Alan Rhoudy can trace the arc of songwriter festivals during his career of four decades.
Alan Rhody can trace the arc of songwriter festivals during his career of four decades.
He played at one of the first in the region focused solely on songwriters, at Frank Brown, back in 1987 and watched as festivals have become de rigueur in Northwest Florida.
Rhody has played at most of them, from Perdido Key near Pensacola to the Blast on the Bay in Gulf County, where Rhody will join more than 40 other songwriters this weekend.
And Blast on the Bay, he said, has the formula down pat, with smaller venues, enthusiastic and passionate crowds and an ambience the others, as they have grown, can’t quite match.
“They’ve done a really good job of keeping that thing from getting too big,” Rhody said by phone from his Nashville home, adding that events in Key West, Las Vegas and, even Frank Brown, have just become too big with too many artists.
They entail too much travel along crowded arteries with far too many performances to fully appreciate.
What Rhody seeks, what has brought him back seven-straight years to Blast on the Bay, is “good listening situations.”
A stage where the audience is close and intimate, a stage where the performer and his or her guitar and microphone is fully appreciated.
In this case, size does matter.
“I tour all over the country playing,” Rhody said, noting a recent performance before 100 or so people in a small coffeehouse-like venue. “I’ll go anywhere there is a good listening situation.
“You want appreciation more than anything, and the exposure. And the audience, they don’t get any better than Blast on the Bay.”
Blast on the Bay, now in its ninth edition, will bring more artists, 45 at last count, with more venues, 10 spanning from St. Joseph Peninsula and Indian Pass to Mexico Beach, than ever.
It is a celebration, across county lines and dates on the calendar, of the songs and those who penned and crafted them.
The festival will feature a host of Nashville-based artists such as Rhody along with a fair sampling of local favorites such as Bo and Lauren Spring, Charlie and Dana Black, Brian Bowen and Troy Jones.
“That is a unique situation there,” Rhody said. “It’s small, not much travel. Good venues. Great audiences.”
The other aspect that appeals, and this again speaks to management of size, is the performance format, which typically pairs two, three or four songwriters for a show of 90 minutes or so.
The format breaks apart the set lists heard by individual artists at different festivals, bringing an improvisational aspect to each set.
“It’s a totally different thing,” Rhody said. “The crowds love it.
“They get a variety of music and it is just fun. You kind of start playing off each other.”
The artist might arrive with a “group of songs” they intend to play during the festival, but once on stage, with performers trading leads, who knows what might play out.
“I have been up there and not known what I was going to play next,” Rhody said.
That is the alchemy of a festival celebrating the craft.
General admission tickets for Blast on the Bay are $25 and allow entrance into every venue and every performance during the weekend.
There are VIP tickets available for $100 which allow entrance into every venue and performance with additional access to VIP seating and parties.
VIP and general admission seating at each performance is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Blast on the Bay Schedule
Thursday, Oct. 19
6-8 p.m. – VIP Party and Dinner
8 p.m. – Emerging Artist Showcase followed by the John Sutton Band
Friday, Oct. 20
4 p.m. – Hits and Grins
6 p.m. – Dana Black, Charlie Black, Danny Wells
4 p.m. – Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Christina Taylor, Austin Burke
6 p.m. – Aaron Barker, Troy Jones, Walt Aldridge
8 p.m. – Thom Shepherd, Coley McCabe, Tim Buppert
10 p,m. – Tyler Reeve, Kylie Sackley, Karen Waldrup, Jesse Rice
4 p.m. – Pete Sallis, Julia Cole, Erin Ashley
El Governor (CT)
5 p.m. – Jerry Salley, Liz Sharpe, Sam Brooker, Jerusa VanLith
7 p.m. – Bo Spring, Lauren Spring, Jean Nolan
9 p.m. – Jimmy Stanley, Kristen Kelly, Kim Paige
6 p.m. – Alan Rhody, Wil Nance, Brian White
7 p.m. – Earl Bud Lee, Brett Jones, Donny Lowery
10 p.m. – Steve Williams, Jillia Jackson, Brian Bowen
Saturday, Oct. 21
11 a.m. – Songwriters Workshop; Lauren Spring, Will Rambeaux, Austin Burke, Alan Rhody
1 p.m. – Hits and Grins
El Governor (CT)
1 p.m. – Jillia Jackson, Steve Williams, Wil Nance
3 p.m. – Brian White, Pete Sallis, Donny Lowery
Paradise Craft House
2 p.m. – Liz Sharpe, Sam Brooker, Jerusa VanLith
4 p.m. – Jimmy Stanley, Kristen Kelly, Kim Paige
4 p.m. – Tim Buppert, Earl Bud Lee, Jean Nolan
5 p.m. – Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Cristina Taylor, Austin Burke
7 p.m. – Danny Wells, Tyler Reeve, Kylie Sackley
5 p.m. – Bat, Alan Rhody, Brian Bowen
7 p.m. – Erin Ashley, Julia Cole, Bo Spring, Lauren Spring
5 p.m. – Dana Hunt Black, Charlie Black, Jerry Salley
7 p.m. – Aaron Barker, Troy Jones, Walt Aldridge
9 p.m. – Earl Bud Lee, Jesse Rice, Brett Jones, Karen Waldrup
7 p.m. – Hits and Grins
9 p.m. – Liz Sharpe, Sam Brooker, Jerusa VanLith
Sunday, Oct. 22
Thirsty Goat – Gospel Brunch
11 a.m. – Bo Spring, Lauren Spring, Jerry Sallis
Indian Pass Raw Bar
12 p.m. – Charlie Black, Dana Black, Brian White, Danny Wells, Pete Sallis
1:30 p.m. – Will Rambeaux, Sherrie’ Austin, Christina Taylor, Austin Burke, Jean Nolan
3 p.m. – Jerry Salley, Jillia Jackson, Bat, Donny Lowery, Alan Rhody
4:30 p.m. – Aaron Barker, Troy Jones, Walt Aldridge, Wil Nance, Earl Bud Lee
6 p.m. – Tim Buppert, Kim Paige, Tyler Reeve, Kylie Sackley, Steve Williams
7:30 p.m. – Jimmy Stanley, Kristen Kelly, Julia Cole, Erin Ashley
9 p.m. – Jesse Rice, Brett Jones, Karen Waldrup