There was no shortage of sunshine or talent present at The Big Orange Music Fest at Laishley Park in Punta Gorda, Florida, on Saturday, November 18th. The waterside event was originally scheduled to take place in September but had to be postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Because the originally booked venue was not available on this later date, the city of Punta Gorda allowed the promoters of the festival to use the waterfront Laishley Park, offering up the perfect setting for a gorgeous music-filled day in November with JJ Grey & Mofrot, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, North Mississippi Allstars, and more
First to take the stage was The Evan Taylor Jones Band from Orlando, Florida. The power trio delighted the crowd with a soulful, hard rocking set of songs from their new album Denim Heart plus some covers mixed in. The highlight of the set was their version of Marvin Gaye’s classic hit, “What’s Going On”, which ended with a fiery jam. They also covered Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and finished the set with the title song from their new album.
Next up was Southwest Florida’s own blues master Sean Chambers who was named by the British version of Guitarist Magazine as one of the top 50 blues guitarist of the last century. The band played most of the songs from their latest album Trouble & Whiskey, which reached #11 on the Billboard charts in its first week and was nominated for best blues album of the year at the Blues Blast Music Awards. The set had the crowd on their feet throughout the show and showed why they are so well received by their audiences. “Bullfrog Blues” by Rory Gallagher and “Cut Off My Right Arm” by Johnny Copeland were two highlight covers from their performance.
Following Chambers was Blues Is Dead led by Georgia’s legendary blues guitarist Tinsley Ellis. As the sun began to set, Ellis and his fellow band members lit up the crowd with a stellar set of Grateful Dead songs. The band opened up with “Big Railroad Blues” and finished strong with an outstanding rendition of “Turn On Your Love Light” dedicated to the late, great Col. Bruce Hampton.
The next act to take the stage was The North Mississippi Allstars and they showed up ready to play and play they did at Big Orange. The band performed several songs from their new album Prayer For Peace, which was recorded at legendary Royal Studios in Memphis Tennessee as well as many old favorites. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson were clearly having a great time together on stage, and Cody’s powerful drumming and simultaneous playing of drums and keys plus Luther’s solid bluesy guitar leads had the crowd smiling and dancing throughout the show.
Setlist: North Mississippi Allstars | Laishley Park | Punta Gorda, FL | 11/18/2017
Things got funky when Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe took the stage next. Denson just finished touring with The Rolling Stones as the iconic rock act’s saxophone player, joined a stellar group of musicians at the Big Orange Music Fest for the show. They opened up hot with “Stand Back”, and the show flowed seamlessly. In a tribute to the late Gregg Allman, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe played a fantastic cover of The Allman Brothers’ “Ain’t Wasting Time No More” then closed their set with a high-octane rendition of “So Real”.
Setlist: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe | Laishley Park | Punta Gorda, FL | 11/18/2017
Set: Stand Back, Befriended, How Fine, Dreams, Grunt, Mighty Mouse, Ain’t Wasting Time No More So Real
The crowd was extremely excited when headliner JJ Grey and Mofro took the main stage to close out the evening. Grey came out dressed up in a grey suit and tie and was visibly excited to be performing for the Florida crowd. He opened with his harmonica on “Junior” and expertly amped up the crowd during “Seminole Wind”. He ended the show at Big Orange Music Fest with a massive sing-a-long to The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”.
Setlist: JJ Grey and Mofro | Laishley Park | Punta Gorda, FL | 11/18/2017
Set: Junior, A Woman, Every Minute, Brighter Day, Hide & Seek, Country Ghetto, Gal Young’en, Seminole Wind, Lochloosa, Orange Blossoms, Lazy Fo Acre, Ho Cake
Encore: Shining Down, Hey Jude