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Living it up in Funk Paradise: Fool’s Paradise 2016 [Photo Gallery + Festival Review]

Adam Dietch drum solo during Lettuce on Day 1. Photo by Nick Bogannam for Compose Yourself Mag.

Fool’s Paradise was No Joke!

For music lovers like myself that just can’t get enough of the Funk, Fool’s Paradise in beautiful St. Augustine Florida, was the perfect fan getaway. St. Augustine, America’s oldest city, was first discovered in 1513 by Juan Ponce De Leon while searching for the Fountain of Youth, and though it was never found, St. Augustine is still rumored to be the home of the legendary fountain capable of reviving youth and curing sickness.

Allow me to put the rumors to rest 503 years later! This weekend left no doubt to those of us in attendance that the Fountain of Youth is no myth, it lies within the St. Augustine Amphitheater, and it was tapped into this weekend by some of the funkiest individuals alive!

Fans came from all over to be revived in the Florida sunshine and healed by the funk. The early birds started showing up in the Amphitheater’s parking lot Friday shortly after noon forming a scene reminiscent of a Grateful Dead lot. Familiar faces greeted each other with warm hugs and big smiles – the family feels were everywhere. Food trucks galore lined the pathway leading to the main gates and across from them, the beautiful humans that make events like this so unique displayed their handcrafted treasures to share with us. A couple of local talents got the party started on the Shipwreck parking lot stage. Morning Fatty out of Gainesville brought a unique fusion of reggae and funk and St. Augustine’s own Love Chunk got groovy with their southern rock style jams.

The main gates opened at 4pm and eager individuals began to file in with ease, rocking their funkiest outfits, many donning green to show love to the hosts of the party, Lettuce. Yup, the funk powerhouse that has been bringing it night in and night out for decades now were hosting their own festival, and even they would agree it was long overdue! Producer/guitarist Marvel Years kicked things off on the main stage followed by electronic duo Goldfish getting the good vibes flowing as our funky family continued to come together.

Then it was time to really party. The spacious amphitheater quickly filled up and turned into a sea of funk. Lettuce took the stage and the crowd unleashed the anticipation that had been building up for weeks now. We were definitely ready to let loose and get funky! The band open with “The Force” a song off their new album Crush, channeling the tremendous energy of the crowd and turning it into an hour and a half set of funk gold! It was pure crunchy ear-gasmic funk, tune after tune, culminating into a sick drum solo by the immensely talented Adam Deitch. Nigel Hall joined in on the fun about halfway through the set and the soul was oozing out of him from the moment he arrived. His powerful energetic vocals added yet another layer to the sonic masterpiece playing out before us!

We barely had time to catch our breath before the sax-funk king GRiZ got going. He captured the crowd with the first drop, and had everyone bouncing as he delivered a killer set which included a nasty cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick it” paying homage to the recently deceased Phife Dawg. The stunning Ida Hawk contributed her beautiful vocals on several tracks and added to the experience with her incredible stage presence. The amphitheater was shaking as Griz literally blew us away from start to finish, and talk about a finish! For the first time ever Lettuce joined Griz on stage for the final 3 songs “Stop Trippin” (Griz), “Clap Your Hands” (The Meters) and “The Anthem” (Lettuce) and provided a once in a life time experienced that left our cups overflowing with funk! What a first night!

Saturday Morning the festival’s patrons woke up to rainy skies, but it turned out to be nothing more than Mother Nature joining in on the festivities and pulling her own April Fools prank. The dark clouds quickly cleared and the sun came out to stay by the time the music started, but the cool breeze that came with the rain stayed making it really feel like paradise.

By the time I got to the venue Saturday, the Groove Orient out of Orlando were just finding their groove in the midst of an epic “Whipping Post” cover as the wind picked up seemingly on cue with the hook. BrassTracks out of Brooklyn got the funk going again on the Main Stage and was joined by surprise guest Natalie Cressman of the Trey Anastasio Band. The Nth Power followed and left us all floating on cloud 9 with their set full of soulful sounds and uplifting harmonies that concluded with a cover of the Beatles “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” featuring Cory Henry of Snarky Puppy on who made the most of his at-large bid sitting in with Vulfpeck, Chris Robinsons Soul Revenue and the Fools of Funk late-night set to name a few.

By the time Vulfpeck was ready rock the love in the air was so strong and so tangible a wedding actually took place on stage prior to the set. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Tripp! I can’t think of a better wedding band than Vulfpeck to lead the post-marriage celebrations! The nerds of funk had everyone busting a move from the first note, making their set a definite highlight. These guys are on fire right now, and gained even more fans after this special and rare performance. Antwaun Stanley, whose vocals appears on several on the bands hits just happened to also be vacationing in St. Augustine over the same time as Fools Paradise and joined the band live on stage for only the 3rd time ever, and he made sure to break out fan favorite ‘Funky Duck’ that got everyone flapping their arms and waddling their tail feathers in style.

Chris Robison Soul Revenue was nothing short of incredible! There’s nothing like watching a band of legends get extra funky on stage as the sun sets over you, and the people couldn’t stop dancing. The super-group comprised of Chris Robinson (Black Crowes), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Nikki Glaspie (Nth Power), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Eric Krasno (Lettuce/Soulive), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood), and The Shady Horns (Ryan Zoidis & Eric Bloom) masterfully jammed on a number of soulful classics like ‘Sneakin’ Sally Thru the Alley’, ‘Hard to Handle’ and ‘Magic Carpet Ride’.

Lettuce fittingly closed out their inaugural event bringing it home just as hard as they did the night before, and had everyone boogying one last time. The set ended with Nigel Hall breaking it down for us one more time before going into favorites “Do it Like You Do” and “Move on Up” and thanking all their fans for being the funkiest in the world! The song says it best, “Nobody else can do it like you do”.

That holds true for everyone involved, from the extremely friendly and welcoming staff of the St. Augustine Amphitheater, to the security team who provided a fun, safe, and hassle free environment, to Purple Hat Productions who always provide top notch lighting and sound. Everything about this festival was on point! We can only hope these funky fools return to the fountain of youth in paradise for years to come! Till next year, fools!

All photos by Nick Bogannam for Compose Yourself Mag. Written by Justin Gwinn. 

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