late night set, Adam was all tuckered out from an awesome day of dancing, so I left him watching Damn Right from the back of the crowd and did something I had never done before that weekend; watched the rest of the set from the back of the stage. No not backstage, but standing on the back of the stage. It was great to end the night watching a new-found favorite from on stage.
Papadosio was another act that was unlike anything at the festival. Papa is solid every time I see them and this performance was no different. What made their set so unique was the crowd. It was great to hear all the Ohio accents in throughout the campgrounds that weekend. Well, when Papa was on stage it was clear that their crew was there. Papa’s set on Saturday night was one of the craziest dance parties I have seen in recent years and drew in the largest crowd. Once the band came on, Adam looked at me and said, “I can’t help it, but this makes me have to dance,” and continued to boogie down to the front. Amidst rage sticks, glow sticks and inflatable animals I can’t really explain the energy, but luckily I don’t have to. I took this 9-minute video of their set exactly for this reason. Enjoy.
My personal favorite of the weekend, I have to say, was Zoogma. I have seen them a few times and have always been impressed/shocked with how much I like them. This performance, however, blew me away. The most high-energy jamtronica sets I have ever been to. The whole band was on point, but the rest paled in comparison to their drummer Matt Harris, who I think has the potential to be one of the premier drummers in the scene in the next few years. Here is a video that will make you think twice before questioning my last statement.
Adam: There really is something about Southern Hospitality that makes a festival special. Weeks later I still have an afterglow and I wanted to share my experience; hope you all enjoyed. Check out all of the videos and albums we have from Aura. There are albums for art, music, performers, nature and one of our favorites of the weekend.
Also, one thing I would like to say is that, now that I have been working with Greg on Sensible Reason, it’s amazing to experience a festival from a different perspective and really notice the small things that make or break a festival. After all is said and done, I can’t wait to return to Saint Cloud Florida for another great weekend at Aura Music and Arts Festival.