Uphonia, Spanish Moss Farm, Quincy, FL- 5/13-15
Spanish Moss Farm proved to be a perfect venue for the inaugural Uphonia, the three-day festival held May 13-15 in north Florida. The scenic grassy fields and sleepy live oaks made for a mind-blowing outdoor amphitheater with a killer sound. Approximately 1,000 people attended creating an intimate setting of musicians and fans, who were able to connect in a way just not possible at larger festivals.
The weekend event featured well-known acts like Keller Williams, MOFRO and The Codetalkers with Col. Bruce Hampton. Guitarist Steve Kimock, who played a late night set alongside Mountain of Venus, and The Grateful Dead's Vince Welnick were also present.
Festival Highlights included Keller Williams' rare covers of Sublime's "What I Got" and The Grateful Dead's "One More Saturday Night." Vince Welnick also got the crowd dancing with old-school favorites like "Shakedown Street" and "Scarlet Begonias."
Uphonia founder Ted Freed, who has emerged as a key player in bringing jam bands to Florida- especially to the Tampa Bay area- helps to promote, book and manage local bands by way of his company Rising Jupiter. Freed, who has been in the real estate business for more than two decades, decided to invest his time, knowledge and money in the local music scene.
"It's all about my wanting to help talented musicians who don't have the business background," Freed said.
Freed, being a musician himself, feels a deep bond to the bands that he works with. One band in particular, Mountain of Venus, inspired Freed to take the Bay area jam scene to the next level.
"When I met Mountain of Venus, it all changed. We sang together; We cried together. We made music together the first time we met. It was amazing," Freed said. "So, I started helping them and then other bands started coming to me, like Cope, and this whole beautiful community in Tampa just opened up."
Freed began collaborating with venues like Skipper's Smokehouse and Java Junction to give local talent the publicity and stage space needed to attract a wider fan base. Several of these Bay area bands were invited to play at Uphonia. The result was a spectacular festival, which afforded some smaller acts the opportunity to be realized within the jam community.
Cope, who played Saturday afternoon, was thrilled to be able to bring their music to the festival circuit. The band started their set with a song entitled "Weekday," drifted into a long jam with their song "Time" and ended the set with originals like "See" and a Beatles cover "Don't Let Me Down." A little over a year ago, they were introduced to Freed by their manager Mike Grubb. Freed is now their promoter.
Bassist and vocalist, Kenny Stadelman, his younger brother, guitarist and vocalist Dennis and their cousin guitarist Roger Pinkerton have all been strumming collectively since their youth.
"We've been playin' together off and on since Dennis and I and Roger were like 13, 14 and 15," Stadelman said. "We had a band growing up until I was 20 called Verbal Irony."
The group grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and moved down to Florida during the early 90s were most of their family already resided. Cope has been in existence as a jam band for about three years. The band has gone through a few different drummers, however the current drummer Dave Gerulat appears to be a keeper as his energy complements the band's sexy electric sound.
Although Cope has played a few large house parties and large-scale events like Bike Fest, Uphonia was their first jam festival.
"It was a blast. It was one of our funnest shows. The people there were there because they love music. It's not like playin' for a fickle crowd at a bar." Stadelman said. "All of the bands were talented and had quality equipment to work with. It was just put together really professionally."
Cope's influences are predominantly from the Rock 'n Roll genre. However, Stadelman says that there are some jazz and reggae artists that have helped to shape their style as well.
"Everything from Hendrix and Stevie Ray to the Beatles and the Dead," Stadelman said.
After attending Uphonia, Cope is excited about what the future will hold and aspires to be able to support themselves solely by way of their music.
"We'd like to go as far as we can and do as many festivals as we can; festivals being the most fun and the most music oriented. We'd love to tour. We'd love to get out there and get our music out," Stadelman said. "We all have day jobs, but those get kinda old. I'd like to be able to feed my family with music, instead of swingin' a hammer."
As for Uphonia round II, Freed says he's already thinking of ways to make the festival better next year.
"Uphonia was a huge success. It greatly exceeded my expectations. The vibe was amazing. Throughout my life, I've always been kind of a second or third fiddle not a first and being in that spotlight and seeing what happened made me cry with tears of joy a number of times," Freed said. "I was just overwhelmed by the love that went between the artists, the people that worked there and the people that attended. To me what happened was a gestation of nine months of planning… I can't wait until May 12 next year."