SOUTHERN FRIED SUNDAY CITRUS CIRCUIT EDITION, WILL'S PUB, JUNE 23
The Citrus Circuit Tour is a roving showcase of Florida talent that area folkie Lauris Vidal has organized in the past. This time, he partnered with Southern Fried Sunday to bring home a top-shelf beacon of some of the Sunshine State's brightest beams of Americana.
The event was capped by fraternal swamp-blues act the Prestage Brothers from South Florida, who've thankfully been traveling through more frequently. In addition to them, the roster packed a couple of the region's most notable acts, ones I'd not seen perform in quite some time.
First there was Lauris Vidal himself. With a folk aesthetic that has the distinction of having one foot deep in tradition and the other out in left field, the Central Florida artist is one of the few who can be called a true original. Over the years, he's played in all manner of live arrangements from solo to full band, but it's nice to see he's still on the one-man band thing. Also good to see is that his performance is still a total revival of unchained joy and soul.
The other act not seen in a while was the Tampa Bay area's Have Gun, Will Travel, one of the best and most accomplished folk- and country-rock bands to spring from the Florida scrub. This time, they came deluxe with lush instrumentation that included stand-up bass, lap guitar, organs and keys. While that setup will give anyone more wings, only a band like this does it justice. Between their skill, range and, most importantly, depth, it's an incredibly complete package. As far as Florida roots music goes, these guys occupy a rare stratum among the modern greats with a name that's solid gold among the alternative-country cognoscenti. And it was a splendor to see them on stage at full sail again.
Completely new to me were openers Prison Wine. More wide-open interstate than dusty backroad, this Orlando quartet play hard-charging and expansive Southern rock that drips with hot-revving slide guitar. It's a big sound with lots of grease and muscle.
THE EVERY OTHER WEDNESDAY SESSION, HARP AND CELT, JUNE 28
Last summer, news that longstanding Irish pub Claddagh Cottage was being forced to close lit up the local media. But it was an interesting story by Brendan Byrne of Orlando NPR station 90.7 WMFE that perked my radar, and it was about the Every Other Wednesday Session that happened there.
There are all kinds of jams in the metro – from blues to jazz to folk to rap – but traditional Irish music is a bit rare. Since the original Claddagh Cottage closed in January, the EOWS has temporarily relocated downtown to the Harp and Celt. At the latest session, a group of between five and seven players sits round-table, tucked into the back corner of the pub, packing fiddles, guitar, mandolin, banjo, flute and even the uilleann pipes. I don't know how it played in the old Claddagh Cottage, but here it gives the bar some real pulse and authenticity.
The session didn't attempt to monopolize the room like a show, nor did it even curb the moments of louder bar conversation. But sidle up close to the music and you know that what they weave makes the difference between a pub that's Irish in name and one that's truly Irish in heart. I suspect that's exactly how it was at Claddagh. It's the only effect that one of the truest and most organic slices of Irish music in the city could have. This humble congregation exists not for theme, gimmick or even audience, just pure love of the form and tradition. And it was beautiful.
EOWS isn't a concert, it's a community. Though the relatively obscure gathering is small and modest, it's been going since 2001. That says a lot about its personality and commitment. Once the new Claddagh Cottage opens, possibly any day now, this local music tradition – which is actually anchored by current Claddagh owners Scott Vocca and Vicki Gish – will instantly lend the place some rich patina and soul.