Swamptown Getdown with The Fritz

by Liza Mitchell
Funk is not often synonymous with Waycross, Georgia, but the Fritz is aiming to bring the funk to the first annual Swamptown Getdown Music Festival. The two-day festival, held March 11- 12 at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds, will feature an eclectic array of talent from the southeast.
Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Jamie Hendrickson, keyboardist Jamar Woods, bassist Jake O’Connor, drummer Michael Tillis and percussionist Mike Evans, the Jacksonville Beach-based band came together through a collective love of music.
“We are all from different places, but basically met through the UNF music program,” Hendricksen said in a recent interview. “We began getting regular gigs and traveling around.”
The Fritz formed in 2007 and quickly established its signature sound, a potent hybrid of funk and rock with rich undertones rooted in classical, jazz and world music.
“We all like a wide variety of music. One minute we will be blasting Stevie Wonder, the next we are listening to traditional Latin music. We all really love jazz and classical music, but at the same time are influenced by rock, funk, bluegrass, reggae and electronic music,” Hendricksen said. “Technology has really allowed us to be constantly discovering new stuff from around the world. I could go on for hours just about what I’ve been checking out in the past month.”
The Fritz quickly developed a reputation for their powerful live shows, both on the club and festival circuit. The band plays clubs throughout the region and has appeared at the 2010 Big & Hearty Fesival and the Bear Creek Music Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak.
“We try and be as over the top as possible, play a different show every time, and keep people guessing. For us, performing is the reason we have the band,” Hendricksen said. “I think to really get what we are all about, you have to come out and see us.”
Hendricksen said the band openly encourages audiences to tape and share live recordings of their shows. To Hendricksen, it’s a great marketing tool that allows their music to reach new listeners.
“They listen, recommend it to their friends, and when we come to their town they come out to our show. Simple as that,” he said. “We are a live band and getting people out is the most important thing for us. The more live recordings out there circulating, the better.”
The Fritz devotes as much energy to writing, arranging and rehearsing their material as they do on stage. Lyrical content is important, said Hendricksen, but the direction and flow of the songs must have purpose and go “somewhere musically.” But the Fritz is anyththing but scripted.
“We try and leave spaces in the arrangement of the songs that allow for improvising and playing what the moment calls for,” he said. “We keep everything flexible enough so we can rearrange the songs for each performance. This forces us to be creative and fresh.”
The Fritz recently released their first full length studio album, The Prehistoric Stomp, recorded with Peter Duggan at MamaNooch Studios in Jacksonville. The album is available on ITunes and Amazon.com.
“We learned a lot making it, and had fun with the process,” Hendricksen said. “Everything we do is so centered on live performance it was interesting to just sit in a room by ourselves and play.”
Hendricksen said the band is always ready to play at a music festival like Swamptown Getdown. The vibe is great and it offers the band the chance to come together with fellow musicians and check out the great music that is showcased.
“Performing is just so fun because there is always great energy in the air. People are pumped and ready to dance,” he said. “People are off from work, usually all camping with their friends for the whole weekend. They are ready to party from the first note we play. It does not get much better than that.”
The Fritz also performs March 5 at Dogstar Tavern in Fernandina Beach, March 17 for a St. Patrick’s Day show at the Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach and March 25 at the Landshark Café.
Swamptown Getdown will feature primitive and powered camping with food and drink, music, jewelry, clothing and art vendors. A children’s area will also be available on-site. Two day passes are on sale for $20. Proceeds will benefit a high school band program in Waycross as a way to offer continued support to the area’s growing music scene.
Visit www.thefritzmusic.com for band information, show dates, live clips and photos. For information on the Swamptown Getdown and a full lineup of bands, go to www.swamptowngetdown.com.