Well, the 311 nation did it again! 311 Pow Wow, 311’s very first multi-day music festival, went off with great success in Live Oak Florida at the Spirit of Suwanee Music Park. The music was unbelievable and the good vibes flowed heartily all weekend long.
I’m not sure I can adequately describe in words the level of fun to be had at 311 Pow Wow but after all these years I am still convinced that 311 fans are the best people on Earth.
A great time was had by all but as with every festival there are some unique challenges to be ready for, so here’s a little rundown.
This festival was held in one of the most beautiful venues in the Southeast. The Spirit of Suwanee Music Park hosts many festivals all year long which never disappoint, and the Pow Wow was no exception. The music park is spread over many Oak tree covered acres with winding dirt roads and lots of fun amenities. All the nature is great but nature can be a bitch sometimes! Example A: FIRE ANTS! Anyone who was in attendance this year can attest that the godforsaken fire ants were more than just tiny menaces but rather a huge problem. One could not stand in the same place for more than a few seconds without looking down to make sure their feet were not covered in the little bastards. They are mean and they bite! Some areas were worse than others but I do know that our campsite was more than overrun with them. Within a few minutes of setting up camp, they helped themselves to the groceries I had just purchased. I had unpacked them out of the hot car into the tent. When I looked at the food crates they had become moving, crawling blobs. I half expected to see a bag of chips being carried off into the field. Needless to say, my snacks were ruined. My advice to you when going to the Pow Wow is to prepare for the ants. You can do this in a few ways like wearing “real” shoes. The flops and sandals are nice for the heat but tennis shoes will give you that extra barrier from the little monsters. You can also try and keep your food in sealed Tupperware or other boxes to make it impenetrable to the ants. If you can keep it off the ground a little bit (like on top of a crate) that will help a little but your best bet is to just make sure everything is sealed off completely. Those of you who are not from the South may not have battled these beasts before so for your information they can climb anything and can find their way into any unsealed bag. You should also get strapped with a can of Raid fire ant killer. The only thing that kept them out of my tent was spraying a perimeter all around the tent in a thick layer. Putting bug spray on our feet also helped a little in deterring the ants but only for an hour or so. You should also make sure your trash bags are tied to a tree or otherwise kept out of the way of your chill zone. Bringing a few extra trash bags can help you out also because at some point you will have to take the trash to the dumpster, so if you cover it with a second bag and tie it tight you can avoid having your hands and arms covered with ants.
Besides the damn fire ants, the only other big challenge was the heat. I have been convinced on several occasions in my life that I could not physically be any hotter. The first was in Acapulco, Mexico, on the beach in the summertime. The second was Wakarusa this summer, which if you attended you experienced the windless, cloudless, still hot sun for yourself. Yet none of these could hold a melting candle to the humid, unrelenting heat of Live Oak in August. Again, if you are not familiar with how things work in the South, let me just tell you, we have our own brand of heat which is unreal if you have never experienced it. The humidity is at like 90% so it is a muggy, heavy sort of heat. A nice breeze blew through often which was pleasant and refreshing, but the biggest lifesaver in the heat was the river. The Suwanee river has natural springs and while it was almost like bath water, it was still a refuge to sit and chill in. The river was also just straight up fun as hell! The sandy beach made you feel like you were in a great vacation spot and the rope swing was a constant form of entertainment. One could chill in the river for hours and watch the amazing belly flops, the float jumpers, and the streakers go off the super high rope swing. It was a true blast and brought the waterlogged 311 Nation together even more. Live music, as well as blaring stereos, could be found by the river as well keeping the good vibes flowing, and the Canoe Outpost station was staffed with great people to help you out if you want to do some river exploration. Vessel!
To beat the heat it is also advised to scope out the campgrounds thoroughly before picking a location. The Spirit of Suwanee Music Park has lots of shady areas to pick from so take a minute when you enter to find a good spot to set up. There is not assigned camping with the exception of RV hookups and a few other spots so you pretty much have your pick of locations. You should also bring some shade with you, whether in the form of pop up tents or even just hanging tarps, blankets, or tapestries.
Free showers are also available for use throughout the grounds so it is possible to get cleaned up if you want, however, I suggest going during “off-peak” times because the line can get a little long. Not outrageous, just about 10-15 minutes, but since you will likely just get sweaty and gross within minutes of the shower anyway you may as well wait til later in the afternoon to save some time. Also, the showers use sulfur water so don’t be alarmed by the rotten egg smell. It’s good for you, just hold your nose and power through.
Drink water! I repeat, DRINK WATER! The heat and humidity cause one to sweat intensely so hydration is very important. Take water with you everywhere and refill it often (water refill stations are available everywhere inside the venue and out). Don’t wait until you are thirsty, just drink water constantly throughout the day. If you are drinking booze this is especially important. Don’t let your fun be ruined by heat exhaustion and dehydration, there are too many good times to be had!
As far as entering the grounds and security goes, I’m sure you have questions so I will try to let you in on what I saw. Entrance times are pretty lax. This is not a setup like All Good or Wakarusa for example where you need to get there by a certain time to wait in a long line to get in. This park is a camping and outdoors resort when there is not a festival so people are welcome to come in whenever. My friends, for example, got to the grounds the Monday before the festival and spent the week canoeing, playing disk golf, camping, and hanging out with their dog (please note that pets are not allowed during the festival, but there is a nice kennel nearby so if you do bring them pre-fest you can drop the doggies off there). If you choose to come early you will have to pay for the days you are camped there which is about $20 per night for regular days and $30 the night before the festival. I arrived on Thursday afternoon around 3:00. I stopped at a gas station right off the interstate to stock up on ice and gas before entering (which I recommend). There was no wait for gas and the place was fully stocked with reasonably priced ice bags. I then headed right into the festival grounds. There are plenty of signs and people to guide you every few feet, and there was no line. My car was not checked by security whatsoever. Once into the grounds I just found my friends in the spot we had picked out and set up shop. Easy as pie.
Once inside the grounds, you are able to leave and come back if you choose. This allows folks to leave and go to the nearby gas stations or Wal-Mart if you want to grab any supplies you need. If you are like me and choose to stay “unable to drive” all weekend, you can also go to the general store on the premises for beer, food, batteries, etc. They do not jack up the prices too much or anything so this is a good option for anyone who does not want to drive. If you want to drive down to the river rather than walk this is allowed too, but parking is limited and PLEASE do not drive if you are intoxicated. There are lots of pedestrians and trees to hit so please just use your judgment well!
When you enter the music venue the security was also pretty lax. You are not allowed to bring outside beers into the venue so finish those up before you get to the gates. It depended on what security people were there as to how heavy the search was. For example most days my backpack was not even looked at, opened, or anything. My friend’s fold-up chairs were opened and checked, however, so I’m not sure what the method of searches was but either way it was not intense.
This festival was one of the most amazing times I have had all year and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in good vibes and great people! I think I speak for the whole 311 Nation when I say that this first year was spectacular and we all hope this is a continuing tradition for years to come. So let everyone gather, the more, the better!