Here's my play-by-play to the wild weekend that is the Southern Ground Music Festival.
I arrived at Southern Ground at 2:30 p.m. Saturday for Day 1 of the Festival.
Old Dominion was the first band I saw when I got to the festival grounds. The ladies loved them! Coincidentally, there was even a marriage proposal up in the mix of the audience prior to Old Dominion coming on stage.
They were very engaging with the audience and the energy was high. At one point the lead singer, Mathew Ramsey, announced that he wanted to cheers the audience but said had no drink to do so.
Then—boom—up steps the the keyboard player, Trevor Rosen, who handed over a drink to cheers the audience. Pretty cool situation.
Michael Franti and Spearhead were on the other stage. They pulled a few people on stage to dance and sing with them, which was great. The whole mood transitioned from a performance into an interactive show. Micahel Franti’s sole purpose for creating music is because he loves people and loves the world. This kind of energy is evident in his stage presence.
Thomas Rhett was easily the most mesmerizing to the audience but we felt so far away. His lyrics to almost all songs seem like a direct chapter from his heart - except for obviously “Crash and burn”. There were plenty of opportunities to join in with his music. The downside to the big stage is that pictures weren’t so easy to make happen from the photography area.
Next was Marshall Tucker Band on the smaller stage, and they were quite the party.
They were probably my favorite to take pictures of because they just seemed to jive with the camera but were able to do so while still making the audience their focal point. The audience came really alive once Marshall Tucker Band played their most memorable song, “Fire on the Mountain”.
The most unique aspect about Marshall Tucker Band to me was that while oftentimes with bluegrass or country music the climax of a song is a string instrument, but their's was the flute played by the gifted band member Jerry Eubanks.
We did end up leaving Marshall Tucker Band about halfway through their show to try and make our way back over to the big stage to land a good spot for Zac Brown Band (ZBB). I would like to say this was successful, however our game plan seemed to be the same as everyone else there.
ZBB was scheduled to come on at 8:30 p.m. but there seemed to be some sort of hold up and they came on stage at 8:50 p.m. I cannot even explain to you how excited everyone was when they stepped out onto stage. Their songs are even more incredible in concert than they are on the radio - I know, very hard to believe. Props need to be given to their stage utilization because they hands down did the best job making use of the large stage. They made use of all wings of the stage and what made it even more special was that all band members were a part of that, not just the lead singer, Zac Brown.
Sunday morning made things a bit challenging for planning out our attire (55 degrees at 8am), especially given the temperature drop when Zac Brown Band came on the previous night. Of course it ended up warming up to the high 70s during the day then I looked around and noticed everyone was profusely sweating and the audience closely resembled a sea of lobsters, making the festival all the more fun.
I had an interview scheduled with Packway Handle Band so I made it there at 2 p.m. to watch them go on before meeting up for the interview. Keep on the lookout for that early next week! Those guys had a blast on stage and I don’t think I have ever seen that many band members collectively smiling as much as they did. I suppose that’s the vibes you put off when you truly love your job.
After my interview with Packway Handle Band, (blog post detailing this soon to come) I stayed in the VIP area for quite some time and as likely anyone would say who’s actually gotten a dose of the VIP area, it is definitely something I would be willing to spend my money on each year.
It was such a secluded oasis outside of all crowds with so much space. Wide Open Space.
Within the area there was a little pond with a lot of shaded areas under tents, lounge areas out in the sun, and even air conditioned restrooms. The best part to me was the staff back there in VIP. Everyone was so wonderful and so kind. I even had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and capture the wonderful people at what they do best.
Following that came Kacey Musgraves at the big stage and let me tell you, everyone loves them some Kacey Musgraves. I heard some folks reviewing her as "the girl that pushes things on the edge," and it has totally paid off. Her outfit was amazing and she really got the crowd going.
Tedeschi Trucks Band was the next up at the big stage, and I was amazed at the crowd show for their performance. It was equal to that of Thomas Rhett, which is very impressive.
I was talking to Leslie Bohannan and her friend Tricia Hiott, who told me Tedeschi Trucks was the only reason they even bought tickets to Southern Ground. The last show they tried to make for Tedeschi was out to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Colorado, but a winter storm turned that into a cancelled show so this was their second attempt. Tedeschi Trucks Band puts on a hell of a show! There were long instrumental sets and the trumpet player absolutely killed it.
I have never seen such a large group (11-piece band) on stage meshing so well together as they did. It was as if they were having their own party up there and the entire audience was lucky enough to get the invite.
Leslie & Tricia
We moved over to Hunter Hayes about 30 minutes before the show, and that seemed to be everyones idea. Everyone obviously was trying to be “wanted” by Hunter Hayes. I, personally, was not very impressed. The words to his songs were very muffled and hard to hear —could have been a sound system problem. It also seemed that he was feeding the video camera men and losing the focus of connecting with the audience—but hey, I did land some good shots.
It is of no surprise that Zac Brown Band crushed it again and brought the same level of energy to the audience as they did the previous night.
Then Came The Supersets
Everyone can admit that anything following Zac Brown Band’s performance both nights would make things pretty difficult to top, but the supersets were incredible!!
Most exciting award goes to Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, Saturday night. Zac Brown Band absolutely crushed it and the entire audience yelled every single word. Kudos to the selection, ZBB.
The superset night one also included collaboration with Michael Franti and Sam Bush. Michael Franti sang No Woman, No Cry by Bob Marley with ZBB. Sing-alongs were echoed by the audience. We also had Sam Bush step up where things got instrumentally intense with a duel of violin by Sam Bush vs. guitar played by Zac Brown.
Sunday nights super set included Kacey Musgraves and Susan Tedeschi, of Tedeschi Trucks Band joining forces with Zac Brown Band.
Overall, Southern Ground Music and Food Festival (SGMFF) was very successful and sold out both nights. I think moving SGMFF to the spring was definitely the right move and that was agreed upon by all attendees.
Tips For Next Year:
1) If there is an option to print your own tickets or have them mailed to you, don’t look back—the line for will call was a wraparound that took 45 minutes.
2) Take Clements Ferry Road exit versus the Daniel Island exit then turn on St. Thomas Island Drive, which turns into Daniel Island Drive—the road that runs right next to MUSC Health Stadium. There is no traffic at all on that road and you can even find cheap parking provided by residents for $20.
3) Bringing a towel to sit on is unnecessary, as no one sits down (that’s what the stadium seats are for) and there are no walkways meaning everyone walks on your towel. There’s no telling what kind of questionable stains you may score.
4) Pay close attention to the weather and bring a bag with a light jacket.
5) Get over your fear of port-a-potties—that’s your only option and unfortunately many of them had to undergo maintenance during the festival.
6) Get over your fear of long lines - there were not enough food vendors or portapotties to supply the attendees.
7) Be prepared to take your hat off when Zac Brown Band comes on for the final show. People can’t see over you and they get aggressive—I saw several people remove other people's hats rather than asking them to take their hats off.