Purple Hatter's Ball Benefits Rachel Morningstar Foundation

Momma Margie at Purple Hatter's Ball at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Momma Margie talks about Rachel and her foundation
before releasing a butterfly on Saturday of Purple Hatter's Ball.

Love inspired by loss


On May 8-10, I once again had the pleasure of attending at festival at Florida's beautiful Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. This time it was the eighth annual Purple Hatter's Ball, celebrating the life of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate who was killed during a failed drug sting run by the Tallahassee Police Department.

For three days (plus a Thursday night pre-party) many people who'd known Rachel and many who hadn't gathered together to honor her memory by sharing in one of her favorite pastimes: seeing live music. Ticket sales benefited the Rachel Morningstar Foundation, which works to educate the public on the dangers of acting as a confidential informant and establish guidelines for law enforcement officers engaged with confidential informants.

The lineup featured Lotus, Nahko and Medicine For the People, Toubab Krewe, The Werks, Random Rab, Greenhouse Lounge, The Malah, and many more. Over 15 live painters, including Alex and Allyson Grey, Christopher Morphis, Emily Kell, and Jerry Cahill were on site over the weekend. The Yoga and Arts Village held space for healing and reflection through workshops and interactive art installations.

Momma Margie (Rachel's mother) took the stage on Saturday to speak of Rachel's life, her death, and all those who had come together to make the festival possible.

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Giveaway: New Album from Rising Appalachia, Wider Circles

Rising Appalachia Wider Circles
Wider Circles

Dynamic folk music for modern times


The latest release from Rising Appalachia breathes new life into folk music traditions of the American South. While traveling the Americas, Europe, and parts of India, sisters Leah and Chloe Smith have studied age-old musical traditions and integrated them with their own Appalachian folk music heritage.

After two years of songwriting, composing, and then recording at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C., the Kickstarter funded album has been warmly received by long-time fans and newcomers alike. It was dubbed "Earth Day's Soundtrack" by The Huffington Post.

Nine years and six albums into an independent career, Rising Appalachia has developed a reputation for spirited music, galvanizing lyrics, and captivating live performances. It continues to abide by values of sustainability and social responsibility, traveling by rail for the first part of the Wider Circles Tour, and inviting up to two non-profits and other community groups to each show to educate audiences on local issues.

Since the tour won't be coming this far South (the closest shows are in North Carolina), here's a chance to win a copy of the new album.

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5 Acts You Don't Want to Miss at Purple Hatter's Ball

Purple Hatter's Ball, Live Oak, Florida

It's almost time to dance.


With Purple Hatter’s Ball less than a week away, I’m getting ready to return to Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park for another weekend of stellar performances. On May 8-10, Florida’s premier outdoor music venue will host this festival, dedicated to the memory of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, with a pre-party on Thursday, May 7.

This year’s lineup is more than worth the price (tickets are currently $138 for a three-day weekend pass and $45 for Thursday’s pre-party), featuring Lotus as a headliner and many other accomplished and up-and-coming bands from around the country. Here’s some background on five acts I’ll be sure not to miss this weekend.

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Red Lion Pub Adds New Venue, The Lion's Den

Inside Winter Park's New Venue, The Lion's Den
Rosemarie Ryan prepares hors d'oeuvres for The Lion's Den's soft opening. View the entire album, Making of the Lion's Den, here. Photo by: AJ Hege Photography

A boon to Orlando's growing local music community


Winter Park’s Red Lion Pub has established itself as a home for local music in the Orlando area, playing a part in the success of many of Orlando’s favorite musicians; Evan Taylor Jones, for example, used to play here weekly with his original band.

Artists of all types, including funk, folk, acoustic, electronic, reggae, and rock have played the stage over the years, not to mention the spellbinding performances by fire spinners and other prop manipulators on Tuesday nights.

A labor of love by the Ryan family and many others who have long been supporters of the pub, The Lion’s Den is shaping up to be a popular spot where local musicians and artists can exercise their talents in a welcoming environment.

Located near the intersection of Semoran Boulevard and Howell Branch Road and directly adjacent to the Red Lion Pub, it shoots straight back with a raised stage at the far end. A wall of mirrors on the right reflects a 40-foot mural on the left, an ongoing project that is the work of numerous artists and tells the story of the pub and its many beloved characters. Wooden drink rests run along both side walls.

It is a work in progress, but the soft opening on Sunday evening was a treat and got me excited for what is to come. I spoke briefly with Christian Ryan, son of the pub’s owner, Rosemarie Ryan, to learn more.

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Fun in the Sun at Cigar City Brewgrass Festival

Cigar City Brewgrass Festival
Festival goers admire art by live painter Drake Arnold

Jam bands heat things up in St. Pete


Ferg's Sports Bar and Grill hosted the second day of the Cigar City Brewgrass Festival on Sunday, March 15, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The event was sponsored by Cigar City Brewing, and performers included The Werks, Zoogma, Holey Miss Moley, Ajeva, and Eddie Roberts' East Coast Sounds.

Two alternating stages in the outdoor area next to the open air bar made for a relaxed atmosphere, since there was no need to worry about missing a show and not far to walk for a cold drink. It was a beautifully sunny day of music, art, and laughter. Check out the photos below.

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