SPRING LAKE — Last year it was an experiment, something never really tried before in Florida: Bring together 25 jam bands on two stages over a three-day weekend at the Sertoma Youth Ranch, and see who turns up.
As it turned out, the crowd of 1,000 attending the first Orange Blossom Jamboree Music and Art Festival far exceeded promoter Russ Bowers' expectations.
So much so that Bowers hopes to top that figure this weekend when he holds his second event at the youth ranch. The festival, which kicks off today, will include performances by 35 Florida bands.
"We felt that it would be nice to include not just jam bands, but some ska and reggae as well," Bowers said. "I think people who like jam music can also appreciate a little variety."
In addition to returning groups such as Fungus Garden Reverb, Skull and Bone and 3rd Stone, the festival will feature notable Florida bands such as Elephant Gun, Beebs and Her Moneymakers, and the Heavy Pets. All scheduled bands will perform for at least an hour.
Bowers, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, said he has been a fan of improvisational rock for a number of years. The music's roots can be traced to iconic 1960s rock bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, and it continued during the 1990s with bands such as Phish and Widespread Panic. It has gained a cult-like following in recent years.
Bowers, 35, said he got the idea to hold his own festival after attending several jam band festivals in the Midwest. "The whole scene is very low-key and organic," he said. "It's just people enjoying music. It's a nice vibe."
Although he admits he's not trying to re-create Woodstock, having the event in the natural, tree-canopied campground of the Sertoma Youth Ranch in southeast Hernando County adds to the event's laid-back flavor, Bowers said.
"There are so few venues anymore where people can stretch out and relax, and just spend time with friends," he said.
In addition to music, the festival will feature a variety of food, craft and beverage vendors. In addition, a number of children's activities will be provided.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or [email protected]