February 5, 2016
Johnnyswim and Jonny P
It is a very rare occurrence when I go see a concert having never seen or heard of the bands that are playing. I discover new bands as opening acts or at large festivals, but I rarely just take a shot in the dark. This week I did just that and I cannot express just how glad I am that I did so. The Key West Theater has been bringing top notch entertainment to Key West this year and it has been a pleasure to have tickets to their entire concert series. We bought the tickets just to support the Theater and those running it, in hopes that they will continue to bring such high quality shows to our island. That means we got tickets to a couple of shows where I had no idea who the bands that we would be going to see even were.
I pride myself on being fairly up on new bands, but the band Johnnyswim had somehow escaped my notice, so I had no idea what to expect when we settled in to our front row seats at the Key West Theater. It was obvious from the start that I was in the minority of the packed sold-out room. In fact many people had traveled great distances to be at the show and many were even wearing Johnnyswim T-shirts. I was a little taken aback, but also intrigued.
The opening act was a singer from New Orleans named Jonny P, He sang a folky blues rock mix of original songs that were fantastic. It was so impressive and I was already thinking it was so worth it to have gotten the tickets. Johnnyswim was out next to thunderous applause from the happy crowd and right away it was clear that I had been missing out by not being familiar with the band sooner. They were absolutely fantastic.
Playing a mix of folk, blues, soul and pop, singing duo of Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez were backed by a full band. But the married couple was the focus and they had terrific songs and great voices and the music was a real treat. Sudano is the daughter of 70s Disco Queen Donna Summer and musical prowess obviously runs in the family. Ramirez is the Cuban-American son of parents who came to the US during the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Their landing spot in the US was only a few blocks from where their son was now standing on stage playing a couple of Cuban songs in what was a truly magical moment.
The couple had a charisma and obvious chemistry that could not be ignored and the show was not just a wonderfully pleasant surprise but one of the best small venue shows that I have seen in ages. Really a fantastic night. Count me among the newest Johnnyswim fans and I would advise you to check them out as well, especially if they happen to be playing near you. The show was not the first event at the Key West Theater that I attended this week, that honor would go to the Friends of the Key West Library Lecture Series featuring my friend and fellow Literary Seminar Board member, Judy Blume.
Judy and Jenni
While I no longer am in charge of organizing the lecture series (handing the reigns over to my more than capable friend Mark Hedden), I still like to attend, especially when my friends are speaking and this was the first opportunity for Judy to read locally from her latest novel. “In the Unlikely Event”. It was a great emotionally charged reading by Judy, who got very emotional presenting in front of so many fans and friends. Her husband George had prepared a wonderful pair of video presentations, one which played in advance and one to accompany the actual presentation and they were both charming and interesting as they featured photos depicting the actual locations found in the book.
Elena, Lea and Effie
Speaking of books, the newest cool addition to the cultural landscape celebrated its Grand Opening party this week. Books and Books, the wonderful Miami based book store opened a new branch in Key West. Owned and located at The Studios of Key West, and opened under the expert guidance of the Books and Books staff, Judy Blume and her husband George and the Studios staff. The opening was a cause for great celebration and the bookstore is fantastic. I attended the opening which was held in conjunction with a great art opening by the renowned printmaker, Lou Stovall. The opening was packed with thrilled locals and even some tourists all who were very excited by the new store.
George, Mia and Judy
With Doug's parents
Eugene Robinson with Lou Stovall and his wife
My friend Doug’s parents are in town from Minneapolis and I got to meet them for the first time at the opening. It is always nice to meet the family of my friends and it was easy to see where Doug gets his casual charm. After the opening, I headed over to see the play at the Waterfront Playhouse with my friend Effie to see the Terrence McNally play “Mothers and Sons”. It was a special production because the playwright and his producer husband Tom Kirdahy did a wonderful talk back session at the conclusion of the brilliant play. McNally, a four-time Tony Award winning playwright offered insight into his creative process and Tom added fascinating detail about bringing a play to life and getting it launched onto Broadway.
Terrence and Tom
Cast of "Mothers and Sons"
The play was outstanding and the cast which included a wonderful 8 year old local boy, was stellar. It was just the sort of amazing thing that seems to happen on a somewhat regular basis in this wonderful community. McNally and Kirdahy live here over the season and hearing them tell the audience why they love Key West so much was a real treat. I must say I share their feelings about this incredible community and feel so fortunate to live in a place full of so many brilliant and creative souls. McNally is correct in his statement that there is really no place like it anywhere.
Bill and Ian