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Published: 2016/04/22
by Brian Turk

Fool’s Paradise, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, St. Augustine, FL- 4/1

The inaugural Fool’s Paradise Festival was the love-child of Purple Hat Productions, Live For Live Music and funk-purveyors Lettuce, and three-way produced a bouncing bundle of joy for all those in attendance. This two-day event felt more like an intimate party under palm trees than a festival due to the 3,600 person capacity of the venue, and although Fool’s Paradise didn’t sell out, all members of the well-oiled machine behind it were beaming when attendance broke 2,700 by dusk on Friday night. In a time when festivals are closing their gates, it was good to see a first year effort come out of the gate so strongly.

Fool’s Paradise kicked off on Friday with a storm-like surge of livetronica that electrified the crowd. Marvel Years brought his funky-hip-hop-soul down from Vermont before the duo Goldfish swam in from South Africa making some big waves, and by the time Lettuce took the stage late evening, the party was in full swing. The highly anticipated Griz+Lettuce collaboration (featuring vocalist Ida Hawk) closed out the night on the main-stage and the pairing whipped up a hurricane force gale that tore through the night leaving us sweat-soaked and a bit dazed. Even though the late-night sets at the nearby Elk’s Lodge were sold-out well in advance, the whole festival seemed to wander over hoping to get in. Those that did were treated to their first taste of Vulfpeck (featuring soul-singer Antwaun Stanley) for the weekend and a rare set by the duo Break Science (Producer Borham Lee and Drummer Adam Deitch from Lettuce).

Saturday summoned the soulful-side of things, starting off with a high-energy, horn-y set from Brasstracks, then the seductive sounds of The Nth Power sweet-talked the crowd while buckets of sweat poured from guitarist/vocalist Nikki Cassarino. The Nth Power is one of the most authentic and powerful bands making music today, and the rhythmic relationship between drummer Nikki Glaspie and percussionist Weedie Brahma procreates something so pure and primal that a near spiritual experience is achieved. Snarky Puppy’s Cory Henry, who was the artist at-large for Fool’s Paradise, joined The Nth Power, and their version of The Beatles “She’s So Heavy” helped seal their victory for the most outstanding set of the weekend.

The Chris Robinson Soul Revue sauntered onto the stage like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and the power of the pack was undeniable. Robinson, George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Eric Krasno, Nikki Glaspie, Neal Casal and The Shady Horns howled through standards like Otis Redding’s “Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song)” and Allen Toussaint’s “Sneaking Sally Through The Alley” before Lettuce growled through a funk-fueled set that proved they are one of the pillars of modern funk music.

Fool’s Paradise was a shining example of a new chapter in American music. A festival scene once rooted in jambands has evolved into a safe-haven for musical diversity creating lineups that are not easy to categorize, breaking down barriers and clearing the path for those who are manifesting sounds that are free-range, organic and artisanally crafted for those with discerning ears. Auto-tune killed the radio star, but the festival scene has given birth to a new form of audio-Americana, and that was made well-known at Fool’s Paradise.

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