When you think of awesome cities & venues that host great bands, from rock & metal to rap & orchestras, Pensacola, Florida may not come to mind. I have lived a lot of places: Wisconsin, Cali, Texas, Iowa and Florida. At the moment Wes & I live in Iowa, but it’s January when I’m writing this, so we are currently “snow birds” in, you guessed it, Pensacola, Florida.
I never thought that there would be much or any music scene in the “Panhandle” to be fair. That may sound harsh, and I do not mean a local scene. I mean a scene that puts on shows that attracts fans from the 50 to 100-mile radius. However, I have been proven wrong and nothing could please me more. The venue is Vinyl Music Hall – downtown Pensacola on Palafox. This venue boasts an 857-person capacity and features a street/ground level stage and a second level balcony. If you have ever been to Trees in Deep Ellum (Dallas, TX), Vinyl has a similar layout & capacity, and that is a compliment. The main differences are the stage is near the back with band merch and a small bar behind it, and fans can view the bands on 2 sides of the stage instead of one/just the front. The band green room(s) plus band load in/out are directly behind the stage and separate from the fans.
For a relatively small club, the sound and lights are pro-level. Wes & I have covered shows at bars, clubs, midsized venues, arenas & stadiums in 22 different states and 2 foreign countries…props to Vinyl Music Hall for having a pro staff and systems. The professionalism of the club does not stop there. They have excellent serving staff and security as well.
I also liked and appreciated the fact there was a real photo pit. If you are a photographer, you know what I am saying… but let’s get to the reason for this review.
The line stretched around the building in one direction and down the block the other way to see The Dollyrots, Lit and Bowling for Soup. This SOLD-OUT SHOW was a night of music & comedy. I say that because if you see Bowling For Soup live you know they are hilarious and truly a fun time, who also promote giving back. What do I mean by giving back? I am talking about “Punk Rock Saves Lives”, an organization that focuses on helping those who are having mental health issues. Jaret Reddick, who is the lead singer of Bowling for Soup, is also a member of the board of Directors. It felt so good to not just be at a show soaking up the live experience, but to also be able to do something to help others. Fighting blood cancers is also promoted by Jaret & Bowling For Soup. I, and many others, volunteered for an oral swab at the show so my and others DNA could be put into a database which could possibly become a bone marrow match for someone. This organization has Saved Lives.
Because the venue staff had everything running smooth, the line moved fast with no issues on getting in or needless hours of waiting. The venue was almost full before the first band hit the stage (The Dollyrots), and not only was the venue near capacity for the opening act, the crowd was into the music and ready for a good time. Many of us in the crowd were new to the band and were seeing them live for the first time.
I will be honest, this was my first time seeing this band. I was excited to see a new band and get revved up for the rest of the show. Let’s be honest… that is what the openers are supposed to do. I feel like I and many others do not always give the first band on the bill, the openers, the respect they deserve. They have a huge task… to feel out the crowd, to start the night off, to gain fans, and to get their name out there as well. The Dollyrots took the stage with bravado and great showmanship. Lead singer Kelly Ogden had a million-dollar smile, with glittery Pop-Punk vocals to match. Doing double duty, she also was the bass player of the band. Flawlessly she showcased her bass skills. For a 3 piece, this band packed a full pound whopper into your ear holes. I would recommend checking them out if Pop Punk done right is your thang…
Lit was next to face the packed house. In true Lit style, they opened hard and rocked even harder on the last song. Proving once again why they are still a main staple to rock music fans (and recently Country Rock fans), they are not just true musicians, but performers as well. I have never seen them slack at a show and this was no exception (and I have seen them more times than I can count). It is a testament to their professionalism & musicianship. This attitude, as well as a large stage presence, are what keeps them relevant, and worth seeing again and again. Based on the crowd participation and applause, they were in agreement that Lit killed it on stage. Nobody was sitting around with folded arms.
Bowling For Soup… WOW does not sum it up. Celebrating their “Getting Old Sucks Tour”, the band may not be as physically active as they were when they were in their 20’s, but they weren’t exactly statues like some other bands of similar age are. Lead singer Jaret Reddick said from stage, “Looking out I see people singing songs we made 30 years ago, before many of you were born. That is not a bad thing at all….”. The banter from the stage went on throughout the entire show. The band not only expressed gratitude to the fans for 30 years of being fans of the band, but the fact that kids as well as their parents enjoyed the show. The fact that their music brought people together helped make this a special show and Bowling For Soup is a special band. Did I mention jokes? Lots of jokes. These gents are just fun guys with a goofy “12 year old boy” sense of humor seasoned with an extra 40 years or so of wisdom and grown up experiences… and a God Given Music talent that will blow the wheels off the turnip cart.
The energy from the stage to the crowd as you can imagine was astronomical. I have to say, more beautiful, was how the crowd reciprocated and it was truly heart melting. At one point while in the pit, I turned from the stage to see the crowd. I saw 2 kids – a girl about 8 and boy maybe 11 – with their mom. They looked at me with a smile so huge it touched their ears. The little girl smiled and said “HI!” to me, then she took her attention back to the stage for an experience I am sure will live with her for a lifetime. She got to see mom sing (and mom was), and how mom had her arms around both kids – one on each side… was also heart melting. Additionally, the kids seemed to know the songs… meaning that’s what mom jammed in the car and house when cleaning. My guess anyway.
To sum it up, this show reminded me of why live events are more than just a band(s) on stage. They are a gathering of people hearing and seeing the same thing and getting some sort of emotional reaction to it… strangers coming together, arms in the air singing, laughing, and building a community of music.
Bowling For Soup
Please take the time to check out The Dollyrots, Lit, and Bowling For Soup when they come to your neck of the woods, your side of town, or your general area. Yup… I am covering all the bases. Get to a show if you are a fan of music, community, and fun.
Coverage by The adventures of Wes and Mel