Some of the best bands in the state of Florida gather to perform for four days on a beautiful piece of land in the middle of nowhere for the annual Orange Blossom Jamboree, a concert by Florida bands, for Florida bands. Sertoma Ranch sits on the outskirts of a little town called Brooksville, just north of Tampa and west of Orlando. It's scientifically proven that 99 percent of Miamians have never heard of the place.
Dirt roads will be taken. Someone in the car will ask, “Where the fuck are we?”
But we promise the journey will be worth it. Bands like Suénalo make the trek just about each year for good reason. Adrian Gonzalez, Suénalo's keyboard player/vocalist/human Swiss Army knife put it this way: "OBJ is always a blast. They do a wonderful job of keeping live music alive. It's a great opportunity to meet and connect with other bands and fans from around Florida."
Others like the Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio (one of South Florida's best-kept secrets) and Orlando musical badass the Savi Fernandez Band comprise an extremely talented and diverse roster of 60 acts across four stages. OBJ is a crash course in great, unknown Florida bands. Russ Bowers, the founder of OBJ, has had a clear vision from the start. We caught up with him to find out more about the OBJ.
New Times: Why did OBJ start and why are just Florida bands on the lineup?
The concept for the first OBJ started in May of 2009, and our first event kicked off exactly one year later in May 2010. We knew we wanted this event to be comprised of all Florida bands from the very start, which is why we came up with the name Orange Blossom Jamboree — Orange Blossom being the state flower. The vision was to be able to provide a music festival that would provide the same experience for both the musicians, artists, and vendors as well as the guests, but at a better value. We also wanted to encourage the message of supporting your local economy.
How did you come about settling on this piece of land in Brooksville?
We researched for several months trying to find a scenic location that was centrally located. We knew we were home when we made our first trip there.
How big would you like OBJ to get? And how big do you think it can get with just Florida bands?
We always planned on OBJ being a medium-size event and knew this going in, being that it is all local bands involved. If we wanted to expand, we would need to find a new venue and also probably start bringing in national talent, which we feel would change the vibe of OBJ and also increase the price of tickets. Our goal is to provide an intimate and affordable experience for everyone.
When was the first OBJ and how did it go?
The first OBJ was held in May of 2010 and it went very well. Back then we only had two stages and half the bands. Maybe we were lucky, but our guests immediately became attached to the vibe that was created that year and started sharing that feeling with their friends and family, convincing them to come the following year.
Name three "can't-miss" bands from this year's festival.
This is a tough question, similar to picking your favorite child, so I will leave it like this. Kaleigh Baker, because she has never played an OBJ and her vocals and style send chills down my spine. I am also very excited for Shak Nasti. They have yet to perform at OBJ and we have been wanting them to play for a few years now. The stars finally aligned. Another name that I feel will catch everyone by surprise is Justino and the Difference.
What's your funniest/craziest/weirdest OBJ story involving audience, fans, yourself, or whatever?
One year I was called onstage to play guitar with Bobby Lee Rodgers. I was standing approximately 100 yards away when I heard my name called so I took off running to the stage. I was wearing flip-flops and had my two-way radio attached to my loose-fitting shorts. As I run to the stage and attempt to jump over the temporary orange fence, my radio almost pulls my shorts down, I trip over my own flip-flops, and almost face-plant right there in front of everyone. Luckily, I managed to catch myself and tried to claim it as an "I meant to do that" thing. There have definitely been some crazy things involving other people, but for their sake, I will leave that to the imagination.
Orange Blossom Jamboree with Suénalo,