Backwoods Fam Jam: The Story of Isaac Corbitt & His Harmonica
I was back in my high school hometown full of nothing... just a ton of farm fields. It felt weird actually going to a "backwoods jam" that I would enjoy. Thus meaning not desperately searching for someone who owns a truck to get me there and no forcing Natty Lights down.
There were at the most 60 vehicles in sight in a big wide open field. Vendors were still setting up as the sun was starting to set.
I'm pretty sure a deadhead bought this property and thought, 'Hell, let’s throw a festival.'
I pulled up to two older men standing outside of a truck. The younger one went by the name of Curtis and was selling the older one a t-shirt and talked about how he wished there was a body of water and more of a seclusion on the property.
The older one talked about how the porta potties were slim and how there were no shower facilities.
A positive minded kid, who was working with a Gainesville radio station, reassured us that more people will be here tomorrow after "Winn Dixie beer stops and packing their shit after work."
This just goes to show having a positive mind about your surroundings really affects the overall outcome of your experience. I was here to surround myself in a sea of jam bands and enjoy nature. Nothing was going to make that negative for me.
Black Diamond was the first set of my weekend. Little did I know this festival was going to broaden my Florida bands. Hunter Diamond, the saxophonist, grew up in Gainesville and now plays with Black Diamond in Chicago along with several other bands. I lived in Gainesville for a few months and can say the music scene is prime. They played music from their new record Mandala.
The Heather Gillis Band were next on the menu and let me tell you this girl is the kind in high school you want to be friends with. She rocked brown fringe and oval sunglasses and slaughtered the hell out of a guitar. Corbitt came out and they played "Gonna Be A Storm."
The last time I had the pleasure of watching Come Back Alice was Hulaween 2015. I was more than stoked. Dani Jaye, the violinist, had a beautiful peacock top on. The real weird funk gypsies and fairies came out of the wilderness. Their song “Ugly Rumors” was a crowd favorite. Corbitt was a madman and ended up hopping on stage. Then Black Diamond joined in for an ultimate jam combo. An encore arose as everyone yelled out "Come back, Alice!" One more tune for the fam.
Ben Strok & The Full Electric performed a new song titled “Constellation." Later on, a song was dedicated to Bruce Hampton. I watched them jam at Fool’s Paradise in April and would say their performance was more than incredible at BFJ especially when Corbitt jumped on for the last round of songs.
It got insanely cold out of nowhere and by the end of the night I was wearing my tapestry, festival feels. The crowd gathered in closer for this next one.
Roosevelt Collier flew in from New Orleans Jazz Fest to play in Florida. What a special treat. Bands including Black Diamond and Come Back Alice were rocking on stage to this funky rock mix with a slight country twang. A cover of Prince’s “Kiss” busted out.
As the night neared end it got super windy and partially rainy out of nowhere. Here's to you Florida weather.
Custard Pie’s guitar strums were melting across the farm's flat land. Hippies were sipping on water and taking naps in the grass. I watched as horses were frolicking around a closed of part of the property. Summer was creeping in.
Chelsea Carnes, the female vocalist of Wax Wing’s, was giving me Fiona Apple vocal feels. She awoke the crowd with:
"We're really pleased to be here a lot of these songs are about friendship and you can see the family is all around! We're from Gainesville. Didn't think I would be back in Hastings. There's a lot of cool little places here."
Universal Green was served next, originating from Jacksonville but giving off New Orleans flare.
They combined a perfect mesh of rap, funk, soul, and reggae with lyrics all about kush. They moved like jellyfish. Darryl Green, the vocalist, shouted, "Can we get a beer? This water ain't working."
The set concluded with a cover of Bob Marley's “Exodus” and an instrumental of Outkast's “So Fresh So Clean." People yelled out "DUVAL!"
A group of frat guys, in the corner near the stage, were slapping a bag. It was only 5 o’clock, the evening was just beginning.
Flyers and posters were strung along the stage for Orange Blossom Jamboree and The Great Outdoors Jam. Hail Cassius Neptune appeared. A crowd member howled out, "I love your hat" to the Wilson Stern, vocalist/guitarist.
Stern replied in a country accent, "This is my Kansas hat."
This band mastered angelic voice with rock tone. A cover of Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" burst out. You already know everyone was singing along.
The Delta Troubadours were a typical American rock band like one you'd find in a Levi's commercial. They loved to pose it up for the camera, which made for a fun time.
Tom Damon, the drummer for Parker Urban Band, had a whistle while hitting the drums. Honestly, this was my favorite set of the weekend. I love some damn good funk. I was happy to call myself a Jacksonville resident. I owe it all to their wild performance and bewitching tunes.
Psychedelic reggae bunch AJEVA ended my second night, bringing everyone to their inner zen before late night shenanigans occurred. The fest freaks came out with their onesies, tapestries wrapped around them, and hats on. It was another chilly evening full of music.
It was a breathtaking, buggy Sunday morning. Gnats were flying galore.
I started my Sunday (last day) worshiping with The Fire Tent Revival. A six-man band. Jeff Hoff, harmonica, dueled Corbitt. Dave Smith, vocals, made us laugh with, "If you have any drugs you can dispose of them in our tip jar, we'll properly take care of them.”
Voodoo Visionary (Atlanta’s very own) were next. “Sippin Sunshine” strummed out as Scottie MacDonald, vocals, dedicated it to this beautiful day. Hits from their new album Off The Ground were later played. It was a nice mid-afternoon jam sesh while laying on a tapestry under trees and avoiding the Florida heat.
"To be free, what's the price for that," these lyrics lingered around me spiritually as I basked in the wide open nature. Fam Jam made an announcement on the approval of several permits, that would allow for five years of festivals or gatherings on Lone Palm Ranch.
On that note, The Applebutter Express set turned up a notch. This bluegrass band was armored with a ukulele that floated through the wind and vocals that made you slap your knee. A cover of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s “Home” pleasantly pleased the bunch along with songs about whiskey, pussy cats, and getting grades to get laid.
The wind started picking up and the gnats slowly disappeared. Hungover peeps made it slowly out of their tents.
A beach bar rock band, decked out in tie-dye with rough around the edges vocals and great electronic keyboard chords known as, Bonnie Blue, came out. Bradley Churchman, guitar/vocals, thankfully announced, "Give it up for Isaac Corbitt, a damn good harmonica player!"
"Hot Bandit Woman" kicked off The Groove Orient’s night. Harry Ong (vocals/guitar) announced, "We are going to play a song about bugs, cause how about them bugs?"
If you didn’t already have an idea of what the song name is titled well, yes...it’s “Bugs."
Harp Smoke (currently under the wing of Isaac Corbitt), all ruffled and giggly mid-set declared, "Give me a round of anything you want. That's always been my rule."
This band is a record you turn on when you've just lit up a cigarette and are holding a tall glass of whiskey. The gnats were back and in full attack. I was ready for the music to commence, and not just for a reason to dance the bugs off.
“It's time to knock these bugs out of the sky," Mike Garulli of The Heavy Pets stated.
They only played a few hits before dragging Corbitt onto the set with, "We're going to get Isaac to come on stage because he plays that nasty harmonica! This song is called help me help you. We're going to get Isaac to help us."
Their “I Am The Walrus” cover brought me back to New Years of 2016 at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville. It was a weekend full of good memories, self-love, and tremendous good times.
Fam Jam was the ultimate chill zone. Shout out to Off The Griddle for serving that fresh chicken pad thai. It's so true when people say food is better than drugs. It felt as if we were all just hanging around a backyard party. I have yet to experience Hometeam. All weekend I was assured that this was a clone. Either way, I will always be elated at the memory of my BFJ 2017 journey.
Photos by Annabel Shettel for Bullet Music