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Published: 2013/10/21
by Shea Hester

Zac Brown Band Bring Southern Ground Music and Food Festival to Charleston, SC

For the third year in a row, the Zac Brown Band brought their Southern Ground Music and Food Festival to Charleston, SC this past weekend. Never selling themselves short on an eclectic mix of regional and local food as well as a diverse group of talented musicians and artists, this year proved to be probably one of the best ones yet.

On Saturday, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue got the crowd moving in typical New Orleans fashion at the main stage in the afternoon covering “American Woman,” the Lenny Kravitz version (Trombone Shorty used to play in Kravitz’ band). Later on in the set, they offered up a classical take on “St. James Infirmary Blues,” with some call-and-response to get the crowd involved. Local bluegrass outfit, Balsam Range got people moving at the side stage and were joined by John Driskell Hopkins (bassist for the Zac Brown Band) for their entire set.

Fitz and the Tantrums played on the main stage with their style of 80’s soul-groove even covering Annie Lennox’ “Sweet Dreams.” After the sun went down, Natalie Maines (formerly of the Dixie Chicks) opened her set with a solid rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Mother.” On the small stage, the Wood Brothers played a short set featuring some songs from their latest album release The Muse.

The Zac Brown Band came out for their headlining spot featuring special guests and a nice selection of covers. The first of special guests was Clare Bowen from the hit musical TV show Nashville. She joined ZBB adding sultry vocals on their hit “Free” which included the usual take on Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” sandwiched in the middle. Shortly after Bowen, the band busted out Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” sending the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy. Zac Brown Band also performed a few songs with all acoustic instruments and hand drums. Most notable were Marshall Tucker Band’s “Southern Skies” and “Rivers of Babylon” originally written by the reggae group the Melodians in 1970 but later made popular by Sublime in the mid-90’s.

Next up, Zac Brown Band invited out John Bell of Widespread Panic referencing the musical influence he played during Brown’s school days. They traded vocals on every song throughout the sit-in which featured Widespread Panic’s “Blue Indian” and “Ain’t Life Grand,” which was then followed by Bill Wither’s “Use Me,” a common cover for Widespread Panic. Zac Brown Band then closed out the show with their popular “Chicken Fried,” followed by takes on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

On Sunday, indie folk-rockers The Head and The Heart kicked things off in the afternoon on the main stage and were then followed by the legendary, Willie Nelson and His Family Band. Nelson stuck to most of the basics and classics such as “Whiskey River,” “Crazy,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and “On the Road Again.” He even paid homage to his longtime partner in crime, Waylon Jennings, with “Good Hearted Woman” and “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Charleston-based rockers Band of Horses were next up on the main stage and delivered a solid set that kept the crowd’s blood pumping. Rising country star, Kacey Musgraves then played to a good crowd over at the side stage.

Zac Brown Band then emerged for their headlining spot. More sit-ins from special guests were expected. The first to come was country music legend Kenny Rogers who sang on his 1967 hit by the First Edition “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and his very own “The Gambler,” which he also joined Phish for as well at Bonnaroo 2012. Atlanta native Angie Aparo sat in on guitar and lead vocals during the band’s mini-acoustic set for a sing-along version of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” Shortly after, comedian Frank Olivier and guitarist Freddy Clarke joined the Zac Brown Band for a humorous, acoustic rendition of Zappa’s “Muffin Man.” Additionally, Jason Mraz sat in with ZBB a bit later for his own hit “I’m Yours” and Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

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