This past weekend we were invited to attend and capture the first annual Lauderdale Live music festival, hosted in Huizenga Plaza, along Andrews Avenue. This fabulous three day festival jam packed some of the greatest music from around the nation into one weekend.
The festival site, Huizenga Plaza, is a public cultural space in the heart of the city's nightlife, dining, arts and entertainment scene. Just minutes from vibrant Las Olas –the boulevard known as Greater Fort Lauderdale's "style mile"- the cosmopolitan YOLO Plaza and the diverse FAT Village and Himmarshee districts. This time of year is beautiful along the river as many sailboats are decorated for the Holidays approaching.
The plaza is inset and surrounded by the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the FAU Broward College buildings and many newer highrises that mimic living art! It is a fabulous location for what this event brought to this district indeed. Huizenaga Plaza is only a part of this beautiful and rather culturally and artistically lavish Riverwalk District in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
This festival is one that blends newer and more indie acts, that have their music featured in TV show episodes, movie scores and many other public accessed avenues with some more polished and seasoned names in the music industry and it works very well. It made for a fantastic three days of music and simple enjoyment of the freedom within the art of music.
Friday evening brought a gorgeous sunset wine tasting and freshly prepared gourmet snacks served on the “Yacht Discovery Experience” , as featured artists at Lauderdale Live entertained guests along the New River at Esplanade Park. These artists included: Lee DeWyze, Dave Barnes, Andrew Ripp, Jackopierce and Jillette Johnson.
Saturday afternoon launched the stage performance portion of this event, in Huizenga Plaza and our day began with a great interview with Lee DeWyze and also Jillette Johnson, who holds one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear. Our interviews will publish shortly, following our two part review of the music festival. Following our interviews it was off to the main stage for the remainder of the day's roster.
Our music adventure began with walking to the concert site a bit tardy, as traffic was heavy as expected. We journeyed over the drawbridge to hear Jillette Johnson playing her live set on the piano, as her vocals so crisp and clear filled the air all around Huizenga Plaza and beyond. Following Jillette were Sons of Bill and Lee DeWyze. Lee won season nine of American Idol, released his fourth CD most recently, titled Frames. He is on a rather nice creative page within his own artist at the moment. Ms. Jillette and Mr. DeWyze are some of the younger performers on this roster and both are very grounded and focused artist's and it comes through in their live sets on a stage. We were fortunate to speak with both these talents in depth.
The start was a nice touch of classic with a dash of folk and into the remaining variety of music that filled our day. Next to the stage was Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, a fabulous indie band from Tennessee that has sold over 75,000 records and averages 1,500 live show dates a year, easily. When you hear them play live, you will know why.
They are coined American songwriters, and their style is referred to as Americana. Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.
Mr. Holcomb took the writing reigns for this latest release, 'Good Light' and many of the songs are written directly from his life and focus on his family and experiences within that realm. Their live set blends folk ballads with some serious topics as faith, love, family and making life as bright as you possibly can. Add some great hooks and guitar for some mildly rocking takes as well, check out Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors right here.
Mat Kearney and his band took the stage just prior to sundown, and hosted a great close to the daylight. Mat and many bands graced the stage to tell their guests here in Florida how great the weather is, as they all battled winter conditions in airports to get here and we were all grateful that they did. Mat and his band laid out the perfect sunset show and rolled out the carpet for those still to come in one set! Their songs are light, danceable and they bring memories back to you. It was the best laid back, yet grabbing combination to a live set this fan has witnessed. As we relaxed a bit in the VIP area and watched this set play out, it felt like we had taken off for Central Park, hands down. Mat Kearney is an act to catch live and you may find all dates current, right here. Mat is out supporting his release: Young Love.
The next act just blew my mind and danced me out of my shoes when they laid out a cover of Jimi Hendrix: 'Foxy Lady' that features a steel lap slide guitar, played by Robert Randolph. This band is Robert Randolph and the Family Band and they are just absolutely electrifying! They are American funk/soul to the core and they do it so very well. Robert Randolph takes over the steel guitar like it is just a mere extension of his finger tips, and his band is right behind him and driven by Marcus Randolph on the drums. It all just comes together and explodes funk goodness on a stage and this fan wishes to see it again! They toss in some Bo Diddley just to stun you completely prior to their set ending. They are currently touring supporting their latest release, Lickity Split, and see them live and the title speaks for itself! Check for tour dates right here.
The headliner was all that remained at this point, and Huey Lewis and the News took that stage like it was the 80's all over again! Complete with many original members, and some new flavors added to their line up and a horn section that could send you to the moon with the power they released into the air, this fan recommends checking out Huey Lewis and the News for all current updates! The grins on their faces while playing this set and just enjoying the set with this crowd was just inspiring. Huey and the News laid out the old favorites like: "If This Is It", "Hip to be Square" and "The Power of Love", as well as playing two new singles to possibly hint at a new recorded project...maybe a box set with new tunes attached, who knows!
They still have that commanding stage presence with a little bit of a smirk, sarcasm and sense of humor tucked in there and it makes for the same amount of energy and fun this band sent out into the world thirty years ago. I can honestly say that there would be no better means of closing the first day of this great event then with Huey Lewis and the News as your headliner. The entire crowd was dancing, and even if they don't want to admit that...they were! This set was magical in that it allowed for a glimpse into your past and also opened the envelope for a peek at what may be soming to our ears soon, via Huey Lewis and the News.
Special thanks out to everyone involved with this inagural festival that is now Lauderdale Live! To Shaunelle Watson, Erik Stein and all reps and promoters, crews, staff, volunteers, photography team was one of the best I have had the pleasure to work with as well. Thanks out to Lee DeWyze and Jillette Johnson for making time for personal interviews and every single band or performer involed, especially Huey Lewis for the entertianing photo pit! We greatly appreciate being invited to be any part and to have the pleasure of capturing this great event! We hope to come back every year that this takes place, as this fan only sees it getting bigger and better every single year.
ROCK ON LAUDERDALE SEE YOU SOON!!!