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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunshine Music Festival opens doors to free shows

Gainesville bands, residents explore options for lower-cost performances

Trustfall lead singer Auggie Hughes performs at First Magnitude Brewery on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.
Trustfall lead singer Auggie Hughes performs at First Magnitude Brewery on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Melanie Roddam’s new favorite venue in Gainesville is the dark wooden stage at First Magnitude Brewery. All it took was soundcheck Jan. 19 at Sunshine Music Festival for the 25-year-old drummer to decide. 

“I’m not going to lie, it may also be because this is my first show in a while,” she said, “but there really is something special about this stage.” 

Roddam is back to playing with Gainesville-based band Trustfall after a brief hiatus, and she was intrigued at the idea of playing the festival. 

“I was a little concerned at first when I heard it was free,” she said. “Most shows charge at least a few bucks at the door, which is how the band gets paid, so we were a little worried about how that’d work out for us.” 

As people walked into First Magnitude in droves Jan. 19, Roddam’s concerns quickly dissipated. The festival, which officially began at 6 p.m., attracted dozens of people by 5:30 p.m. 

“I was shocked,” Roddam said. “In a good way, of course. Any worries I had about a big audience were fixed immediately.” 

More than 200 people ate, drank and watched the four Gainesville-based artists who performed at the festival in its first year at First Magnitude. In addition to Roddam’s band Trustfall, the festival had performances from Prizilla, Speakeasy and Ricky Kendall.  

Chelsea Giblin, the 31-year-old director of events at First Magnitude, said she was confident the festival would attract a large crowd from its conception. 

“It was kind of a no-brainer for us here at First Mag that the festival would do well,” she said. “We really have the people of Gainesville to thank for that. This town shows up for its people.” 

Maya Reid, a 20-year-old Santa Fe College business administration student, agreed, and said Gainesville’s reputation was a major factor in her move. 

“That was one of the biggest things that drew me to Gainesville in the first place,” she said. “Where I’m from, there isn’t any sense of community or town culture like there is here.” 

When Reid isn’t in class or studying, she’s making pop art collages with paint and newspaper to sell at markets. Her booth at First Magnitude made over $100 in the first hour, she said. 

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“I counted the money in my cashbox, and I was taken aback, then I counted again to make sure,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to see that people like my work and value it the same way I do.” 

Reid has sold at more than a dozen markets in the Gainesville area, but she said the Sunshine Music Festival was her favorite. 

“I really enjoy being able to sell my work in such a nice place with live music,” she said, “and it’s a big plus that First Mag doesn’t charge vendors a booth fee. There’s nothing worse than having to fork over half of your money at the end of a market.” 

Brandon Perez feels the same way about admission fees. The 33-year-old plumber brought his family to the Sunshine Festival Friday night because he knew it wouldn’t break the bank. 

“I have two kids and a wife,” he said. “I can’t afford to take them to all of the concerts and shows happening in town. When my wife heard that this show was free, we knew we could come without having to worry about budgeting.” 

Another draw for Perez and parents like him is that Giblin ensured the event was family-friendly.

“It may sound a little odd for a brewery to put on events for kids, but it actually makes a lot of sense for us,” she said. “We have this big open space that kids love to play around in and fun activities to keep them entertained.” 

Melanie Roddam doesn’t care if the average age of the crowd is 8 or 80, as long as people are listening. 

“It’s getting harder and harder to play music professionally,” she said. “Places like First Mag opening their doors and welcoming us is what’s keeping us afloat right now, and I’m beyond thankful for it.” 

Contact Bea Lunardini at Follow her on X @bealunardini.

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