Sarasota’s split personality has always intrigued me. As a retirement community, the average age of its residents is well above the national average and even significantly above the Florida average. On the other hand, several universities and community colleges located in Sarasota County, including the renowned Ringling College of Art and Design, infuse the community with vibrant, creative young people. This youthful energy translates into quirky fashion; unique art; and always, music, music, music.
Most any day of the week I can find live music in downtown Sarasota, but my favorite event is open mic night every Wednesday from 7 to 10 p.m. at Pastry Art on Main. Some weeks feature fiddlers and dobro players; other times, acoustic guitars dominate. Last week, the organizers of this free event, David Brain and Carmela Pedicini (a fabulous musician and vocalist known locally as “Radio-Free-Carmela) outdid themselves. They spread the word that Comcast would be on hand to film the event for their on-demand channel and local talent flocked to the cafe like never before.
For nearly four hours I sipped Americano coffee and nibbled ginger shortbread cookies while a remarkable lineup of artists performed original folk, blues, rock, and indie material. Long-time favorites Michael Miller and Bryan Beardsley were as enjoyable as ever and kitschy Scone Train brought an element of good old-fashioned fun to the stage. Kenra (Keni) Whyte’s profound lyrics and fierce delivery, backed with bluesy-rock guitar refrains, stunned the audience. Raw emotion pours from Keni when she sings; I am convinced she is destined for fame (check her out in the video, she is wearing a “rabbit ears” headband). Though each musician brought a different element to open mic night, the clear favorites were Rick Peterson and Nick Crastor, who teamed up to play passionate flamenco music. I later learned they don’t perform together on a regular basis, yet that night they jammed as if they’d been playing together for years and were absolutely astounding!
Last night another group of talented musicians stepped up to the mic, and as usual I was there, front and center, sipping strong brew and noshing on delicious homemade pastries and sandwiches. On the surface Sarasota may seem a stodgy Florida retirement town, but events like Pastry Art’s open mic night reveals the youthful sub-culture that lurks beneath.
Many thanks to the Heading There travel blog for featuring this post in their recent blog carnival about great cafes around the world. Check out this week’s Heading There blog to read some other inspirational posts from some of the world’s best travel writers.