Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bain Beakley's Peanut Butter & Jelly Jam at Ocean Blues

Yesterday, my Internet was down, so I didn't know who'd be playing in Sarasota, it was raining, and I was in for the night . . . or so I thought. When I finally got back online, I saw on that Bain Beakley was at Ocean Blues. So I got myself out there, and, oh, my, my, was it worth it. A wall of loud and happy voices drew me into the dining room, where Bain Beakley and Twinkle were hurling harmonies at the mics in front of a table set with jars of peanut butter (smooth and crunchy) and jams. Get it? It was a "Peanut Butter & Jelly JAM".

What fun it was. A continuing swirl of rock and R&B classics interpreted with unbridled enthusiasm by local guitar and vocal heroes circling up to sing, clap, and riff. Notables included Steve Sipes on keyboard, James Albritton on guitar and vocals, Mark Serio on guitar, Tony LeClerc on bass, A.J. on vocals, anchored by Bain and Twinkle. The gig doubled as a CD release party for Twinkle's new disc.

I've seen Bain soldier through many solo gigs on quiet Tuesday nights, as well as early-Sunday-morning wake-up-calls at the Siesta Key Farmers Market -- and those are always rewarding. But last night was a pull-out-the-stops reminder that in Sarasota's live music scene, you never know what's in store, so you might as well put on your face and your dancing shoes and head out the door, if only for an hour or two. Thanks, Bain, for cheering up a drizzly Wednesday night. You really topped that peanut butter with a great JAM!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Live Music Venues in Sarasota

My northern friends know that one of the reasons I like living in Sarasota is because of its unusually high population of working, professional level musicians of all ages, and live music venues. I surprised even myself the other day when I counted how many live music clubs, bars and restaurants are located within five miles of Siesta Drive. Come along with me as I count them out, and forgive me if I forget one or two:

BAyfront Park
Marina Jack's

Downtown Sarasota
Mattison's City Grille
Sarasota Vineyard
The Gator Club
Pastry Art (occasionally)
Salute Sarasota
The Old School Bar & Grille
Downtown Sarasota Farmers Market (Saturdays)

Rosemary District
The Blue Rooster
WSLR Fogertyville

St Armands Circle
Cha Cha Coconuts
Dacquiri Deck

Southside Village (Hillview & Osprey)
5 O'Clock Club
Ocean Blues
Libby's (occasionally)

S.Tamiami Trail
Phillippi Farmhouse Market (Wednesdays)
Cabana Inn

Proctor Rd near Beneva
Central Sarasota Farmers Market (Saturdays)

Siesta Key Village
Blase Cafe
Blu Q
The Beach Club
The Hub Baha Bar & Grill
S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar)
Siesta Key Farmers Market (Sundays)

McIntosh & Ashton
White Buffalo Saloon

Swift Road
Hot Diggety Dog

Gulf Gate
Pastimes Bar

Cattlemen Road/Packinghouse Road
Cock & Bull
JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe

To find out who's playing, and where, each day or night of the week, click on

Are we lucky to live here, or what?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Musical Collaboration in Sarasota: Sam Woolf and Kenny Crawley

One of the delights of live music in Sarasota is the collaboration of upcoming young talented musicians with seasoned pros. There's a strong and proud culture here of legendary tunesmiths championing the upstarts. A case in point is singer/songwriter Sam Woolf, the 17-year-old Bradenton competitor on American Idol who recently made the cut to be in the top 13 finalists. In addition to critiques from show judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr., and Keith Urban, word has it that Woolf's been getting home team production support from Del Couch's music foundation; and musical arrangements prepared by master drummer Kenny Crawley, who plays internationally with Dickey Betts & Great Southern, and locally with The Instigators, among other stellar groups.

Other examples of cross-generational interplay include the David Smash Band, led by the 21-year-old blues and rock 'n roll phenom, with band members of 1970s vintage, and 12-year-old prodigy-drummer Kei Bland, who often gets asked up to the stage to slam the sticks with musicians old enough to be his grand-dads.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kraig Kenning at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe

Mark your calendar for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, to experience the slide guitar wizardry of singer/songwriter Kraig Kenning, who'll be performing live at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe, in Sarasota FL, from 7PM to 10PM. Intensely talented, intensely driven, intensely poetic, Kenning takes you on a journey through life's challenges, victories and wondrous moments.

During the break, check out his extensive collection of original CDs. One of the new ones is a great compilation of his most popular tunes. Personally, it's become my driving-around-town soundtrack. He sells them for too cheap, but then again you can afford to collect them all.

JR's has great comfort food, too, while you're stamping your feet to Kenning's energetic show.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Night Live Music in Sarasota

Well, tonight promises an embarrassment of riches, if you're hankering for live music in Sarasota. You can feel like the President, flitting from one gig to the next on Inauguration Day. Here are some of my picks, along with videos to give you a flavor of their sounds. Keep in mind that they are all much better seen and heard live. Feel free to improvise and add your own faves to the lineup:

Mumbo Jumbo plays righteous funk at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe (Old Packinghouse Road between Palmer Blvd & Bahia Vista Street), 7PM to 11PM.

TC & the Troublemakers keeps everyone -- hear that? everyone! - dancing at Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota (Main Street and Lemon Avenue), 7:30PM to 12 midnight.

Lisa Ridings & Vertigo power up their R&B, soul, and rock machine at Ocean Blues (Hillview Street, between Osprey Ave and Tamiami Trail), 9PM to 11PM at least.

Put on your dancing shoes, because you will want to get out there and boogy. Just sayin' . . .

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beatles 50 Year Ed Sullivan Show TV Special

I usually write about the local Sarasota live music scene, but I have to diverge today in order to remark on the Beatles 50 Year Ed Sullivan Show TV Special that aired last night. Am I the only one who thought the best part of the show was when actual Beatles sang and played?

While I admire the talent and polish of all the previous acts and musicians on the show, both young and legendary, the production felt more like a Kennedy Center dirge-for-the-almost-dead than a celebration of the lighthearted, fun, happy, whimsical, adventurous, youthful characters that Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney still clearly are.

Clearly, there needs to be a sequel to last night's show, and here are my unsolicited suggestions:

1) Book the actual Ed Sullivan (now David Letterman) theater in New York. What does L.A. have to do with the Beatles in America?

2) If there are cover bands, select those with players who are young and just starting out, to convey the energy of the Beatles who actually played here in 1964. How about some mop-tops? There are plenty of those available even in this Millenial generation of musicians. For example, here in Sarasota we have the marvelous The Tracks:

3) Keep the production values simple. No visual dazzling required, either in the hair, makeup, glitter or stage sets we saw on the L.A. stage last night.

I'm glad we had the opportunity to watch the special last night. And, yes, it was great to see amazing musicians of Beatles vintage, such as Joe Walsh and Peter Frampton, reveling in their chops onstage. It just whetted my appetiite for another show, hopefully orchestrated next time by Paul and Ringo.

Friday, February 7, 2014

John Howard and "Captain" Matt at Matto Matto in Sarasota

Tonight's chilly night air did not dissuade a Friday night neighborhood crowd from dining outside at Matto Matto restaurant in Burns Square, serenaded by the smooth harmonies and well-blended instrumentalism of local singer/songwriter John Howard, accompanied by "Captain" Matt Baker, recently returned to the Sarasota live music scene after an 18-month sabbatical up north.

The duo was set up against the front of the relatively new bistro, playing to diners wrapped in matching red fleece throws provided by the restauranteur.  The setting had a European flavor, enhanced by the location of Matto Matto at the confluence of Pineapple and Orange Avenues in the charming old Burns Square neighborhood, a few blocks south of downtown Sarasota.

John Howard, on guitar, vocals, ukelele and harmonica, with Captain Matt on guitar, percussion and vocals, offered folk and rock covers, along with original tunes penned by Howard. The duo can be seen performing regularly around Sarasota at clubs and farmers markets.