Thursday, May 27, 2010

Profile: Kenny Crawley

It takes a certain kind of patience to keep the beat to slow, hypnotic music. Especially for musicians raised on pop or rock 'n roll, stretching out the measures and relaxing into a dreamy vibe can be challenging. In the case of Kenny Crawley, drummer for The Instigators, it's par for the course.

Born in Sheffield, UK, and now living in Florida, Kenny Crawley has been performing for thirty years. He's also an experienced session player, first in London, where he recorded with Glen Matlock, bass player for the Sex Pistols; Dave Bascombe, producer of Tears for Fears; and Don Was. During the 1980s, he was signed by Virgin Records with the band Floy Joy.

In the United States, Crawley has done session work and performed with Bo Diddley; Santana vocalist Alex Ligerwood; and Brian Johnson of AC/DC. He toured with Dickey Betts in 2005, 2006, and 2008.

On the creative side, he composes trance dance pop music. (Note: According to, trance music is "a genre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1990s. Trance music is generally characterized by a tempo of between 130 and 155 BPM, short melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and down throughout a track. It is a combination of many forms of music such as industrial, techno, and house.)

Since January of this year, Crawley's been keeping the beat and offering up some impressive drum solos with The Instigators, every Thursday evening from 7:30 - 10PM at The Irish Rover in Gulf Gate, Sarasota. If you stop by tonight, you can see Kenny's sticks in action.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday: New Sounds from Michael Kach Group

Another stand-out night of surprising and captivating sounds from The Michael Kach Group at The Irish Rover in Sarasota. The first set started out with the band "trying out" a Duane Betts original, with Duane on vocals, and backup vocals by Bain Beakley and Burt Engelsman. Smooth as silk, and everyone knew the words, so it came off flawlessly.

Then it seemed every other tune was a smooth jazz composition by Mike Kach, with his keyboard and Duane's lead guitar playing off each other as if connected by one brain, or something like that. You just can't categorize these guys.

The second set was more of the driving Southern rock flavor that The Michael Kach Group cooks up so well. The surprise guest was a young tyro named Tony Tyler who smoked on slide guitar in tandem with Duane Betts and then delivered roaring lead vocals on a blues number later on. Props to Mike Kach for generously sharing the stage with other interesting local talent, with which Sarasota is overflowing for sure.

Continuing his nightly quest for complex variations of stick-flying and kick-pedaling on the skins, Frankie Lombardi dove into a couple of blazing solos, and all I could see was sticks whippping as fast and accurately as a hummingbird's wings, and legs in constant motion on the bass drums. When Frankie gets going, you've got to just sit back and be mesmerized until it's over, as his bandmates do up there on the stage. Whew!

How refreshing that this group presents a constantly evolving stew of creative ideas, all offered up for just tips at the Rover. Catch 'em every night you can--it's never the same show, and it's always a treat.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday: The Strangeways

It's always intriguing to hear an unusual sound, and that's what was emanating from The Five O'Clock Club on Hillview Street in Sarasota late last night. From outside the club, I heard a horn section and saw drums and guitars, so I paid the $3 cover and stepped inside to see who was playing. (Full disclosure: I was tipped off to the gig by kinetic keyboard player Tim Meyer, who gave an entertaining performance Thursday night when he sat in with The Instigators at the Rover.)

Arrayed onstage were The Strangeways, well-named as they combine a highly percussive sound--insistent drums and lively keyboards--thumping away behind a cluster of horn players on sax, trombone, and trumpet, with bass and lead guitars lending rhythm and top notes to the mix. In addition to the sort of jazzy funky long, long tunes, there was a bit of horseplay among some of the performers, which all combined to keep the crowd on the dance floor stepping and gyrating happily, with lots of rapt listeners in the background.

The Strangeways is an eight-piece reggae and ska band founded in 1994. In addition to playing in the Southeast, they've completed two national tours and have a CD to their credit. Yet another testament to the versatility and technical virtuosity to be found in the Sarasota live music scene.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Venue: Marina Jack

Imagine dancing to live music in Sarasota while looking out at a spectacular sunset across Bayfront Park to Sarasota Bay. Well, you've just imagined what it's like every night at the bar at Marina Jack restaurant, located at the western end of Main Street, across Mound Street from downtown. You can choose to sit outside on the deck, watching the tide lap against the bulkhead. Or sit inside, covered by the high ceiling above, yet open to the Gulf breezes in this bar-without-walls. Best of all, just get out on the dance floor and move to the beat.

There's live music seven days a week at Marina Jack, with no cover charge. Highlights include Democracy playing joyful reggae on Sunday afternoons from 5PM; The Venturas kickin' it with swing, blues, and jazz on Wednesdays from 6PM; and Omni dance band on Fridays.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Profile: Bain Beakley

Tampa-born, Sarasota-based singer/guitarist Bain Beakley has learned to interweave his technical, vocal, instrumental and songwriting skills as both a touring musician and local stalwart on the Sarasota area live music scene.

Recently off the road after providing guitar tech services for Dickey Betts & Great Southern for three years, Bain can be seen at The Irish Rover on Tuesday nights playing guitar and singing backup vocals with The Michael Kach Group. He also performs as a solo act and sometimes in a duo at Sarasota Vineyard on Main Street, in downtown Sarasota. Here's a video from one of those gigs:

His own band, The Chillbillies, featuring Bain on vocals and guitar, Tim Dodge on drums, Taylor Collins on Bass, and Tommy Troglin on guitar and vocals, entertains with their particular flavor of country, rock and blues at private parties and benefits.

Growing up, Bain formed bands with friends in Sarasota, developing his chops as a self-taught guitarist. He later toured with Guns & Roses, Poppa Roach, and Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row) as a guitar tech, followed by his stint with Dickey Betts. When not on tour, he gigged with Mike Kach, Burt Engelsman, and Dave Reinhardt in The 504 Group.

Going forward, Bain Beakley promises more original tunes by himself, Mike Kach, and Frankie Lombardi showing up in the The Michael Kach Group and The Chillbillies set lists. To see Bain in action, stop in at The Irish Rover on Tuesday night, from 7:30 -10PM. No cover, but tips are appreciated and well-deserved.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday: Michael Miller & The Heart Machine at Felice's

Stopping in at Pastry Arts Cafe last night on Main Street, in downtown Sarasota, I enjoyed listening to Michael Miller, a local up-and-coming rock/indie singer/songwriter, whose band, The Heart Machine, is the headliner tonight, Saturday, May 8th, from 8 - 11PM, at Felice's (formerly Sarasota Olive Oil Company), 500 Central Avenue, at 5th Street, in the Rosemary District.

Miller's earnest and capable delivery of covers and originals, in a duo performance with his bass player, drew a full house that stayed around to hear more. If you're looking to change it up a bit tonight, several blocks away from the madding crowd, check out Michael Miller & The Heart Machine at Felice's. No cover, smoke-free, casual atmosphere.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thursday: The Instigators Contract Renewed at Rover

Good news for The Instigators' fans: Their contract to play at The Irish Rover was renewed for another month. So Thursday nights are still full of live music and reggae fun. The show runs from 7:30 -10PM tonight at The Irish Rover on Gateway Avenue in Gulf Gate. Ya mon!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday: Live Music in Downtown Sarasota

Wednesday's a busy night in downtown Sarasota. Here are some live music highlights:

7 -10PM, Radio Free Carmela and David Brain host open mic night at Pastry Art (just east of Lemon Avenue on Main Street)

7:30 - 10PM, Jimmy Gee hosts an invitational open mic at The Box Social across the street (on Main Street, just east of Lemon Avenue)

7 - 11PM, Big T & the Tornadoes, Chicago blues, at Mattison's City Grille, corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue. Look for bassist Burt Engelsman, guitarist Richy Kicklighter, and drummer Frankie Lombardi backing up the vocalists onstage.

Venue: Blase Cafe in Siesta Village

Aside from a small alfresco bar and a few tables, you can't tell much about Blase Cafe from the outside. It's located at the back of a small parking lot on Ocean Boulevard, across from the Best Western hotel, just a block from Siesta Beach access 10.

When you enter Blase, though, you're immediately transported to another world. The bar areas to the left and in front of you feel larger than they are, due to the high ceiling. A deep rosy pink color suffuses the walls, and vintage decor creates a sort of European mystique. During dinnertime, there are tables set up in the room. On select Sunday and Monday evenings, the tables are moved to make room for musicians who set up against the back wall.

When you hear that Los Rombaros are playing, make sure to catch their mesmerizing Gypsy, Latin, fusion music. The whole room ends up gyrating on the dance floor. It's a most unusual Sarasota live music experience.

On some nights, there's an open jam. Tonight, Wednesday, May 4th, stop by to listen and dance to Siesta Key Lei and his band.

Blase Cafe offers a tasty menu with a variety of appetizers and entrées, including seafood, pasta, beef, poultry and lamb.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Profile: Richy Kicklighter

On Thursday nights at The Irish Rover, in Sarasota, you'll see Richy Kicklighter onstage, quietly creating or enhancing a mood, with his subtle and emotive guitar leads for The Instigators. At Marina Jack's on Sunday evenings, he alternately blends and showcases mellow strums and deft picking into the reggae dance music of Democracy. Wednesdays, you can hear him at Mattison's City Grille, where he plays with Big T and the Tornadoes. Richy's guitar playing is both workmanlike and brilliant by turns. Lucky for us here in Sarasota, you can see him in action all over town.

His specialty is playing blues, jazz, R & B, worldbeat and reggae, on both acoustic and electric guitars. Through a long career that's taken him from Sarasota to New York to Atlanta to Macon and touring all over, Richy has played with the best of them, including Rufus Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Neil Larsen, Sammy Lawhorn, Little Johnny Taylor and Bo Diddley. He was a co-founder of the legendary R&B/Blues band Cool Breeze, which toured the blues circuit from New York to Florida, sharing the bill with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Room Full of Blues, Night Hawks, Average White Band, Dixie Dregs, John Hammond, and others. He played with The Instigators for 8 years and rejoined them in January when they re-entered the Sarasota live music scene.

Along with live performances, Richy writes original music and, through his publishing company, Midnight Pass Music, handles music licensing, supervision, and production for film and TV projects internationally. A very busy guy.

You can see Richy Kicklighter in action, when he sits in with The Michael Kach Group at The Irish Rover from 7:30 - 10PM tonight, Tuesday, May 4th. No cover, smoke-free, family-friendly, the Rover is located on Gateway Avenue in Gulf Gate, Sarasota.

Profile: Paul Duffy

For most people running a successful restaurant business would keep them busy enough. That's clearly not enough for Paul Duffy, owner of The Irish Rover Pub in Gulf Gate, who's also an accomplished and active musician.

You might have seen him stepping in to blow a rocking and soulful sax alongside one of the bands onstage in the large and comfortable dining room at the Rover. Or grabbing a mike to add powerful vocal harmonies to the mix. "Wow, who is that guy? He's terrific," you may think to yourself. Well hold your hat, because not only does Duffy wail on saxophone--he also plays trumpet, flute, guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, tin whistle and bagpipes. As Michaleen Oge Flynn (Barry Fitzgerald) exclaims in the classic Irish movie, "The Quiet Man", "Prodigious!"

Born into an Irish circus family, Duffy's International Circus, Paul Duffy actually walked the tightrope while playing sax. As a young man, he played with The Miami Showband and The Irishmen, also working in Dublin as a studio musician. His siblings are also musicians, and the lot of them formed a band called MPH. While touring in Mexico and Texas, he was hired to join The Commitments, a gig that lasted for six years. Over the years, he's played with the likes of Ben E. King, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Brian Johnson, Suzi Quatro, Chris de Burgh, Paul Hazel, The Corrs and Hazel O'Connor.

Along with performances at numerous Irish pubs along the Eastern Seaboard, Duffy played for seven years at Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, FL.

He has the mien of a true entertainer, reliably presenting a smiling, energized face to the room, giving his all whenever he instrumentalizes or sings. You can see and hear him every Friday night at The Irish Rover, on Gateway Avenue, in Gulf Gate, Sarasota, from 7:30 - 10 PM, where he plays traditional Irish songs and American classics.

The Rover is smoke-free and family-friendly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saturday: Bain & Frankie at Sarasota Vineyard

Arriving at Sarasota Vineyard in downtown Sarasota last night to hear Bain Beakley play solo, we had a double surprise to find a rockin' duo at the front of the house. Sharing the stage with Bain was Frankie Lombardi on guitar and vocals. Familiar with Frankie's drumming pyrotechnics from his local gigs with The Michael Kach Group, we hadn't heard his strong vocals and impressive guitar work.

It's always interesting to see two accomplished lead players weave in and out of each other's riffs, and Bain and Frankie had fun finding the spaces in between. Both are veterans of 10 years on the road with Dickey Betts & Great Southern. Their repertoire is varied and spans decades of rock history, spiced with their own personal emotive delivery. The guitars and voices blended and amplified each other.

If you hear that Bain & Frankie are playing somewhere, get over to see them. It's a treat I hope we'll enjoy often in Sarasota.