Prepare to see the AURA of Suwannee

The 2013 AURA Music and Arts Festival wrapped up this weekend in beautiful Live Oak, Florida.  The fest was held in the always amazing Spirit of Suwannee Music Park.  Those in attendance were graced with an awesome lineup including The Heavy Pets, Papadosio, and Break Science, but were also faced with a few challenges like braving the super cold weather.  The weekend was a beautiful sight, so here’s a little recap and a few tips on how to Survive AURA.

AURA was held in the traditional 3 day style, but many attendees were already reved up to go by the time the first band hit the stage on Friday afternoon.  I arrived just in time to catch Stokeswood  on the amphitheater stage.  It was a beautiful sunny day and the mood was exciting and energetic.  Being an Atlanta gal myself, I will admit I may be a little biased, but I do believe that if this band continues to tear it up the way they did at AURA, we will be seeing them much more in the future.  Their energy on stage, the  way they interacted with the crowd, and the fun and thoughtful music they create makes them a band not to miss.  Stokeswood was, in my opinion, the perfect way to kick off a weekend of music.
The rest of the weekend followed suit with some amazing performances.  Being a mostly EDM fest, the most important thing that can separate a good festival from a bad one is the vibe of the crowd.  Luckily, AURA brought just the right mix.  There were some crazies, of course, but most of them the fun kind.  Walking through the crowd, or the campsites, one could find an assortment of fairy wings, light up toys, crazy costumes, and beautiful hoopers.  Anyone who has attended a festival before knows that it’s these little things that can keep the vibes up and spirits high in any situation.  Even with the unusually nippy weather, the crowd stayed happy and upbeat.  This proves my theory that when it’s cold, just dance more!
On that note, the weather  was the biggest challenge of AURA.  A lot of people are under the impression that Florida is always warm and sunny, but those from the South know better.  Live Oak is just under the Florida/Georgia line.  That means a sometimes drastic swing in temperature, so it is important to pack accordingly.  Layers my friends!!! Once that sun goes down, all warmth goes with it.  This is definitely a different experience for most festy kids, but it is not insurmountable by any means.  My best advice for surviving the cold is to gather kindling and firewood during the day, or bring firewood with you if possible.  We all know that after a long night, the party never seems to end when you think it will.  Sitting comfortably by a warm fire is something you don’t want to leave to go freshen up the wood.  A few other lessons I learned:  While packing for the festival, grab some oven mits.  You can place some large rocks around the campfire while you are chilling, then pick them up and place them around your tent before you go to sleep.  I know it sounds old school, but when you are primitive camping, old school works.  Secondly, if you can find a spot with some low lying ground, you can build a campfire in a hole, then hang hammocks around it.  It sounds like it would be colder in a hammock than in a tent, but that is not the case.  Just make sure there is no danger of falling onto the fire, or of it reaching the hammock.  If you rock this move correctly, it’s warm nights all weekend.
The crowd at AURA traversed the cold beautifully, and the music kept the crowd constantly happy despite the dropping temperatures.  One of the coolest things I saw all weekend (or perhaps ever at a festival) was the unbelievable Stevie Wonder tribute set performed by Kung Fu,Nigel Hall, and various other special guests.  Nigel Hall and the gang put together a set list that was both flawlessly performed and unexpected.  I came into the show expecting to hear a lot of greatest hits, but to my surprise the set was chock full of obscurity and old cuts that really made the crowd go wild.  It was so cool to hear Nigel Hall speak about his respect and admiration of Stevie Wonder, and he announced at the beginning of the show that this was a dream come true for him and he only hoped to do the legend justice.
While this festival was amazing, there is a little matter I feel it is my duty to add to this article.  It is very important to know that the Spirit of Suwannee is a state park.  If you don’t know what that means, I will explain a bit.  Other festivals (for example Wakarusa and All Good) are held on private property.  This means that those festivals contract their own security, there to mostly just enforce safety and festival rules.  A State park however means that actual local law enforcement is lingering around so it is increasingly important to keep your head on your shoulders.  Just make good decisions when it comes to any illegal activity.  Nothing ruins a good festival weekend like an expensive and spirit crushing night in jail.
This was AURA’s first year being held at the Spirit of Suwannee, and I really hope they bring it back next year!  This venue is beautiful, spacious, and the stages are just set up in such a brilliant way.  The music was amazing, the people so fun, and the vibe was unbelievable.  Can’t wait to let my AURA show again next year!
Special thanks to Timothy (Croma) for the awesome pictures.  To read more about the music of AURA check out Tim’s coverage at the links below: