After nearly a week in Florida one thing is confirmed: I’m a northerner. You can’t deny the beauty of the tropics. Sunshine, palm trees, pesky green iguanas, fresh fruit. Those are wonderful things, minus the scourge of the iguanas. But those pluses don’t subtract the overbearing sludge in the air on an August afternoon. Or even at midnight. It’s hot. And thick. For me a perfect evening is sitting by a campfire with a slight chill in the air, two fingers of bourbon in a glass surrounded by friends solving the troubles of the world. Sweating within 5 seconds of leaving a building is not my bag. I’ve been told by numerous folk that Florida weather is perfect 9 months of the year. I don’t doubt them. But our tour through the south was in August, so I have no direct evidence to support that opinion. It’s just hot.
Our week in Florida had some cool highs. Playing at the Funky Biscuit in Boca was an amazing experience. I seldom have a chance to sit behind a real Hammond. I love my Hammond clone, its relative light weight and its full sound. But the waterfall keys on the real deal are a joy to play. The Hammond at the Biscuit has been played by international heavyweights like Gregg Allman and Jon Cleary. The house player is Tom Regis, and he can hold his own with any of the greats. He’s a killer player and a very nice dude. That instrument has more mojo than any you’ll ever have the honor to come in contact with.
The next night we drove an hour north to Jupiter and played to a packed private party filled with musicians. We met some wonderful characters and made some fast friends. The club provided a condo right on the water with the fastest internet connection of the tour. That timing was key as I needed to download our video files from the Buddy Guy show. Hotel wi-fi can be fickle. AirBnB condos have a higher return.
After many days of driving and playing we finally had a day off and we decided to head back south to spend a day in Miami. Jose is a fabulous band leader who understands how important rnr is to road warriors. He splurged for a great hotel right on the ocean, and we started our Miami visit with lunch at one of the most famous Cuban restaurants in the US called Versailles. I rarely get “combo” plates, but I couldn’t decide which dish to try so combo it was. I love the Cuban culture. The food, the music, the smiles. If it weren’t 4 million degrees in the swimming pool at 4am Miami would be a great place to live. I’ve been all over the world and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city with so much color. It’s a muralists paradise. We spent a few hours with world-renowned percussionist Rafael Solano. Rafael has known our drummer Rod for decades, and he was kind enough to give us the real tour of this beautiful city. He took us to see the Wynnwood Walls where I discovered an artist named Kobra who I should haven known about for years. His murals and paintings are mesmerizing. He uses spray paint and airbrushes to paint gigantic splashes of color on entire buildings. Look him up. I’m inspired to work some of his style into my own visual work. I love seeing new things.
After a crazy night on the town, we headed north to begin our retreat from hurricane Dorian. For those reading this piece years in the future, let me remind you about Dorian. This beast sat on top of the Bahamas as a category 5 storm for over 48 hours. That poor chain of islands was destroyed by this monster. And the monster was headed our way. Despite the regularity of hurricanes in southern Florida, this one had everyone on edge. Gas stations and grocery stores were decimated all week. So we got in our van and drove due west across Alligator Alley and begin our climb up the gulf coast.
The first stop was in Fort Myers at the Barrel Room. Steve and Denise are wonderful hosts. They fattened us up for next stop in Sarasota at the Blue Rooster. That room is fantastic. The space cavernous, but they’ve done a wonderful job dampening the standing waves with uneven boards in the walls and few 90 degree angles. I also finally figured out the best way to run my in-ear monitors and therefore I did my part in keeping the stage volume low. Too low for the other guys even.
Our next stop was all the way up into the back woods near Tallahassee. The club is currently called the Bradfordville Blues Club. For years it was known as CC Dave’s (or something like that). This club is like no other. It was a real juke joint on the chitlin circuit for nearly a hundred years. From the outside the venue looks like an abandoned strip club in the woods in an 80s horror film. The huge trees around the club are covered in hanging moss, there are sugarcane rows all around, and you park in a grassy field next to a historical marker that explains the valuable spot in history that the BBC holds. Inside the club has concrete floors, a saggy plywood bar and an old carpeted stage. The place smells of beer and history. Close your eyes and you can see a hundred young, sweaty laborers dancing in their muddy boots. The women hike up their long skirts to feel the music, with a row of tired old men sit in the corner watching the show. The band is loud and the singer has such a raspy voice you can barely understand a word. Open your eyes and you see that history is alive today. We did our best to channel that soulful energy into our set. It’s easy to do there. You don’t get closer to a real blues joint than the BBC. I’m looking forward to returning someday … in winter.
But alas we needed to outrun the monster hurricane so we left Florida a few days early and headed to Durham, North Carolina. We’ve spent the past few days here now … and it’s been a wonderful rest. Tonight we play at the Blue Note opening again for Nikki Hill. Tomorrow morning I’ll be back in my kitchen helping my kids and wife get out the door for school. And then I think I’ll take a long nap in my own bed.