Sunday, 5/18/08: As my mind crawled into consciousness, I could feel a soreness in my back and legs. A temporary souvenir, courtesy of FMF 2008. Miles of
walking, hundreds of photos - check out a small sampling here! - and decibels upon decibels of amazing music absorbed to overflowing.
The three-day celebration of music, art and creative culture seems to get bigger each year.
Maybe it’s the building anticipation that usually starts the week after the previous festival ends.
Or maybe it’s because FMF has become the only sure bet I’ve got for concert photo opportunities.
As I begin the post-event-decompression-process, so begins the need to reflect. If only because I’m not quite ready to let it go.
Don’t Mess Around With Jim
The best part of any event is always the people you share it with, be they old friends or new acquaintances. FMF has always been an event I’ve shared with my
former Orlando Sentinel college Jim Abbott. Jim is a music writer and a music fan - being an actual fan of your job is a rare thing these days. We would team
up to do concert coverage - me photographing and him, reporting. We’d share ideas, discuss the performances we’ve seen and those we need to see. It helps to
have a second set of eyes and ears in such an active environment. Since my emancipation from the Sentinel, Jim and I still manage to cover FMF as a team,
even though we are reporting for different outlets.
It’s always fun hanging with Jim. When things go well, there’s someone to share cheer and a pat on the back. When there’s a problem, there’s someone to keep you
from going over the edge -- checks and balances are always helpful.
When a club doorman misinformed us about the start time for a band we both wanted to see, and consequently missed, Jim seemed to take it in stride while I was just
flat-out pissed. His calmness prevailed. When he was ambivalent about the prospects of seeing a fashion show during what is supposed to be a music event,
I goaded his curiosity with a variety of mental imagery. In the end, everyone was happy.
Walk This Way
The FMF Rock Walk Art Show was an event all it’s own. A host of extremely talented people lending their musically-inspired visual art to give another
dimension to the FMF experience. Rock poster icon Greg “Stainboy” Reinel and CD cover guru Anna Melcon were two of my favorite FMF acquaintances.
Stainboy is to art what Roger Daltry’s scream is to “Don’t Get Fooled Again”. His color scheme is visible from a block away, his imagery is a visual orgasm.
His influences range from Rock to Spaghetti Westerns to Pam Grier. His posters have advertised more than a few of the concerts I’ve covered over the years.
Plus, he’s a pretty cool human being. When a mutual friend needed some help with a fund raiser, he jumped in to volunteer his art and his time.
Anna Melcon’s notoriety comes mostly from her work with local band, Band Marino, designing everything from CD covers to posters to t-shirts. Her pieces exist in
their own little universe with creatures and characters and landscapes all their own. Her “Where The Wild Things Are” approach is captivating to say the least,
and the most engaging designs I have ever seen on a CD cover.
Last but most definitely not least on my list of favorite Rock Walk personalities is curator Emma Kruch. Not only did she manage to wrangle together
an impressive list of artists from several different locations into one show, she also hung all the work herself. Not only that, she did interviews and wrote
features on some of the artists for the FMF issue of Axis Magazine. When not consumed with the FMF prep work, Emma remains active in the local art community
and, I’m told, is a student of the Mandolin. A true Renaissance Woman!
Wrapped Around Their Finger
One of my most memorable FMF 08 moments didn’t even happen at the festival, though, since it’s music-related it still ties in. The Police came to town on
what was the second night of FMF with Elvis Costello opening. If that’s not a dream bill straight out of 1983 I don’t know what is.
I’ve been a Police fan since I was 12 and waited 25 years for them to tour again. I finally got my chance in Cleveland, back in July, with my buddy John
and his family. It was momentous to say the least, and a hell of a show. To expect another shot at seeing them was too much to expect. Then, in February,
they announced the Orlando show. As much as I wanted to be at the festival, there was no resisting this opportunity. I didn’t even ask if I could work the
show because, with the 3-song limit on photography, I would have to leave far too early.
It was the 3rd time I’ve seen Elvis Costello but the first time watching him perform in an arena. The cool, understated Elvis I’d seen at House of Blues and
Hard Rock was replaced by a big sound and a loud voice. And it worked! While he began the familiar intro to Allison, a figure walked out of the backstage
shadows. Applause began in the front rows and washed toward the back of the arena as more and more people recognized who it was. It was Sting. An
Elvis/Sting duet on Allison. Momentous struck twice.
All this was a prelude to the evening’s main attraction. New versions of my old Police favorites. Instinctively singing along with every verse that was the
soundtrack to my teen years. Sting, Stuart and Andy right there with me, only now in person. I can recall many a procrastinated homework assignment made even
longer as I drummed along with Stuart as he played in my stereo. This time I was drumming in between the notes I scribbled on my pad, and he was right there with
me. Yes, it was way too much to expect. But there it was, right in front of me.
The show, which my Sentinel counterpart also attended in his music writer duties, was definitely the evening’s highlight. It was not, however, the last
act. After The Police took their final bow, Jim and I both trotted off to FMF and actually made it to 2 outstanding shows. Matt Butcher and The Revolvers at
Backbooth and Big Jef Special at Cheyenne Saloon. Both are Country bands, but at opposite ends of the spectrum. Matt’s more traditional, smooth approach counter
Jef’s Dirty Southern Rock approach. To go from 80’s nostalgia reborn and bigger than life, to a rockin round of Country music appreciation all in one night was
too much to expect. But there it was.
All You Need Is Schmeltz
There is a recipe for managing the FMF schedule... use a grain of salt. With 250 bands on the roster, conflicting schedules and the unforeseeable late starts
there's just no way you can count on fitting it all in. But then again, sometimes the most interesting things happen when you don’t plan. Case in point:
I didn’t know who these guys were and I barely noticed their time slot on the 3rd night of the festival at Wall Street Plaza. But as I walked past the outdoor
stage during (on my way to another venue) and saw a guy in a Batman costume unloading a bass, The Schmeltz became THE band to see. From the moment they took
the stage they were my favorite band of the weekend. The frontman’s fuzzy pimp jacket fluttering in the evening breeze revealing the PERVERT t-shirt
underneath. The Gnome strapped to the back of the guitarist. Song titles like “Soccer Mom”, “Whiskey Dick” and “The Spocker” (yes, a sexually explicit song
about our favorite Vulcan) Also, they all work for Blue Man Group. The front man actually IS one of the Blue Men. His explanation of the band’s name is, “it came
from an action figure some of the us tried to make. Most of us used to work in a toy store.”
For Cryin Out Loud! How can you NOT love this band?
Other FMF 08 highlights include: Sam Rivers, a local Jazz legend who has performed with the likes of Miles Davis and BB King, performed at The Social on
the first night of the festival. It was not my first time seeing Sam in concert but it was my first time photographing him. It was about time. Jazz has never
been my forte, I’m more of a Blues man, but Sam makes it fun. The 82 years of his physical being is no match for the spry, energetic soul within. His talent
is as boundless as his good nature and patience. He had recently recovered from a bout of pneumonia and no one would have said a word if he left the venue after
his performance. Yet I saw him, after his last tune, seated behind the stage, posing for photos and talking to fans. It was an irresistible opportunity. I
shook his hand and thanked him for a great show... then asked if he would sign my press pass. Without giving it a second thought, he took the pen from my hand
and signed it, faster than you can say “cool!”
The Saturday afternoon brunch, sponsored by BMI Music. The event provided an especially surprising lineup of acts. Not only was local favorite Band Marino on
the bill, but so was Baron Von Bear and Rachel Goodrich. Indie music at its best... and all acoustic! I later found out that the event was a sort-of kick
off to their summer tour, but it was also their only Orlando appearance.
Thomas Wynn’s new band, The Believers, was one of the most anticipated acts of the festival. Until last year, Wynn’s former project, The Wynn Brothers Band,
were a well respected local band that was a breath of fresh air in the Country music scene. Not only do Thomas Wynn And The Believers live up to the former,
but their blend of Country, Rock and Soul make a crowd pleasing performance for any genre-loving audience.
Are You Experienced?
With just over 360 some-odd days until the next FMF I can only imagine what will be in store. And how they will get it all together in such a short time. Even
after all this typing, I’m still not ready to let it all go. But then again, I really don’t have to. Many of the bands showcased at FMF are based right here in
Orlando. On any given weekend, somebody is playing. Just like in almost any city across the globe. All that any of us really need to do is get out there and
appreciate our local musicians and experience something new. And, when it’s all said and done, that’s what FMF is all about.
(Read Jim's original blog entries about the festival here: Day One, Day Two, Day Three.)