311 Pow Wow: Not just a concert, but a way of life.

It’s way too fucking hot. So hot that I’ve already sweat out those four swigs of Jose Cuervo and bypassed the buzz. Gnats are like cockroaches of the heat; nothing will kill them. I’m honestly starting to think they thrive in bug spray, as they stick to me like seagulls in toxic waste. Sure, Florida is sweltering in the summer months — you break a sweat on the way to that air-conditioned car in your driveway — but this is lethal temperature. I’m no meteorologist, but it’s over 100 degrees and 189.5 percent humidity... or something. The air is so thick you could slice it with a toothpick; it’s like wearing an oxygen tank filled with steam. But you’re worth it, 311 Pow Wow Festival. You’re worth it.

The 311 Pow Wow at the Suwannee River Music Park is not just a concert in the middle of a heat warning. It’s a way of life.

I’m not about to go all hippie-ish on you, but I may just a little. Just imagine a beach, but instead of gross sea water, insert the Suwannee River. Add black dye to the water and the ability to spark a joint without worry of an incoming misdemeanor. The sand is fluffy, yet scorching. Across the river, concert-goers are swimming to the rope swing and miniature cliff for their 15 seconds of fame. All jumpers are briefly judged by the roaring crowd of floating limbs and shimmering Bud Light cans on the other side. Scores are determined by a lull of: Wooo, Awww, and “I think she popped an implant!”

The first day, jumpers are just getting warmed up — different leaping techniques and various 311 praises. The second day, the clothes come off. By the third day, divers are jumping naked with added props. Dear Umbrella Guy, wherever you are, please know that you’re my hero.

A member of my clan tries to top that by blowing a red plastic horn on the way down, but drops it.

The 311 Pow Wow is a place where strangers greet each other with drunken wooing and water balloons. A good day happens when a balloon lands in the back of your moving pick-up without exploding, so you can throw it at someone else. A better day happens when your next victim catches it in perfect condition and flips a u-turn in their measly golf cart.

Then you remember why you’re here.

Oh yea, The Dirty Heads are playing live. Right down the street. The stage is within walking distance. Stop at your campsite for more tequila and smokes. Stumble to venue. Flash wristband. Stumble in.


The Dirty Heads are like a tropical beat-box. Beach bum music mixed with an acoustic and rap. They remind me of Flobots, because they blend a fast-paced alternative sound with rap and hip-hop rhythms. Seeing Lay Me Down performed live with Rome from Sublime is magic.

This is the first concert I’ve ever attended in my 23 years that provided free water for the crowd. It’s basically a set of hoses with faucets, but who gives a shit. Partiers are even allowed to bring in their own bottles of water from camp. Thank you, Suwannee River Music Park, for not charging me $8 to live.

I know absolutely nothing about MURS except he puts on a great live show. With Whole Wheat Bread joining him on stage and a surprise cover of Bulls On Parade, I can’t help but screech into my beer and channel my 10th grade self. Whole Wheat Bread covering Rage = monumental occurrence in my life.

I would like to take this time to dedicate a moment of silence to the Reel Big Fish. Bow your head fucker, seriously. Lack of Big Fish at the greatest ska/reggae show of my time is categorized under Tragedy.

You can’t find yourself at the 311 Pow Wow and not know about the Reel Big Fish — pioneers of third wave ska. And how would you be able to do The Fish? Everybody’s doin’ it.

Aside from the fact that I’ve been going to their shows for the past seven years, I was excited to see if the new guitarist wedged himself out of his shell and into Scott Klopfenstein’s limelight. He was left with some pretty big shoes to fill: silly banter, sporadic quips and sexy vocals. I think with a little audience ass-kicking practice, he’ll break out. The last Scott-less show I saw in Ybor left me a bit glum, despite a great show. In fact, it’s been 101 percent proven that Reel Big Fish can never play a bad show. Even when I saw them perform drunkenly at the Florida State Fair for 10 bucks a pop — despite the slurring words and AWOL lyrics — it was still bad-ass. Just a moment of silence, please.

This brings me to Streetlight Manifesto. Oh, Streetlight. Their sound is like putting an Energizer Battery inside a box of brass. Streetlight is harder, faster, and probably the best in bed. I’ve never been to a Streetlight show that lacked a thrashing skank pit, lucky if it can keep its pace with former Catch 22 frontman Tomas Kalnoky, spitting everyday views into rapid poetry. Unfortunately, due to drinking shenanigans, we lost track of time and missed the set. What? The naked jumpers are distracting.

Ah, The Supervillains. Hearing the name just makes me giggle, like I’m on my way to the ska circus. They remind me of every ska and reggae/hip-hop band I’ve ever liked all rolled into one (pun intended), complete with comedic value and upbeat tunes that leave you a little lightheaded, yet smiley. And hungry. I give them props for being the only band on Planet Earth to make people want to scream out “gonorrhea.”

Sublime with Rome. Do I really need to say more? Good, because I don’t remember the entire set. I was there, for sure. Just know that it was definitely worth it, and those of you who resent them because ‘they aren’t sublime,’ can suck it. That’s why they’re Sublime with Rome. Assholes.

311 played two sets Friday and Saturday, after the hellish sun dissolved and jumbo dream catchers were lit up on both sides of the stage. When they took the stage, it was like some kind of higher being just landed from the clouds to greet its people. Flashing hoola hoops swayed over the crowd; one kid even had a duck balloon impaled on a stick to joust in support of their never-ending sets. You just had to be there.

In conclusion, if the 311 Pow Wow Festival took place on its own island 24 hours a day, I would live there. Next to the venue there is a little store for water and other essentials. You can leave your iPod stereo and life savings inside your zip-up tent and nobody will steal it. You can leave a shitty tarp in the same spot for six hours and nobody will move it. There is a homemade ice cream shop where the sweet, old lady gives you three scoops no matter what, and uses real bananas in the ice cream.

311 did me right.


Day One: I will absolutely not pay for a millisecond of your wifi.

Five dollars for 30 minutes of wifi? Fuck you, Miami International. It's also required to have a Sunpass now in the Miami area? Or maybe it's everywhere. My aunt had it right: "It's so they can track you! Little China!"

I never want to be one of those people who need the $9.95/month unlimited access to Miami International's wifi. I'd venture to guess that those people start shedding at an early age and have heart attacks before age 40. Busy Busy Business People.

My name in Italian is Nicoletta. My cousin is going to be there too! I've heard lots about him since I was a kid. My grandma would always talk about Jacapo and tell him all about me. We're about the same age, and all I really know is he likes Green Day and the Chili Peppers. His American name would be Jake. He added me on Facebook awhile back, but I've never been able to decode his status updates. He does know English, though.

Seeing my aunts in Ft. Lauderdale was a trip. It was like watching The Banger Sisters. Aunt Diane is the crazy biker chick; Aunt Lorrayne is very proper and meticulous. Lorrayne practically counted the seconds until we needed to leave for the airport, while Diane talked about last night's bartending gig. It's weird how much distance can keep you from really knowing another side of your family.

My grandma is such a run-of-the-mill grandma: super happy, a little forgetful, extremely generous, a bad driver and can show you how to bake a pie. She lives pretty old-fashioned, yet owns a Blackberry and iPad 2. She also has that little keyboard that connects wirelessly to her big-screen TV. Yeah, my grandma is more tech-savvy than yours.

But she also engraved her iPad 2, so the back reads, "Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays" just in case.

"I still haven't decided if I like this thing," grandma says, staring at the reflecting Apple logo. "And it's really not that light."

About an hour until boarding.