Feeling the vibes at Florida Groves Festival 2023

Feeling the vibes at Florida Groves Festival 2023
Photo cred: Brian "Porkchop" Nicholson

Music, cannabis, glass blowing, skateboarding, tattooing, artisanal wares, sneakers, and more came together for one weekend at Florida Groves Music Art & Cannabis Festival. Launched In 2022, ­­Florida Groves returned to central Florida April 15th and 16th at Central Florida Fairgrounds — just outside of Orlando. Building on the success of their inaugural year, the festival has exhibited rapid growth, expanding into a two-day event. With a broader focus than just music, Florida Groves brings together an array of activities, vendors, and conventions in a unique event, likely being one of the most cannabis-forward events of its kind to hit the east coast of the U.S. 

The lineup of musical acts was enough to draw a crowd from near and far, but the experience as a whole made this festival stand out from other up-and-coming music fests.

Consisting of two stages, Florida Groves provided a nice variety of reggae rock and adjacent-styled acts throughout the weekend. The main stage — the Free The People Stage — was stacked with an international array of musical acts, while the smaller Free the Plant Stage showcased a lot of up-and-coming acts local to Florida. A great advantage to festivals is the opportunity to discover new music and there was plenty of opportunity to expand the playlists at Florida Groves.

Photo cred: Brian “Porkchop” Nicholson

Kicking off Friday early was the 2000s icon Swayze, whose chill party vibes seem like they will forever withstand the test of time. Orlando-natives Kash’d Out followed shortly thereafter: always a hometown crowd-pleaser with their discography of catchy tunes, many of which fitting right in with the cannabis-friendly vibes. The addition of a horn section to Kash’d Out and to several other acts recently have really elevated the live performances, as well. 

While Friday evening saw some inclement weather, Collie Buddz always delivers — rain or shine.

Bringing a confidant onstage to sing a verse in “Blind to You”, the crowd — and likely Collie Buddz, himself — was awed by this festival-goer’s lyrical knowledge and overall stage presence. Despite a rain delay, reggae icon Protoje closed out the night, aligned with the messages of much of his music. He spoke to the crowd about supporting the community around events such as this. 

Photo cred: Brian “Porkchop” Nicholson

Day Two’s Free the People Stage was filled with east coast love, featuring Florida natives Cloud9 Vibes and Artikal Sound System, as well as Maryland-based Ballyhoo! and Bumpin Uglies. Bumpin Uglies took a red eye flight following a show in California the night before to hit the stage in the late afternoon heat. That type of commitment to festivals like this deserves recognition. The less glamorous side of life on the road as touring musicians enables so many of these musical festivals to happen to the delight of fans. Bands that offer this transparency during their sets manage to connect with fans on a more human-level and hopefully that is appreciated by many. Oh yeah, and there were even more horns on Day Two.

Is there anyone who doesn’t appreciate what a good horn section can do to a song?

Closing out the second and final day of Florida Groves was Thievery Corporation, which is a truly genre-defying band. Priding themselves on their founding principles of being D.I.Y. and inclusive, leading them to respectfully incorporate international cultural styles that transcend genres and time into a truly unique body of work. A blend of influences and sounds form varying influences is a pinnacle part of the foundation of reggae rock in the U.S. and Thievery Corporation takes the idea of blending influences to a tactful extreme. The high-energy live performance from Thievery Corporation takes you on a musical journey. With their blend of sounds and diverse array of vocalists, this is ideal way to end a music-filled weekend.

Photo cred: Brian “Porkchop” Nicholson

Florida Groves delivered so much more than just being a weed-friendly music festival; it celebrated a lot of different communities and artistic pursuits in a multitude of different ways. On the artistic front, there was a myriad of purveyors showcasing their wares and talents. Vendors were scattered throughout the festival grounds, offering everything from handmade art to furry festival apparel. A unique addition to this festival, however, was the glass blowing tent; this area featured artists who were displaying their talents through creating glass pieces live, seemingly effortlessly, while offering a wide array of items of varying styles and complexity for sale. On a different end of the artistic spectrum, many people had the opportunity to commemorate the weekend with fresh ink at the onsite tattoo convention. Over a dozen different artists set up shop for the weekend, seeing a steady stream of customers ready for some new ink, as well as casual visitors piqued with curiosity.

With marijuana as a focal point, the cannabis convention had a lot to offer in terms of products, education, and just overall vibes.

Conventions and trade shows are common events for those who work within the cannabis industry or other adjacent industries, but this provided an opportunity for others to get a glimpse of some innovations and new products. Again, education and vibes. Also ensuring that there is a little something for everyone, a sneaker convention also joined the roster of activities, likely a draw for sneakerheads in attendance and also a sneak peek into this community for those who weren’t privy to how hot the demand for some shoes can run.

Between the music, conventions, art, the skateboarding (did we fail to mention there was a halfpipe in the center of the festival grounds?!), Florida Groves offers an elevated experience for festival-goers looking for something a little different, new, and engaging. Hopefully attendees left with great memories from their favorite bands’ sets, new artists and tunes in their streaming rotation, and some knowledge or art — whether on their body or just in their possession — that they didn’t come into the weekend possessing. Hopefully Florida Groves grows into a staple for the Central Florida reggae rock and cannabis communities, and continues to be such a synergistic event.

Recap by Jessica Shvarts; photography by Brian “Porkchop” Nicholson

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