For 25 years the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival has been rocking the Florida/Alabama coast, and this year is no exception. Running for two weekends, the festival started Thursday night and will run till Sunday the 22nd.
The festival offers workshops, performances from a wide array of known artist and open mic opportunities for budding songwriters. Multiple venues are listed with a schedule of acts on the festival’s website. A few of the venues, including the festival’s birthplace, the Flora-Bama, Janna’s Market & Deli, Pirate’s Cove, and the Silver Moon, Then, of course, there are venues, not a part of the festival, that compete by bringing in acts such as Grayson Capps.
Saturday evening at the Silver Moon and Janna’s Market & Deli began with musicians jockeying for their chance to perform during the time allotted for open mic. If sitting at the bar in the Silver Moon, one would have witnessed the many artists rushing to write their name on the list assuring their chance to perform 3 songs for the gathered audience. At either venue you would have to suffer through quite a few, to put it politely, less-than-stellar acts, and some that were just plain boring. But, if you sat there long enough, and endured the awful onslaught of old men whining out “woe is me, nobody loves me,” then you would have the pleasure of hearing noteworthy performers such as: Riley Yielding, Sassafrass, Daniela Demaria, and Mark Green.
Yielding shined, with solid vocals and guitar work, but really earned his applause with catchy, fun lyrics like: “so fine but she was someone else’s wife” and “the sweetest thing she does is call me her man.” He then wows with a blues number that sounded almost like a dead on rendition of the classic St. James Infirmary, off by a note or two, that pairs the classic tune with worthy lyrics.
Unique among the typical open mic performers was Sassafras. The environmental folk duo grabbed the audience’s attention with a message of protest, prodding the audience to become more Earth-friendly, with interactive songs like Wolves, guitar runs that become ingrained in ones head via such tunes as Rainforest and the more light-hearted, yet still somehow ominous Water Wars.
Young but filled with potential, Daniela Demaria entered the stage a bit nervously, but when she opened her mouth the crowd knew she was worth staying for.
Owning a voice with the timbre of an unpolished Regina Spektor, Daniela and her guitar reduced our hardened minds to a fluid state of sublime relaxation with a song she wrote about New Orleans street musicians, Wrapped Up in Blue, and one called It’s Not Fair. She may have low ambitions, to become a New Orleans street musician, but her voice may have other plans.
If blues and folk music aren’t your preferred genres maybe Mark Green’s definite country flair is more up your ally. Mark Green opened the open mic session at Janna’s Market & Deli. He may have appeared somewhat unrefined, but once his set started. if you closed your eyes, one would think they were listening to a member of the Nashville elite, someone who had already arrived.
All of the above were a true pleasure to anyone’s ears, but no one can put you in a trance like Grayson Capps. Ending the night at The Reef was definitely worth the second-hand smoke. Grayson puts on a live show like no other. The bar was packed to capacity with some of his biggest fans, there to revel in the experience. Despite being quite popular in Ireland it is no shock he’s southern made. Grayson’s recorded music doesn’t do his live show justice. Though his recordings are consistently good, there is just no way they can capture the raw energy of his live show. You just have to be there.