Creating a Culture

What separates Orlando from the other major cities in the United States (NYC, NOLA, LA, ATL, etc.)?

History?  Somewhat.  Orlando has only officially been a city since 1885, (although no one knew what it was till 1971 when "the Mouse" arrived).

People?  Kind of.  While Orlando has roughly 250,000 residents in the city itself, over 2 million people within it's metro area which comprises much of Orange, parts of Seminole, and even Osceola county.  It also contains the University of Central Florida that consists of over 60,000 enrolling students (as of 2013) making it the 2nd largest in the country.

Culture?  No.

I know you may be thinking: "Huh?  Orlando has no culture compared to these other major markets.  All we have are theme parks, sunshine, night clubs and a NBA team."

I was guilty of similar thinking at one time.  Being born and raised in the suburb of O-Town (Seminole district Winter Park), I was always thinking what Orlando didn't have, as opposed to trying to learn what it had to offer.  Growing up, I was not the social type in school and just kept to my close friends, video games, school band, sports and never really stepped out of my norm.  When I started taking music seriously as a 17 year old teenager, I couldn't wait to leave Florida and play in a real city.   In my mind, there was nothing special about my hometown.

However, as I became more busy as a working musician while in college, I began traveling around Florida and wound up in places I never would have went, meeting people I would have never met otherwise.  My first local awakening was baring witness to none other than Shak Nasti when I was 18 years, who flipped my whole world upside down musically and gave me a taste of what was really going on in the city. 

Over time, playing music opened me up to the many things the Orlando scene did have.  There are thriving cultural spots all around, you just have to know where to look!  And that lack of knowledge to what is going on, is what I believe separates Orlando from the rest.  So how can you or I help spread that knowledge?

I truly believe this is an exciting time to be in this city.  So much has changed since I first dove into the music scene four years ago.  Unlike other places I have been to, people in the various arts and entertainment communities are wanting to work together as opposed to competing for bragging rights and forming cliques.  There is a rise of people in my generation wanting to make a difference with a healthy competition to improve, wanting to continue the tradition that has been set by those before us and I see it every day.

We all have busy lives and it can be difficult to get out there.  In attempting to do my own part, I have been trying to go out every single night I'm not playing a show and seeing something new.  Whether it be a concert, event, or just grabbing bite a new place I've heard about, it's been one of my main goals since returning to Florida.  I think if people found one time a week to go and experience what's out there besides the tourism, chains and "dance" clubs, it would have a significant impact on the view of the city.  Read the local publications such as Orlando WeeklyOrlando Magazine or the Orlando Local Music Examiner, listen to local radio stations like WPRK or WUCF or grab some CD's at Park Ave, eat at local restaurants hubs like Tako Cheena or 4 Rivers, shop for groceries at East End Market or Freshfield Farms; discover what is out there!  Easier said than done and I'm probably preaching to the choir for some of you, but I believe the community is screaming for a culture injection and we are the only ones who can make it happen.  

Check out my new tab for local businesses, step outside your usual routines to support these ventures and lets help put Orlando on the map!

P.S.  If you see any sort of business you feel should be listed or I may have forgotten feel free to let me know!  I'm happy to support your own business endeavors as well. 

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part II: funkUs

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of.  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

The 2nd installment of this series features Orlando's own groove rock legends, funkUs.

These guys have seen and done it all.  From 6 CD releases, to performing at festivals all around Florida such as Bear Creek and Orange Blossom Jamboree, to recently sharing the stage with notable national acts (and some of my favorites) Soulive, Victor Wooten, Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet, Railroad Earth, The New Mastersounds, The Lee Boys, Dumpstaphunk and Consider the Source.  Dubbed as "flavor rock", they have showcased their skills to audiences everywhere since 1998.  Members currently include 4 of Orlando's top musicians in the scene: Dave Mann (guitar/vocals), Bill Bairley (keyboards/vocals), David Cox (bass), and Jason Herald (drums/vocals).

Dave Mann is the man.  Founder of the one and only Jambando, special guest extraordinaire, the host of many epic jam sessions, and one of the most versatile guitarists in Orlando.  The question isn't what Bill Bairley can do, but what can Bill Bairley not do?  One of more busiest musicians I know, in addition to funkUs you can see Bill performing with the Mike Quick Band, ripping guitar in the soulful Black Dust Revival or with his own 8 piece blues group Band of Renown, mastering sessions at his own Bad Bear Studios, and building effects pedals and restoring guitars & amps in his spare time.  David Cox is a pocket machine, which perhaps comes from his abilities not only as a bassist but a drummer and keyboardist.  When not performing with funkUs, he can be seen with his own project Meiuuswe on keys or filling in for many of the top bands in Orlando.  Jason Herald is not only the drummer for these guys but a multi-instrumental performer and songwriter for family favorite The Outer Toons, and a regular working Disney musician.  What a resume for a band, huh?!

You can dig on their latest album, Coconut Monkey, below and see them get down at at Little Econ Love Fest in March!

Awesome Bands I Don't Play With - Part I: Fat Night

I get this question a lot, "So how many bands do you play with?"

Well, you can get that answer here.

While some may consider that list pretty extensive, there are certainly tons of great bands and artists out there I am not officially a part of.  With that in mind, I've decided to make a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite groups and individuals around Florida I do not play with.

Part one of this series features Orlando soul powerhouse and Colemine Records group, Fat Night!

I've had the pleasure of seeing these guys perform on multiple occasions and they were an instant favorite after the first song.  Fat Night consists of 4 members: Daniel Hanson (guitar/vocals), Ted Issen (bass), Nik Ritchie (drums) and Gabriel Gundacker (keys/vocals).

Daniel is not only the soulful front man for this group but can be seen playing with local blues/progressive rock group Fast Preacherand was also the engineer for Buster Keaton's latest EP featuring yours truly.  When not being one of the grooviest bass players in town, Ted is currently finishing up his degree at Florida State University this spring.  Nik has been a staple drummer in the Orlando scene for years in the jazz, hip-hop and funky soul realms, currently drumming for up and coming funk project ISM as well.  Gabriel is a man of many talents who is an actor for Universal Studios (and other productions) and also performs at the SAK comedy lab in downtown Orlando.  Bottom line, these dudes are talented!

If I had to pick a favorite tune, I would probably suggest "Smilin'" off their latest self titled record, Fat Night, which they released last summer.  They are currently in the works of putting out their next record, so stay tuned!


Check out their latest release below and make sure to check these guys out ASAP!

Berklee and Why I'm Back In Florida, What's to Come for 2014

Hello everyone,

First blog post!  Woo!  I figured this would be a unique opportunity to address my reasons for returning to the Sunshine State in a public forum.  But first a little back story:

           As I began to take music as a career seriously when I nearly 18 years old, a friend of mine had recently been accepted to Berklee College of Music.  I had never heard of the place before but told him my interest in wanting to pursue a music degree and he suggested I check it out.  Long story short, a few months after that, I flew up to Boston and auditioned.  During my brief stay, I throughly enjoyed the city and was very impressed by what Berklee had to offer.  I felt I had auditioned well and believed I knew where I would spend the next four years.  After months of anticipation, it wasn't until the end of the summer where I discovered I wasn't to receive any financial assistance and I decided to remain home.  I went to Valencia College where I told myself I would audition again when I finished.  Fast forward two years where I finished my music courses and went into playing music full time instead.  I wound up being out of school for a year and a half, performing as much as I could and living off my gigs.  Things were going quite well.  During the end of that span, I decided it was time to give it another go.  I received a scholarship this time around, packed my bags and left for Boston.

       Ever since the end of high school, I wanted to be in an environment surrounded by people like myself who were completely obsessed with music, possessing a similar open minded approach to help propel me to a new level.  Berklee appeared to be that place.  What I actually found in my experience was the same as any other school music program.  There were students who were serious and genuine, and then all the others: the clueless, the elitists, lots of people in lots of debt, partiers, complainers, etc.  I truly thought Berklee would be an exception, perhaps I set the bar too high.  I found it difficult to establish meaningful connections with people and felt often at times like I didn't fit in with the program.   Combine that with the fact of being unchallenged with a majority of my courses (Ear Training was an exception), and a private instructor I was unsatisfied with; I began to lose interest.  I have never been the type of person to continue an endeavor I'm not 100% committed to, and once that happened I knew it was time to leave.

      The one bright spot was the amount of masterful musicians I was able to witness in such a short time:
Wayne Shorter Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Zappa Plays Zappa, Kneebody, Jose James, Christian Scott Quintet, Lettuce, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Orchestra, Joshua Redman Quartet, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hiatus Kaiyote, Melissa Aldana, and Snarky Puppy.

      Fear not though!  I am happier now than I have been in some time and I hold no regrets.  Through this experience, I learned a great deal about the wonders of life and that things don't always go as planned.  I have been given the opportunity to hit the reset button and continue where I left off, already being able to play some excellent shows.  I plan to use all the resources available to me and will not be holding back.  I have some bold plans not only for myself but to help bring together a thriving Orlando music scene.  There are a lot great things happening in O-Town and the rest of central Florida, and I hope with my return to add to the successes.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for what's to come next,