Brainquility is methodically approached and organized by OnTapMedia as a large-scale festival. The attention to detail ensures quality and an entertaining festival experience without the hassles or cost of larger events. Yet, it is intimate and prides itself on being a fully immersive art experience. It is a festival for the senses and the location only further solidifies the magic. The festival will take place February 6-8 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida.
A five-city mini tour that traveled through Atlanta, Jacksonville, Tampa, Gainesville, and Ft. Myers offered a taste of what is in store. Russ Liquid, SIDE TRAKD, and Cofresi all performed at the events, and they did not disappoint; I was fortunate enough to catch the Jacksonville show. I was excited for Brainquility and have been counting down the days ever since. All of them are set to perform on Friday, February 7. Russ Liquid will be on the Live Stage, SIDE TRAKD and Cofresi you will find on the Sound Stage. If they were not on your musical radar before – add them and do not miss their sets!
The 2020 lineup is stacked musically with headliners The Floozies, Manic Focus, and Sunsquabi. Each will be performing on the Live Stage Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively. As remarkable as each of those performances will be, there are many others to be on the lookout for. The days are filled with unique, standout performers, and thankfully music starts a little later in the day. This setup should help you recover from the night before without missing a beat! I mentioned this is a fully immersive festival entailing live painters, flow artists, themed dress days, yoga and art workshops, and more. I spoke with a variety of artists performing in different mediums to get a feel of what Brainiacs will be instore for. This is what they wanted to share.
Adrianna of VioletirisArt is one of the live painters who will be sharing her work with us and painting over the course of the festival. She has been painting for 20 years and has always been deeply rooted in the live music environment. You will be able to find her all weekend near the stage. I asked her what she was looking forward to at this year’s Brainquility.
“Spirit of the Suwannee is my favorite venue in the whole country, and I have been attending shows here since 2010. Last year I started a painting to bring to Brainquility to paint live. I am actually still working on that painting as it is very detailed. I plan on bringing this piece with me to show and work on, and I am also bringing a new piece to start at this year’s show as well. I think Brainquility has such great vibes and has a lot to offer. I enjoy the small intimate feel, and I appreciate the emphasis they put on collective creativity. The artists, both musicians and visual, are always on point. I love the mixture of music they bring, and I find it to be one of my top lineups each year.”
As someone who truly lives for live music, I always ask artists and fellow festival junkies who they are looking forward to seeing. Adrianna was without hesitation –Maddy O’Neal, DYNOHUNTER, and Meghan Hamilton are at the top of her list. She is also a hoop dancer and loves flowing to Manic Focus so that one is a given to her.
Shea and Madison of Celestial Roots approach all of their painting in a collaborative format. This is their second year at Brainquility, and they have been honing their craft together since high school. I was intrigued by the concept of collaborative painting, and Shea was kind enough to explain their approach. “Madison and I both portray the beauty of the earth and space. Madison works more with her celestial aliens and earthy vibes. I work more with the energies of underwater celestial creatures. Madison is an earth sign, and I’m a water sign, so it weirdly ties together perfectly.”
Where you can find them: “We will be painting together side by side as we did last year at the Sound stage. We both enjoy sitting down on yoga mats while we paint; we will be adding a blanket behind where we sit in order for people to come up and sit with us to reach a more personal level of interaction. Madison and I really enjoy and welcome people to sit down with us to talk to us about anything! Also to get an up-close view watching us do what we love the most.”
As returning Brainiacs, what makes this festival special? “Since last year was the first year Brainquility was put on at SOSMP, it was a small festival. That’s part of what made it so amazing. You came across people more than once and created friendships so much easier. It’s also very art-oriented compared to it just being surrounded by music. This festival not only appreciates the music but appreciates all of the arts!” Shea emphatically stated, “This festival is one for the books, and I stress that people make it out this year!” At the top of Shea’s must-see list for the weekend are Russ Liquid and The Floozies and for Madison it is Evanoff.
Thursday (3:30 p.m.) at the Live Stage is Jacksonville group Nightcrawler. I spoke with their bassist, Jon, about their roots and what attendees should expect. “We started out playing Afrobeat covers (artists like Fela Kuti, Antibalas and Budos Band) and started filling in the set list with originals in the same style. Over time, the original material grew to have a strong ’70s/’80s funk/fusion feeling to it. Now we’ve arrived at a sort of vintage funk/Afrobeat kind of sound, but with a modern spin and a dose of electronics/synths.” Since this is the first time that Nightcrawler has played Brainquility or Spirit of the Suwannee, I wanted to know what they are most excited about. “We are playing the first day of the festival, so it’ll be a great way for people to get their weekend kicked off!! The music is very groove/pocket-based with lots of percussion and different layers, so people should come expecting to dance!” Jon is excited to see some of his bandmates sit in with Custard Pie as well as Bells and Robes.
Later on Thursday you will find Cloudchord at the Sound Stage (7:45 p.m.). Derek shared with me that he is thrilled “to be at Brainquility and Spirit of the Suwannee for the first time and get to experience the feel of Florida at night in those woods.” He said that the crowd should be ready for “a guitar and trumpet duo with a funky pocket and beautiful melodies.”
Also playing on Thursday: Tamayo, Chachuba, Bells and Robes, Evanoff, Maddy O’Neal, Defunk, and The Floozies
On deck for Friday are the heavy hitters from the Road to Brainquility: Russ Liquid, SIDE TRAKD, and Cofresi. I spoke with (Tyler) SIDE TRAKD about his return to SOSMP and Brainquility. He is excited to bring his house / funky style back to the park. He has been leaving his mark in the festival scene with stops at Okeechobee, Asteria, and Hulaween, to name a few. This will be his third year at Brainquility. I asked Tyler what he has in store for us this year. He said, “I’ve got two sets, so I’m going to do different style sets. The first one will be a funky set on Friday (4:45 p.m.), and then I’m going to play a house set on Saturday (5 p.m.).” You can catch both of his sets at the Sound Stage. “I’m most excited to see Lazy Syrup Orchestra, Evanoff, and Maddy O’Neal”
As incredible as the Road to Brainquility artists will be, they only comprise three of the 11 different performers for that day. Saturday is jammed packed. Kicking off the day are Custard Pie, Dunstan Wallace, and Honey What, followed by Lazy Syrup Orchestra, Chachuba (second set), Marvel Years, and Megan Hamilton, bringing the day to a close with Manic Focus.
Saturday is overflowing with fantastic music and a total of 16 different acts. There is no shortage of talent, and there will certainly not be a lack of dancing. The day is starting off with Boots N Catz and Row Jomah following shortly after. Niles Shepard will be taking over the Sound Stage at 3 p.m.; they are coming in hot from Minneapolis. It is their first time to Brainquility and Spirit of the Suwannee. I asked them to give Brainiacs a little bit of background on them, what they are looking forward to, and what we should be expecting.
“What’s up!? We are house music DJs & producers Niles Shepard. This is our premiere adventure in Suwannee & we cannot wait explore the epic grounds with our house music homies Justin Martin, Ardalan & Bot! 2019 was a huge year for us, including debut performances at EDC, Electric Forest & HomeBass, claiming the top prize of Insomniac’s Discovery Project [Electric Forest], & releases on Insomniac & House of Hustle. Our sets are jam packed with rolling bass lines & classic drum grooves, guaranteed to make you move. Make sure to catch our performance and come dance with us! We are really looking forward to seeing Justin Martin, Ardalan, Bot, J. Philip and our Minnesota homie Megan Hamilton.”
On deck directly after is Suwannee veteran and Jacksonville native Charlie Hustle at 4 p.m., well known for his unique style and passion that will keep you dancing. His ability to completely tailor his set to the crowd, energy and environment leads me to believe Brainquility is in for a treat. I asked Charlie what he is looking forward to the most. “Just being back at the park. Spirit of Suwannee is like a second home, and I have made some incredible memories in this park over the last decade. I have been fortunate enough to play the last two Brainquilitys and Hulaweens. This year I’m playing the Sound stage; it will be the biggest stage I have played at this venue. I have a lot of friends on the lineup this year: DYNOHUNTER, Bot, Ardalan, Justin Martin, Bells and Robes, Marvel Years, MZG, and SIDE TRAKD. Make sure to check them out and come dance with me at 4 p.m. on Saturday!
Over on the Live Stage is George Pennington at 6 p.m., who is thrilled to be returning to SOSMP for his first appearance at Brainquility. “I am most excited to perform with my friends for our first ever show at Suwannee. I’ve never performed on the Live Stage, and most of the guys in the band have never been to the SOSMP. I can picture it now… watching my bandmates walk onto the stage and gaze at the crowd of music fans ready to rock n roll as the sun is setting. What is better than that!?” George says that Brainiacs should be “ready for rock n’ roll; we are an eight-piece band with a full horn section that loves to get creative, jam, and really put the pedal to the metal. I don’t think this set will let you down!” He went on to say, “we are releasing a TON of new music in the very near future. I hope to meet some new music fans and just support all of the bands that are working hard to make their dreams a reality.” George added that he is really looking forward to Sunsquabi.
Kill Paris is performing on the Live Stage (8:45 p.m.); this is his first Brainquility. He had this to say: “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this festival! So I am really excited to see what it’s all about! I’m working with Unitea on something really special to capture the sound of plants at Suwannee, so be on the lookout for that.” When asked what he has in store for us, he said, “My sets are mostly funky / heavy bass music. A lot of originals and then just tracks that I love! I play the keytar, so you’ll see me jamming on stage and rippin’ mad solos! I’ll also have my drummer with me for this show! It’s going to be funky with some great bass jams.” I had to know who he was eager to see, “I am most excited to see the Manic Focus and Russ Liquid collaboration.”
Also performing on Saturday is Ajeva, SIDE TRAKD (second set), DYNOHUNTER, MZG, Bot, J. Philip, Brain Children, Ardalan, Justin Martin, and Sunsquabi to wrap up the 2020 Brainquility.
Be on the lookout for Brain Children featuring Manic Focus, Russ Liquid, and Marvel Years. Some of these artists have never played together and may never play together again. Reason number 1,000,000 why you never skip live music, in my opinion.
There are almost 20 different free workshops that you can attend during the festival to help you connect and recharge on a deeper level. There are multiple different types of yoga offered from vinyasa to acro. As well there are workshops on meditation, guayaki gourd circle, and hip hop classes. Don’t forget to bring your mat!!
As someone who is attending Brainquility for the first time and has a diehard love affair with Spirit of the Suwannee, I am more eager than ever to get out in those woods. Listening to the passion and enthusiasm pour out of every artist is invigorating to say the least. Every attendee is in for the experience of a lifetime. This not a festival to miss!!
Tickets are still available for purchase online or at the Spirit of the Suwannee gate. Weekend / multi-day passes include primitive camping access. Thursday – Saturday tickets ($175 + fees), or Friday – Saturday ($150+ fees), or Saturday only ($100+ fees). Gates and camping are already open!! Time to go get weird in woods!! http://brainquilityfest.com/