Blackwater Music and Arts Festival 2011 took place from Thursday, September 22 thru Saturday, September 24, 2011. Unlike most festivals at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (SOSMP), Blackwater added a stage down by the river and had late night sets that were not announced on the schedule. Additionally this festival was smaller and more intimate than some of the other festivals, allowing those attending to get a chance to make many new friends and even opportunities to meet band members, while still having enough room to move about and not have your campsite running into the next one.
Arriving at Blackwater was welcoming and the lines were not too long. Allowed to go through the main gate was a welcome sign of its own, as some other festivals divert traffic to a back entrance then leaving everyone incredibly confused about where they are upon entering the park. Being the first day the people working the festival were working out a few kinks, but they were patient and in good spirits. Once granted entry camping spots were easy to find and because music didn’t start until 4:20 p.m. there was time to setup and get comfortable.
Music began with Greenhouse Lounge opening the festival on the Amphitheater stage. The first show can always be a little rough in terms of having a large audience but Greenhouse Lounge didn’t let that stop them and could be heard into the campgrounds. On next was festival favorite, Zach Deputy. As always, he showed the crowd a great time playing favorites like “Chicken Pot Pie”. To those who did not know of him it is always impressive to see him sitting behind his many instruments playing everything that you are hearing in the song as well as providing vocals. Zach keeps the crowd singing along and has become a staple of the SOSMP. While he seems to be present at every festival at this park he is a touring machine and seems to never stop.
Perpetual Groove came next and filled the Amphitheater in nicely. Playing a blend of jam, southern rock, funk and other genres they create an eclectic musical sound. They seamlessly transition from extended guitar jams into synthesizer backed melodic vocal interludes and back again. Songs likes “Andromeda” brought the crowd together and prepared them nicely for the electronic dance music of EOTO.
Finally EOTO came to take the stage for the final (scheduled) show of Thursday night. Playing everything live and not using any pre-recorded loops they create amazingly complex and multi-dimensional music. A side project of The String Cheese Incident, they offer an electronic assault on the senses. When they jammed songs inspired by their Fire of the Lazers!!! album it brought the energy up to new heights prepping the crowd to continue their party late into the night.
Upon heading back to camp many campers noticed a stage being erected in the campground area, a little ways away from the gates into the festival stage areas. The campgrounds were abuzz with guesses of who would be playing this stage. Surely they were setting it up for use tonight or they wouldn’t be working in the dark. Shortly thereafter, music began and people started trekking back to the new stage. Almost shocking to be seen at such a close distance, Zach Deputy was onstage looking even larger than on the Amphitheater stage. Almost like a mirage in the desert, Zach played for what can only be referred to as a marathon set. Finally winding down sometime around 5 a.m., the first night of Blackwater ended with a bang, prompting those attending to prepare for what would be an epic weekend.
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