Music: There’s No Place Like Home

With the great weather, festivals and year round concerts and activities, there is really no down season in Miami, however, that being said, the summer heat does tend to thin the crowds. Feeling the heat, heading west to the San Francisco Bay Area was the perfect remedy. Of course, I got there the same time as a heat wave, but their dry heat gets cooled nightly with a nice blanket of evening fog that requires any South Floridian to pack for winter.

The daytime activities are endless with no worries of impending weather from the beach, to the wine country, to urban and mountain hikes. That’s the beauty of all of what Northern California has to offer, the choices are truly unlimited. However, the irony is that if dining and music are on your nighttime agenda you better have your plan well mapped out and keep one eye on your watch. Because of their liquor laws, all establishments close by 1:30am, which means last call at 1:00. On Miami time, that’s barely enough time for the first round. Bands crank up at 8pm there, about the time we are waking up hungry from our afternoon siestas ready for dinner here in Miami.

After returning form a full day of coastal activities, we rushed to ready ourselves, feeling grateful to have had a late lunch still in our bellies, and headed out in a whirl to first catch the sunset before we headed over to our music venue of choice in Santa Cruz, The Catalyst not knowing who or what we would hear. By the time the band cranked up there were about 20 audience members. My thoughts were that it was too early, as it couldn’t have been the $5 cover…yes you heard me…$5! One thing for sure I can assure you it wasn’t the band. By the middle of the first song, the venue filled to about twice the numbers and I’m guessing for a Wednesday night that was expected. The Miss Lonely Hearts Band nevertheless, gave 150% and I couldn’t have felt luckier to have stumbled upon them. This kick-ass band who has a “deep authentic understanding and appreciation of the roots country music that evolved this nation” takes the best of honky tonk, rock, original country, swing and blue grass and grinds it down to a familiar and yet very original sound. Lead guitarist, singer and songwriter Wyatt Hesemeyer, has a warm, sweet croon, with just the right edge of sarcasm that exudes charisma. Mischa Gasch, slaps and swings his well played stand up bass with the fervor of a true Southern boy though surprisingly originally from Germany. Drummer Patrick O’Connor set the rhythm with the snare as his primary percussion, something I have never seen. Sitting in on the session was lapsteel guitar legend, Patti Maxine, Western Swing Hall of Famer and Santa Cruz’s prized local who could not only keep up with the youngsters, but my guess, may be able to run laps around them. Together they produced more sound than thought possible with their trimmed down version of their usual multitude of musicians. Let’s hope they make it to this coast one day soon.

Right after returning I felt the need to immediately re-acclimate myself to Miami’s Latin Time and the unhurried approach of our local music scene. With great luck, I happened into a new local musicians’ jam slotted for every Tuesday at Sweet Saloon. Local musician Mo’n Key, aka Monkey, well loved for not only his extraordinary bass playing and looping, but also for his low key “no worries” approach, was given carte blanche by owner Jacques Ardisson, to extend an invitation to all forms of musical talent. Come they have in droves, to showcase, jam and bond with their peers. Sweet Saloon has provided a perfect incubator for some great moments with it’s excellent sound system, large stage, intimate setting, and good eats and drinks, while the musicians provide the talent and the spontaneity for actual, unrehearsed jams. This formula often creates magical moments. Only in it’s second week, close to 20 musicians were able to have onstage time including: Marcel Salas, Jermane Dukes, Michelle Forman, Omine Eager, Dave Merritt, Roberto Martinez, Jorge Tersilla, Jorge Moredes, Gabriel De Tuya, Kobe (13 yr.old on steel drums) Max Torchutt, Justin Rolle, Ray Rolle, Roly Benitez, Enrique De Solo, Odashi, Boogalou The Electric, and of course, Monkey. In addition to the musicians, visual artist Stephanie Van Houten was painting stage left.

I suspect this number will double weekly when the word quickly spreads amongst the music community. With no cover, this is a win/win opportunity to observe sparks flying. And because there is no impending last call, musicians get to take their time to get into their groove and the audience heated up…just what our tropical nights call for….there’s no place like home.

About Vala Kodish

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