Archive for August, 2012

This past Wednesday, the blues-infused rock of the one and only bluesmaster Kenny Wayne Shepherd and
his band rocked Hough Hall, brought to our stage by good folks at The Mahaffey
Foundation.By the time the band was halfway through its set, they had most of the house on their feet. Since first coming on the scene in 1995, Kenny Wayne has grown a huge worldwide fan base, and with good reason – he is a guitar contortionist, with moves that can make the audience stand up and shout, and bring them to their knees with his soulful renditions…each with equal power. Noah Hunt’s vocals are like no other – a baritone whose unmistakable voice can reach the grittiest highs and the gravelliest lows with impact to spare! The photo above shows Kenny Wayne and Noah performing a rousing rendition of their crowd-pleasing Blue on Black. Check out more KWS photos and a video on our Facebook page! The two together, backed by some of the best in the business  — Chris Layton (drums, of Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble fame), Tony Franklin (on fretless base) and Riley Osbourn (B-3 and keyboards) — lend new meaning to the word dynamic.  Opening a great show for KWS was Tampa Bay’s own rocking Backtrack Blues Band, a force of nature in their own right.

And the hits keep coming this weekend! Don’t miss Pacifica Radio’s Amy Goodman, brought to us by our good friends at WMNF.  Amy doesn’t come this way often, so take advantage of her being here – she’ll be talking about her coverage of the Republican National Convention, and a lot more.  Join the conversation.

And on Sunday afternoon, let your hair down, and relax with the popular Tampa Bay chanteuse influenced by Billie, Ella, Ray, Diana and Nora – Denise Moore, who will be singing with ensemble Then Some.

…and yes, I’m still on vacation!


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I’m headed out for distant destinations, far from Florida’s summer, a certain convention, and the craziness of running an historic and very busy theater. Some of my  buddies will be keeping this blog going a bit while I’m gone.

I’ll be back just in time for our big season kickoff show – Jazz Samba, featuring Nate Najar and an all-star band, with an opening set by the great young group La Lucha.

For details on all our coming shows and the exciting new season, stay tuned to www.mypalladium.org or our facebook page.

And I’ll see you in September. (Friday, Sept. 14 to be exact!)

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If you weren’t at the Palladium Friday afternoon for the taping of the PBS news program  Wasington Week with Gwen Ifill, then check out the Palladium facebook page for a collection of great photos. Our beautiful theater looked great in her close-up on national TV. Thanks to all the Washington Week crew and our friends at WEDU.

To watch the show, check out this link: http://video.wedu.org/video/2272359731

Here’s the link to the great photos on our facebook page: 



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To get yourself ready for Damon Fowler’s rockin’ return to the  Palladium’s Side Door Cabaret this Friday (Aug. 24), and Saturday (Aug. 25), check out this 2011 interview from BluesWax Magazine. For tickets and more info on the Side Door shows, visit www.mypalladium.org.

BluesWax Sittin’ In With Damon Fowler

By Don Wilcock

Damon Fowler’s excellent second Blind Pig LP, Devil Got His Way, is out this week. Fowler said his entry into the blues was hearing his uncle’s country band, Possum Bennett and Southern Express Band, start their second set with James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues.”

Damon Fowler

“Just the lyrics of the song kind of tickled me,” Fowler told me. “I got the innuendoes, and it was like the first time. I was like, ‘Oh, wow! I get it,’ you know? I was just, ‘That’s funny, man: He’s a demolition derby hefty hunk of steaming junk.’ That’s cool.’”

An only child who grew up with his mother and a bunch of uncles who ran a septic tank business in Florida gave Fowler a different slant on the blues from your average Joe. What wasn’t different was his ability to put himself into his songs and deliver down-home lyrics with honesty and play guitar with a tone that’s clean, often hard, and that breathes.

“You can say all you want with music and you have people get it, and a lot of times people do, but it just seems to be connecting more when you sing, and I started developing a singing style for myself and I realized then that guitar licks sound good when you treat it more like singing. You take a breath. It’s more human. It’s easier to ingest in your ears and to hear when there’s a breath.”

In 2005, Damon was in an accident that could have killed him. Instead, it just made him stronger and more determined to continue to make music. He’s going to be around for the long haul, and he’s already off to a powerful start.

Don Wilcock for BluesWax: Both of your favorite James Taylor LPs, Sweet Baby James and Mudslide Slim, were recorded long before you were born, and I noticed some of the stuff that you cover is by artists that gained popularity long before you were born. Do you think of yourself as an “old soul”?

Damon Fowler: You know, people ask me that, man. I don’t know. When I was a little kid I had asthma, and I was an only child, and so my mom and myself lived at my grandparents’ house, and I was just around adults and it was one of those things where I developed a thing where you’re speaking to adults, you speak. I wasn’t a little kid mentality for a lot of that stuff when I was growing up, and so I think that kinda helps being around a few generations of older folks and stuff. My grandparents loved bluegrass and country, and my mom liked stuff like Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, and she likes the blues. She liked B.B. A lot!

BW: How does she like your version of Leon Russell’s hit “Tightrope” on the new album?

DF: You know, she likes it. I didn’t tell her we were gonna do it or anything, and we recorded it and she saw us play it one night, and she was like, “I didn’t know you guys were gonna do that.”

BW: Was that difficult to transpose that from keyboards to guitar, or was it just a snap?

DF: Well, with the Internet nothing’s too hard anymore. You just look it up, but there’s a couple tricky spots in there, and really the timing on the break it took us a little while to understand how to feel that, but once we got it together, it worked out. It’s one of those songs. We do a ninety-minute set for the first set and present a bunch of original songs and stuff and try and engage people, and normally at the end when people are dancin’ and they’re into it, and they’re like, “One more song! One more song,” we pull that one out, man. People normally they like it.

BW: I’m an only child, too, and I grew up with two overeducated parents, and I found when I became an adult, then finally I could become the child that I never was when I was a kid. Do you find any of that in the creation of your music in the profession you’ve chosen, that you’re more of a child as an adult than you were as a child and yet you’ve got the mindset of an adult to create the music?

DF: You know it depends on the amount of tequila.

BW: [Laugh] 

DF: I try to reel it in, but every once in a while I have my moments. I’d say fifty-fifty on that.

BW: Yeah, that’s where your song “Happy Hour” came from.

DF: Exactly.

BW: That’s so out of context with the rest of your music. Why did you decide to put that on the album?

DF: Well, it was fun. We were all in the studio drunk and by the end of the night it was like three o’clock in the morning. We’d just been hangin’ out and listenin’ to stuff and never really planned on puttin’ it on the record, and we were just gonna send it to some folks, our friends and stuff. I don’t know. It was fun. We just enjoyed it, and some of the folks that heard it are like, “Man, you guys should release it. It’s just a different side of you guys that people don’t see.”

BW: Right. I think my favorite cut on the album is “Once In A While” [about a lady who loses her decorum in a roadhouse]. Was that inspired by someone in particular?

DF: Uh, man, you know, I would say half and half. I’ve got some friends that definitely, like I said, try to reel it in, but every once in a while it gets loose. You see it all the time. You see these ladies that are in bars, it’s brewin’ up inside of ’em. Next thing you know a lady that you did not expect to be the wild one just gets nuts. She starts dancin.’ Next thing you know she starts drinkin’’ tequila and dancin’ and whatever, you know. I’d say half on that. Part of it is fiction, part of it is kinda reality.

BW: I spent a lot of time listening to the new record, and then this morning I put on your first Blind Pig album, and I was interested in how if the first album could be said to sound like somebody working in a roadhouse, the second one sounds more like an arena. The second one is more sophisticated and polished than the first Blind Pig album, and was that a conscious effort?

DF: No, that was not really a conscious effort. We recorded it in Florida. We were at a different studio and it just kind of came out the way it did. To me, making a record is like a snapshot of what you’re doin’ in time right then. Weeks later, you go and hear a guy and he sounds a little different, and that’s just kind of what we sounded like at that time.

BW: It’s interesting to hear you say that because my feeling about listening to you and listening to the way you write, the way you sing, and the way you play is that here is someone who is comfortable in his skin and is not trying to cram everything into this first album, and I feel that you’re gonna have a long and very successful career because you’re able to enjoy the process and not just look toward the end result. Does that make any sense?

DF: The last couple of years, man, I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever have. I like getting older. Some people don’t like it, personally, I really enjoy it and that’s the tone thing, but making a CD, man, if I could just sit in the studio and record songs all day, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

BW: And I still get excited every day when I get up. I was excited this morning. I said I’m gonna talk to this guy. This guy is gonna go all the way. This is gonna be fun conversation. And I don’t know very many people my age who feel that way about what they do, so I think I’m very lucky, and I think you are, too.

DF: I feel the same way, man. I feel the same way. People are like, “Ain’t it hard on the road?” Man, it’s brutal. It’s real tough, but at the same time, man, there are moments I look up and I’m like, “I love my life, man. How did I ever get so lucky to stumble into this?

The interview discusses Damon’s accident and how he started playing ukulele and dulcimer during his recovery.

BW: I love to go down south and be in a southern audience because in the north there’s kind of a nose-in-the-air attitude about country that is totally unwarranted.

DF: Yeah, everybody has their opinions on it, but I look at it as I like music. I don’t want to call it blues or country or jazz. Any kind of music I like or listen to is the good kind.

BW: I agree.

DF: With this record we’ve been playing out on the road a lot. Again, we put the songs on the record that seem to go over good live that I want ’em to have stories. I want somebody to obviously enjoy the instrumentation and the playing and stuff, but really I look at it as a whole. There’s songs, and there’s textures and stuff.

BW: I like your reference earlier about singing being the commonality between the vocals and the guitar. I’ve often heard artists say that they wanted their guitar to sound like a saxophone, but I think this is the first time anybody has said that to me. An interesting observation, and I do hear it in your music.

DF: Yeah, cool, cool.’

Don Wilcock is editor in chief of BluesWax. 

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 Show No. 1 – Billy Seward and Soulfonic, Friday, Aug. 17, 8 p.m.  Horn-driven R & B by a great performer. Here’s what WMNF’s bluesman Larry Lisk said about Billy and the band:

“One of the most easily identifiable sounds of the 60’s, Motown notwithstanding, was the horn driven Stax sound coming out of Memphis.  With Booker T, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn laying down a powerful groove this music defined an era.  Billy Seward and Soulfonic have brought that sound back to life with their new release Better Place.  Billy says that it’s not rocket science, “just lay down an infectious groove, put a good song and strong vocals on top and you’ve got the recipe for a fun evening.”  This band will make you move and groove from the opening note defying you to not get up and dance. ”

Show No. 2 – Stolen Idols, Saturday, Aug. 18, 8 p.m. Tiki bar jazz, lounge music, exotica, Latin that will transport you. This cool Tampa outfit sold-out the side door last time, so don’t miss your chance for a summer of Mad Men style jazz. Leader Drew Farmer had one request this week:

Drew – Is it okay if we bring the giant Tiki carvings for the stage?

Palladium Paul – Do not show up without the giant Tiki carvings!

Show no. 3 – Stan Hunter Quartet with Patrick Bettison on harmonica. Sunday, Aug. 19, 3 p.m.

My first show at the Palladium as executive director was the original Battle of the B3s on a hot summer night in July and Stan and his son-in-law Patrick Bettison appeared together. Stan on a smooth, rhythmic B3 and Patrick adding his rich, melodic harmonica. I was mesmerized. Stan has been a regular on our jazz stages, but Patrick has been in England, playing with lots of great British jazz musicians.

He’s back in Florida for a while – and I wanted to get he and Stan in here. Don’t miss it. Along with legendary sax man Ernie Calhoun, La Rue Nicholson and guitar and more special guests.

For tickets and information visit www.mypalladium.org.

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Steve Vai, an undisputed guitar god, will play close-up and personal in the Palladium’s imtimate Hough Hall this Thursday night. There may be one or two tickets remaining, but the show is essentially sold-out.

To get you prepared, check out this article from Premier Guitar magazine called “Interview: Steve Vai – The Gospel According to Steve.”

Th interview focuses on the new album – Story of Light – and says this: “As you’d expect, Story of Light is much more than just an instrumental shred fest—it features Vai’s trademark genrebusting arrangements and an unlikely cast of guests, ranging from a gospel choir to vocalists Aimee Mann and (The Voice finalist) Beverly McClellan.”

To read the interview, follow this link: http://m.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2012/Aug/Interview_Steve_Vai_The_Gospel_According_to_Steve.aspx

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During the ’90s, before I left Tampa for Ann Arbor, Berlin and Los Angeles (a long story), my favorite bay area band was Halcyon. Deb Hunseder and Steph Callahan’s harmonies, their original songs and great covers, quickly built a strong local following. It didn’t hurt that they also had big personalities that made you feel like a friend, even if you were a first-timer at their show.  


Returning to the bay area a few years ago I noticed a lot of the places where I once heard Halcyon have closed, but I was happy to know that Deb and Steph are still making great music.

 I’ve been hoping to get them into our Side Door Cabaret and finally, it’s happening this Friday, Aug. 10 at 8. One of the best bands in town deserves a showcase in the best listening room in town.

If you haven’t caught the group, here’s some background:

 Deb and Steph met in 1989 and had their first gig two weeks later.  The harmonies were magic.   Halcyon has opened  for John Mayer, India, Irie, Joan Osborne, Tabithas Secret (now Matchbox 20), Sister Hazel, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Joan Bias, Cheryl Wheeler, Wynona Judd, Patrice Pike, Sarah Bettens, Melissa Ferrick and Koko Taylor.

Based in Tampa Bay, the band built an iron-clad fan base by touring the U.S. and abroad, Halcyon has played mainstage Pride events, Olivia cruises, and festivals across the globe.

Look for me at the Side Door this Friday night. I’ll be the guy with the big smile on my face.

For tickets and more info visit: www.mypalladium.org

Halcyon on Facebook  www.facebook.com/stephaniecallahan

Halcyon www.twitter.com/halcysteph on Twitter

Halcyon on MySpace www.myspace.com/stephcallahan

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