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Your weekend arts forecast: Ten reasons to check out the songwriters festival

Bill DeYoung



Singer/songwriter and psychobilly bandleader Liz Cooper is part of today's indie scene in Nashville. Photo provided.

This weekend’s Downtown St. Petersburg Songwriters Festival has well over a dozen corporate sponsors, with one of them in the official title itself. It’s a heavily-promoted attempt to get people in St. Pete restaurants and bars Friday through Sunday – other cities have done it, so why not us? – with this tag line: “over 35 eclectic and diverse songwriters will perform over 100 free acoustic events while sharing the stories behind their biggest songs.” The performers are chosen by Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the royalty-collecting performance rights organization.

All skepticism aside, there are professional songwriters, and performers, in our midst, and while you may not have heard their names, you’ve probably heard a few of the tunes they’ve come up with. In other cases, you might even recognize their voices.

Jann Klose. Photo provided.

In the latter category is German/South African singer/songwriter Jann Klose, who provides the singing voice of the late legend Tim Buckley in the acclaimed 2012 film Greetings From Tim Buckley. He’s known for his work with English singer Annie Haslam, among others.

The Warren Brothers (Brad and Brett) are from Tampa; they relocated to Nashville in the mid 1990s, and have released a handful of albums with limited success (their single “Move On” charted at No. 17 in 2000). In the cutthroat world of Music City song placement, however, they’ve done OK for themselves, writing hits for the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Dierks Bentley.

John Ford Coley is a name some will recognize. As one-half of the Texas twosome England Dan and John Ford Coley, with the late Dan Seals, he scored a handful of pop hits in the 1970s (“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” “Nights Are Forever,” Todd Rundgren’s “Love is the Answer”). He now pursues a songwriting and performing career in Nashville.

Hardy Morris was one of the prime songwriter/vocalists in the long-running and influential Georgia “alt-rock” band Dead Confederate.

Tim James. Photo by Bill DeYoung.

St. Pete met Tim James back in February – when BMI and the other sponsors introduced the Songwriters Festival to the media, he put on a “mini-concert.” An engaging, easygoing performer, James’ hits include the Toby Keith smash “My List,” Lee Brice’s “Love Like Crazy” and Trace Adkins’ “All I Ask For Anymore,” which was nominated for a Grammy.

Nashville native Parker Welling co-wrote “Yours,” Russell Dickerson’s platinum-selling chart-topper from 2015.

Best known as the fiery frontperson of the psycho-billy trio The Stampede, Liz Cooper is reportedly one of contemporary Nashville’s most electrifying solo performers.

Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, known collectively as Striking Matches, released Nothing But the Silence in 2015, a well-regarded LP of Americana produced by none other than T-Bone Burnette.

A member of the prestigious Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame, Aaron Barker composed three No. 1 hit for the great George Strait: “Baby Blue,” “Love Without End, Amen” and “Easy Come, Easy Go.”

Local songwriters: Here’s a chance to spend some quality time with Rebekah Pulley, Ella Jet, Nate Allen, Deb Ruby, Eden Shireen, Jonathan DiRenzo, Natalie Bonfini, Alex Harris, Emily Turnage and more.

So, where and when will all these artists be performing? Here’s the schedule.

Friday’s kickoff concert, with Ed Roland and Jess Triplett of Collective Soul, is at the Mahaffey and requires a paid ticket (here); likewise, so does the Saturday acoustic concert from the changeling hip hop/reggae artist Matisyahu at Jannus Live (here).

Where’s the orchestra?

The Florida Orchestra skips its regular Saturday night gig at the Mahaffey this week – instead, the entire group will be at the Palladium Sunday, with Daniel Black conducting a 45-minute performance of space-inspired music from the likes of Holst and John Williams. The 2 p.m. event, One Giant Leap, is part of TFO’s Family Series, will include NASA images from the lunar surface (we’ve just passed the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, don’t forget). And hey kids, an “instrument petting zoo” – get up close and personal with the instruments of the orchestra – starts at 1 p.m. Tickets and info here.

TFO will be at the Straz Center in Tampa Saturday evening, playing live to a screening of the National Geographic film Jane, a portrait of chimpanzee biologist and conservation pioneer Jane Goodall. Phillip Glass composed the score, and the documentary’s director Brett Morgen will speak. Tickets and info here.

 And now, this

Looking for cool stuff to do this weekend? Here are our recommendations.

Gloria West & the Gents – a swingin’, finger-snappin’ jazz band, with fabulous singer Gloria West out front, and featuring the astonishing trumpeter James Suggs. Friday at the Palladium.

It’s the final weekend for Vietgone at American Stage.

The Thanksgiving Play at Jobsite Theater (Tampa). How far will we go to keep political correctness on a pedestal? The four woke dopes attempting to create a PC school play find out in this hilarious, hyper-kinetic satire.

Ordinary Days debuts Friday at Stageworks Theater (Tampa). The Off-Broadway musical by Adam Gwon follows four New York City residents whose ordinary lives connect in “amazing” ways. More on this Friday in the Catalyst.

  • Are you a performing arts space, large, small or in-between, an art gallery, a bookshop or any place where public cultural events take place? Please put us on your email list – we can’t publicize you if we don’t know what (or who) you are! The address is bill@stpetecatalyst.com. Thanks!
















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