Thursday, May 31, 2012

WEEKEND: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw launch tour in Tampa; Neil Diamond, LL Cool J and more

Tim McGraw, left, and Kenny Chesney perform at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards April 1. ASSOCIATED PRESS MARK J. TERRILL — AP

Country kings' "Brothers of the Sun" road show should draw an NFL-size crowd when it kicks off Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

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Rapper performs after Rays-Orioles game. 

Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has new greatest hits collection to support.

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And much more in Weekend. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

UPDATED 6/3: Top 10 Bob Dylan awards

UPDATED 6/3: Bob Dylan new album, Medal of Freedom, top 10 greatest awards: commentary 

There's not a U.S. recording artist alive that has received more major awards than Bob Dylan, who picked up the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday from President Barack Obama at the White House.

"There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music," Obama said during a packed ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

Here's a list ranking Dylan's most prized trophies, statues, honors, etc.

1. Medal of Freedom (2012)
2. Pulitzer Prize Special Awards and Citations (2008)
3. Kennedy Center Honors (1997)
4. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1988)
5. Grammy Award: Album of the Year for "Time Out of Mind" (1997)
6. Academy Award for Best Original Song "Things Have Changed" from "Wonder Boys" (2000)
7. National Medal of Arts (2009)
8. Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (1990)
9. The Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (1997)
10. Grammy Award: Lifetime Achievement (1991)

Now, if Dylan could just add the Nobel Prize for literature to the list.

—Photo of President Barack Obama and Bob Dylan from The Official Twitter of Bob Dylan.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Band with Bradenton ties, The Applebutter Express, to play Bonnaroo; gig June 1 at McCabe's

This year’s Bonnaroo lineup features heavyweights ranging from Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Alice Cooper and the Beach Boys.

The Applebutter Express, whose singer graduated from Southeast High, is also on the lineup.

The jam-bluegrass band with strong Bradenton ties is the first act from the greater Tampa Bay region to play the world-famous music festival.

Held in Manchester, Tenn., the annual event  takes place this year June 7-10.

The Applebutter Express performs 2 p.m. June 7 on the Solar Stage.

A new manager helped the group, which performs at McCabe’s Irish Pub in downtown Bradenton on Friday, land the prestigious festival gig.

“It's unreal,” said vocalist Shannon Biss from her home in Tampa. “Playing Bonnaroo is such a crazy dream and to have it come real is just amazing.”

Biss, nee Moore, graduated from Southeast in 2005.

She married singer, songwriter and ukulele player Kyle Biss and the couple formed The Applebutter Express.

The group also features Bradenton resident Matt DeSear on bass and Joe Trivette, of Lakeland, on fiddle.

The Applebutter Express recorded its self-titled debut album at Audio Images Recording in Bradenton about a year ago.

Owned by Shannon’s uncle, Mike Badalamenti, it’s where the band is mixing its new live EP, as well.

“It’s extremely unique,” Kyle Biss said of his band’s sound. “It’s good time, feel good music.”

Details: 8 p.m. June 1, McCabe’s Irish Pub, 302 Old Main St., Bradenton. Admission: Free. Information: 941-896-3126 or

—Photo (from left) Joe Trivette, Shannon Biss, Kyle Biss and Matt DeSEar performing recent gig at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa/Facebook.

Friday, May 25, 2012

WATCH: 'Blind Pass' trailer shot in Sarasota with Armand Assante scenes in Lakewood Ranch

Armand Assante plays the father of Bradenton resident Danielle White in 'Blind Pass.'

Back in December, I spent a day on the set of the feature film "Blind Pass" with stars Armand Assante and Danielle White in Lakewood Ranch.

The drama/thriller also features famed character actor Ed Lauter as well as Chris McKenna ("90210") Mike McGlone (“The Brothers McMullen,” “She’s the One”), Tampa-based Mary Rachel Dudley (“Dear John,” “Free Ride”) and up-and-coming child star Sydney Rouviere, a South Florida native whose appearances include “The Glades” TV series.

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It’s the second independent, feature-length film by Sarasota-based Midnight Pass Productions and writer/producer/director Steve Tatone.

Emmy Award-winner Assante, who met with Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston on Monday, plays a rich, powerful former athlete battling multiple sclerosis and the father of the leading lady, 20-year-old Bradenton resident White, who first gained fame by appearing on the reality TV series "American Juniors."

She starred in Tatone's first feature, "Beautiful Noise," which enjoyed an unprecedented six, sold-out screenings at the 2011 Sarasota Film Festival.

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Read more about "Blind Pass." 

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

REVIEW: ‘Fanny Brice: America’s Funny Girl’ at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota

Fanny Brice must have been a special women.

The kind you would have wanted to see on stage, screen, hear on the radio, and, if real fortunate, have at your table for conversation.

While most attendees will be familiar with her from the Barbra Streisand vehicles “Funny Girl” and “Funny Lady,” the new biographical musical by writer and director David Bell, which opened Wednesday at Asolo Repertory Theatre, offers a more intimate look at the legendary performer.

Titled “Fanny Brice: America’s Funny Girl,” it’s a warm, humorous and highly entertaining portrayal of the gifted comedienne, singer and actor who, despite all her success, never seemed to land in the arms of a good man.

A reworking of Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s 2009 hit show “Fanny Brice: The Real Funny Girl,” the Sarasota production finds Marya Grandy in the title role she originated delivering a tour de force performance.

She’s accompanied by three actors — Stef Tovar, Lance Baker and Norm Boucher —who play the numerous men in her life extremely well.

The story takes place in 1936, backstage where Brice’s husband, lyricist/producer Billy Rose, just had another flop.

He wants his wife to write an autobiographical screenplay for a film he already sold to a major Hollywood studio.

“I’m not telling my life story just to be humiliated by the truth,” she snaps.

But Brice goes through with it anyway, telling her tale to a writer hired by Rose.

It’s a simple but smart way to flashback, often with the help of black and white film clips, to several key points in her life from 1910 to 1936.

We meet people such as Broadway impresario Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld, who gave Brice a spot in his famed “Ziegfeld Follies,” songwriting great Irving Berlin, her con man husband Julius “Nicky” Arnstein and Brice’s hilarious character Baby Snooks.

The scenes are well written and finely acted, offering just the right mix of levity and pathos but it’s the judiciously selected and sequenced songs that carry the show.

From the Berlin novelty number “Cohan Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars,” which elicits laughs in Act I, to the closing torch song “My Man,” Grandy dazzles.

Details: Through June 17, Asolo Repertory’s Mertz Theatre, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $27-$71. Information: 941-351-8000 or

—Photo of Marya Grandy as Fanny Brice by MyUnionHouse/Asolo Rep.

WEEKEND: John Prine, Lucero, Sarasota Blues and Brews, Paul Thorn, Kelly Richey and more

Lucero performs May 25 at State Theatre in St. Petersburg.

'Angel from Montgomery' originator unlocks vaults with new release 'The Singing Mailman Delivers.'

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Singer/songwriter touring in support of first covers collection 'What the Hell is Goin' On?'

Jam band hero gets help from keyboard legend.

And much more.

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Check it all out in Weekend.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

REVIEW: ‘Moonlight and Magnolias’ at Golden Apple Dinner Theatre in Sarasota

It’s unlikely the screenplay for “Gone with the Wind,” the longest film to ever win the best picture Oscar, took a mere five days to write.

But that’s the brilliant conceit of Ron Hutchinson’s not always brilliant comedy, “Moonlight and Magnolias,” originally produced in New York in 2005 and currently playing at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre.

The first production by the four-decade-old Sarasota company’s new non-profit organization, PLATO, the play elicits laughs and offers juicy, albeit ancient, Hollywood gossip.

It sags, though, in the third and final act under the weight of ill-fitting sermonizing and lack of suspense.

The story starts with movie mogul David O. Selznick (Chris Caswell) shutting down production of the costly film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s mega-selling novel “Gone with the Wind.”

Selznick fires director and best friend George Cukor, hires Victor Fleming (Ryan Kimball Fitts) away from “The Wizard of Oz” but still needs a satisfying script.

Enter Ben Hecht (B.J. Wilkes), at a high price, to crank out a new screenplay although the great writer has never read more than page one of the book.

Selznick locks himself, Fleming and Hecht in his office, allowing them to only eat the peanuts and bananas he calls “brain food.”

Five days and a floor covered in crumpled paper and broken shells later, the three men emerge with the screenplay for one of the most beloved and commercially successful movies of all time.

Caswell endears himself to the audience as the producer determined to complete his magnum opus, mostly so he doesn’t disappoint his father-in-law, former boss and financial partner Louis B. Mayer.

Wilkes confidently sells Hecht’s wit, pompousness and disdain for Hollywood while Fitts brings much-needed fun to his portrayal of Fleming. Alana Opie makes the most of her limited role as overworked assistant Miss Poppenghul.

Director Carol Kleinberg, the former director of the Banyan Theater Company serving as associate director for PLATO, keeps the pace appropriately speedy. The big laughs largely come from Selznick and Fleming performing key scenes for Hecht to write. They are rife with slapstick, which Kleinberg stages extremely well.

Michael Newtown-Brown’s set design shows Selznick’s office hilariously declining into a first-rate mess while Jared Walker’s costumes effortlessly put the characters and in late 1930s Hollywood.

—Photo: Chris Caswell as David O. Selznick, Ryan Fitts as Victor Fleming and BJ Wilkes as Ben Hecht in PLATO's production of "Moonlight and Magnolias." Credit Donna DesIsles/PLATO.

Details: Through July 1, Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, 25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets: $27  (summer menu will be available for purchase separately). Information: 941-366-5454 or

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sarasota native Nik Wallenda forced to wear tether during Niagara Falls tightrope walk

FILE- In this May 16, 2012 file photo, Nik Wallenda performs a walk on a tightrope in the rain during training for his walk over Niagara Falls in Niagara Falls, N.Y. DAVID DUPREY, FILE — AP Photo

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Superstar daredevil Nik Wallenda's walk over Niagara Falls won't go exactly as he planned.

ABC, which is broadcasting the unprecedented stunt June 15, is making the Sarasota native wear a tether. 

"It seems as though that's what I'm going to be doing," Wallenda told The Associated Press on Monday as he prepared to walk a practice wire outside the Seneca Niagara Casino.

"I'm upset. I'm not used to it," he said. "I've never worn a tether before so it's just something else I have to contend with when I'm out there."

Read more.

Read more here:
Top 10: Songs for daredevil Nik Wallenda at Niagara Falls

Monday, May 21, 2012

UPDATED 5/22: Actor Armand Assante to meet with Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston

UPDATED 5/22: Actor Armand Assante meets with Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston to discuss film project
Actor Armand Assante (right) talks with golf legend Tony Jacklin and former Representative Bill Galvano Friday before the start at of the 16th annual Phil Galvano Golf Classic at the Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch. GRANT JEFFERIES/ Bradenton Herald GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM

Actor Armand Assante and Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston are scheduled to meet this afternoon at City Hall to discuss potential film projects in the Friendly City.

The Emmy Award-winner participated Friday in the 16th annual Phil Galvano Golf Classic at the Legacy Golf Club in Lakewood Ranch.

Assante won an Emmy for playing the titular mafia boss in the HBO movie “Gotti.”

He shared the screen with Demi Moore in “Striptease,” battled Sylvester Stallone in “Judge Dredd” and more recently appeared in the acclaimed Denzel Washington/Russell Crowe drama “American Gangster.”

Assante sat down with the Bradenton Herald in December while in Lakewood Ranch to film “Blind Pass,” the second independent, feature-length film by Sarasota-based Midnight Pass Productions and writer/producer/director Steve Tatone.

“I think this could be an incredible film area,” Assante said of Manatee County.

Is the Gibb family cursed?

FILE- In this undated file photo, from left, members of The Bee Gees Musical Group, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb pose for a photo. A representative said on Sunday, May 20, 2012, that Robin Gibb died at the age of 62. ANONYMOUS — AP Photo

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Bee Gees singer/songwriter Robin Gibb died Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

He was only 62 years old.

Bee Gee Maurice Gibb, Robin's twin, died at age 53 in 2003 of acute intestinal problems.

Their younger brother, pop idol Andy Gibb, died at age 30 in 1988 from a heart ailment.

Man, maybe the family is cursed.
Several months before his death, Robin Gibb told a British newspaper that he sometimes wondered if the family is paying a "karmic price" for the Bee Gee's mind-blowing success. And friends of Barbara Gibb have been quoted as saying she believes the family may be cursed.
Read more.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bradenton voted No. 2 best small city for arts

Visitors to Bradenton's Village of the Arts check out a sidewalk display of art outside the Divine Excess gallery during Friday's Art Walk. PAUL VIDELA/pvidela@bradenton PVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM

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The Friendly City continues to grow in popularity with readers of AmericanStyle Magazine.

Survey participants voted Bradenton the second best small city arts destination in the country, up from No. 10 last year and No. 22 in 2010.

“This confirms the great collaboration we have and the public support for arts in their community," said Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton. “It’s just an incredible recognition of the community."

She cited the collaborative work being done with her non-profit organization, elected city officials, Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as cultural partners such as the Manatee Players, ArtCenter Manatee and the Village of the Arts.

"Bradenton, a sunny locale 45 miles south of Tampa, may not be on your radar for arts destinations yet, but it should be," reads the opening sentence of the blurb on page 66 of the new summer edition of AmericanStyle. "It's home to Florida's largest art colony, the Village of the Arts."

No other Bradenton attractions are mentioned. 

On page 63, the Baltimore-based publication notes that "Rosie Stewart of Bradenton, Fla., is the lucky reader who was randomly selected to win a $500 gift card  for voting in AmericanStyle's 15th annual Top 25 Arts Destinations poll."

Stewart commented on why she selected her hometown.

"Eclectic and creative artists and crafters abound in this community," her statement reads. "It seems like there's always something new to check out!"

Sarasota ranked No. 1, up from fifth place last year.

Other small Florida cities in the Top 25 are Key West (4) and Naples (9).

St. Petersburg finished first among "mid-size" cities for the second year in a row, while Tampa placed third in the same category. Miami ranked No. 7.

The top three "big cities" for the arts according to American Style readers are New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

The sole Florida city on the list, Jacksonville, is No. 15.

This is the 15th year the magazine has released its survey of readers.

AmericanStyle has a print circulation of 125,000, according to its 2011 media kit, and can be read online at

“The crowning jewel of this incredible recognition will be the opening of the Manatee Performing Arts Center next March,” Isham said.

Bradenton No. 10 best small city for arts

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Top 10: Donna Summer songs

Disco diva Donna Summer, who had a home in Sarasota County, died Thursday way too young at age 63.

But her sultry-sung, heart-thumping dance tunes will live on in nightclubs, karaoke bars and anywhere else party people might be for many years to come.

Here are the essentials:

1. "Hot Stuff"
2. "Bad Girls"
3. "MacArthur Park"
4. "She Works Hard for the Money"
5.  "Love to Love You Baby"
6. "I Feel Love"
7.  "Last Dance"
8. "On the Radio"
9. "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)"
10. "Dim All the Lights"

UPDATED 5/18: Donna Summer, who had a home in Sarasota County, died in Naples

UPDATED 5/18: Donna Summer had a home in Sarasota County (see below) but died in Naples, according to a statement issued by her family.  

At the time of her death this morning, Donna Summer lived as Donna Sudano with husband Bruce Sudano in a 4 bed/4 bath home in Englewood, according to Sarasota County records obtained by the Bradenton Herald.

Her family released a statement, saying Summer died Thursday morning and that they "are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy."
"Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time," the statement read.
Summer had been living in Englewood, Fla., with her husband Bruce Sudano.

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Read more.

—Donna Summer by JOHN MCCONNICO, FILE — AP Photo

UPDATED 5/18: Queen of disco Donna Summer, who had a home in Sarasota County, died in Naples

UPDATED 5/18: Donna Summer had a home in Sarasota County (see below) but died in Naples, according to a statement issued by her family.  

UPDATED 1 p.m.: At the time of her death this morning, Donna Summer lived as Donna Sudano with husband Bruce Sudano in a 4 bed/4 bath home in Englewood, according to Sarasota County records obtained by the Bradenton Herald.

Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, dies in Sarasota County 


Disco queen Donna Summer has died from cancer in Florida, TMZ reported. She was 63 years old.

Her long list of hits include "Hot Stuff," "Love to Love You Baby," "Bad Girls," "Last Dance" and "MacArthur Park."

More to come.

—File photo of Donna Summer performing at the opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's summer season at the Hollywood Bowl by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

Weekend: Uncle Kracker, 'Fanny Brice,' Lisa Lampanelli, Heatstroke Hot Rod Hoedown, 'Don Quixote' and more

Uncle Kracker performs May 18 at Joyland in Bradenton.

From country and blues to theater and ballet, here's what's running in today's edition of Weekend.

—Publicity photo

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Canadian blues queen Rita Chiarelli to play Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, attend screening

Rita Chiarelli, who has for years reigned as Canada’s Queen of the Blues, will be headlining an evening of live music and film at Lakewood Ranch Cinemas on July 21.

The theater will be screening the documentary "Music from the Big House," in which she visits Louisiana State Maximum Security Penitentiary.

Best known as Angola and nicknamed Alcatrez of the South and The Farm, it's famous for its history of rough conditions and blues musi

Alan Lomax discovered Lead Belly there in the 1930s and New Orleans piano great James Booker, who taught Harry Connck Jr. how to play,  also served time at Angola.

During Chiarelli's trip to the prison she plays with inmates serving life sentences.

"Their shared bond of music, and Chiarelli’s vivacious personality, draw striking revelations from the inmates," reads the official synopsis. "Rather than sensational stories of convicts, we witness remarkable voices of hope as their love of music radiates humanity and redemption on their quest for forgiveness."

Chiarelli will provide attendees with a Q&A reception and concert following the screening. Complimentary beer, wine, and soft drinks will be provided.

Details: 6 p.m. with the screening to begin at 7 p.m. and the reception and concert to directly follow, July 21, Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, 10715 Rodeo Drive, Lakewood Ranch. Tickets go on sale May 25 and are $25 in advance, and $30 at the door. Information: 941-364-8662 x2008 or

—Publicity photo of Rita Chiarelli in "Music from the Big House."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obama passes cool test: Jay-Z invites him to perform at new music fest

President Obama joins in singing “Sweet Home Chicago” during the “In Performance at the White House: Red, White and Blues” concert in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2012. Participants include, from left: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Jeff Beck, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, and Gary Clark, Jr. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama sung a snippet of soul master Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" then performed "Sweet Home Chicago" with blues greats B.B. King, Buddy Guy and more, landing him an invite Monday from Jay-Z to perform at the hip-hop king's new music festival.

Which pretty much makes Obama the coolest president in history.

At least from this music fan's perspective.

Oh, and he watches "Mad Men," my favorite show on television these days.

But does he keep up with the Kardashians?

Alas, the answer is yes.

Kind of.

Obama took a pop culture quiz Tuesday when he appeared on ABC's "The View."

He knew which Kardashian spent a mere 72 days married.

"That would be Kim," the president answered, saying he only knew because she was married to pro basketball player Kris Humphries, according to this report by the Associated Press.

Oh well.

At least he hasn't read "Fifty Shades or Grey."

Or cares about Jessica Simpson.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Top 10: Songs with Donald 'Duck' Dunn on bass

Soul rockers Booker T. and the MGs are seen in this January 1970 file photo, from left: Al Jackson Jr., Booker T. Jones, Donald "Duck" Dunn and Steve Cropper. (Associated Press / May 14, 2012)

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Donald "Duck" Dunn played bass with everyone from Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to Bob Dylan and Neil Young

He and wife June lived in Manatee County and I got to spend some wonderful time talking with them backstage at the Sarasota Blues Festival.

On Sunday, he died unexpectedly in his sleep after a show in Tokyo.

Shocked and sad, I talked to longtime Sarasota Blues Festival director Barbara Strauss for this story.

Here are some classic recordings featuring Dunn's expert bass playing; the ones I'm listening to today as I remember the great musician and man.

1. "I've Been Loving You Too Long," Otis Redding
2. "Hold on, I'm Coming," Sam and Dave 
3. "In the Midnight Hour," Wilson Picket
4. "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay," Otis Redding
5. "Hang 'Em High," Booker T. & the MGs

Hanging with Dunn at the 2011 Sarasota Blues Festival. Photo by Caroline Sansone.

6. "Respect," Otis Redding
7. "Born Under a Bad Sign," Albert King
8. "Soul Man," Blues Brothers
9. "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty
10."Got My Mojo Working," Muddy Waters (live from "Fathers and Sons")

Bonus tracks:
"Heart of Mine," Bob Dylan
"Back to the Island," Leon Russell 
"Forever Man," Eric Clapton
"Cowgirl in the Sand," Neil Young ("Road Rock, Vol. 1: Friends & Relatives")

Legendary bass player 'Duck' Dunn dies in Tokyo, was Manatee County resident

REVIEW/PHOTOS: Sarasota Blues Fest

Friday, May 11, 2012

Top 10: Songs for daredevil Nik Wallenda at Niagara Falls

Sarasota native Nik Wallenda has another death-defying stunt in the works.

And this time The King of the High Wire will be performing in front of a national audience.

Here are some songs for the the seventh generation daredevil of the legendary Great Wallendas as he prepares to attempt a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls on prime-time television next month.

1. "Tight Rope," Leon Russell
2. "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon & Garfunkel
3. "High and Dry," Radiohead
4. "Watch Your Step," Elvis Costello & the Attractions
5. "I Walk the Line," Johnny Cash
6. "Don't Fear the Reaper," Blue Oyster Cult
7. "Walk this Way," Aerosmith
8.  "Stayin' Alive," Bee Gees
9.  "Complete Control," The Clash
10. "No Hurry," Zac Brown Band

—AP Photo of Nik Wallenda walking on a tightrope above Baltimore's Inner Harbor on May 9 by Patrick Semansky.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

WEEKEND: Lady Antebellum, Tropical Heatwave, Wilco, Chris Cornell, Neil Simon and more

Here's what I have running in today's Weekend:

Country-pop trio Lady Antebellum dancin' into Tampa's ASK-GARY Amphitheatre

MCS Band Slam benefit concert features 20 acts at Sarasota Bradenton International Convention Center

WMNF 88.5's Tropical Heatwave features 60 acts across 13 stages in Ybor City

Wilco brings 'the whole love' to the Straz Center in Tampa

Chris Cornell sells out Tampa Theatre 

Anna Maria Island Players close 63rd season with Neil Simon's 'Fools'

'Moonlight and Magnolias' opens at Golden Apple Dinner Theatre in Sarasota

—Publicity photo of Lady Antebellum 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

UPDATED 5/14: Against Me! singer Tom Gabel, of Naples, comes out as transgender: recalling interviewing and meeting him backstage


A fan's reaction to Tom Gabel, singer for Florida rockers Against Me!, becoming a woman 

Very few news items surprise me.

I did take pause, though, this morning when I read that Against Me! front man Tom Gabel had come out as transgender.

A first for rock stars.

I met Gabel in the summer of 2008 backstage during a Warped Tour stop at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg.

We had just done a lengthy phone interview for a pretty in-depth cover story that he read and liked.

Gabel grew up in Naples and told me about happily attending shows at Jannus Landing as a teen before relocating to Gainesville where he formed Against Me!

The punk rock hero stood in front of a weight bench set up outside his tour bus when I shook his hand.

He pressed a bunch of iron before eventually grabbing his guitar and going on stage to thrill the audience with a killer set that included the band's big hit "Thrash Unreal."

A manly man if I ever saw one.

That was my impression.

The 31-year-old told Rolling Stone recently that as a child he felt disconnected from his body and has a condition called gender dysphoria. He plans to take hormones and undergo electrolysis. He also is considering gender reassignment surgery.

"Growing up, my experience with transsexualism was nothing but shame," Gabel said.

The singer revealed that his new name will be Laura Jane Grace. Gabel said he's not attracted to men and will still be married to his wife. They have a 2-year-old daughter.

Read more here:

—Tom Gabel by MARK HUMPHREY, FILE — AP Photo

Against Me!'s Tom Gabel is becoming a woman

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jon Stewart's 'Daily Show' taping in Tampa during RNC

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" will be taping at the Straz Center in Tampa for broadcasts to air on Comedy Central at 11 p.m. Aug. 28-31.

Yep, that's smack dab in the middle of the Republican National Convention, which, you might have heard, is being held across the Tampa Bay area Aug. 27-30.

Expect a lively broadcast of the Emmy-owning news satire show, with an extra-large dose of GOP-blasting snark, of course.

Tickets are free but can only be acquired at

Monday, May 7, 2012

UPDATED 5/11: Countdown to the Blues free concert series starts May 20 in Bradenton

UPDATED 5/11: Congrats to Ruthie Foster, Biscuit Miller and Johnny Sansone.

These three artists playing at the Bradenton Blues Festival on Dec. 1 won last night at the 33rd annual Blues Music Awards.

Scroll down for complete list of festival artists who were nominated.

The inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival doesn't take place until Dec. 1, but events leading up to the big Riverwalk bash are already beginning.

Organizers have arranged for six months of free concerts and seminars designed to entertain, educate and introduce area musicians and music lovers to the rich history of the blues.

The series kicks off with seasoned guitarist and showman George Worthmore, 5 p.m. May 20 at Sarasota Guitar Company’s Bradenton location, 2111 Cortez Road W., and continues every month through October.

“This monthly concert series is part workshop, part seminar, and all entertainment,” said Realize Bradenton Executive Director Johnette Isham in a statement. “Thanks to the sponsorship of Sarasota Guitar Company, we are able to offer the Countdown to the Blues series for free so area music lovers can begin to explore the many facets of the blues as we count down the months and weeks to the inaugural Bradenton Blues Festival on December 1."

Sarasota Guitar Company owner Scott Cook came up with the idea of presenting the free concerts as a prelude to the Dec. 1 festival after speaking with several local musicians and blues fans who wanted to learn more about this compelling musical genre. He also wants to help get the word out that Bradenton attracts the world’s finest musicians.

“Bradenton has always been a town where some of the world’s best musicians congregate to play and record," Cook said in a statement. “By bringing the Countdown to the Blues concert series to the community free of charge we hope to do our part in spreading the news that Bradenton attracts the talent and has the community support to emerge as the next Austin or even the next Nashville.”

Worthmore began his professional career as a guitarist with Kinky Friedman and has played backup guitar for Bo Diddley, Ben E. King, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Lou Christy and The Platters. He has also appeared as a guitarist with the band Hot Tuna. Worthmore will discuss the role and evolution of the blues during the Great Depression as he explores blues artistry from the 1930s. He will demonstrate the music of such great blues artists as Blind Blake, Pink Anderson, and Tampa Red.

The Countdown to the Blues Series continues on 5 p.m., June 3 at Ace’s Live, 4343 Palma Sola Blvd, Bradenton, where Chicago native and Bradenton-based blues man Steve Arvey takes the stage to present an evening of homegrown blues. Arvey will demonstrate different blues styles using his collection of homemade instruments, which includes a three-string cigar box guitar, a one-string diddley bow cigar box, an axe handle guitar, and a gator lap slide guitar—all created in the Tampa Bay area. Arvey, who is slated to open the Bradenton Blues Festival, has been performing his own style of blues around the globe for 35 years.

On Sunday, July 15, roots rocker RJ Howson will bring Countdown to the Blues back to Sarasota Guitar Company’s Bradenton store with a performance and overview of the Chicago blues. Fire branded in the Chicago blues circuit, Howson picked up his skillful guitar chops performing and jamming with blues icons at Buddy Guy's Legends club, Rosa's Lounge, Kingston Mines, BLUES on Halstead and many other clubs in the Windy City. Since relocating to Bradenton Beach, he has been busy playing a steady stream of shows all over Florida. Howson will perform with veteran bass guitarist Gregg Voorhees as he shares his experiences and perspective.

For more information on the Countdown to the Blues series and for a schedule of performances through October 2012, please visit

Also, The Blues Foundation has announced the nominees for the 2012 Blues Music Awards. The 33rd Blues Music Awards will be presented May 10 at the Cook Convention Center in downtown Memphis.

Here are artists up for awards appearing at the Bradenton Blues Festival.

Album of the Year: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too" Johnny Sansone

B.B. King Entertainer: Ruthie Foster

Contemporary Blues Album: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too"

Contemporary Blues Male Artist: Johnny Sansone, JP Soars

Instrumentalist-Bass: Biscuit Miller

Instrumentalist-Other: Ben Prestage, diddley bow

Koko Taylor Award (Traditional Blues Female): Ruthie Foster

Pinetop Perkins Piano Player: Victor Wainwright

Song: "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil is Too," Johnny Sansone

Friday, May 4, 2012

Top 10: Beastie Boys songs

In honor of the sad, untimely passing of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, aka MCA, here are my favorite tracks from the pioneering hip-hop act that last month entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

These are the party songs my high school friends and I blasted while misbehaving our way through the suburbs of North Tampa in the mid-1990s.

Each one brings back a special set of memories, most probably best left unshared.

By the way, I've only had one bumper sticker in my entire life and it adorned the back of my first car.

A faded, old maroon Pontiac Grand Am.

The sticker simply read: "Beastie Boys."

1. "Egg Man," Paul's Boutique
2. "Sabotage," Ill Communication
3. "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," Licensed to Ill
4.  "Jimmy James," Check Your Head
5.  "Fight For Your Right," Licensed to Ill
6.  "Intergalactic," Hello Nasty
7. "Shake Your Rump," Paul's Boutique 
8. "So What'cha Want," Check Your Head
9. "The Sounds of Science," Paul's Boutique 
10. "Brass Monkey," Licensed to Ill
—Photo of Adam Yauch  by Mary Altaffer/Associated Press 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

'Bonnie & Clyde' stars Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan earn Tony Award nominations

Local theatergoers should want to watch the Tony Awards more than ever this year now that a slew of former Asolo Rep creative and cast members have earned nominations.

Listed below are the nominees who have joined the professional theater company in the past for productions in Sarasota.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast 8 p.m. June 10  on CBS.

Laura Osnes: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for Broadway’s "Bonnie & Clyde." Appeared in "Bonnie & Clyde" at Asolo Rep in 2010

Jeremy Jordan: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for Broadway's "Newsies." Appeared in "Bonnie & Clyde" at Asolo Rep in 2010.

Judy Kaye: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for "Nice Work If You Can Get It." Appeared in "Souvenir" at Asolo Rep in 2009.

Tobin Ost: Best Scenic Design of a Musical for "Newsies." Scenic and Costume Designer of "Bonnie & Clyde" at Asolo Rep in 2010.

Jeff Calhoun: Best Direction of a Musical for Newsies. Director of "Bonnie & Clyde" at Asolo Rep in 2010 and director of the 2013 production of Noah Racey’s "Pulse, A New Dance Musical." 

'Bonnie & Clyde' on Broadway in December 

Asolo Rep Theatre

—FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF ASOLO/FRANK ATURA Bonnie (Laura Osnes) and Clyde (Jeremy Jordan)