Blackwater Music Festival 2011: Fest Life

By Eliza Jordan |

The Suwannee Park air was thick with a festival fog as people made their way through the muggy campsites. Bustles of festival-goers traveled in lit-up packs, decked out in glow sticks and head-dresses, gravitating toward the music of their choice. Whichever tune drew you near, you went. Whichever stage you felt like sitting at, dancing at, being apart of, you went.

Live music played continuously morning, noon and night from some of today’s best underground jam-bands. All of the shows were intimately played, with singers and guitarists pointing at you, jumping over gates to dance with you, catering specifically to songs that you would scream out for them to play.

The performers were all in tune with what the audience wanted and they had no problem communicating that to meet the needs of their fans.

Tornado Rider, a band that, according to them, is “comprised of a cello goblin, a bass plunker and a drums-tumbler”, will (again, according to them) “bounce your mind away to a nubian fire heaven and the vocals specify the focus of your Egyptian paradise.”

Rushad Eggleston, 32, the lead singer and electric cellist, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music. Eggleston followed his musical passions alongside his bandmates Graham Terry, bassist, and Scott Manke, drummer, to go on tour and perform at music festivals and other distinguished venues across the U.S.

His set was extremely eccentric, with parts of his performance solely set aside for jumping off stage into the mud, rubbing it on members of the audience, throwing golden apples at everyone while performing “Golden Apple Dance” and pulling people on stage.

When I asked Eggleston what his favorite part about Blackwater 2011 was, he responded, “It’s a tie: either rolling around in the slippery mud during that show or getting recognized by and subsequently photographed with Wayne Coyne by the river.”


For the artists, other musical talent drives them to keep playing what they’re playing, no matter how different their genre or interest. As for the audience, any type of musical commotion keeps them on their toes.



21-year-old Flagler College students Alyssa Murfey and Evie Seiler were pulled over the audience barricades and on stage by Eggleston during Tornado Rider’s song “Sawed Off Heads”.

”It was so exhilarating to dance and let loose with an artist who I admire,” said Murfey. “These experiences could only happen at Suwanee.”



Seiler said, “It totally caught me off-guard and only amplified the moment.”


Other artists such as STS9, Ghostland Observatory, EOTO, Blorr, Perpetual Groove, Buckethead, Tribal Seeds, Greenhouse Lounge, Passafire, Zoogma, Zach Deputy and Pepper played a wide variety of sets. Music ranged from electronic dance to reggae-rock funk.

That 1 Guy, using swiveling pipes, electronic buttons, metal gears and bass strings, conceptualized a sound through his one-man-band.

Ghostland Observatory, a band from Austin, Tex., described as an electro-rock funk band, had dedicated fans throughout their entire show. Against the railings and engaged through the multiple fog and lazer light visuals, their fans were always engaged.

“This is our nineteenth show in a row,” said Jeanette and Arleene, two loyal female fans in their mid-50s from North Carolina.
Underground artists who have traveling fans always show their appreciation with a very intimate, personal connection. Mainstream artists, however, and those more renowned, such as Girl Talk, throw music bashes at these types of festivals to remember forever.

Gregg Gillis, better known as the one-man DJ mash-up band, Girl Talk, kicked off Suwannee’s largest stage on Friday night with a dance party that rocked the park from 12-2 a.m. Girl Talk’s performance allowed members of the audience to dance with him as he periodically stood on top of his DJ table to host his Blackwater bash.

Through a wide range of light shows and party favors such as flying rolls of toilet paper and confetti, Girl Talk mashed up remixes from artists such as Black Sabbath and Jay-Z.

Gillis highlighted his performance with a dance-takeover theme, admist hundreds of people on stage, suited in glowsticks, decorated walking-sticks and “tribe” attire.

On Saturday night, 3-time Grammy award winners, The Flaming Lips, kicked off the night at 8 p.m. with an unforgettable production. Their elaborate show consisted of complex stage lighting, back-drop video projections, balloons, puppets, large amounts of confetti, costumes, and last but not least, frontman Wayne Coyne’s infamous life-size plastic bubble, in which he traveled on top of the audience in.

One of Coyne’s signature moves of the night was shooting colored fog out of a megaphone. Their set was full of energy, with fans head-banging and bobbing along to the hits until the last song played at 10:20 p.m.

But the music festivals aren’t only interesting and enjoyable for the musical performances. Artists from the weekend eat, sleep and breathe the same Suwannee air as you do. They roam around the campsites and have late-night performances after other headlining bands are off stage.

Other artists such as Big Something, Mike Pinto and Three Legged Fox played on different stages at all hours of the night.

Three Legged Fox, the alternative rock reggae band from Philideliphia, Pa. came to Blackwater for a stop on their fall tour. Most recently, they have been ranked #3 on iTunes Reggae and have scored AOL Music’s homepage with their hit single’s music video, “Let You Down“.

They played a late-night performance Friday night for a tentative, lake-side crowd that demanded their energy until early hours of Saturday morning.

I asked the band’s 24-year-old pianist Jon Duxbury what his favorite part about Blackwater was and he said, “The latenight set, having more of a crowd than half of the mainstage acts.”

Kyle Wareham, the 26-year-old lead singer and guitarist added, “We went to Summer Dance in Ohio and there, when they shut the music down, they shut the music down.” 
Wareham went on to say that at Blackwater, they actually “gave a crap about music” and he appreciated that the most when playing after other artists as an independent act.

After their performance, they handed me their newly released CD and made plans to come to St. Augustine in-between their next stop.
Their newly released songs can now be found on WFCF 88.5 Flagler College Radio.

But it wasn’t just the music that kept the energy alive.
It wasn’t the mysterious nights of glow-sticks, hammocks, rivers, lakes and campfires.
It wasn’t this, but a sense of unity and helpfulness that lurked around each and every corner.

A mystical weekend full of music and colors, nature and honest intentions were on the minds of Blackwater’s campers day in and day out. The rainy weather created deep, muddy orchestra pits for the stages, flooded half of the campgrounds, yet there was still the love of a common interest: music.

You could feel it like a dampness in the weekend’s weary weather.
You could feel it in the neighbor you camped with, ate with and danced with.

You could feel it in the feeling that a simple, un-materialistic life was almost unattainable in any other place than that.

If you were out of food, in desperation of direction, or just needed a helping hand, you had no fear. Campsite neighbors and passer-bys were always the most helpful when anyone was in need. They would direct you, feed you, sing with you, laugh with you, and when time came where you parted ways, a hug was shared and you said goodbye with a smile.

There was never a dull moment, a second of boredom, or even a moment in time where you second-guessed why you were where you were.

Blackwater 2011 holds, and will continue to hold, a special place in music lovers’ hearts forever.

For more information on music festivals located in the heart of Suwannee Music Park, visit: Their homepage & their Facebook.

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