Daytona Beach News Journal, 23 January 2005, page 8H
By Rick de Yampert
Years before Gregg and Duane Allman electrified the rock music world with the Allman Brothers Band, the siblings were honing their blues and rock chops in Daytona Beach in the mid-1960s with their band the Allman Joys.
Years before Terence Trent D’Arby became the next Prince with his 1987 No. 1 hit, “Wishing Well,” he was a youngster singing under the wing of his minister father at the Greater Refuge Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in DeLand.
Can the Daytona area produce another Allman Brothers or D’Arby (who now goes by the name Sananda Maitreya)? Is today’s local music scene fertile enough — and nurturing enough — for a local artist, who plays original music, to have a shot at the big time?
“I think any town is always able to produce that next level of artist, the national level,” says area resident Phil Weidner, who five years ago founded Songwriters Showcases of America. The organization’s goal is to provide performance opportunities for original music artists. To that end, the SSA has sponsored concerts at localnightclubs, but more often it has staged shows and ambitious festivals (featuring up to 90 artists) at rec halls, outdoor parks and downtown areas.
“I do see a lot of potential artists in Daytona and Volusia County,” says Weidner, who is a singer-songwriter himself. “I hear professional industry people say you can develop your craft anywhere, but to launch your craft, you eventually have to make those big moves, or plan to get to those hubs: New York, L.A.”
The first part of that equation — developing one’s craft — can depend on having venues that allow musicians to play original music. Some area venues that currently feature original music acts include Caffe Da Vinci in DeLand (eclectic fare including jazz, rock, blues and world music), and in Daytona Beach: Tir Na Nog (rock, punk, ska), the Seabreeze Lounge (metal), and Angell and Phelps Restaurant and Wine Bar (jazz and blues). Also, local radio station WHOG (“the Hog,” 95.7 FM) currently airs “The Scene” from 8 to 9 p.m. Sunday nights, which features two local bands each week, as well as artist interviews by host Tattoo Todd.
Music artists “can woodshed anywhere,” Weidner says. “But you get a different perspective when you get into the public arena. It can make you aware of things you really didn’t realize, when you start getting feedback from an audience.
“If there isn’t a venue that can support original music and make you feel like you’re accomplishing a good gig, it’s going to set you back mentally. It’s going to be frustrating. I see great (local) artists out there who have the best potential to do something, but they just don’t seem to be able to build a confidence level to make them want to go to New York.”
Singer-guitarist Jeremy Mix is one former local who, three years ago, made the move to the Big Apple. From 1992 to ’97, Mix was the guitarist in the Orlando-based band Seven Sisters. Although the Orlando rock scene was buzzing for a time then because of Matchbox Twenty and Seven Mary Three, “the whole boy band explosion (N’ Sync, the Backstreet Boys and others) put bands and original, good rock ‘n’ roll music on the back burner,” Mix says.
He turned to the solo singer-guitarist approach and credits the SSA with helping his development by creating opportunities to gig.
“You can only play your songs in your living room for so long before you start feeling you’ve got to get out there and do your thing,” Mix says. The SSA “gave a lot of songwriters who didn’t have full bands, and who weren’t playing Orlando, a place to play.” At those gigs, artists didn’t have to worry about drawing a crowd to boost a night club’s bar sales, he says, and music fans “could just chill and listen in a nice setting.”
Original music can be a “hard sell” for an area club, says Rusty Hamil, who co-manages and books the music for Caffe da Vinci in DeLand. The venue recently reopened after a years-long hiatus, and will emphasize diversity and artists who perform original material — everything from Celtic and bluegrass to rock, blues and jazz.
“Sometimes people (music fans) just don’t want to experiment,” Hamil says. “They don’t want to listen to something they’ve never heard before . . . People want someone to play Jimmy Buffet and some cover that everybody in the world has heard a million times. I’m not into that at all. I’d much rather see an original band, whether they’re really good or not.”
Eventually Mix decided to move on. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to move somewhere where things are happening,’ ” he says. Since moving to New York, he’s cut tracks with noted rocker-producer Pete Droge (of “If You Don’t Love Me I’ll Kill Myself” fame), and played the prestigious Mercury Lounge.
During his 20-year involvement in the area music scene, Weidner has seen the buzz surrounding original music wax and wane, and wax and wane again.
“It’s such a natural cycle,” he says, noting that at least a few area venues, at any given time, have featured original artists.
But, he sighs, “There doesn’t seem to be a huge draw of people who will come out and support an event. So venues don’t put a lot of effort into keeping it going. They’ll try anything if it’s presented to them. They might get really excited about it, then two or three months down the road they say, ‘Well you know, we make more money on the jukebox.’
“There’s a lot of nice little areas in Daytona that seem to be able to create a good vibe, such as the Ocean Walk and downtown. When you see things like that, you’re like, ‘Daytona does have a nice, bright, live music feel to it.’ But it doesn’t really solidify and take hold and last.”
Copyright 2005 Daytona Beach News-Journal All Rights Reserved.