A Summer January for the Summer Januaries
Our wintering in Orlando has lasted about two months now – just enough time to acquire some interesting performance opportunities and to connect with a handful of awesome musicians.
This past weekend was packed full of performances of all different varieties. We kicked off the weekend with our regular gig at Hogan’s Irish Bar. Hogan’s is a new pub in Cape Canaveral, owned and run by a charming Irish family. They first invited us out to play in mid January, and we’ve been returning every weekend. We’re loving having a regular gig – getting to know the owners and regulars, tailoring our set to enhance the mood of the bar throughout the evening, and having an opportunity each week to perform new songs. Even though we’re playing indoors, with a P.A., it’s the closest thing to busking we’ve experienced since Italy.
Sunday morning we braved the very chilly weather, for a set at the Uptown Art Expo in Altamonte Springs. We had actually gotten this gig through our initial attempt to find places to busk in Orlando. When we first arrived we did some internet research, and found a wealth of information confirming, just as we had suspected, that it is in fact illegal to busk here. An article in the Orlando Sentinel made the consequences seem particularly steep, stating that “street performers who ask for money could be charged with a second degree misdemeanor possibly resulting in a maximum of a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.” Ugh. As jail time and exorbitant fines are not on our list of fun ways to spend our time and money, we started a search for other venues (festivals, farmer’s markets, etc.) that might allow busking. The booker at the Uptown Art Expo responded to our query about busking by explaining that it wouldn’t work for us to busk at the festival, as the live music from the main stage would be broadcast on speakers throughout the entire park, but that they would love to have us perform on stage instead. That sounded great to us. We enjoyed a sunny, though incredibly cold, set on a stage set right on the waterfront, and had a little time to chat with the audience, some of the art show vendors, and a few of the other musicians who would be performing later in the day, before running off to be in a video shoot for a secret musical project that we can’t divulge the details of quite yet (don’t worry—we’ll share when we’re able!)
While I find it sad and ridiculous that busking is illegal in Orlando, a little bit of field research has made it clear that we probably wouldn’t fit in very well playing on the streets here anyway. We headed downtown last weekend, just to check out the scene, see if we saw any buskers, etc… The “strip” downtown is about 4 blocks long, and is exploding with canned music from clubs and restaurants. We were being aurally assaulted just driving by in the car. We had bet ahead of time as to how many buskers we would see. Sean bet one, I bet two. It turned out that we were both sort of right, as the only buskers we spotted were a pair of bucket drummers, who sat silently on the sidewalk, surrounded by towers of multicolored 5 gallon buckets, seemingly waiting for the right time to play. With all of the noise, it made perfect sense that bucket drummers would be the only act loud enough to cut through the craziness. Even if we decided to give it a go, risking being ticketed, fined, or jailed, our music would be swallowed up by the sounds of the nightlife.
But the weekend hadn’t been a complete bust. We had a wonderful time being audience members for once, checking out two of our new favorite local bands at the Orlando Folk Festival. On Saturday we enjoyed the beautifully harmonized bluegrass/gospel music of Joey Bradshaw (vocals and guitar) and Casey Chambers (vocals and banjo) of The Silver Fleece. We had met Casey and Joey at a show we played together for our mutual friend James’s birthday party in December, and were struck by their powerful voices and energy.
On Sunday, we returned to the festival to see the Mud Flappers, a five piece folk/swing/roots band we discovered by kismet, when Lauren, their singer, guitar, and kazoo player, was our cashier when we visited Whole Foods. Sean had my violin case on his back when we went through Lauren’s checkout line; she asked what kind of instrument we were carrying, and we struck up a conversation about music, bands and busking. We were ecstatic to meet another band that did some busking in the area! While the Mud Flappers mostly busk in other cities, they do occasionally do “street performance” in downtown Orlando, skirting the law by having one of their members do a quick pass of the hat after each song, and then quickly returning the hat to his head, so there isn’t a tip jar present if a cop should happen to walk by.
Meanwhile, in a totally separate musical sphere, we’ve been working with a group of student musicians at Lake Howell High School, where Sean, with my assistance, arranged and directed the music for Antony and Cleopatra. The score consisted of covers of Depeche Mode songs, arranged for oboe, banjo, cello, violin, marimba, glockenspiel, drums and bass. This made for an interesting sound, as well as a great learning experience for all involved. Many of the musicians, including Sean and me, learned a new instrument for the show. Sean played banjo, I played cello (so fun!). A review of the show, which compares it (favorably) to an Orlando Shakespeare production of Othello, can be read here.
The best part about our new temporary Florida lives, aside from being warm, of course, is having the time to write and learn new music. We spend every morning writing separately, me upstairs, working on songs on the piano, guitar, violin, and Sean downstairs, splitting his time between song writing and working on his new novel. In the afternoons we rehearse together, working out arrangements for the new songs we’ve been writing. It is absolutely wonderful to have this time to write, and so many songs are coming out of it.
And here’s one of those songs, “All the Angels Have Gone To Sleep,” written by Sean on Christmas morning and performed on Sunday at the Uptown Art Expo.