An open letter to Tallahassee music.
I love live sound. Absolutely and unequivocally love it. In every aspect of my day to day experience as a sound tech, performer or just as an avid listener, I have tried to replicate that feeling that a live stage show evokes in us as people.
by Karl Sörne
Photos by Dave Barfield
As close as I try to come, there is no comparison to standing front and center while musicians play their hearts out on stage. It is part of our nature to come together and commune with music, whether around a campfire or in an auditorium.
Just as I know the joys that come with seeing a desired show, I also know the frustration of being denied that thrill. Bounding to my desired electronic device at the news of one of my favorites taking it on the road only to get to the tour dates section and discover with groans and gnashing of teeth the exclusion of anything remotely near to here. It happens so regularly that we assume it will be the norm. We are shocked when a show falls within two hours of drive time. We lose the youthful glee in us that gets excited for the show, and gain the adult in us that begins figuring if they can afford all the expenses.
Tallahassee has its failings when it comes to attracting big live acts, outside of the occasional B-list country music star who is there to sell beer not music. I also want to make it clear that this isn’t a gripe about any one genre. Acts on all fronts have been rebuffed for one reason or another when it comes to playing the capital city. We who take an interest in such things can cite, probably more than once, “that one tour” that had dates frustratingly absent from this region. I can complain with the best of them until the sun burns out, but that is not the point of this open love letter about live music.
I don’t want to speculate on whys and hows. What I hope to do is encourage some exploratory behavior. Where Tallahassee falls short in bigger acts, the city is full of people trying to bridge that gap with heart and music. Make no mistake, this takes effort. It takes a desire to seek it out. For some that is an inhibiting fact, and I can sympathize. Like most things, though, the hardest part is getting started. There are places and people here who put on shows, night after night, simply for the love of doing it. That is the kind of music this city has to offer. I am not saying that every local act is a gem. It will take repeated tries. It will not come quickly or easily, but it is a guarantee that sooner or later it will happen.
Maybe you are sitting there, nursing a rapidly warming beer, not really focusing on anything in particular. Wondering to yourself why you came, what tomorrow will hold or one of the other ten million thoughts that you have had all day. You hear the next act introduce themselves and do a bit of nervous chatter with the small sampling of people in attendance, some of them talking too loudly because they are there to drink. Others doing the same thing you are doing. Then they start to play. All the other thoughts dissipate like vapor. Your view has been inverted, where now it is impossible to focus on anything but that music.
After they finish, you can walk right up to them and chat. How many times is that possible with a musical act? They live here. They want to see you again at their next gig. You are part of their success, and without an audience they can’t do what they do. They want to meet you, to hear your adulation, if only to talk with someone about the music that has affected the both of you. It is so rewarding to make that find. To then share it with people you know. It really is worth all the preceding struggle.
The short of it is Tallahassee is home to people who love music. Sarah Mac Band, Drew Tillman and Jerry Thigpen are just a few who could launch an expedition into the scene here. All shapes and all sizes are available and every single one of them will say the same thing. They do it because they love it. They do it because they have to. Most of all they do it so that anyone can join in the human chorus, if only briefly, that exemplifies all the beautiful and spectacular facets that our day to day seeks to drown out.
In Memory of “Big” Bob Jennings
Places to start:
Bradfordville Blues Club
A backwoods cinder-block room houses this historic blues venue that’s open Thursday-Saturday nights.
Address: 7152 Moses Ln, Tallahassee, FL 32309
Phone: (850) 906-0766
The Side Bar Theater
Great place to find new acts with regular frequency.
Address: 809 Railroad Ave Tallahassee, FL 32310
Phone: (850) 224-2233 X 101
Liberty Bar and Restaurant
Occasional acts in a very intimate setting. Fantastic food to boot.
Address: 1307 N Monroe St, Tallahassee, FL 32303
Phone: (850) 284-7966