Our friend Heather Vidal reminded me a couple of nights ago via facebook that she was supposed to be with us for a show at the Historic Venice Train Depot this week, and it took me a few seconds to realize that she was right. I hesitated because time has taken on an unreal quality for me since mid-March when we began sheltering at home because of the pandemic. Our usually busy schedule suddenly came to a halt. We cancelled all our musical events for 2020, and sadly, this included our monthly singer/songwriter acoustic shows at the historic Venice Train Depot.
Until recently, I haven't really been looking ahead - its hard to know when we will be back to "business as usual." Heather's facebook post reminded me of how much I miss those shows, and the connection and intimacy we all share, performers and listeners alike, on those special nights. If you've attended one of these shows, then you know what I'm talking about.
For those of you who haven't, a bit of history. In 2002, on the Sunday after Meeting of the Minds in Key West wrapped up, James began inviting new friends to join him on the water tower stage at Blue Heaven to trade songs. He spent 11 years as a solo performer in the Cayman Islands, where he rarely had a chance to jam with fellow performers on the island. He described these Sunday afternoon songwriter shows in Key West as "a treat to myself." I have happily watched through the years as James lights up when playing with another artist to make music magic. It is one of the things he loves most.
The water tower sessions at Blue Heaven are very popular and that afternoon songwriter showcase at Blue Heaven remains my favorite event during MOTM week. With the success of those water tower songwriter shows, James decided to host performers at home in Sarasota County the rest of the year. Keep the live music going.
In 2004 we discovered the Freight Room at the restored Venice Train Depot and it proved to be perfect for intimate acoustic shows. In the depot's hey day the room was used to hold freight for the railroad, and the restored version has hard wood floors, brick walls, original ceiling beams and fantastic acoustics. John Frinzi was our first guest and we had a small turnout of people we invited. The idea was for James and company to have an informal jam session, as if they were trading songs in our living room and just enjoying themselves. We, the audience, were there to take a peek and enjoy. It turnout out to be music magic!
The chemistry between the performers, the intimate setting and an attentive and appreciative audience - it all worked. Early and regular guests included Jim Morris, Hugo Duarte and Brent Burns. Through the years Sunny Jim has hosted Keith Sykes, Scott Kirby, The Barefoot Man from the Cayman Islands, John Patti, Jimi Pappas, Kelly McGuire & Mark Mulligan, Tom & Michelle Becker, Thom & Coley, Donny Brewer, The Detentions, Eric Erdman, Paul & Christi Bobal and of course, Heather Vidal.
The shows have developed a loyal following and we now have to limit the shows to 80 people to keep things comfortable for all. We are starting to look ahead (finally) and hoping to get the shows restarted in the fall of 2021. If you are interested in knowing more, join our Train Depot Facebook Group at www.facebook.com/
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