Safety Harbor Song Fest 2015 – Part 2
The second and final day of the 2nd Annual Safety Harbor Song Fest brought warmer weather, lighter winds, and circus performers. The vibe of the festival was unrelentingly positive and celebratory. The festival was entirely organized and run by volunteers many of which had little or no experience putting on a festival like this. The success of the efforts was summarized by Joseph, an attendee who has been attending singer-songwriter festivals all over the world for close to twenty years. His annual schedule includes some of the longest running and most famous folk festivals in the country, but he said that he enjoys attending newer festivals like Safety Harbor. He gave high marks to both the diversity and the set up which allowed him to see almost every performers on the schedule.
The Waterfront Main Stage opened the day with Nashville band, The Vespers who woke up the growing crowd with an entertaining and invigorating set of their original Southern Folk Pop. The band is made up of two brothers and two sisters, but the brothers and sisters are not related, but they do function has well oiled musical unit.
Local musician Robin Taylor Zander opened the Marina Stage with a college of new and cover songs which ranged from Folk to Blues and which included a Bob Dylan and a Neil Young cover. His set ended just in time to make it back to the main stage for another Nashville artist.
Jim Lauderdale, who besides being a top-notch performer of traditional Country music, is also co-host of a popular Sirius XM radio show with fellow musician Buddy Miller, and he is also the host of Music City Roots which is broadcast from Franklin, TN and syndicated to public television stations across the country. He entertained the crowd with his music and good humor.
Florida Indie Pop/Rock artist Emily Kopp was next up on the Marina Stage. She had performed at the after party the previous night including a stint on drums. She captivated the crowd with her catchy and engaging songs.
As Day 2 proceeded, the diversity of the music began to make itself evident and veteran Atlanta singer songwriter Randall Bramblett managed to cover much of that diversity in his impressive and uplift set. With roots firmly planted in folk and soul music with gospel, southern rock, and blues through in for good measure. Bramblett’s music manages to avoid the trap of nostalgia by embracing fresh lyrical and musical approaches to his songs.
Another stand out performer of Day 2 was David Jacobs-Strain an Oregon-based roots artist who combined virtuoso guitar playing with an entertaining stage presence for one of the most impressive Marina Stage performances of the festival. He brought on Main Stage emcee Joe Craven for several songs, and then invited Jim Lauderdale and Day 1 standout Daphne Willis for one of the best collaborations of the festival.
With the sun just beginning to set, Day 2 headliners Steep Canyon Randers took the Main Stage. Although, perhaps, best known for their association with banjo playing actor and comedian Steve Martin, the Steep Canyon Rangers are an incredibly tight band of extraordinary bluegrass musicians. Front man Woody Platt had attended last years festival with his wife, Shannon Whitworth (who was scheduled but unfortunately unable to perform at this years festival) and he made it known that he wanted to come back with his whole band.
The band’s long set was filled with impressive displays of musicianship that had the festival audience on their feet for most of the performance. With over a dozen years and countless performances, the band has transformed traditional bluegrass music into a fine art form, and this made them an excellent choice to close out the festival which was a celebration of art and creative living.