This past weekend, Friends With Benefits Productions and Umphrey’s McGee hosted The Woodlands Music & Arts Festival at a property called Charleston Woodlands, which sits a 30-minute drive outside downtown Charleston, SC.
Most recently the home of Charleston Pour House’s Into The Woods Music Festival and the Halloween-themed Skinful, Charleston Woodlands pulled out all the stops for its final highly-promoted music festival of the year. With an all-out funkified Thursday pre-party, 4 sets of Umphrey’s McGee, and bountiful late-night sets by Doom Flamingo, Justin Osborne of SUSTO, and more, The Woodlands Music & Art Festival seemed to solidify its standing on the Charleston-area music festival calendar for years to come.
On Thursday, attendees arrived to the pre-party early to enjoy their choice of lakefront camping and vendors from around the Lowcountry including Chicken Fats, Poppy’s Lemonade, and Charleston Hemp Company—with plenty of free samples available.
Thursday’s music lineup began with an onslaught of Charleston musical heavyweights taking on the music of Huey Lewis as a funk faction titled The Fake News. Led by Doom Flamingo’s Mike Quinn, the group worked through a couple of classics before leading into the entire Huey Lewis & The News album, Sports, which Quinn noted was his favorite album of all time. After The Fake News left the stage, the Brookly-based power funk monster known as Turkuaz took over. The Omega Moos, made up of members of Umphrey’s McGee’s Brendan Bayliss and Ryan Stasik alongside keyboardist James Shields (The New Deal) and drummer Nick Blasky, were up next for a rare live appearance. The supergroup concluded their set to a roar of crowd approval with Duran Duran‘s “Girls on Film”, which used to close out their shows in the earlier part of this decade.
Related: Watch Omega Moos Reunite At Recent Umphrey’s McGee Afterparty In Detroit [Video]
Friday at The Woodlands started off slow, as many campers were reluctant to get up after a long night of hard rain, but once the ground dried, the music kicked off. The main event of The Woodlands started with Heather Gillis, The Movement, and an incredibly loud Spafford set to wake up any late risers. Local hitters ROBOTRIO with special guest Cody Wright (The New Deal) warmed up the grounds next ahead of the first UM sets of the weekend.
After ROBOTRIO’s 45 minute-set, which included instrumental versions of CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and their own debut single, “Space Cadet”, Umphrey’s McGee hit the ground running for their first two sets of the weekend. Throughout their performance, in plain view of the stage, the families of the band members took to the photo pit to dance, including the youngest of the Umphrey’s clan. Since the Stasik family came to Charleston a few years back, they have made it clear this is where they want to raise their children, and The Woodlands Festival was certainly an incredible introduction for them.
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee | The Woodlands Music Festival | Charleston, SC | 11/8/19
Set 1: Cut the Cable > The Triple Wide, 2nd Self, Breaker, Rocker Part 2, Day Nurse, Dark Side of the Street, 40’s Theme
Set 2: Attachments, Maybe Someday, Ringo > Big Heart > Ringo, Professor Wormbog, All In Time > The Song Remains the Same
Encore: Hangover > Soul Food II > All In Time
 debut, Arlo McKinley and the Free People; with Arlo McKinley on vocals and Nick Blasky on drums
Notes: last Big Heart 06.07.2013 (618 shows)
Opposite the stage, fire-spinning contingent Brushfire Collective put on an entire performance synced with the music of UM, while during set break, Charleston-based dance group Dance Lab took over the entertainment, putting on a 30-minute spectacle for the audience.
The first late-night set of the festival helped introduced patrons to “The Wierdlands.” The Wierdlands encompassed the entire back half of the festival grounds—about a half mile walk toward the late-night Woods Stage. From front to back, The Wierdlands held lights and lasers casting shadows throughout the woods reminiscent of sights seen at Electric Forest. The Wierdlands incorporated appropriately weird sonic elements as well, as sounds of a growling beast along with jungle psychedelia full of forest noises and bongos filled the air. This portion of the grounds also included a 50-foot-wide projected “eye in the sky” along with disco ball hung from the trees.
Upon arriving at the Woods Stage, fans were met with aerialists, fire-spinning, and more as the festivities continued late into the night. Friday’s was led by Manic Focus, The New Deal, and Runaway Gin – A Tribute to Phish. The Gin set, while short, had some incredible highlights including “Wilson”, whose echoing introductory lyrics were changed from “Wilson” to “Woodlands” throughout the song. The group continued through some of the more technical Phish songs for a cold night including “Foam”, “Also Sprach Zarathusa”, and more before ending on an explosive “You Enjoy Myself” complete with an extended vocal jam.
The final day of The Woodlands on Saturday saw clear skies and little wind. Surrounded by this clarity, patrons were able to enjoy massages by local masseuse NERVana as well as kayak and paddleboard rentals and a fishing tournament benefitting the American Red Cross—all before the music kicked off.
The Talismen and Empire Strikes Brass kicked things off before Charleston regulars CBDB hit the stage. SunSquabi, Zach Deputy, and BIG Something kept the party moving before The New Deal took the stage for the second time. Next up were the final two sets of Umphrey’s McGee, highlighted by sit-in from Doom Flamingo vocalist Kanika Moore for Highlights of the final headlining act included Kanika Moore (Doom Flamingo) striking vocals on the UM Zonkey mashup favorite “Electric Avenue to Hell” to close out the first set.
The final UM set kicked off with “JaJunk” before leading into fan-favorite “Remind Me” which saw Brendan Bayliss get in on the family fun as he pulled his youngest daughter onstage to scream “Rock ‘n’ Roll!” before the segue into “Higgins”. The Marshall Tucker Band classic “Can’t You See” gave guitarist Jake Cinninger a chance to adlib the lyrics, “we’re gonna do this fuckin’ festival once again!” After their sing-along, UM launched into “Making Flippy Floppy” before returning back toward “JaJunk” to close out the show. Umphrey’s ended their four-set weekend with a “The Silent Type” encore before thanking Charleston for welcoming the band into their community with open arms.
Setlist: Umphrey’s McGee | The Woodlands Music Festival | Charleston, SC | 11/9/19
Set 1: You Got the Wrong Guy > Speak Up > 2×2 > Much Obliged > 2×2, Wappy Sprayberry > Booth Love, Crucial Taunt, Electric Avenue to Hell
Set 2: JaJunk, Remind Me, Higgins, Can’t You See, Conduit, Making Flippy Floppy > JaJunk
Encore: The Silent Type
 with Kanika Moore on vocals
Late-night, back in The Wierdlands, Cherub, Doom Flamingo, and the All-Star Family Jam delivered as some of the most highly anticipated sets of the weekend.
Doom Flamingo easily played their most electric show to date at The Woodlands. For a relatively new band on the circuit, Doom Flamingo has found both their vision and swag on stage. Doom Flamingo is creating an experience in their performances that is unique to them. Ryan Stasik (Umphrey’s McGee bassist), alongside Charleston juggernauts Kanika Moore (Vocals), Ross Bogan (Keys), Mike Quinn (Sax/Synth), Thomas Kenney (Guitar), and Stu White (Drums) have developed a show that takes you through the farthest reaches of synth-wave music.
Throughout their live show, the driving band takes you on a synth-propelled ride from the “Doomed” gates of Hell toward the “Flamingo”–feathered cosmos of synth music. In other words, the first half of their show has a theme of “Doom,” while the second half is bubbly synth reminding the listener of a light-hearted group of flamingos. Moore’s dominant presence took the energy of her bandmates and projected it toward the crowd with ferocity, stealing the show. Appropriately, she starts out the show in an all-black outfit, letting the crowd know they were doomed.
During the band’s midnight set on Saturday, they ignited the crowd with their favorite opener of late, “Blade”, which was influenced by Blade Runner and penned by keyboardist Ross Bogan. Before heading into “Love On Hold” and “Runaway”, the middle of their performance saw Moore head off stage while the instrumental jam of “Telepathy” rounded out the “Doom” portion of the performance.
Upon closing out the jam, Moore strode back on stage in a fresh new light, and outfit, leading up to their Nine Inch Nails cover of “Closer” to end the show. In the past two years, this group has solidified its identity and continues to rise. Look out for even more in 2020 including new music and additions to their live performance.
One thing to which Charleston festivals are no stranger is a late-night campfire jam. Each year, Charleston Bluegrass Festival has an incredible campfire jam, Charleston Pour House’s Into The Woods had the same. The Woodlands catered to the Alternative fans at their own spin on a campfire jam. Justin Osborne of SUSTO brought his acoustic guitar, sat down, and started playing for a group of about 50 people nestled up around a campfire. This sort of thing is a treat for musicians and fans alike at any festival. When it happens with one of the biggest names in the Charleston music scene at a fantastic new Charleston festival, it’s that much more special.
As Cinninger stated, The Woodlands will certainly be back next year. Be ready for a Save the Date announcement on their website and socials in the coming weeks. Thanks to Friends with Benefits Productions, Umphrey’s McGee, and all the musicians, visual artists, entertainers, vendors, and volunteers who contributed to this production. Everyone in attendance is already excited for what next year has to offer.
For more information about The Woodlands Music and Arts festival head here.
Below, you can check out photo galleries from the event courtesy of photographers Ellison White, Caroline Bell, and Lee Plummer.