Why I Loved AURA Music & Arts Festival (Plus Photos)

Live painters during Break Science Live Band at AURA Music and Arts Festival
Live painters creating during Break Science Live Band's set on Sunday night

Incredible music, inspiring art, and an immersive feel


It was a weekend of jam — the kind of jams that make you wonder just how music could be this good and what god blessed you with the ability to hear it. The kind of jams that give you a crooked smile because you feel like you've just learned the greatest secrets of the universe. The kind of jams that make you grateful for talented musicians with the heart to bare it all in such an evocative way.

This was the essence of AURA Music and Arts Festival: creative expression given the freedom to soar, supported by the winds of a fiercely receptive (and captive) audience of music (and art) lovers.

And there was no shortage of either. A short walk around the festival grounds revealed musicians playing to enthusiastic crowds in the charming venues offered by Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park (the Amphitheater Stage, the Porch Stage, and the Music Hall) as well as in the Vibe Tent, which was also home to yoga and healing arts workshops and the late-night silent disco.

I was most engaged by sets from TAUK, The Motet, Consider the Source, Jimkata, Dopapod, and Papadosio. TAUK brought me back to life midnight Saturday in the Music Hall and Dopapod covered No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”. A Michael Jackson tribute set by The Main Squeeze was the dance party we all needed Sunday afternoon and Break Science Live Band’s debut performance closed out the festival with some funky breaks.

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9 Affordable Spring Music Festivals in Florida


Discover new music without breaking the bank.


We're very lucky here in Florida: Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, one of the most beautiful outdoor music venues in the country (in my humble opinion), hosts several amazing festivals throughout the year, each with a stellar lineup and fantastic production. Unfortunately, those amazing festivals can come at a high price, often upward of $200 per ticket.

For someone who loves music as much as I do, seeing it live can become a serious financial drain, especially during festival season. So I've compiled a list of fests with tickets that can be purchased for less than $100 to help you get your fix this spring without going broke.

You can

  • click on the flyer to view a larger image.
  • click on the ticket price to see other available options and purchase tickets (price listed is the cost of a general admission, full-event pass at the time this article was written).
  • click to view the Facebook event (if one has been created).

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Zach Deputy's "Gospel Ninja Soul" Comes to Downtown Orlando

Zach Deputy at Backbooth Orlando on 2/13/15
Zach Deputy at Backbooth on 2/13

Feel Good Jams with a Side of Funk


Zach Deputy’s music is a balm for tired spirits, the work of a joyful man who lives with gratitude in his heart. On Feb. 13, he brought his one man show to Backbooth in Downtown Orlando for a funky night that opened with a set by Orlando’s own funkUs.

If you don’t know Zach, here’s the low-down: He’s a Southern boy, born in Bluffton, S.C. He’s a touring machine, hitting cities all over the country every year. He’s a lover of Florida; he can often be found playing shows in the state and even hosts a disc jam at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.

He plays a mixture of funk, soul, and gospel music, heavily influenced by his rich cultural heritage. He loops and layers all the elements of his music (guitar, bass, beatboxing, vocals, drum sounds) during performances, allowing for flexibility and creativity so that each show is a unique experience.

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Celebrate Life and Love at B.E. Easy Music & Arts Festival

B.E. Easy Music & Arts Festival Flyer

Support the efforts of the B.E. Easy Scholarship Fund


This Valentine’s Day, the beautiful Bryant Park in Lake Worth, Fla., will host the B.E. Easy Music and Arts Festival featuring Nahko and Medicine for the People, Cope, The Resolvers, Unlimited Devotion and Friends, Ancient Sun, The Funky Nuggets, and Sawgrass Express.

Ancient Sun and The Funky Nuggets will also play a pre-party on Friday, Feb. 13 (that’s right, Friday the 13th), at the Funky Buddha Lounge in Boca Raton. Plus, Thriftworks will headline a Saturday night after-party at Propaganda, a venue located just one-half mile from the festival site, with support from Lucky Costello.

In addition to a fierce lineup of local and national acts, this fest truly has heart. B.E. Easy was created to honor the life of a young man named Benjamin Evans, who was prescribed opiates at the age of 19 and developed an addiction. Though he later got clean, he lost his battle one fatal night at the age of 23.

It was Benjamin’s brother Christopher’s idea to hold the festival in his brother’s memory, and with the help of loving family members and devoted friends, B.E. Easy saw its first incarnation two years later in 2013.

A change in date and location has moved the 3rd Annual B.E. Easy Music and Arts Festival to Bryant Park on Saturday, Feb. 14. Situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, the park offers enchanting views of the water, a built-in amphitheater, restroom facilities, and more.

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How a Viral Facebook Post Recovered This Missing Painting

Drake Arnold and his painting at Suwannee Hulaween
Drake Arnold and his painting at Suwannee Hulaween

An uplifting example of the power of social media


When I saw Drake Arnold’s Facebook post saying his painting Giver of Light had been stolen, I remembered being captivated by it at Suwannee Hulaween. It stood alone so I didn’t get the chance to acquaint myself with the artist, but I saw the post because it was shared by a friend who’d also been to the festival.

I felt dismay and disappointment hearing that this happened at what had been such a beautiful fest (and knowing that it happens at other fests, too). So when I saw the painting again at Bear Creek Music Festival, back in the hands of its creator, I was delighted and intrigued. I wanted to know how it had found its way home.

I spoke to Drake and learned that the Facebook post had actually played a big part in the painting’s return, a bigger part than even he thought it would.

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Permaculture Action Tour Organizer Talks About Its Success

Jasmine Fuego at Orlando impact day site
Jasmine says some people haven't been expecting to hear this message at the shows.

She hopes her work with The Polish Ambassador will inspire other artists to speak out for change.


David Sugalski, aka The Polish Ambassador, and Ayla Nereo have just wrapped up their cross-country permaculture action tour that brought permaculture education and hands on activism to each city on its route. Successfully crowdfunded in one month, this groundbreaking tour has received overwhelming support from music fans who are ready for their musicians to step up and use their voices for change. 

The aptly named “impact days” have seen high levels of attendance; on some days volunteers have even worked simultaneously on projects in different locations. At one of the Orlando events, I met Jasmine Fuego, a community organizer and dancer for the tour. In addition to doing her thing on stage, Jasmine was responsible for reaching out to local organizations to get them to come to the shows, educate the audiences on the organizations' work in their communities, and host the impact days where people could come out and do real work in the areas of permaculture, food justice, and sustainability. 

I sat down with Jasmine and asked her a few questions about the promotion of the tour, the response from fans, and the future of this kind of activism in the music industry.

So far it seems that you guys have been getting a very positive response to these impact days that you have been putting together. What kind of reactions have you personally been getting from people about what you guys are doing? How are they responding? 

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Members of Papadosio Talk Shifts & Sound in Jax Beach

Papadosio photo collage
Papadosio plays Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach, Fla.

"If our music was a spaceship, we’re taking little vehicles out and exploring ..."


I arrived in Jacksonville Beach a little early on Saturday to attend the “Inter-Kinnector” pre-show gathering hosted by my friends at C4 Collective at the Ananda Kula yoga studio. Anthony Thogmartin, Sam Brouse, and Mike Healy of Papadosio were leading a panel on the “kNew Paradigm” and discussing how we in the music festival community can be amicable in our pursuit of a new and sustainable model for living.

“In this community ... we have, in some way, bought into the idea of us and them," Anthony said. "And because of that, a lot of times our ideas, we feel like they fall on deaf ears … If we could do one thing better as our community, [it] is to try to relate to people. … We have to stop taking ourselves so seriously, and take what other people think of as serious, because we want to reach out to them; we want to be able to embrace them.”

Awareness of how we approach people with our truth is vital, especially in this time of transition.

“My parents weren’t all that environmentally friendly or forward-thinking until we started to be. So I feel like we are the first real generation that has a lot of forward-thinking individuals,” Sam added.

The conversation went on with several outbursts of laughter and thoughtful input from members of the circle that had formed on the studio floor. We discussed how music festivals themselves could do better at facilitating real change in the communities they temporarily occupy and living up to the “transfomational” moniker. But we also talked about the individual and how each of us has a responsibility to make an impact on the lives of those we come in contact with.

The time came to shift over to Freebird Live in preparation for Papadosio’s set. Rob McConnell was holding it down on stage with his second band, Asian Teacher Factory, a psychedelic-infused expedition through rock and roll soundscapes. I sat down for a brief interview with Anthony on the reasons behind some of Papadosio’s most recent moves.

The Imaginal Cells Fall Tour has you making a total of six stops in Florida (That’s quite a bit for you guys.), including Orlando where you haven’t been in a while. What made you decide to come back?

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Earthdance: Uniting the World Through Music and Art

Earthdance Florida Festival Flyer
The largest global synchronized peace gathering

Earthdance Florida is part of a global party for peace.


Would you go to a festival where the theme was ancient mythology and you'd have the chance to recite a Prayer for Peace with people all around the world at the exact same moment? Attendees at Earthdance Florida 2014 will get to do just that, over the weekend of September 18-21 at Maddox Ranch in Lakeland, Fla.

This 4-day festival, presented by Earthdance Florida — a branch of Earthdance Global — is part of the largest global peace party that has been held in over 600 locations in 80 countries since 1997. Florida's event will feature art, music, workshops, live performances, and vendors spread over five interactive "realms", inspired by ancient cultures and the elements.
The Greek Realm (Air) will host Saturday's Prayer for Peace at 7 p.m., with an effigy performance and burn to follow at 8:30 p.m. It will also be home to the Lotus Tempe Stage and the vendor market.
The Egyptian Realm (Fire) will hold the Gateway to Eternity Stage and be the location of various flow workshops throughout the weekend. 
Vision Lab's visionary art galleries will be found in The Asian Realm (Spirit), as well as the Tribal Council dome where art, energy, and wellness talks and workshops will take place.
Local change organizations Rising Light and C4 Collective will host workshops on sustainability, upcycling, and more in The Celtic Realm (Earth), the site of the food market and recycling and compost station.
Finally, The Atlantis Realm (Water) will be a place to get wet in the pool or showers, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Musical acts to include Random Rab, Phutureprimitive, Aphrodite, Govinda, The Human Experience, and Greenhouse Lounge, as well as local favorites Come Back Alice, The Funky Nuggets, and Holey Miss Moley will be performing over the weekend. Dela, Christopher Morphis, Emily Kell, and Bonnie Goodson are just a few of the visual artists that will be present at the festival.

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St. Pete Artist Has This Advice on Becoming a Live Painter

Jerry Cahill ART
Jerry Cahill's art on display at Blackstock Music Festival.

"Be persistent."


I had the chance to sit down with St. Petersburg artist Jerry Cahill while I was volunteering in the art gallery at Blackstock Music Festival. When we spoke, he had just quit his job, moved out of his house, and was planning to take his work on the road as a full-time artist.

He said that it was a good time in his life, that he had just gotten his A.A. degree, and that he had saved up some money in preparation. "... I gotta figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, so I'm kind of taking a break on everything."

When I asked him to give some advice to upcoming/beginner artists, he had this to say to anyone wanting to get into painting live:
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Local Singer/Songwriter Discusses Challenges of Full-Time Musicianship

Singer/songwriter performance
Singer/songwriter Loi Head performs at the 13th Annual DeLand Original Music Festival. 

"It definitely brings up a lot of questions ..."


For Loi Head, music has always been a part of life, even in the early years. Her mother and grandmother sang to her as a child. Her older sister was a singer, and may have been the inspiration for her joining chorus as a young student.

In college, Loi joined a worship team and sang back up vocals for a campus ministry. This got her around musicians, and after college she picked up the guitar and started to learn.

The decision to become a full-time musician came after the encouragement of others piqued her interest.
"Several people had just randomly talked to me about that," Loi says, "which I had never thought of before on my own, like, oh, I should be doing this. So then words of encouragement got me thinking about it, and then picking up the guitar and learning that kind of flowed together. I would be practicing and just thinking about words and songs and melodies and everything kind of coming together. So just through writing songs, even when I wasn't proficient at the guitar, made me want to do it even more." 
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