Thursday, February 16, 2017

JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe Reopens!!

Hurray! After months of renovations and improvements, JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe in Sarasota is now open again.

On Wednesday night, Stumble Creek Band did the reopening proud, playing to a packed house of grateful patrons. Yes, that's right, a packed house on a Wednesday night.

JR has expanded the bar area, added additional outdoor porch and deck, and freshened the place with a new paint job and many invisible functional upgrades.

But the vibe still feels like "home" in the OPC's unique style.

Here's the music lineup:

See you there soon!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kevin So with Buddy Gibson at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe in Sarasota

A few weeks ago, at Buddy Gibson's monthly gig at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe in Sarasota, Kevin So shared the stage, offering up a really pleasing blend of harmonies and instrumental counterpoints. On guitar, keyboard and vocals, Kevin's presence made it an extra special performance.

At the OPC that night, Buddy and Kevin combined their individual efforts to make three--an exceptional sound that enhanced every tune they played, both covers and originals. One of my faves of the evening was "Breakdown", from So's CD, "Countryside".

Later, listening to So's other tunes as I drove home, I was also taken with Long Way Around, a cheerful ballad that chronicles a slow-yet-steady drive for successes in various areas of life; Not Worth It, about the personal price that a traveling musician pays for long or frequent absences from home; and Why Am I Afraid, a beautiful love song that describes having it but still questioning it.

Kevin So's  a talented singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who's also toured with Keb Mo'.

Hope to see him back in Sarasota when the Old Packinghouse Cafe reopens after the next few months of repairs.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 4/28/16

Here's your can't-miss list for great live music in Sarasota tonight:

  • 6PM - Kettle of Fish at Blue Sunshine Patio at Marina Jack, Sarasota Bayfront
  • 7PM - The Venturas at Mattison's City Grille, downtown Sarasota
  • 7-11PM - Berry Oakley's ROCKLAB at SKOB (Siesta Key Oyster Bar) in Siesta Key Village

For complete daily listings, visit

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wheel & Frame at Indigo Event Space in Westfield NJ

Visiting the popular dining and shopping destination of downtown Westfield NJ, a few nights ago, I heard interesting sounds coming from an upper floor of the Arcanum Hall building, at the corner of E. Broad Street and Elm Street. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, I made my way through the artful decor of Indigo, a co-op event space. 

The tune that drew me in was being played by Wheel & Frame, a low-fi indie/folk band from the Upper East Side of New York City. They were there as part of a multi-band showcase evening.

What intrigued me was that, along with the dense lyrics and dirge-like rhythms common to many young start-up groups these days, there was melody and musicality that made Wheel & Frame's performance appealing on its own, whether or not I caught the story being told.

Here's a track for you to sample:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gin & Juice Band at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe

At their monthly gig at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe in Sarasota, FL, last night, the Gin and Juice Band served up an appealing blend of blues, zydeco and classic rock covers. 

The trio includes Jim Groves on bass, vocals and harmonica; David Lowe on guitar and vocals; and Dale Harris on drums. The band's influences include New Orleans roots, jazz, soul, funk, rock, country, and the blues.

Because their arrangements are smooth and their set list well-mixed, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. But it's also interesting to note Gin and Juice's original take on each of the familiar songs they perform. 

While it can be comforting for an audience to hear covers played back note-for-note, it actually gives us something new to take home with us when a band contributes their own flavor to each composition.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 3/8/16

Two excellent choices for live music tonight in Sarasota:
  • 7PM - Stumble Creek at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe
  • 8PM-12AM - Bain Beakley & Friends at Siesta Key Oyster Bar
For complete local listings, visit

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 4/1/16

It's a fun Friday tonight in the Sarasota live music scene. Pace yourself if you want to keep up with a night of great musical entertainments!
  • 6PM - Mumbo Jumbo at  the Five O'Clock Club, Hillview Street
  • 9:30PM - Ari and the Alibis at the Five O'Clock Club, Hillview Street
  • 8-11PM - Kettle of Fish at The Blue Rooster, 4th Street near Lemon Ave, $5 cover
  • 7-9PM - Hymn for Her at Cafe in the Park, Payne Park at Adams Lane; NOTE: This is a traveling duo. Catch them while they're still in town. Dynamic and interesting performance.
  • 7PM - Florida Mountain Boys (bluegrass) at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe, Old Packinghouse Road
  • 8PM-12AM - Shift Change at Mattison's City Grille, downtown Sarasota at Main St and Lemon Ave
For complete daily listings, visit

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 3/26/16

Oh, my, my, tonight is rich with sure things. You might have to do some club-hopping to catch it all:
  • 5PM - Jah Movement Reggae Band at the Five O'Clock Club on Hillview Street in Southside Village
  • 8-11PM - Ari and the Alibis at The Blue Rooster on 4th Avenue, east of Lemon Avenue in the Rosemary District
  • 7-11PM - Joey Lavallee and Bain Beakley at Marina Jack's, Sarasota Bayfront
  • 8PM - Lisa Ridings Band at Mattison's City Grille, Lemon Avenue & Main Street, downtown Sarasota
For complete daily live music listings, visit

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Art of the Looper

Dating back to the Great Recession, many local live music venues in Sarasota--restaurants and bars--favor single-player musical performances, in order to minimize the cost of hiring talent. 

In order to make up for the lack of band members at their gigs, soloists have added the "looper" machine to their setup. This allows them to record the various complimentary sounds that would have been provided by bass guitar, drums, vocal harmonies, and even horns. As the musician starts a song, he/she records each "other instrument" sequentially on the looper, layering the sounds required for that particular tune. The looper only keeps one song in memory, then is cleared before recording the next song.

Purists can deride the simple utility of this machine-based system, but when I see the looper in action, I'm impressed by the on-the-fly orchestral arranging skill of the performer. The musician has to hear each instrument's note-flow in his/her head, then has to know how to lay down each track so that it will cohere with the overall arrangement. 

In the Sarasota live music scene, some of the most talented looper arrangers, in my opinion, include:
  • Andres Colin - Not only does he loop a wide array of sophisticated instrumental sounds with his synthesizer guitar, he sings in multiple languages.
  • Tommy D (Doerr) - He dutifully introduces his "band", including the drummer and bass player. Creates a very danceable sound with selective use of the looper.
  • Bain Beakley - His arrangements, and the lead riffs he plays on top of them, have a jazz complexity that adds dimension to a clear musical thru-line.
  • Frankie Lombardi - King of the long lead guitar riff, he first layers drum, bass, and harmonic looper sounds that give him a solid foundation for his intricate instrumental breaks.
Next time you're out enjoying the hard-working solo musician onstage, with only the looper for backup, notice the impressive show-design process that's going on in front of you. And maybe throw a little extra tip money into the cup to compensate all the "band members" that he/she is creating for your listening amazement!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 3/19/16

  • 7PM - Mumbo Jumbo at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe, Old Packinghouse Road (betw. Palmer Rd and Bahia Vista Street, Sarasota)
  • 8PM - Lisa Ridings Band at Mattison's City Grille, Main Street  & Lemon Ave, downtown Sarasota
For complete daily listings, visit