Surviving Blackwater

Oh Blackwater, keep on rolling… The Blackwater Music and Arts Festival celebrated it’s the second year at the Spirit of Suwannee Music park over the weekend. For all those in attendance, your head must still be spinning from the great shows and beautiful scenery. The feel-good vibes of Zack Deputy, the crazy dance party at GirlTalk, and the bizarre stage presence of the Flaming Lips were just some of the highlights. For those of you who missed out, here’s some advice for next year!

One of the best things about checking out a festival at the Spirit of Suwannee is that you do not have to expect a long line to get in.  For festival veterans, you know how frustrating it is to arrive at a festival full of excitement and anticipation only to have that replaced with boredom and frustration after sitting in a three-hour line at the gates. This is not the case at Suwannee. It’s a streamlined process which makes it a breeze to get in and get to the party.  The last few times I have been to this park, cars were not searched whatsoever, speeding up the process. Getting in only involved getting a wristband and a sticker for my car.  Refreshing!

Another perk of this venue is that it is a state park which is open for camping, canoeing, hiking, etc. all year round.  What this means for you is that if you would like to turn your festival weekend into more of a vacation you are welcome to arrive days before the festival and enjoy the grounds before anyone else arrives. Gates open at 10 am the first day of the show, so if you want to spend a few more days you just have to pay a small camping fee for the days you want to stay.

As far as the camping situation, there are lots of options.  Cabins are available for rent and RV hookups for those of you who do not enjoy “roughing it”.  If you are planning on primitive camping, take your time and pick out a good spot.  For some tips, you can check out the post “Festival Camping Setup Secrets”. Very few restrictions are placed on where in the park you can camp, so really take your time and find the ideal spot for you.  For example, some campsites are notorious for being the “party” zones.  These are usually close to the roads and have lots of lights, signs, and toys around to draw people into the party.  They may also be close to the “secret stage” which is an impromptu stage set up where some bands will have surprise shows late night, such as Zack Deputy and Three Legged Fox. If you enjoy sleep at some point during the fest perhaps find a nice shady spot in one of the fields.  You can still party in any of the spots, but you may have a little more peace if you choose wisely.  If you are trying to rage out til all hours of the morning and find yourself in a campground full of sleeping people at 4 am, go wander.  You are sure to find lots of others still up and whomping about.  If you decide it is on you to make the quiet campsite the crazy campsite at that hour, you are just going to piss off your camping neighbors.  It’s pretty easy, just find your spot, find your crowd, and be considerate and mindful of the people around you. It’s a beautiful music park with lots of possibilities.

The best advice before heading off to any festival is to check out the weather report for the weekend.  Knowing what yes ahead can help you know what to pack.  We arrived at Blackwater and set up just minutes before the downpour began.  I’d like to thank my photographer who refused my pleas to let me sleep “just 5 more minutes…”.  Thanks to his preparation we were able to avoid setting up in the rain, which obviously sucks.  For some more tips on getting through the rough weather check out the “Surviving a Rainy Festival” post.

Luckily the weather only had a little pout and not a weekend-long tantrum, so that unpleasantness was over quickly.  We got to see a beautiful rainbow, which just starts any fest off with a smile.  Attendees of the first few shows of the weekend also got the unique experience of letting loose and dancing in the mud.  This is a lot of fun and being in the presence of other fun-loving, filth covered people while jamming to a great band is like no other. The rest of the weekend was filled with steamy hot, beautiful days.  One tip on the hot day shows though, there is limited shade so bring an umbrella if you want to hang close to the stage.

Half the fun of a summer show at Suwannee is beating the heat by heading down to the river.  There’s a super high rope swing, sandy beaches, and even a stage set up for some good music in the sun.  My only piece of advice for the river is not to run through it with no shoes on.  I made the mistake on the last day of chasing after a giant beach ball.  I jumped in the air and came down hard on a broken tree stump hiding just under the surface, ooouuuch!  It’s hard to jam out at the shows when you’ve got a rowdy limp.  Just something to keep in mind…

Just a few more tips about this venue: You are able to leave and come back in any time you wish.  If you need to run out for some supplies or just want to grab some cheap fast food this is not a problem.  Just make sure you have your wristband and camping sticker in place so that you don’t have any problems getting back in.  If you choose not to leave, the country store should have what you need, and vendors are always available for snacks.  The most important thing to remember is not to drive if you are impaired!  Live Oak is a small town, and festy kids driving around could be a target for the cops.

Speaking of cops, watch out!  The last few times at this venue I have noticed that the first days of the fest are relatively security and cop free, but they seem to move into full force by the end of the weekend.  Don’t let your guard down.  Use a little common sense and just be aware of who’s around you.  I accidentally hit a cop in the face with an LED hoop on Saturday, whoops!  Luckily he just gave me the once over to see if it was intentional or if any searches were warranted, but luckily he just kept on walking.  Other festys were not so lucky, so just use caution!

Hopefully, you found this post helpful are ready to bring it next year at Blackwater!  See you all there!