Often, bluegrass bands are family affairs. This is true of a number of bands who played this weekend at “Jammin’ in the Hammock,” the fifth annual bluegrass festival held at Collier-Seminole Park. The Sawgrass Drifters from Bonita Springs are fronted by a married couple, and their daughter sings with them when she can.
Sometimes, the family connection is reflected in the name of the band, as in the Wilson Family Band, and sometimes, it’s not, as in Tomorrow’s News, which nevertheless has a father playing guitar, a son playing mandolin, and a daughter playing bass. And then sometimes, the family ties start to blur.
Kalyn Hall, the pretty 18-year-old singer and bass player from Tomorrow’s News, hung around enough bluegrass festivals with Clint Wilson, the Wilson Family Band’s banjo player, that they started making beautiful music together, and now she is Kalyn Wilson, and playing in a new band. Sort of like sports teams, they worked out a trade, said Victor Hall, Kalyn’s father and leader of Ft. Meade, Florida-based Tomorrow’s News.
“We took their banjo player, and they took our bass player,” he said. Of course, trading players, and sitting in with each other’s bands, is par for the course with bluegrass bands, which see more swaps during a festival than a season of “As the World Turns.” It helps that the bands often share the same repertoire, and many of the songs share the same chord progressions.
Bluegrass is feel-good music, and that’s the bottom line, both for the bands and the fans who come out to see and hear them. Thousands of those fans rode the shuttle in to the concert area, off of U.S. 41 East just past Royal Palm Hammock, and blissed out, catching some rays on Saturday, and trying to keep warm on Sunday.
Tomorrow’s News opened the show Saturday, followed by local band Frontline, another straight-ahead bluegrass outfit, and Kristi Morris & Jeff Kellogg, who met and married playing the circuit, closed for the day, after sets by the Wholetones and others.
The Sawgrass Drifters threw in a little Crosby, Stills and Nash, Tomorrow’s News included Alison Krause’s hit “Oh, Atlanta,” but when it came to genre-bending, nothing compared to the Wholetones, whose instrumentation included a cello, and a full drum set.
“I’m not sure if Alex has the only cello, but I know I’m the only metal drummer here,” said Mayo Coates.
This year, the festival site was moved, away from the grassy, tree-shaded area it has been held at previously, to the parking lot by the boat basin, due to the tendency of the greensward to flood, and the threat of rain.
“I liked it where it was,” said Simona Alladio, reclining on a blanket on the asphalt. “Over there you can dance barefoot on the grass. That’s beautiful – this is a parking lot.” The new location did have the advantage of getting spectators close to the water, the Blackwater River where people go canoeing or fishing. There was even a floating concession stand, the 40-foot long Taste of Naples pontoon boat, selling food and drink – but in the park, no alcohol.
All net proceeds from the festival go to help the work of the Friends of Collier-Seminole State Park, a citizens’ support group. Projects, said volunteer Darlene Smith, include repairing and replacing the park’s chickee huts, working on the boardwalks, and renovating restrooms to meet ADA guidelines.
For more information on Collier-Seminole State Park, call (239) 394-3397 or go online to www.friendsofcollierseminolestatepark.com.