Notes from the Road – Winter Garden Friday Music in the Gazebo, White Springs Music and Dance Fest and Gatorbone Friday, November 7th – Winter Garden Florida Man is this great weather for doing outdoor shows!! Though you’d think a cracker boy like me would thrive on the heat, I am a HUGE fan of the cool temperatures that we enjoy here in the Land of Sunshine from now until early March. I just love it! The City of Winter Garden contacted me not long ago about playing their Friday Music in the Gazebo series and I accepted for Friday, Nov. 7th. I didn’t do my usual promotional job for this show because I wasn’t too sure what the circumstances would be. As it turned out, I should have been more diligent in letting folks know about it because it was truly a wonderful setting. The Gazebo sits on Plant Street in the heart of the quaint and charming downtown business district. There are restaurants and shops (including my personal favorite wine bar – The Attic Door – Hey Lisa!) on both sides of the street. The Gazebo itself is in the park and fountain area in the center of the street so that traffic and foot traffic pass on both sides. I played a two hour show from 7 to 9 pm while folks wandered, shopped, ate at sidewalk tables or sat around the Gazebo and the fountain under a crystal clear sky in the cool night air. Families came with their kids, couples cuddled on benches and some folks brought chairs and gave it a “festival feel.” I felt something like an island in the stream as activity (cars and people) flowed by on both sides while listeners gathered in the “eddy of the current” in front of me as I worked my way through a pretty healthy portion of my original repertoire. A number of times I was “drive by clapped” as folks cruising slowly along in their cars with the windows down took in a song clip on the move. If the name “Sonics” weren’t already taken it would be the perfect moniker for this drive in (and around) musical revue. I look forward to being invited back and will be sure to let everyone know the next time – it’s a show you will really enjoy! It happens every Friday, so check it out and see who’s playing! Saturday, November 8th – White Springs Music and Dance Fest Ok, so after getting back home Friday night we crashed and then got up Saturday morning to get on the road for real. That meant unloading the sound gear from the night before (grunt, sweat, cuss), loading the camper with some clothes, coffee, etc., hitching up and hauling out for Stephen Foster and the first White Springs Music and Dance Festival. Elaine McGrath, the Events Coordinator here at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park began planning this fest after she got such a good response from the “fall” edition of the postponed Florida Folk Festival last year. The weather makes this an irresistible time to be out enjoying music and the campgrounds and Elaine put together a great line up for this first effort which included Frank Thomas, Jim Carrick, Dale Crider, Tom Shed, The Dune Hoppers, Grant Livingston, Val Wisecracker, Lucinda Gale, Jerry Mincey, Chuck Hardwicke, Sunset Pete and Pat Barmore and, of course, me. Two music stages and a dance stage kept things lively from 11 am until 10 pm. As with most first time events attendance was a little light, but nevertheless strong enough to demonstrate that this is going to become a prime fall Florida event. Again, the weather (I know, enough already about the weather) was absolutely perfect, high brilliant blue skies and temperatures in the 70’s and falling with the setting sun. I was on a brand new professional touring clam shell stage set up in the general location of the Azalea Stage during the Florida Folk Festival – right behind Bell Tower. Great lighting and sound – thanks guys! I got to meet several new friends who came out for this inaugural event and thoroughly enjoyed sharing my songs with the gathered crowd spread out across the leaf strewn grass as the pines and oaks cast long shadows in the setting sunlight . Thanks Elaine for including me in this terrific line up! Back at the camper (in a new performers and vendors camping area) I got the firepit going and sat, flask in hand, of course, enjoying the night air and the sounds of campfire jamming. I wandered and listened a little, but instead of jamming I opted to sit and noodle on the guitar by my own fire pit just enjoying the night sounds and passersby. By 11 or so it was getting pretty cool so I put it all away and headed inside to get under the blankets and sleep well. Nothing like cool weather and warm blankets for serious sleeping! Sunday – The First Gatorbone Concert Sunday we pulled out of White Springs at about 10 a.m. and headed generally east and a little south out along highway 100 through the north Florida pine woods. Passing through Raiford we rolled into Keystone Heights and headed just north along highway 21 out to a little slice of heaven called Gatorbone – them home of our very good friends Lon & Lis Williamson. You may know them as the core of various stellar acoustic ensembles including VTW, the Driftwoods and, of course, Gatorbone. Out in the peace and seclusion of a 20 acre encampment on Little Lake Gatorbone, Lis & Lon have settled into a simple life most of us only dream about. In a rustic home that Lon has built largely by hand they play music, build exquisite mandolins and record both themselves and other artists like me in a growing home studio. And, most recently, they’ve added a cozy covered stage to the property, nestled up under the arms of a protective old oak that drape to the ground around its edges, where Sunday they kicked off what they hope to be a long and successful series of concerts. Friends and family started filtering in around 3 p.m. Grant Peeples from Tallahassee kicked off the show with a few songs from his exceptional repertoire of original material and got folks settled in as the sun began to sag westward. Then Gatorbone took the stage a little after 4 p.m. There just isn’t a better group of musicians I’ve seen either in Florida or the southeast – maybe beyond. Anchored by Lis’ rock steady guitar and claw hammer banjo and Lon’s bass, they lay out a tight blend of Americana that includes both cover tunes and originals. Jason Thomas (who tours with the Claire Lynch Band) is immaculate on fiddle and mandolin. Gabe Valla is nothing short of stunning on guitar and mandolin. Add to that soaring vocals and harmonies and Gatorbone is simply mesmerizing. If you’ve not made a point to catch their show at one of the festivals or when they’ve played in your area you’ve made a serious mistake that I expect you’ll rectify soon! After the show folks stayed well into the night swapping songs, trading licks on various instruments, devouring the food that everyone brought along to contribute and just generally enjoying the home place and the company. Things finally wound down towards midnight and Judy and I shuffled out to the rolling home away from home to crash. The temperature dropped down well into the 40’s and we slept well under the blankets in the remote peace and quiet. Monday was a busy day at Gatorbone. We were taking advantage of the timing to work on my new CD, Welcome Home, which is to be released in the Spring. Jason Thomas is producing, plus adding his fiddle and mandolin. Lis and Lon are adding bass, banjo and harmonies to various songs and Gabe Valla is contributing some magnificent guitar pieces. The project is being recorded primarily in West Palm Beach at Ron Litschauer’s studio where I’ve done my last two CD’s. However, logistics. Jason’s schedule, the musicians who are appearing on the album (an exciting list I might add) and other factors are requiring that we record “remotely” at Lis & Lon’s and various other spots to get what we need. We worked a long and full day and made great progress. At one point poor Lis’ was “in the box” (the bedroom where the vocal mic’s are set up to record in isolation) doing harmonies while we sat out at the control board in the living room on headphones communicating only through the sound system. It’s hard work, but so much fun, particularly when you get to work with true friends who are such talented professionals. You can hear some of what we’re doing on my MySpace page at - check it out! We had dinner – wonderful chicken enchiladas that Lis made from scratch (yeah, she’s a hell of a cook on top of everything else) and continued working until about 11 p.m. Then we hit the road again to get back to our busy, rat race lives here in Orlando arriving at a little before 2 a.m. Whew! I’m Beat! Gotta rest up and get ready for The Sunshine State Acoustic Music Camp next weekend in St. Pete. I’ll be teaching songwriting and will head over Friday afternoon – STAY TUNED!! Doug Doug Spears 36 Interlaken Road Orlando, Florida 32804 407-257-4242