Archive for July, 2011

After three albums of southern-fried, take-no-prisoners songs, Grant Peeples says his new songs are headed in a different direction.

His as yet unreleased album will be called Prior Convictions and the straight-talking Mr. Peeples is throwing around the words like “introspective.”

“There will be no ‘LeftNeck’ songs on there,” Grant told me by phone from his home in Wakulla County, Florida. “Nothing about the South.   I might just be starting over.”

Can the guy who wrote songs like “Lethal Injection Blues” and “High Fructose Corn Syrup” morph into a sensitive, navel-gazing songwriter?

Even he’s not sure.

“I’m kind of moving off into some new territory…I’ve built a fan base and I’m liable to lose them all,’ he said.

Not likely.

In just four years since returning from a 10-year Caribbean exile, Grant has made a lot of friends and fans with his songs. He did it by playing everywhere and anywhere. In the words of another Florida troubadour – the late and much-missed Gamble Rogers –  “You have to be willing to play for the opening of an envelope.”

So Grant played for lot of envelope openings – club meetings, lodge meetings, ribbon cuttings, anyplace his songs could be heard. And at an age when some guys are checking out their 401K plans Grant went all-in – singing and songwriting is his day job and his night job.

His friends include some great musicians and producers like Gurf Morlix, who knows a good songwriter when he hears one. Morlix produced Grant’s last album, Okra and Ecclesiastes.

“Grant is on a roll here, painting evocative pictures of the New American Landscape. Writers like this are hard to come by, ” said Morlix, who is based in Austin and has worked with all the top Americana artists. 

For a taste of Grant and his songs check out his website  or his You Tube videos including the legendary “Sunshine State.” If ever there was a real Florida state song  it’s this one.

Grant will bring some “introspective” new songs and even a couple of covers for his Palladium show this Friday night, but don’t worry – there may be some reflection but there’ll be plenty of “LeftNeck,” too.

Grant Peeples and the Peeples Republik Band appears in the Side Door Cabaret on Friday, July 29 at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information visit www.mypalladium.org. Check out Grant’s music at  www.grantpeeples.com.


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People talk about the arts reaching a critical mass in St. Petersburg. I think it’s passed that stage. The selection of arts and performances – along with new restaurants and clubs – has evolved from mass to massive. Keeping up can be downright staggering for a middle-aged arts patron and theater director.

Exhibit A – one weekend in July – when Florida used to be taking an arts siesta. Let’s take it day by day.

Thursday: So much was happening I had to start early, catching a Thursday night preview performance of Uncle Bends, Bob Devin Jones’ powerful, funny and ultimately tasty, one man show at the Studio @ 620. As Bob morphed from one African-American character to the next, he prepared a feast of beans and rice and fed the sold-out house at the end.

Friday: The evening started with a crowded opening at Florida Craftsmen, curated by Jorge Vidal, and featuring some great glass work by Catherine Woods, a nationally recognized artist based in St. Pete, and others. I rushed from there to the Palladium to introduce jazz drummer Ronnie Burrage who was playing for our Side Door Summer series. Ronnie, who played drums with Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Sam Rivers and many others, likes to push the boundaries. He did that on stage and on screens around the stage, a University of South Florida’s graphic design class, under the direction of Neil Matthiessen, created live video projections to accompany the music.

After Ronnie’s set, my wife and I hit the streets of downtown. We grabbed some fresh pasta at Moscato’s, a brand new spot on Central. Along with homemade pastas, they serve up live jazz on weekends. After the late dinner, we caught sets by two other groups that have played the Palladium’s Side Door. Guitar slinger Sarasota Slim was holding court at Ruby’s Elixer and pianist Tony Castellano and his trio were in the front window of the Oyster Bar on Central.

The music kept going, with Central feeling a little like early 1990s Ybor – before the mega bars poured low–priced booze over all the creativity. When we fled around midnight, people were still clamoring for parking places.

Saturday: That afternoon I raced down First Avenue North to freeFall Theatre for one of the final showings of the music Man of La ManchafreeFall is the new kid on the theater block and this kid is proving to be smart and skillful. 

For this re-imagined La Mancha audience members sat on pews, wing backs and dining room chairs spread around the stark, prison-like set. As an industrial garage door clanked open the audience found themselves in the middle of the play within a play. My favorite seats were in the back of a pickup truck that held some of the band members and actors. Director Eric Davis’ potent vision for the musical really worked on multiple levels. Hope you had a chance to see it.

Then it was back to the Palladium for Damon Fowler’s rockin’ blues show in a completely sold-out Side Door. If you haven’t seen Damon in that setting you’ve missed a lot. The Side Door is a listening room with a dance floor. It’s not a typical blues bar with 12 TVs going and lots of noise.

In the Side Door setting, this Tampa-born guitarist and singer is able to take the dynamics up and down. He is at his best, I think, when he’ s playing with quiet intensity.  If you missed him, stay tuned, he’ll be back soon.

Sunday: And finally, as the weekend wound down, I watched the Rays battle the Red Sox, until after midnight. It was sixteen innings of a pitcher’s duel. The Rays hit repeated shots to the warning track but couldn’t hit one out. We stumbled out after midnight and friends stayed until what became a rather bitter end.

But what a weekend and what a town. And I missed shows at American Stage and fashion at the Art Pool and countless other great stuff. And I just about missed my alarm on Monday morning. Come to think of it, I’m still tired.

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My buddy, Rob Rowen, a gallery owner and music lover, has developed a non-profit that provides meals for school children in Nepal. Rob came to me with a proposal to do a benefit featuring some local jazz greats. We jumped at the idea. The show is Wednesday, July 13, 7:30 p.m. in our Side Door Cabaret.  WUSF Jazz Director Bob Seymour will MC the show.
What follows is a excerpt from Rob’s blog for his Global Action Network about the evening:
My dear friend Kym Purling, local jazz great who is regularly heard at the Fox Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings with his group, is organizing a great evening of jazz at the Palladium.
This event will feature his regular group Allejandro Arenas on bass, Mark Feinman on drums and a list of great singers and sidemen that will tickle your ears and stimulate your mind.  So far we have  Lorri Hafer, Ashley Locheed, Denise Moore and Paulette Pepper on vocals, Jeremy Powell, Rodney Rojas and Austin Vickrey on saxophone, Dwayne White on trumpet, and Stephen Bucholtz on drums.  This all-star cast will begin playing at 7:30 pm.
Thanks to our sponsors at the law firm of Adams and Reese, Realtor Kim Beiningen, Call All Dogs Pet Sitting and Dog Walking, and Nuance Galleries, all of our proceeds will go to our food programs and school supplies in the Chitwan area.  We are starting to work in 2 new schools.
I have to thank Paul Wilborn and his Palladium staff for the use of this great place to hear jazz. What a great way to spend a summer evening and also know by showing up you are helping someone.  $20 was the number we picked, because that will feed a child for 1/2 of a year.  So please get the word out and buy your tickets on our website, www.globalactioncoalition.org or the Palladium website, www.mypalladium.org
– Rob Rowen

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With the return of the great ’60s band – Coo Coo Ca Choo – this Saturday, I thought it would be appropriate to bring back my blog post from their last show at the Palladium’s Side Door. So here you go:

If you grew up in Tampa in the 1960s, as I did, you were lucky. Tampa had lots of great bands and lots of places to hear them – teen clubs, rec centers, union halls, rock clubs, and opening for big names at Curtis Hixon Convention Center.

Now, a bunch of guys who were my idols during my pimple phase  have gotten together to form the band they wish they had played with back in the day. Coo Coo Ca Choo is a stageful of veteran musicians and showmen – only now they’ve got better equipment! And a light show!

Seriously, if you love hits from the 1960s, this is the best band you are likely to hear anywhere. They sing in perfect five-part harmony. They do the hard songs that other bands don’t attempt. The Hollies. The Zombies. The Beach Boys (singing better harmony than you’ll hear at a current Beach Boys show). They do the last half of Abbey Road, for God’s sake!

Since they are all old and rich now, they have the best music website that money can buy.  Check it out at: http://www.coocoocachooband.com/

 Catch them this Saturday night in the intimate Side Door Cabaret starting at 8 p.m. I suggest you see them now before they all decide to retire from the music business – again!

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