A Storm of Music: the Swamptown Getdown

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It was close to 9 o’clock on Saturday night, and the music at the Swamptown Getdown was picking up steam. The radar was also kicking into high gear as a strong weather front rushed in across the Okefenokee Fairgrounds.

smaller-transparent_SGMFestival_Logo“A friend of mine walks over to where I was standing and shows me a cell phone with this weather map pulled up. Usually it’s green and when you get in the middle of the green it’s yellow and when the middle of the yellow starts showing red, you know that something is fixin’ to happen,” founder Dave Griffin says of last year’s explosive finish. “It was coming across Homerville, which is about 30 minutes from Waycross. I made the announcement right before I introduced Zach Deputy that everyone needs to buckle down and get ready because it is coming.”

What happened next can only be described as an amazing force of nature and the power of live music. “The rain came, and it was whipping pretty good. Zach was still playing on stage, but at a certain point you could feel the wind shift from the southwest to the northwest. And when it blew from the northwest, it came straight across the fairgrounds, picked up a huge vendor tent, and tumbled it over and over. Then it picked up a little pop-up tent and sailed it about 30 feet into the air, and it went crashing into the transformer on a power pole and there was this big fireball, then everything went black.”

swamptown-featured1The storm was over as quickly as it started, but it shut down the music for the night—until the fans who fled the stormy campgrounds congregated at a rear field, sparking an impromptu, acoustic singalong by firelight. “Although we didn’t have any more stage music, everybody proceeded down to the camping ground and cranked up the acoustic guitars around the campfire,” he says. “All of the fans kind of bonded through this. That was the beautiful part. But I’m hoping for no fireworks this year.”


What the festival had in nature’s fireworks last year, Griffin says they will make up for in the velocity of the music. The 6th annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival will be held May 13-14 at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross, GA, and will feature a diverse lineup ranging from bluegrass, reggae, soul, funk, blues, electronica to Americana (

“We’ve got some great music lined up for this year,” he says of the 6th annual Swamptown Getdown lineup featuring Roosevelt Collier, S.P.O.R.E., Parker Urban Band, Copperhead South, Droppers, Jamie Renee & The Walkers, Pine Box Dwellers, Back from the Brink, Chillakaya1, Space Kittens, Thunderbird, Bonnie Blue, Conni Laine, Milltown Road, Lowdive, dangfly!, and Lazy Lightning. “Jacksonville is well represented.”

EU_jax_ad.flat_pressqualityGriffin says the eclectic lineup represents the blueprint for the original festival in 2010. “We wanted to showcase original music as much as possible. We liked the diversity between the two festivals. Gram Parsons Guitar Pull is country rock or a variance of that. You’re going to get a lot of Gram Parsons covers because it’s a tribute. To have the Swamptown Getdown as our second offering in the spring is pretty cool for us.”

Born from the fall tribute event honoring the late Gram Parsons, Griffin says he wasn’t looking to host two festivals a year when he was approached by some eager and convincing friends. He never imagined that his vision for the Gram Parsons’ tribute 19 years ago would bloom beyond a gathering of local pickers in his backyard. “I got cornered by some of the attendees and they said, ‘Look man, this is too much fun. You need to do this twice a year.’ At that point, I was really doing a lot of work on my own,” he says. “I never had this vision to be a concert promoter or a festival promoter. I’ve learned what it takes through the years, and they said, ‘We’ll help you.’”


Together, the village of music lovers developed a grassroots plan to bring regional artists together in collective appreciation of original music. This year marks the incorporation of visual arts as an added festival element. Now billed as the Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival, the event will feature artists of all mediums from paint, metal, woodworking, glassblowing, and more. People’s Choice awards will be presented in each category with the winners receiving free passes to next year’s Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival. “We encourage people to come out and showcase with us,” says Griffin. “They are getting really good exposure to a new audience, and it really brightens up our festival grounds. It’s all about the makers of the art.”

Swamptown Getdown keeps growing, not in great leaps but in the measured footsteps of the few people who told a few people who told a few more. Griffin appreciates the organic nature of the event. It was never part of the plan to create a huge event with massive numbers, so as it continues to creep up the figurative growth chart, he takes pleasure in the little things. “It was always just a way to keep having fun. That was the impetus of these festivals. It’s a down home, good feeling,” says Griffin. “Once you enter the fairgrounds, you don’t feel like you’re in Waycross any more. You kind of lose all sense of time and space and it just becomes all about the experience, the music and the people.”

Experience the Getdown yourself May 13-14. Visit for more info.

Event: 6th annual Swamptown Getdown Music and Arts Festival

Venue: Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross, GA

Date/Time: May 13-14, gates open 12pm Friday

Tickets: $40 advance, $50 after May 7



About Liza Mitchell