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

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 3/11/16

6PM - The Instigators at the Five O'Clock Club, Hillview Street, Southside Village - rare appearance, don't miss this show, great reggae
7-10PM - Seamus McCarthy Band at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe, Old Packinghouse Road

For complete daily listings, visit

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 3/10/16

3-6PM - Frankie Lombardi at Hub Baha Grill, Ocean Blvd, Siesta Key
6-10PM - Kettle of Fish at Marina Jack's, Sarasota Bayfront
7-10PM - The Venturas at Mattison's City Grille, Main Street & Lemon Avenue, downtown Sarasota

For complete daily listings, visit

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/27/16

The weather may be cold (again!), but it should be a hot night for live music in Sarasota:
  • 7-10PM - Kat Crosby Band at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe - blues with flavors of Texas swing
  • 6-10PM - The Jayzz at Blase Cafe in Siesta Village - John Howard and friends with great harmonies on familiar favorites from 60s and 70s
  • 8:30PM - Nikki Hill at The Blue Rooster in the Rosemary District, downtown - high-energy rockin' blues ($15 cover)
For complete daily listings, visit

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/26/16

No question here. Guaranteed fun music night:

7-10PM - The Missing Links at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe - nonstop greatest hits from the late 60s and early 70s; bring your earplugs, and your dancing feet.

For complete daily live music listings:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/25/16

  • 8PM - Strangled Darlings Touring Band at 210 Tavern (5045 Fruitville Rd) - interestingyoung non-local duo to check out; haunting sound, nice harmonies and mandolin)
  • 6-10PM - Kettle of Fish at Marina Jack's (Sarasota bayfront)
  • 7-11PM - Berry Oakley's ROCKLAB at S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar)
For complete daily live music listings:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

NEW FEATURE: "Tonight in Sarasota"

Especially for visitors to the Sarasota area, the array of live music performers and venues in this beautiful small-town city can be overwhelming. 

If you want to simply explore, you're sure to come upon talented musicians all around town. But if you're here for a limited time, you may appreciate some sure-thing structure to your evenings. 

That's the idea behind "Tonight in Sarasota", a new feature on this blog. 

Several nights a week, I'll hand-pick terrific spots for an evening of great music. 

For a complete daily listing of who's playing where, you can always check in with

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/24/16

Get off the couch and enjoy fabulous live music in Sarasota tonight:
  • 7-10PM - Buddy Gibson & Zack Yoder at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe
  • 5-7:30PM - Howlin' Bob on LeBarge Tropical Cruise (Sarasota Bayfront, $28)
For complete daily live music listings, visit

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/23/16

Hands-down, this is your sure-thing tonight in downtown Sarasota:

7-10PM - Billy Seward Band at Mattison's City Grille (Lemon & Main)

For complete daily live music listings, visit

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/20/16

  • 8-11PM - Billy Seward Band at The Blue Rooster, 4th Street, downtown Rosemary District
  • 7-11PM - Mumbo Jumbo at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe, Old Packinghouse Rd
  • 8-11PM - Lisa Ridings Band at Mattison's City Grille, Main St & Lemon Ave, downtown
I don't know how you'll decide. Three really fun choices tonight. Might have to just see them all.

For complete daily live music listings, visit

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/18/16

Either band will leave you smiling. Good food at either joint:
  • 7-10PM: Heather Downie Band at J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe, on Old Packinghouse Road
  • 7-11PM: Berry Oakley's ROCKLAB at S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar), in Siesta Village
For complete daily live music listings, visit

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tommy Doerr's new CD, "Happy to Be"

It's always best to enjoy Sarasota musicians live. So many dimensions that can't be captured in a CD.

But it's also great to travel around with them in one's personal spaces, away from the distractions of chatting bar crowds and street noise. 

This week I'm enjoying the variety of moods and tunes on Tommy D's new CD, "Happy to Be." One of my faves so far is "Night Trippin'", which immediately engages with a happy calypso beat that captures the gigging musician's life on the road, traveling from setup to setup. 

Also, "Bubble", which reminds us that "We live a bubble/Of some kind/You live in a bubble/I live in mine," a tidy little evocation of the human condition. 

"Stranger" explores an experience familiar to those of us who leave our hometowns to live in a place more suited to our own needs, returning "home" to find that it no longer belongs to us, except in our memories.

Sample Tommy Doerr's CD here. Then get your own copy to drive around with.
 Tommy Doerr Happy to Be
Tommy D's CD, "Happy to Be"

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/17/16

Two super options for great live music in Sarasota tonight:
You can enjoy dinner at either place. 

For complete daily live music listings, visit

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tonight in Sarasota: 2/16/16

What a beautiful night it will be for live music on Siesta Key. Head over to Siesta Village for your choice of three excellent and unique performances. 

Enjoy dinner at one restaurant, then stroll around the village to catch the other musicians:
  • 5-9PM - Tommy D at Aaron's Fish Camp 
  • NOTE: Pick up Tommy's new CD, "Happy to Be".
  • 7-10PM - Andres Colin at the Hub Baha Grille
  • 6-9PM - Kettle of Fish band at Blase Cafe
For complete daily live music listings, visit

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Live Music Venues in Sarasota FL

Here's an updated list of selected live music venues all around Sarasota. It seems that you can't walk anywhere in this town without hearing live music!

For daily listings of who's playing where, remember to check

Downtown Sarasota
Mattison's City Grille (Main Street)
Gator Club (Main Street)
Marina Jack's Dockside (Bayfront)
The Blue Rooster (Rosemary District)
Sarasota Farmers Market (Lemon Avenue, Saturdays 9-1)

Siesta Key
S.K.O.B. (Siesta Key Oyster Bar)
Aaron's Fish Camp
Cottage Restaurant
The Hub Baja Grille
Siesta Key Farmers Market (Sundays, 9-1)

Southside Village 
The Five O'Clock Club (Hillview Street)
Fandango (S. Osprey Avenue)

S. Tamiami Trail
Walt's Fish House (5 nights/week)

Gulf Gate

East Side
J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe (Mon-Sat, 7-10)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Billy Seward Band at Mattison's City Grille

Last night's first set a Mattison's City Grille, in downtown Sarasota, was interesting for how the Billy Seward Band set the stage for later, more energetic sets to come. 

Seward and his bandmates--Burt Engelsman on bass, Steve Camilleri on drums, Richy Kicklighter on guitar, and Brandon Sommers on keyboards--gently rolled out the vocals and instrumental riffs like individual jetstreams in a blue gulf sky, rolling out a canvas of sound that coalesced into white fluffy clouds of recognizable r&b and blues. 

Maybe it was the reprieve of balmy evening weather after days of cold that had me thinking in such metaphors. In any case, there was a pleasant haze of melody and harmony on the podium--energetic enough to attract couples and kids to the brick "dance floor", yet restrained enough to invite appreciative listening by patrons working on their appetizers at tables nearby.

This particular combination of players brings a lot of depth to the band. Each one is a seasoned master at his craft. All of them play regularly in other bands with other signature sounds. 

So it's fascinating to see what happens when they back up Seward, who has his own style of Memphis soul and Chicago blues. It's soulful, but doesn't hit you over the head with howling or shouting. It alternates between telling a tale and pulling back into lead breaks. 

Sommers' easy harmonies and Kicklighter's thoughtful counter-riffs enrich without dominating. Engelsman and Camilleri give solid rhythm and undertones, without overpowering Seward's initiatives.

Here's a listen from another Seward gig:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Premiere of Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival in Downtown Sarasota

UPDATE: Jah Movement reggae band was absolutely smokin' at the Sarasota Seafood Festival. One song after another got people dancing in the street on a cold and windy Saturday morning. Big highlight was the superb supplementary drumming by the 3 year old son of the lead singer. Really a treat. Here's a clip from a previous event, to give you the flavor:

This looks like an interesting and fun event to check out this weekend in downtown Sarasota. Five Points Park is in front of Selby Library at the corner of Pineapple Avenue and First Street. It might be easier to park in Burns Square and then walk north on Pineapple a few blocks to the park. Or use the Whole Foods parking garage upper levels, which you enter on 2nd Street.
The Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association announces the inaugural Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival. The event is in Selby Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota on January 23-24, 2016. Saturday 10-7 and Sunday 11-6, free admission and parking.
Premiere of the Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival
The mission is to celebrate the diverse nautical and cultural heritage of Sarasota while celebrating community thru camaraderie, great music and scrumptious foods. The event interweaves the freshest sustainable and indigenous seafood with outstanding live musical performances. Included will be seafood cooking demos, fishing workshops, arts and crafts, educational programs and exhibits.
Seafood lovers will enjoy fin-fish and shellfish prepared onsite by local restaurants and food purveyors. The ‘menu’ includes grouper, stone crabs, jambalaya, crab cakes, low country boil and more! 

Musical genres explore the gamut from Rock N’ Roll, R&B, Blues, Rumba Flamenco to Reggae and Jazz by such talented musicians and groups as Holey Miss Moley, Aland Music, Flat Land, Come Back Alice, R.J. Howson, Jah Movement, Kettle of Fish, Twinkle & Rock Soul Radio and the Sarasota Steel Pan Band. In addition, the event showcases original handmade artwork by a select group of local, regional and national artisans.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bryan Spainhower and The Combo Vimana at Mattison's City Grille

Congas, bongos, shakers, rattles . . . times two talented high-energy percussionists. Plus one frontman zooming up and down the neck of his guitar, with a little help from a looper to give the overall effect depth. It was a sound combo I haven't heard before, and it stopped me as I passed by Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota tonight. As the character Phoebe once said on "Friends", it was "very testosteroney," sort of like a train barreling down the tracks and you hope the engineer is alert at the switch. . . and he, and they, all were very alive and alert.

Turns out the group was Bryan Spainhower and the Combo Vimana, getting the evening started with a few fast-moving instrumental pieces that channeled Latin Jazz, Rhumba Flamenco, Bossa Nova and Rock 'n Roll.

That's the problem with unique musical approaches: All we can do is compare them to existing genres, but there's not an actual box you can fit them into.

Here's a listen (only one percussionist, Max Kelly, in this video; the combo tonight included two drum setups):

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Howlin' Bob with Mark Serio & Friends at Mattison's City Grille

Can't believe I've never heard him sing and play before, but tonight I really enjoyed dancing to the mellow vocals and fluid lead guitar of Howlin' Bob, who joined Mark Serio, Burt Engelsman, and Rob Camilleri at Mattison's City Grille in downtown Sarasota. TIP: They're still playing as I write, so if you can make it downtown right now, it'll surely be worth the effort.

I had to smile at the several layers of "singing" that were happening simultaneously onstage, as Serio's and Bob's lead guitars "talked" back and forth, trading up-the-neck and down-the-neck licks, along with Bob's honey-throated lyrics in periodic dialogue with his own gas-can-body guitar.

The closest analogous voice I can think of is Willie Nelson's, although Bob's is completely without Willie's trademark nasal sound. I most liked Bob's facility with rolling out well-thought-out yet seemingly effortless modulations of vocal tone and guitar intensity.

Here's some video of Howlin' Bob at the weekly blues jam at the Flying Dog Cafe a few years back, to give you a flavor of his vibe. All I can say is he's one smooth cat.

Props, too, of course, to the whole band, all of whom were clearly having a great time improvising together. One great song leads to another, and I never can find the right moment to leave. Just don't want to miss all that excellence.