Bulldog Played with Bill and Eli Perras at Will Fest and Had a Ball!

Bulldog Played with Bill and Eli Perras at Will Fest and Had a Ball!

I did indeed get to Brooksville for the 2017 Will McLean Festival, which is often simply called “Will Fest”. It’s always a pleasure to play with Bill and Eli Perras and this outing was a good one.

The Fest was well-attended and the camping was fine. The Sertoma Youth Ranch is a cool spot and I’m definitely planning to go back. I opted for the primitive camping; I usually do fine without hook ups. It was a nice spot. I had one of the very few fire pits and the event had this amazing fire wood vendor who delivered to your site. How cool is that?

And I saw a friend from the First Unitarian Church of Orlando and made a couple of new friends. So much to like about this year’s event!

Here’s the only down side to last weekend’s fun: I didn’t take a single photo. Did not charge the camera’s battery, so I missed out on that opportunity.

The featured photo here was taken by a friend of Bill’s and I’ll do my best to get his/her name so I can give proper credit.

Just one quick thing about the musical part of this cool event that is especially noteworthy to me: I know a lot of players on the folk/acoustic music scene in Florida, but I did see many very, very good performers at Will Fest that were new to me. But one stood out. That would be Mean Mary. If you get a chance to see her live, don’t pass it up. And, for what it’s worth, she’s not really mean. But she is an amazing songwriter and performer.

I’m not able to post a thorough piece on Will Fest right now; suffice to say it was — as usual — a smashing success and I had a good time! Sincerely hope to have the chance to do it again next year.

 

 

Friction Farm Touring Florida and Playing at Long Point Park

Friction Farm Touring Florida and Playing at Long Point Park

In my last posting, I gave a quick run-down of last week’s very cool visit to a fave camping spot, Long Point Park in Melbourne Beach. And I mentioned that the trip gave me a long-overdue chance to catch up with an acoustic duo who’ve been at the top of my list for a long time. That would be Friction Farm, consisting of Aiden Quinn and Christine Stay.

Aiden and Christine are as good an acoustic duo as I’ve ever seen; their vocal harmonies are heartfelt, vibrant and warm. Their skill on their instruments is admirable — Aiden on guitar and Christine on acoustic bass and harmonica — and their stage presence is warm, even intimate at times without seeming contrived or schmaltzy.

What I like best about these two is that they skillfully create and showcase all original music in a way that is fresh but familiar. Their lyrics speak to me song after song, whether the tone is light and humorous or more purposeful and activist; and their well of melodic material is deep. I believe they’ve cut three new CD’s since I heard them last. Yes, it has been a while. But I’ve loved them every time I’ve been fortunate enough to catch one of their performances over the many years. (You’ve got to hear Red Fish, Blue Fish; especially if, like me, you’re a boomer and loved Dr. Seuss!)

If you hear of Friction Farm playing in your town, make sure you see them. And tell Aiden and Christine that Bulldog Ben sent you!

To view their site to hear cuts from their latest CD, I Read Your Book, see the complete discography or get on their email list, follow this link.

 

Photo used with permission

 

My Second Visit to Long Point Camp and Friction Farm!

My Second Visit to Long Point Camp and Friction Farm!

I got back into town six days ago after my return to Long Point Camp in Melbourne Beach. Had a very nice time but didn’t blog about it until now as I’m right in the middle of a move.

Moving is just about my least favorite thing in the whole world. It ranks just below having a root canal but a tad bit higher than throwing up on a crowded bus. And — as you all know well — moving is not just taxing physically and emotionally, it’s always really, really time-consuming. Yuck.

Be that as it may, my return to Long Point was a fine stretch of camping by any standard. The weather was absolutely perfect and I got a chance to see a couple of friends from the world of acoustic music that I don’t get to see very often. That would be Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay, known together in the world of acoustic music as Friction Farm. These two have been delighting lovers of acoustic music for over ten years now and they’re faves of mine.

Staying at one of the coolest campgrounds in the Sunshine State and getting to see Aidan and Christine again — two mighty fine days and a wonderful way to kick off the month of February!

Friction Farm is so darn good that I’m going to devote the next post to their show at Long Point Camp. I booked Long Point for this particular camping excursion specifically to have a chance to hear them and catch up on their musical adventures. Not that one needs a special reason to make a trip to Long Point, but I did want to see Friction Farm again. I’m glad I did.

So, more about the musical part of this excursion in a minute. I’ll wrap this up by saying that I hope you guys are having a splendid month of February and that at least some of you are getting to scratch that outdoor itch!

Back in the apartment and missing Mother Nature, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

The Early Years of the Orange Blossom Blues Society

The Early Years of the Orange Blossom Blues Society

The Early Years of the OBBS

The Orange Blossom Blues Society is getting close to celebrating its twelfth anniversary! My, how the time has flown…  I’m going to take a few minutes and look back over the first two years for our growing enterprise. Join me for this little walk down memory lane if you will…
 
When Jeff Willey put together a new jam at Cafe Annie downtown, many blues fans and musicians who had previously only known one another from jams way back in the day or from on-line forums got to meet and play together and talk about how Central Florida ought to have an organized Blues Society.  “Big Willey” got that event started in August of 2004 and it wasn’t long before the event became ground zero for an effort to launch a real Blues Society. Some of the original conspirators included “MuDDfish Mike”, Edwards, Tim Williams, Jae Futch, Jeff and his sidekick on the Smokin’ Torps, Clay Cole, “Burnin’ Vernon” Miller, Rob Mola, and yours truly, “Bulldog Ben” Basile.
 
By the 3rd of November, Mike Edwards wrote to a contact at the Blues Foundation to inquire as to exactly what a new Blues Society had to do to affiliate. On November 10th, Tim, Burnin’ Vernon, Rob Mola, Jeff and Mr. Bulldog met before the jam, decided to actually “go for it” and passed the hat to try and raise enough cash to actually file. Mike Edwards and Jae were very much involved in these deliberations but both of them were out of town on that fateful evening.  It wasn’t long before Jae and her expert and volunteer legal consultants helped us get the papers submitted and approved; The Orange Blossom Blues Society was born on the most-auspicious day of November 16, 2004! The date was chosen deliberately, as it is the birthday of W.C. Handy, “The Father of the Blues!” Not a bad choice, if I do say so!
 
As many Central Florida blues lovers know, Jeff Willey is not only a fine musician, but an able promoter; Jeff had been hard at work for some time putting together the First Orlando Blues Festival. It worked out well that the chosen date of November 20th came around just as Jeff and the rest of the co-conspirators were able to get the OBBS up and running. The Fest was a huge success in so many ways; though a couple of hundred more attendees would have been nice, Wall Street Plaza probably couldn’t have held anymore! The crowd loved it, and some of the best talent Central Florida had to offer got to shine on-stage. The line-up for that top-shelf local event featured:
 
The Revival Band ~ “Burnin’ Vernon and Wild Blue Yonder
The Midnight Ramblers ~ Red Eye Express ~ funkUS
The Shaun Rounds Blues Band ~ Smokin’ Torps ~ Soul Cactus
The Houseshakers Reunion
 
Our fledgling Society made many new friends that weekend. And many members got started in that volunteer habit, staffing our information table and preachin’ the blues gospel to all who came anywhere near! Mark and Tommy McCoy made it to the Fest and many OBBS-folk who have become fixtures on the local blues scene were all over that show. Jann Childers was on the table for the whole day. Others, including Jerry Waller, Jim Mahoney, web designer Amado Ohland and Jim Manuel were volunteering and helping to launch committees around the time of our official birth and in those first few months of 2005.
 
The very first Election of Officers happened on December 6, 2004. Tim Williams was elected President; Mike Edwards became the General V.P.,  Jeff Willey the V.P. for Public Relations and Jae Futch got the nod as Secretary/Treasurer. Our Officers, Directors, members, friends and volunteers put in untold hours trying to “Preserve, Promote and Present” Blues Music. The first two years had many highlights and successes; it also had some tough times.
 
One highlight for many local blues-freaks would have to be Mark Hummel’s first Central Florida appearance; that show was at the now-defunct Smokee Tavern on March 3, 2005. Mark has played here just about every year since, but that first show was memorable indeed! The jams at S.T. and also at Oyster Bay in Casselberry had long and succesful runs. Those jams and the clubs which hosted them are long-gone, but those were some good times. It was at the Smokee where players like Paul Stott and JoAnna Hudson and a young Selwyn Birchwood first came into the OBBS fold; today there aren’t a whole lot of blues-folk who don’t know these fabulous artists. And there were so many others….
 
Another highlight would be the launch of the official newsletter of the Society, The Orange Blossom Special Edition. She debuted in June of 2005. The OBSE has only had two editors, yours truly and Zaida Zoller, who had the task of getting our journal into print and getting it out to the friends and members for over four years. Susan Bowman, a first-rate graphic artist AND killer bassist, handled the layout for the OBSE for many years as well.
 
Who can forget all the good times at The Alley in Sanford for the last eleven plus years? They’re still helping to keep the blues flame burnin’ bright. That fine venue opened its doors in 2005 as the OBBS was just starting to hit its stride. Blues 4 Hire, featuring Selwyn Birchwood and Jody Hudson played there, as did Stoney and the Houserockers, our own Mike Edward’s smokin’ hot band King MuDDfish and just about any other top-shelf blues band you can name.
 The fund-raiser at Virgin Records Mega Store at Downtown Disney was a very cool and very badly-needed event. Jann Childers helped to get many of our bands booked there. Soul Cactus, and Omado Ohland’s jazz-blues fusion band were among them. If I may be allowed a personal note, it was very nice to play that event with Jann. The crowd was very responsive and a fair chunk of change was garnered for the relief of those knocked flat by Katrina and Rita.
 
The Blues at the Rock series at the Hard Rock LIVE at Universal was a good undertaking. Though it had a relatively short run, it did provide five killer evenings of top-shelf blues. Catfish Charlie, the Jann Childers Blues Project, Big Rick, Blues Crew, Teague Stefan, King MuDDfish and funkUS were just some of the fine local bands that had a chance to tear the roof off the joint at the Hard Rock while we had that going on.
 
Our second Annual Business Meeting was held at the Elk’s Club on Primrose; that was the first-ever OBBS event for future-Present and newsletter Editor Zaida Zoller. The officers elected in that conclave on November 13, 2005 were: Tim Williams, who began his second term as President; Mike Edwards continued as V.P.; and Jae Futch stayed in the ever-important Secretary/Treasurer slot.
 
By now Jeff Willey was off the Board of Directors but he was still promoting some killer events. His second and final Orlando Blues Fest was held on November 19, 2005 and had one hell of a line-up: how about the Smokin’ TorpsSarasota Slim, Beautiful Bobby Blackmon and the B-3 Band, Lucky Peterson — with his Dad, James, no less — and Little Charlie and the Nightcats batting clean-up! I sure hope you didn’t miss that. The rain did little to dampen our spirits that fine Saturday. The OBBS signed up three new members and made a TON of friends; there are active members still on the roll who first learned of our existence from this event. Something I’ll always remember from that weekend: hanging out with Little Charlie and taking his band back to OIA the next morning in my taxi. And, no, I didn’t charge ’em a dime!
 
2006 was only our second full year of existence. It had some highlights too — and one unspeakable tragedy: the murder of OBBS Founding Member Tracy Bennawit. Tracy’s life was cruelly taken on the 24th of June of that year. As many of you remember, Tracy helped to design a tee shirt for us earlier in 2006 but we had not produced any of them, opting instead for a simpler one. We decided to run her design for our Members’ meeting which was held at Oyster Bay on August 19th. The sale of the shirts with her design raised a modest amount of money to benefit Tracy’s then-fourteen year-old son. I don’t think anyone who was there that summer day will ever forget that.
 
On the musical side, the last three installments of the “Blues at the Rock” series made 2006, a more-than-fine year for us. The first-ever local appearance of harp-god Jason Ricci came in November. McWells hosted that show.  (McWells has since been sold; the Freindly Confines at S. Orange and Gatlin now occupies that space.) Many, many gonzo blues shows were held at McWells over the years, most notably with super-promoter and Past-Pres Zaida Zoller. The George Linson Stage at McWells stayed pretty damn busy for quite a while. The IBC competition from this year just happened at Friendly Confines; that brought back some memories. The place still looks very much like it did “back in the day” as the biggest change after the sale was the addition of a thousand flat screen TV’s.
Some other artists who played at McWells in our early years include Bird Dog Bobby, Mark Hummel and Brevard County’s Austin Pettit Band with Debby Boyer. Gary Ingber also graced the stage at McWells; Gary didn’t make a whole lot of appearances in Greater Orlando after that show. There is now a relief fund for Central Florida musicians that was started in Gary’s name. More about that in a future post.
 The year 2006 was also notable for another reason; it was the year the society got approval to operate as a non-profit, tax-exempt entity. Tim, Jae, Mike Edwards and Zaida worked tirelessly to get us to that milestone.
 Next in this series of the history of the OBBS, we’ll cover many other, more recent events, including the Ladies of the Blues series to benefit the Gary Ingber fund, our Blues in the Schools program and much, much more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this feature. If it helped you recall some good times and good friends from our first couple of years, that would not be a bad thing. Labor Day is right around the corner, with those crisp days (and nights) of autumn not far behind. As we draw closer to our twelfth birthday, I hope you will resolve to “jump in with both feet” and participate in your blues society. The mission of the OBBS is “to Preserve, Promote and Present” the blues. There’s a role for you to play in carrying out that mission.
 “Bulldog Ben” Basile
©2011, 2016 Benjamin Lawrence Basile
Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Jeff Willey and Those Smokin’ Torps Are Killin’ It in Central Florida

Jeff Willey and Those Smokin’ Torps Are Killin’ It in Central Florida

Jeff and his top-flight band The Smokin’ Torpedoes are well-known to lovers of live music here in Central Florida. Jeff is very good at his craft. By that, I don’t mean only the musical side; he’s a very capable promoter and has shown over and over that he’s got the mojo to plan it, promote it, sing it and play it and I love to watch him do it. All of it.

I first met Jeff back in 2004 when ten or so blues-focused musicians and supporters met to talk about the blues music we love so well and explore ways to help the blues thrive in Central Florida. Those early days at Cafe Annie were so much fun. Here’s a minor miracle for you: the memories of some of those jams way back when are still very vivid in my fast-failing, whiskey-soaked brain today.

The upshot of all of that was the founding of the Orange Blossom Blues Society. The OBBS is still trying to carry on its mission to “Preserve, Promote and Present” the blues in our part of the Sunshine State. Being a part of that was an awesome thing. And still is.

One of the things that made that time so good and satisfying as I look back is that it’s how I met some of the local blues musicians and supporters who have become my good friends over the last twelve years. I will be posting soon with more about the effort to get the blues crowd in and around Orlando to link up and pull in the same direction. There were so many people who put their “time and treasure” into that effort. And the OBBS is still going strong twelve years later.

One other thing about our merry band of blusers here in Central Florida: The showcase event for the OBBS is the local or first round of the International Blues Competition and that is happening tomorrow, Sunday August 7th, beginning at 2 PM. Details here.

I had to mention the early days of the OBBS as that’s how my path crossed with Jeff’s originally. My main reason for putting together this more modest post is simply to spotlight Mr. Willey and those Smokin’ Torps who have played a large role in moving the Central Florida blues scene forward. The line up has changed, has changed more than once. Some of those Smokin’ Torps have come and gone. And come again. But their brand of authentic, classic, semi-laid back blues has been consistently good and has made them one of the best damn bands anywhere in Florida.

The Torps are an ambitious, hard-workin’ band. I follow their bookings and catch them playing out every chance I get. If you’d like to have a look at their calendar, just follow this link.

If you’re familiar with Jeff Willey and those Smokin’ Torps he fronts, you don’t need Ol’ Bulldog here to tell you how good they are. If you’re not familiar with them, you should be! Have a look at the calendar and catch one of their shows soon; you’ll be mighty glad you did.

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

 

Bill and Eli Perras, Florida Folk Musicians Extraordinaire

Bill and Eli Perras, Florida Folk Musicians Extraordinaire

I’ve had two great musical partnerships in my life. One of them is on the acoustic or folk side of the musical universe; it’s the work I was privileged to have done with husband and wife duo Bill and Eli Perras.

They invited me into their musical world many years ago when they were still billing themselves as “Bluesgotus!” Those were the days! Yeah, lots of folks thought it was “Blues Goddess” and tried to find the site on the world-wide web! If the latter name for the delightful, amazing, blues-soaked couple had been for real, one wonders what a proper role for Bill might have been! Well, playin’ the guitar, of course!

At any rate, they’ve paid their dues, many times over and they’re known–very well known–simply as Bill and Eli Perras these days. And they’re still out there after many years, writing, singing, playing and traveling. Bill is one of the best finger-picking guitarists around and Eli’s original songs are a treasure. Together they’re as good and as real as it gets in the Sunshine State.

If you’d like to know more about this “dynamic duo” of authentic folk and blues music, visiting their home page would be a good start. Note well what the critics and other artists have said about them. Although they’re not traveling as much as they did for the last two decades, you can still book them and see why they’re thought of so highly by others in the folk community here in Central Florida and beyond. And tell ’em Bulldog sent ya!

Fuel, the new barbecue joint next to The Alley in Sanford

Fuel-sanford-frnt-entrance-nite-97c Fuel-BBQ-sanford-patio-seating-7v

If you’re into bars in Sanford’s historic district and like live music, you probably know about The Alley. They’ve been around for about twelve years now and everyone who’s anyone has played there. In addition to the killer music, they’ve got cold beer, a full bar, good help and loyal customers. What more could you ask for? Yeah, you’ve got it: good chow.

Along came Fuel. This new barbecue joint is on the south side of The Alley, in the new addition that came from the major renovation and expansion completed about six months or so ago.

I had heard quite a lot about it from friends and had to go check it out. I’m glad I did. The design is suitable for any good barbecue joint, looking not too “uptown” but not looking like a dump either. Not always an easy balance to achieve, but they did well with this addition.  I imagine it took at least three expert carpenters with massive tool belts and beat up pick up trucks to pull it off! Seriously, the perfect “feel” for an eatery of its type.

And the food is quite good. My pulled pork dinner was tasty, the sides were filling and as good as any I’ve had. And I’ve had them all. There was gobs of pork in the baked beans–as there should be–and they were not too sweet. Sugar is a common ingredient in baked beans, but they didn’t get carried away with it at Fuel.

The green beans really got over with me. I honestly have never tasted better. Those alone would have me coming back! And I enjoyed the collard greens as well, could have eaten them all day.

Anyone who knows me knows that I really focus on side dishes in a barbecue joint. Theirs at Fuel are way better than most and are served in ample portions. Service is a really big deal, too and the crew at this new spot in downtown Sanford was friendly, helpful and efficient. What’s worse than a place with good chow, staffed by an indifferent, poorly-trained staff? Few things I know of!

The patio seating on the south side is so cool. A really nice ambiance, especially if you’re dining after dark. If you like blues music and good barbecue, Fuel at The Alley is heaven-on-earth! Park Ave between 1st and 2nd Streets. Hope to see your face in the place soon!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile