Southern Ground Day 1 Recap

Devin Grant

There was a lot to see and do on day one of the Southern Ground Music & Food Festival out at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island. If you weren't able to make it out Saturday, here's what you missed.

12:30pm - Waiting in line to get into Blackbaud Stadium. The early birds waiting in line are starting to get antsy. According to the event website, the gates were supposed to open at noon. I'm guessing the grousers are probably from "off," and don't understand Southern time. C'mon folks, it isn't as if there's anything happening onstage yet.
12:32pm - Someone must have heard me tweeting about the grumblers in line. The line is moving along nicely now. 
1:00pm - John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range have officially kicked off the second annual Southern Ground Music & Food Festival. Great acoustic Americana music with a lot of muscle. I'm their newest fan. Folks are streaming into the venue, checking things out, and plotting their day. Folks are already playing frisbee and corn hole on Blackbaud's lush soccer field. Just like last year, it's a very laid-back vibe. The festival organizers have set up a truly sweet media area with tables, couches, and goodie bags, all in the shadow of the Zac Brown Band's Jack Daniels tour bus. 
1:30pm - The James Arthur Band is kicking things off at the smaller Landshark Lager Stage at the back of the venue. I love getting constant music throughout the day. 
2:00pm - Los Lonely Boys apparently had to cancel at the last minute, so the crowd is now enjoying the mellow country sounds of Levi Lowery on the Jack Daniels Stage. As much as I was in the mood for Tex-Mex rock and roll, Levi doesn't suck. 
2:38pm - Lowery just sang some song filled with expletives. I'll bet that went over great with the family crowd.
2:45pm - Did you know that Zac Brown's record label has a hip-hop act? Yeah, me neither. Still, The Wheeler Boys are attracting quite a crowd at the Landshark Lager Stage with their Southern style of rap. In addition to two turntables and a couple of microphones, the group features a live drummer and guitarist. Interesting.
3:12pm - The first legend of the day. The Charlie Daniels Band hits the stage with Daniels himself sawing on his fiddle and playing it hot (you see what I did there?). Daniels is 75 freakin' years old, and he still plays live like a madman. 
3:23pm - CDB is playing one of my favorites, "The Legend of Wooley Swamp." 
3:40pm - With CDB still onstage, I walked over to speak to Jean Peck, Executive Director of Camp Southern Ground, a camp for kids, including those with special needs, that will be built outside Fayetteville, Georgia in the near future. Zac Brown is a big supporter of the camp, and from the plans I saw it's going to be a pretty amazing facility. Check out for more information. Just as we were wrapping up, Zac Brown himself came strolling into the tent. What a nice, down-to-earth guy. 
3:53pm - Charlie Daniels' drummer is doing a drum solo. I didn't realize country bands did that. It's like Neil Peart with a cowboy hat from where I'm sitting. 
3:55pm - 72 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. I live for this kind of weather. I tried to get up to the Jack Daniels Stage to take a photo of CDB, but there are so many people here already he'd look like a speck in the distance. If you're going by the sheer number of people already here as measurement, then the event is already a success. 
4:02pm - Charlie Daniels just gave a shout-out to all the service members, especially the gold star families that have lost a loved one. I expect he's going to close with "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." 
4:08pm - CDB pays tribute to Johnny Cash with a cover of "Folsom Prison Blues."
4:12pm - CDB calls The Zac Brown Band's Clay Cook onstage for a song. 
4:18pm - They keep Cook out on stage for, you guessed it, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." I wonder how many violin strings Daniels goes through a year? I hope that I have even half of his energy when I turn 75.
4:30pm - Coy Bowles & The Fellowship are on the Landshark Lager Stage. Man, what a kick-ass brass section. Three saxophones and a trombone. Real powerhouse playing too.
4:35pm - Clay Cook has joined Bowles onstage. When I interviewed Cook earlier this week he said he was going to try to play with a bunch of people, and it appears he's making good on that promise. 
4:50pm - Grace Potter & The Nocturnals on the Jack Daniels Stage. If you're out here seeing Potter live for the first time, then I envy you. First saw her at the First Flush Fest a couple years ago and was totally unprepared for how powerful her live act is. She must lose five pounds of water weight a show. I managed to get a bit closer to the stage and got some decent shots of Potter with my point and shoot camera. 
5:02pm - Potter is making full use of the catwalk that juts out from the front of the main stage. She's walking up and down it, giving fans high-fives and generally being an A-list rock star. On a related note, if reincarnation exists, can I come back as Grace Potter's Gibson Flying V guitar?
5:41pm - I'm at the back of Blackbaud Stadium, opposite the stage Potter's on right now, and the bass from "Paris (Ooh La-la)" is vibrating the couch on which I'm sitting. I imagine folks up front are having the fillings in their teeth rattled loose. 
5:48pm - Watching Another great band I've never heard of, Dugas, on the Landshark Lager Stage. Very attractive, very talented lead singer, Sarah Dugas, fronting a band that plays fairly straightforward, very good rock music. They're also on Zac Brown's record label, and I can see why he signed them. Grace Potter should probably watch her back. 
6:15pm As the sun goes down behind Blackbaud Stadium's Three Lions Pub, Avett Brothers arrive onstage, and they get points for starting exactly when the schedule said they would. Actually, the acts have been pretty much on schedule all day. I have a feeling that when he was considering potential acts for this festival, Zac Brown steered away from any divas that might have the potential to hold things up. The Avetts launch into one of their signature songs, "A Talk on Indolence," with rapid-fire lyrics like "Readin' and writin' and read in' and thinkin' and searching for reasons and missing the seasons." The crowd is loving it. 
6:40pm - The Avetts perform one of my favorites, "January Wedding," from their stellar album "I and Love and You." It is readily evident that a large part of the crowd has come to see this band. They've been favorites here in the Lowcountry since well before they became a mainstream act, partially due to the fact that the band is from just over the border in North Carolina. 
6:54pm - I'm getting hungry. Fortunately, this Fest is just as much about the food as it is the music. The only problem I'm having is what to choose from among he dozens of vendors out here. Will it be Home Team BBQ (one of my favorites), Taco Boy (hmm, I wonder if they're serving their famous Baja fish tacos?), or perhaps something from Chef Rusty, Zac Brown's own personal chef. Decisions, decisions. 
7:00pm - Another great Avett Brothers song, "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise,"  got a hearty cheer from the crowd when the band played the opening bars. It's now twilight, and the lights on the Jack Daniels Stage are starting to live up to their potential. Starting to cool off a bit, but the weather is still perfect. 
7:05pm - Just in case anyone is considering sleeping through church tomorrow before heading out to day 2 of the Fest, the Avetts have you covered with a beautiful acoustic version of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee."
7:29pm - "Kick Drum Heart!" Another Avett Brothers classic. And the crowd goes wild. 
7:34pm - The Avetts close with the beautiful title track from their "I and Love and You" album. A gorgeous end to a superb set. 
8:00pm - The Wood Brothers, an impressive three-piece band, closes out the lineup on the Landshark Lager Stage for day 1. While the crowd is fairly small due to that fact that most folks are jockeying for a space to stand for the soon to start Zac Brown Band performance on the other stage, those that do check The Wood Brothers out get a great show. On the way back to see Zac Brown I stop by Brown's catering setup, which is serving Chef Rusty's signature recipes, and sample the chocolate peanut butter biscuit pudding that Clay Cook had mentioned when I interviewed him earlier this week. Holy schneikes, that stuff is dangerous, as in dangerously good. I also stop by the Home Team BBQ stand to show them where Cook praised their barbecue in my interview, as well as saying that he had a Home Team sticker on all of his guitar cases. They're understandably tickled. 
8:15pm - The stadium lights go out, and on the huge video screen on the Jack Daniels Stage erupts with a map of the Earth that slowly zooms in on Charleston before a Zac Brown Band logo lands with a thud. The band then kicks into "Keep Me in Mind," and folks can be seen dancing all over Blackbaud Stadium. 
8:42pm - Brown welcomes out The Avett Brothers to play on "Oh My Sweet Carolina." It's the first in what will likely be many guest appearances throughout the night. 
8:52pm - "We have a new guitarist in the band," says Brown. "Please welcome John Mayer!" While he doesn't sing, due to throat problems, Mayer seems to be having a blast coaxing bluesy licks from his ornately painted guitar. 
9:06pm - The band launches into the country stomp of "It's Not OK," which only gets the crowd dancing harder. It's a country hoedown frenzy!
9:18pm - Darius Rucker joins the band onstage to thunderous applause (he is a local guy, after all) and the band kicks into Bob Dylan's "Wagon Wheel," with Rucker singing lead. 
9:23pm - It's apparently sit down acoustic set time. The band takes a collective seat, and starts a song with a distinctly familiar melody. Could it be? Yes, it's the Unplugged version of Nirvana's "All Apologies," and a fairly faithful version to boot. I know grunge enthusiasts everywhere are cringing reading this, but trust me when I tell you that it didn't suck.
9:32pm - Zac Brown's bassist starts a bass groove on what appears to be a bass ukulele, and before you know it the band has launched into an acoustic version of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion." The set is starting to resemble the incredible covers set the band did on the first night of last year's festival. 
9:37 - Okay, finally a Zac Brown original, "Free." Oh! Psyche! Just as fast the song transitions into Van Morrison's "Into The Mystic." This is sacred ground as far as Celtic soul goes, but Zac and his boys do the song justice. 
9:42pm - A little crowd participation for "Jump Right In," as Brown has the audience sing the chorus, which is very courteously projected on the video screens on either side of the stage, just in case you forget the words "jump right in."
9:48pm - John Mayer is back, and oh look, he brought a friend. A huge cheer goes up as Gregg Allman walks onstage, straps on a guitar, and leads the band into The Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider." Allman then sits down behind his trusty Hammond organ and tears into another Allman Brothers classic, "Statesboro Blues." Southern rock fans are passing out from sensory overload. 
10:07pm - "Toes," which with it's lyrics "I got my toes in the water, my ass in the sand," is a crowd favorite. Just about everyone is singing along. The band thanks the audience and leaves the stage. Calls for "Chicken Fried" can be heard coming from the crowd.
10:14pm - What, you thought they were finished? Ha! The band's percussionist and drummer both return to make sure the folks in the neighborhoods adjoining Blackbaud Stadium don't doze off too early. I'll bet that sourpuss who wrote the letter to the newspaper last year complaining about the noise from the first Southern Ground Festival is at his computer right now. Nah, he's probably using a quill and inkwell. The drumming goes on for 9 minutes. 
10:23pm - The band is back onstage, and after playing one of their own tunes they welcome John Mayer back out. Mayer, who is suffering from granulomas on his throat, and he isn't supposed to talk or sing while he's being treated, but he briefly thanks the band for letting him sit in. The band then plays Mayer's song "Queen of California," with Brown singing lead and Mayer once again showing why he's one of the best guitar players out there right now. 
10:34pm - A lovely version of Brown's own "Ain't In No Hurry," which transitions into a bluesy version of "America the Beautiful" as Brown thanks the crowd for coming and reminds them that there is still another day ahead. The band then sends the crowd home with "Chicken Fried," ensuring everyone leaves happy.
The Southern Ground Music & Food Festival continues on Sunday.