The clouds were back again for day two of the 2015 Florida Music Festival (FMF), but luckily the rain came and went before the showcases started, leaving the music fans dry and able to enjoy the FREE live music. Friday’s schedule was packed with shows at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, Bullitt Bar, Cheyenne Saloon, a stage on Church Street, Elixir, The Social, Tanqueray’s and the two stages at Wall Street Plaza, plus the two open mics at Café Annie’s and Magnolia.
The day started off at the Maximum Entertainment Group’s emerging artist showcase on Church Street with Orlando based band O-Sky. The 12 year-old pop singer/songwriter, Olivia Sky looked so tiny surrounded by the grown men in her band, but they worked well together. Her songs were light and catchy, fitting right in with the family filled atmosphere on Church Street.
Next was a solo acoustic set by Orlando based singer/songwriter Cat Ridgeway at Wall Street Plaza. She is a bubbly, engaging performer from any stage she plays on and this show was no exception. The diversity of the UCF student’s musical selections, both the covers and catchy originals grabbed the attention of everyone who might have been trying to just pass by, compelling them to settle in for her showcase.
Then it was off to Cheyenne Saloon for a set by Orlando based country band Diamond Dixie. The two young ladies of Diamond Dixie deftly used their vocal prowess to their advantage during their set. Sometimes the ladies would be sweetly harmonizing together and at other times they would trade off on lead vocals adding to the overall tone of the songs.
Over at the Bullitt Bar it was time for Orlando band Versions of People. The band describes their music as alternative beach rock. OK, that works. Their music is really not something that’s easily compared to other musical styles, it had a little reggae flavor and an almost a poppy vibe. Their set included the title track to their recently released debut EP, In the Unknown.
Carly Jo Jackson was up next at Cheyenne Saloon. The singer/songwriter wore her crazy pants and brought her band to town for this show. Opening her set with “Wildflower,” she proceeded to blast through an energized set of original music and covers that really got the crowd into the show. Although she is now based in Miami, Orlando will always be her hometown turf and it showed.
After her set, it was time for Morgan Wallen and the Sinner Saints on Wall Street. A finalist on “The Voice” last year, Wallen drew a lot of curious onlookers and screaming females for his FMF set. The band’s guitar heavy country rock music had the crowd cheering and dancing throughout their showcase.
Then it was back to Cheyenne Saloon for a set by Rhetta Jane. Formerly of Orlando, the Nashville based country rock singer had a familiar band backing her up, four members of the Jonnie Morgan Band, Jonnie Morgan (acoustic guitar, vocals), Jeremy Adams (bass), Brandon Sollins (guitar) and Bruno Ufret (drums). Her set included a cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” which had the packed house singing loudly along with her and the band.
Back on Wall Street it was time for Billy Wright. Wright’s music is an engaging blend of pop/rock with nuances of soul, R&B, rap, reggae and funk from one song to the next. With each song he played, the crowd in front of the stage grew larger, cheering on the popular Orlando singer/songwriter during his spirited performance.
The next band to hit the main stage was Orlando based I-Resolution. Led by lead singer Ali Rebel, the 10 piece band (if counting the flag waver) had the crowd energized from the first note of their reggae music. That end of Wall Street resembled one huge dance party during the prominent band’s set.
Once their set was over, Orlando band Rug started up on the other Wall Street stage. The band doesn’t play out very often, so it’s always a treat for their fans to catch them live. The band’s rock/pop music and Jon Messeroff’s lead vocals have a great way of enveloping a listener with a warm comfy vibe that sticks around long after the music stops.
As soon as their set ended, Orlando band Hor!zen started up on Wall Street’s main stage. The band describes their music as Dirty South Dub Rock which fits nicely under the very large umbrella of reggae rock. The crowd was packed in and dancing for their high-energy set, one of the bands last Orlando shows before they head out on a west coast tour.
While Hor!zen rocked Wall Street, Orlando band Doc Ellis Orchestra was rocking the Cheyenne Saloon. The five piece rock/Americana band looked right at home on the legendary venue’s big stage and their sound was even more impressive, with music fueled by heartfelt songs and spirited jams.
Then it was back to Wall Street Plaza for Kasson. The Orlando band’s set was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but this slot worked out better as they had a dry stage and a much bigger crowd to witness their rock domination. The four piece band kicked off their set with surging drum rhythms, drawing in spectators and creating fans.
There was still one more showcase going on, Swamburger’s at The Social. With time running out, Leisure Chief and Bengali 600 were the final two Orlando bands to play with shortened set times. The mixed musical genres and extended jams of Leisure Chief seamlessly led right into the afro beat instrumental music from Bengali 600.
This was only a small portion of the terrific bands playing Friday night showcases. There were bands representing all different genres bringing a little bit of everything out for fans to enjoy during the music festival. The only hard part was choosing which bands to see.