Fool's Paradise: Sun Lotion and Salty Air
I slid into VIP check-in with ease and got a mermaid-inspired tropical festival band placed on my wrist. After security check, a police officer yelled out "I smell weed!" and sure enough, as I walked out of the security line, the smell was heavy all around. Manic Science (Manic Focus + Break Science) were just finishing up, and they produced a decent-sized group that only grew from there.
Lee Rissin, the infamous Lettuce fan, awaited Lettuce in his lettuce socks, Air Jordan's, and Hawaiian shirt. On a sad note, he had no lettuce bombs with him this time around, but he still got the funk down. When Lettuce crept on stage, they had a cooler with what looked to be a bottle of champagne. Jesus Coomes greeted us with a "We love you all. Thank you so much for being with us. It's a special day!"
The fools gathered in as funk was in session. Lettuce bits appeared in the air. Deadheads were left and right with jean jackets, dreads, and inflatable palm trees. Js were being inhaled everywhere I looked. I was in paradise. An island of mermaids and pirates. Later Coomes stated, "So much love. So much love on this stage, in this Amphitheatre." Their first guest of the night was Oteil Burbridge. Special guests Antwaun Stanley and Nigel Hall walked out soon after as they played "The New Reel." I took a quick break for a snack search, which led me to a concession stand where the stand ladies were full of bright smiles, and the tip jars were practically overflowing. I purchased nachos and watched as Lettuce's set drew to a close with “Do It Like You Do."
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead is a super groovy under the sea instrumental band, that sent me to dreamland. I observed as light up bubble blowers began a trend in the crowd. The bubbles made their way to the stage and danced along to the stage lights. The sea of jellyfish bodies was swaying and waving their hands in the air. I ended my second night with an interview with Andy and Tyler from Jaw Gems. They were patiently waiting to perform a sound check before their late night set. With a bottle of liquor and an electronic keyboard, they kept themselves entertained. These two were very talkative about their 10-hour drive from Maine to Florida.
I trekked back to Jacksonville to grab my other camera battery (there's always that one festival adventure). I eventually made it back to St. Augustine, where I wandered into The Elk’s Lodge. There were twinkly lights hung from the ceiling along with a disco ball, party people with drinks in their hands, and tie dye all around. Groove Orient’s vocals were strong with a funky rock vibe. I felt as if I was watching a hardcore punk show minus the mosh pit, and adding in a bit of disco. A few fans stuck around to talk and high five band members after the set.
Ben Strok & The Full Electric started their sound check and it was full of these woozy electric guitar strums. I was so excited for their set. At first, it was as if we were at a private party in an intimate smoky setting, but then fools started flowing in from outside as they played Sly & The Family Stone’s "Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself, Again.” Even the ladies room was decked out in 70's vintage. A paisley patterned wicker couch lined the wall alongside a lace-fringed lamp. In the lodge parking lot, festival goers could be found camped all around. There was a guy with a speaker yelling out absurdities and lots of interesting vans being used as campers, including an old ambulance. I strolled my way into the vendor area as everyone was bright eyed and bushy tailed for the day. The Amphitheatre began to fill in as a volunteer mingled with others and told me about a secret lighthouse sunset view.
The Main Squeeze was no joke with their funk game and I was really digging the singer's kimono. Two crowd favorites were “Dr. Funk” and “#WWC” (Whiskey, Women, Cocaine). Corey Frye, the lead singer, giggled as he said, “It’s been a crazy last 72 hours. We met Stevie Wonder on a plane. April 28th our new album is dropping. We are going to play a few new ones for you.”
Antwaun Stanley made a guest appearance as they played “Return Of The Mack.” Frye invitingly said, “Hope you’re having a good day two! I get off work in a few minutes, so let’s party!” When their set finished a stage woman in yoga pants adjusted cords on stage. I then noticed two young EMT's who picked up a passed out girl and put her in a wheelchair to wheel her to safety. I can only hope this girl revived safely. It was hot all weekend and everyone was partying hard.
Lyle Divinsky, the main singer of The Motet, was repping a Bone Thugs-n-Harmony shirt. His energy was flowing through everyone in the crowd. He asked "How we feeling fools? I'm just getting warmed up!" Every time I thought Fool's Paradise had already reached maximum funk, each band proved me wrong. It was a jivin' party. The Motet were a perfect mixture of rock and funk. Divinsky yelled out "Fool's Paradise you're incredible!" Beach balls (sponsored by Zonk) and water flew every which way from the mass. Divinsky kicked a beach ball off stage but noted, "I was never a soccer player." A regular fest goer with a scarf hung around his neck went around and picked up as many plastic cups as he could. It's so beautiful to see moments like this. So much trash can be left at events and no one cares. Enjoy the music but don't harm the earth, I say.
Stickers with the word "kinky" were being passed around, as we patiently awaited The Floozies appearance. After a brief interview with them and a hilarious bathroom photoshoot, I was excited for the funk pace to change over to some damn good electronic. Before meeting these guys you wouldn't think they were quiet, as their stage presence is the complete opposite. They keep that mischievousness going, though. All the groove freaks decked out in the most rainbow items they own came out. There was wild head banging and arms flailing all over as they got down to "Love, Sex, Fancy Things." The Floozies then brought out The Shady Horns as a nice little surprise before Lettuce.
Eric Bloom, the trumpet player for Shady Horns, had a microphone mishap. He kept rocking and wailing while twirling and acting like he was going to kick his trumpet into the crowd. The Floozies played a new song, “Funk Jesus." Of course “Sunroof Cadillac” was the crowd's favorite. Matt smirked and said, “You’ve been a fucking blast! Give yourselves a round of applause, you’ve fucking earned it!” He thanked his fans and before the duo exited, they hugged each other. A job well done, leaving an excited crowd in their wake.
Lee was back and slinging smarties around before Lettuce performed their last main stage set of the weekend. Coomes came out with a mask on. As I took photos, I noticed he was wearing a UV-reactive t-shirt which looked amazing under the stage lights. These guys topped off the night, and they were not only the cherry on top but the whipped cream too. The whole pit was a party of packed sardines. Fool's Paradise channeled love, but everyone needs a reminder to love themselves. You only have this one body.
Photos by Annabel Shettel for Bullet Music