There was no better place to be this past weekend than the ninth annual Orange Blossom Revue music festival.
Photography by Stephan Pruitt and Lexi Wharem
There’s no better place to be on the first weekend of December than on the sandy banks of Lake Wales amid towering live oak and palmetto trees. That was the common sentiment among the sea of people who converged on the Central Florida hamlet this past weekend for the ninth annual Orange Blossom Revue music festival.
Featuring performances from JJ Grey & Mofro, The Wood Brothers, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, Kaitlin Butts, Mike & The Moonpies, Brent Cobb, Harper O’Neill and Cat Ridgeway, it’s hard to argue against them. The intimate gathering born out of a barbecue fundraiser has been on the rise in recent years, culminating in 2023 being its biggest iteration yet.
To commemorate the weekend that was, here’s a look back on our favorite moments from our pre-holiday fun in the sun at the Revue.
While OBR possessed a stellar musical lineup that stressed quality over quantity, the Revue can also attribute its best year yet to the record crowds that ascended on Lake Wales Park for the weekend.
In total, over 3,000 people from 37 states and six countries traveled to Central Florida for the end-of-the-year boutique gathering. Its quickly turning into not only a signature event for the City of Lake Wales, but for the entire region as well.
Still riding high from the October release of her debut record Dark Bar Daisy, Harper O’Neill was first to take the stage at this year’s Revue, and she didn’t disappoint.
With a sound and swagger akin to Katie Pruitt, she tackled songs from the record like 'Guilty' and 'When You Love Me', in addition to emotional covers of Tracy Chapman’s 'Give Me One Reason' and Susan Tedeschi’s 'It Hurt So Bad'.
While Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway dazzled with performances of 'Down Home Dispensary', 'Dooley’s Farm' and Jefferson Airplane’s 'White Rabbit', no moment during the Grammy-winning group’s set was more heated than when they covered Ervin T. Rouse’s 'Orange Blossom Special'.
For the song, which is named after a former luxury train, Golden Highway welcomed Travelin McCourys’ fiddler Jason Carter to the stage, where an epic duel with Bronwyn Keith-Hynes ensued.
Making their third straight appearance at the Revue were the amicable Wood Brothers.
While the trio ran through several cuts from their most recent album Heart Is The Hero, the most poignant moment came when the trio welcomed Tuttle and her band out to gather around a condenser mic for a cover of the Sister Rosetta Tharpe-popularized gospel number 'Up Above My Head'.
A crowd sing-along on 'Luckiest Man' and an encore of The Band’s 'Ophelia' helped to cement the set as the Wood Brothers best performance in Lake Wales to date.
Throughout the weekend, the lines were long and the fans cheerful at Holler’s artist signing tent.
Positioned directly next to the Orange Blossom Revue’s merchandise booth, the tent welcomed Harper O’Neill, Molly Tuttle, Cat Ridgeway, Kaitlin Butts and Mike & The Moonpies for pictures, autographs, conversation and more.
A first-of-its-kind collaboration for the Revue, the concept allowed attendees to get up close with some of their favorite artists for an intimate, community-driven experience.
The lone return performer to the Revue aside from The Wood Brothers, Orlando’s Cat Ridgeway shone during her second ever appearance at the event.
Joined by her backing band The Tourists, the powerhouse singer flexed her vocal versatility as she navigated from originals including 'Sweet Like Candy' to covers of The Cranberries’ 'Dreams' and The Avett Brothers’ 'Talk On Indolence', making each sonic shift look more effortless than the last.
Not even sweat dripping from Kaitlin Butts & her band of ASStronauts’ aluminum foil space cadet outfits could dampen the Okies’ Revue debut.
In addition to tearing through 'Roadrunner' and smash hit 'Marfa Lights', the red-headed cowgirl also put her own spin on Merle Haggard’s 'I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink' and Shania Twain’s 'Any Man Of Mine' — the latter of which has become her regular show closer — as she fused her own sound with the eras of country that shaped her.
After having had to reschedule their Friday night show in nearby Gainesville, Saturday’s set at the Revue couldn’t have been a better rebound for Mike And The Moonpies.
The modern day torch bearers of Texas twang tore through originals like the blue-collar 'Paycheck To Paycheck' and the tear in your beer-sized 'You Look Good In Neon', but it was a performance of 'Bottom Of The Pile' — an unreleased Gary Stewart demo the band recorded for 2020’s Touch Of You: The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart — that really saw them let the reins loose on the honky tonk hijinx.
Although slightly under the weather, Brent Cobb was still able to give the few thousand fans in attendance his all with a catalog spanning-set that showed off his sustained writing prowess.
A deep cut set that ranged from 2006’s solo debut No Place Left To Leave ('Bar, Guitar And A Honky Tonk Crowd' and 'Black Creek') to 2023’s Southern Star ('Livin’ The Dream' and 'When Country Came Back To Town') left Cobb’s “Southern Star” shining bright.
Headliner (and Jacksonville native) JJ Grey & Mofro delivered a blistering Saturday night show, ripe with everything from original fan favorites like '99 Shades Of Crazy' and 'Lochloosa' to astounding covers of The Rolling Stones’ 'Gimme Shelter' and Johnny Nash’s 'I Can See Clearly Now'.
However, the biggest highlight came when the band dug into their song 'Orange Blossoms', a highly popular tune that was more than appropriate for the Revue and its delighted crowd.
For more on Orange Blossom Revue, see below: