Fool’s Paradise: A Magical Weekend of Funk in the Nation’s Oldest City

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It took me a while to fully process the weekend that I had experienced after Fool’s Paradise, which is why I waited a full week to write this article. I needed to fully digest the magic that took place within the nation’s oldest city. What seemed, at first glance, to be a weekend lost in amazing music, contagious laughter and unmistakable company, developed into a truly unforgettable experience that set the bar for festivals held within a metropolitan area. Fool’s Paradise left me wanting more of everything it had to offer and started an internal search for the perfect weekend, because that is exactly what it delivered.

lettuce fools paradise
Photo by Jeremy Scott Photography

From the very start of planning for Fool’s Paradise, I knew that this festival was going to be different from the rest. Nestled behind Anastasia State Park which features luscious campgrounds and ocean access, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre proved to the best spot for the production of incredible collaborations and the strong sense of community felt between the artists and the audience alike. Unlike traditional festivals, in which attendees camp in the surrounding area, concert goers had several options when it came to lodging. Whether you rented an AirBnB or you were lucky enough to grab one of the coveted camping spots at Anastasia State Park, you were blessed with the ability to partake in the festival as distant or close up as you preferred. Either way you were able to find the perfect balance that helped make this event truly unique.

When the meticulously planned schedule was released, I knew that everyone was in for a very special treat. What has become somewhat of a treasured event when it comes to concerts, the “sit-in” was on full display at Fool’s Paradise and I have to believe that Paul Levine and company knew what they were doing when they carefully placed each act in its set time. To add to the “sit-in” vibe, Cory Henry of the Grammy-winning band Snarky Puppy, was artist at large and proved to be a nice addition to every set that he sat in on.

We knew that Friday night was going to be a banger when the GRiZ + Lettuce set was announced. My first introduction to GRiZ was at Hulaween this past year and I knew that I could not miss my new favorite DJ paired with my favorite funk band. This is why I almost got two speeding tickets on my way to St. Augustine from Jacksonville. I was constantly watching the clock that Friday afternoon, and my suit and tie were halfway off before I even got to my car in my office parking lot.

After safely arriving to the place that I called home for the weekend, I piled my comrades and myself into an Uber and tipped the driver so that he would blow every red light on the way to the venue. We walked up as Lettuce was taking the stage which proved to be perfect timing. The magic was only just beginning but was already clicking on all cylinders. I’ve never seen a crowd react to music as they do with GRiZ. His music forces you to move your hips and get involved into his set which makes the music so extraordinary. With the addition of Lettuce behind him, he went to another level that only those that attended can truly attest to.

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The night was young after Friday’s main event and concert goers were left with options as to what they wanted to do. The heavy-hitter late night show, featuring the newly discovered funk masters Vulfpeck and the always dynamite Break Science, was sold out so my tribe made the short trip down the road to watch Herd of Watts destroy the local watering hole named Planet Sarbez. This again added to the freedom of choice that the attendees of Fool’s Paradise were blessed with.

The magic was far from over as an entire day of funk-filled music awaited us on Saturday. Since I wasn’t able to make it to the Vulfpeck late night show, I made it a point to make it to the amphitheater in time to catch my first glimpse of the funk masters that have exploded on the scene. They were nothing short of spectacular and were part of the spark that helped ignite the somewhat hungover crowd into a dancing fever. The other part of that spark was the ever so soulful Nth Power. The group from New Orleans has transformed the way music is embraced and the meaning of their music is felt by everyone in the audience as they take you on a spiritual journey.

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The community vibe was in full effect when Chris Robinson’s Soul Revue hit the stage. Backed by an incredible group of musicians that featured funk greats like Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Nikki Glaspie (Nth Power) and Eric Krasno (Lettuce), the former singer of the Black Crowes felt right at home. Even when the sound decided to go out, the power of music and community powered through the distraction leaving the audience in complete awe of the impromptu acoustic jam that was unexpectedly taking place on stage. This sense of togetherness was felt not only during Mr. Robinson’s set, but throughout the whole weekend.

Lettuce took the stage to close out the weekend festivities at the amphitheater and they came with the intention of leaving everyone in the audience completely floored. As I witnessed everyone’s jaw hit the pavement I knew that they had accomplished their goal. Lettuce not only continued to show us why they are the undisputed heavyweight champions of funk, but they also showed the beauty of what we had just experienced. While there was still more magic to be made in the Elk’s lodge with Goldfish and the Fool’s of Funk playing late night, my experience had been made as I wrapped my arms around the people that I love and listened to the music that I can’t live without.

goldfish fools paradise
Photos by Jeremy Scott Photography

The weekend was more than anyone could have ever hoped for and the outcome far exceeded any expectations that I had going into the event. There was no possible way that I could have ever imagined the magical experience that I was in for or the soul soothing melodies that helped shape my opinion of this life-changing event. The bar has been set for festivals in the future and I challenge all festival producers to try and live up to the expectations that Fool’s Paradise has now set for festivals moving forward.

More photo galleries can be found at https://www.facebook.com/foolsparadisefl

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