Fest Nest

AURA 4: Lasers & Love In Live Oak

AURA 4: Lasers & Love In Live Oak

Upon entering the grounds of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park on February 15, 2013, it became clear that AURA 4 would be an entirely different animal than the AURA of yesteryear – it was bigger, better, and, to no surprise, drew a much larger crowd – approximately 3,500 this time around. The woods were pungent with magical history, saturating the air with an uplifting energy. The good vibes, however, did not derive exclusively from the soil itself. There seemed to be nothing but ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of nearly everyone as they established their campsites. Strangers and friends alike united as a family, where hugs were commonplace. Love and excitement filled the air before many people even knew just exactly what was in store.

Upon entering the grounds of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park on February 15, 2013, it became clear that AURA 4 would be an entirely different animal than the AURA of yesteryear – it was bigger, better, and, to no surprise, drew a much larger crowd – approximately 3,500 this time around. The woods were pungent with magical history, saturating the air with an uplifting energy. The good vibes, however, did not derive exclusively from the soil itself. There seemed to be nothing but ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of nearly everyone as they established their campsites. Strangers and friends alike united as a family, where hugs were commonplace. Love and excitement filled the air before many people even knew just exactly what was in store.

Friday: Reunions of Rage
Although many festivals choose to ease into the weekend, the first night of AURA was absolutely loaded with must-see acts such as RAQ, Break Science, Perpetual Groove and the first ever back-to-back Conspirator sets. Many having arrived toward the beginning of the RAQ reunion set, it was crucial to set up camp as fast as possible in order to catch some of the historical set. Having never seen RAQ previously, it was quite an experience. It was both pleasing and surprising to witness how dedicated the band’s fans seemed to be. In fact, multiple parties said they’d flown down from areas as far as New York. With such dedicated fans, it was clear their music had to be special. As the music commenced, it was like being enclosed in a symphonic bounce house. The steady, jam-heavy rhythms combined with Todd Stoops’s spacey keyboard playing and Chris Michetti’s spine-curling shredding on guitar yielded a truly unique and enjoyable musical experience. 

As the sun set and the temperature dropped, it was time to rage. Break Science took the stage as an unrelenting force and never looked back. The highlight of the set took place when artist at large Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff sat in on guitar, a cameo which drummer Adam Deitch jokingly coined as LettScience. The combination of funky guitar riffs, hip-hop, funk-infused rhythms and glitchy accents yielded a truly unique sound. Other big moments included an outrageous rendition of “Move Ya Body” off of Break Science’s first EP, “Further Than Our Eyes Can See,” as well as a new, untitled track filled with heavy drum and bass beats. It was only after the music ended, and the dancing subsided, that people seemed to realize the temperature had dropped below 40 degrees.

The members of Conspirator took it upon themselves to provide the tunes to get the crowd moving and distracted from the cold. Bringing some of the most intense energy all weekend, their two sets were a nonstop, bass-heavy dance party. The highlights of the set included an absolutely skull-shattering rendition of “Accent” off newly released EP, “Unleashed,” which included superb live drum and bass beats from drummer KJ Sawka. The lasers seemed to compliment the music perfectly, as the colorful beams protruded from directly behind the musicians, establishing a heightened plane of reality. Just before taking a set break, bassist Marc Brownstein took a moment to thank the crowd to express how happy the band was to be playing at AURA. The second set brought even more energy and included fan favorites such as  “Boomshanker” and “Orch Theme.” This set also seemed to feature more improvisation from the band, which made it all the more enjoyable.  The lighting scheme was more colorful, which used a lot of organic colors, as opposed to just the lasers. The band seemed to be having an absolute ball on stage, as the undeniable chemistry between longtime bandmates Aron Magner (keys) and Marc Brownstein seemed to truly blossom while constantly flashing each other smiles of approval and joy. The only downside to Conspirator’s performance was the over-abundance of dubstep. It seemed almost every time a jam was about to peak, the band dropped into a dubstep beat, as opposed to utilizing more experimental sounds. But, the dubstep overdose was tamed by the sounds of later Friday night sets by both Kung Fu and Perpetual Groove.

Saturday: Wonder in the Woods
As expected, the Saturday’s heavily anticipated Stevie Wonder tribute set by Kung Fu was astonishing. Nigel Hall was an ideal ringleader for the funk-filled fiesta. The set featured crowd favorites such as “Higher Ground” (where artist-at-large Shmeeans joined in on guitar), “Do I Do” and “I Wish.” The love-filled dedication was an excellent way to kick-start the evening, and everyone in attendance seemed to be glowing underneath the trees at the Amphitheatre Stage. 

After the Wonder that was Wonder, the crowd shuffled over to the Porch Stage for DrFameus and Friends, featuring Allen Aucoin of the Disco Biscuits. This set seemed to be much different than a regular DrFameus throwdown, because it featured guest collaborations with both DJ DRIZNO and guest guitarist Chase Nichols. The addition of the axe meshed so well and sounded so supreme, it prompted one fan to joke that the delivery sounded “like the best Bisco song I’d never heard.” It should also be noted that Aucoin’s kit did not include any eDrum additions, similar to his setup with the Disco Biscuits pre-2007. Aucoin seemed to be playing so fast and precise, that there were even moments that he had to stop playing with one hand to use his inhaler – that is how the crowd knew he meant business. After the set concluded, it became clear that the Gingerbot had truly found his sound and came into his own, establishing his own unique musical identity.

As the fans shifted towards the Amphitheater Stage, Dopapod commenced in a musical odyssey. The band’s unique brand of heavy, progressive space-funk meshed beautifully with the lasers at the main stage. As the crowd grew, lighting director, Luke Stratton, activated the fog machines to emphasize his majestic, newly improved light rig. It was truly enchanting to watch Stratton coordinate his visuals blended with the lasers. The music kept getting better and better as the set forged onward. Everyone was busy dancing in the illuminated forest, as copious heads were visibly bobbling to the bouncy tunes. The musical highlight came at the end of the set as the band played an extremely hearty rendition of “Ghost 386,” which they used as a vessel to seamlessly segue into a massive “Trapper Keeper” to close out. Everyone in the band was tuned in with one another all night, and the music reflected that perfectly. Drummer Neal “Fro” Evans’s heavy drumbeats provided a perfect fuel for the band to feed off of all night. He and Eli Winderman (keys) had a self-sustaining energy for the entirety of the set. When asked how he felt about their performance, Evans exclaimed, “Super fucking kick-ass!”

After what seemed to be a fairly contained set on Friday, Perpetual Groove returned to the stage Saturday in full-force. This was possibly the final time the legendary jam band would be performing in a festival environment, and they brought forth a unique energy so powerful, they seemed to shatter the very stage they played on. Brock Butler (guitar, lead vocals) played as if it was his final day on Earth, bearing his soul for each of the increasingly passionate songs. The set concluded with a monstrous rendition of fan-favorite “Teakwood Betz.” The band left the stage briefly before returning for an extremely heart-melting version of “It Starts Where It Ends,” bringing countless fans to tears by the conclusion. Although the set was filled with fantastic music and profound emotion, it ended in a very bittersweet way – a band beloved many, saying goodbye to the fans that stood by them through it all.

Later that night, Papadosio graced the AURA crowd with an uncharacteristically fast-paced set complete with nonstop raging jams that seemed to get more intense as the night progressed. Even attendees who had seen their fair share of Papadosio shows were commenting on the unique, powerful energy that the band brought to the stage. Known more for their chakra-piercing, downtempo trippy grooves, the band seemed committed to showing how diverse their sound really was. The visuals were also not to be taken lightly. Known for their heavy emphasis on multisensory stimulation and visual presence, Papadosio’s set featured some of the most mind-bending visuals of the weekend. Utilizing the lasers that had been running on the main stage, combined with a three-prong projection mapping setup, lighting director Daniel Hiudt did an incredible job at transcending the audience with his visuals that meshed flawlessly with the music.

Sunday: Brockfast/Rockfest
Simply put, there’s no better way to begin the last day of any festival than with a delicious serving of Brockfast. Brock Butler put on one of the single most outstanding acoustic performances ever to ring through the aged oaks at Suwannee. His set included a plethora of covers, most notably a heartfelt rendition of Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk To Me” which featured the syrupy vocals of Emily Carrol (AURA 1 vet) on backup vocals. A number of Butler’s friends emerged from backstage throughout the set to join him on stage for a song or two. It was wonderful to see so much love filling the venue. The intimate audience with a weakness for mimosas also made the performance extra special.

Next up, Lingo took the Porch Stage soon after Butler concluded his set, and kicked off the afternoon with a funky dance party. The fun, bouncy tunes provided a great soundtrack to walk around and take a look at some of the vendor offerings, as well as the art tent. It didn’t take too long before Brock Butler found himself on stage once again to join Lingo in covering The Band’s ever-popular hit single, ‘The Weight” All those still in attendance seemed to be close to the stage for the rocked-out daylight memory. Butler’s passionate, Southern vocals were perfect for the timeless classic.

Closing out the blowout musical weekend in the woods, Papadosio’s second set contained more of the band’s classic tunes, and seemed to be way more of a trippier set than the previous night. The band released all leftover energy from the weekend throughout the blissful set. With so many fans still in attendance, there was no ignoring how strong Papadosio’s following has gotten. Countless fans were seen bouncing around the audience in a joint world of euphoria. The band must’ve easily noticed the happiness permeating through the crowd, as the good vides fueled the monumental conclusion.

An afterthought: We’re sending so much love and props out to the AURA Music Events team, as well as Brotherly Love Productions, who joined forces this year to bring a once-grassroots operation into the accessible arms of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. A killer lineup delivered from every angle, and production efforts took this year’s installment over the edge. Not to mention the woodland hospitality of Live Oak. We can’t wait to head back for a milestone fifth year. Here’s to more s’mores, hot chocolate and warm bodies to snuggle up with in 2014.

To relive some of AURA 4’s best moments, browse a whopping 50 video clips from our friends at CHeeSeHeaDPRoduCTioNS embedded below.

All photos by Melodysiac © 2013

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victor

February 28th, 2013

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