Better Than: Before.
The Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA), in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and produced by the Rhythm Foundation, kicked off its 2009 concert series at Bayfront Park last night with two acclaimed young local acts, Rachel Goodrich and Jacob Jeffries.
Both crooners were recently featured in a New York Times article on Miami's resurfacing music scene, heralded as impetuses of change toward global recognition of the city's typically lukewarm image.
Speaking of change, if you haven't been downtown in a year or two you won't recognize the place. All those half-finished condo buildings are pretty much finished, and starting to fill up with people. Hence the need for positive family-friendly events like this free concert series. And Bayfront Park is more magical than ever, especially around sunset, right on the water with all the cruise and cargo ship action, dolphins and seagulls, etc. It's really a perfect setting for this kind of fun event.
Goodrich and her tastefully minimalist band opened the show, back-dropped by massive buildings and an amazing fading sky. Audience members sat in chairs or on the pavement in front of the pavilion stage, singing, dancing and bobbing along. Goodrich aptly calls her sound "Shake-a-billy," blending rock-a-billy with folk and country and jazz and whatever else falls into the mix. Guitars, percussion, ukuleles, kazoos -- whatever it is, it works. You can see why the Times calls her Miami's next rising star.
A half hour before the shows 5:30 curtain time, the park was practically deserted, but once the music started, people seemed to come out of the woodwork. Nice move on the organizers' part, by the way, offering catering and a stocked bar. Plenty of mouth-watering cups of cold European beer were sipped, adding to the overall level of enjoyment, no doubt. And the weather was amazing as well. Eat your heart out wintry America; we are wearing shorts in the park after dark down here.
Keyboardist/pianist/songwriter/singer/musician extraordinaire Jacob Jeffries, 20, wrapped up the show with a dynamic performance that displayed impressive maturity in sound and songwriting. His three-piece band produced a remarkably full sound, belting out tunes reminiscent of days passed, with a modern edge. An obvious Beatles influence is evident, affirmed by Jeffries T-shirt choice; also Queen, James Taylor, even Fleetwood Mac come to mind. The 45-minute performance was fluid and didn't drag on. Songs ranged from slower ballads to piano-driven, radio-rock sing-alongs. Jeffries' guitarist Jimmy Powers is another young player to keep an eye on. With a name like that, how could a rocker go wrong? He pulls off the seventies hair and wardrobe style too, authenticating it all with confident and stylish stage presence and guitar playing. One can't help but feel the energy these kids are bringing.
Personal Bias: Weather this time of year on the Bay will make just about anything pleasant.
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Random Details: Longtime park residents are wont to participate in the jubilation. Odors included.
By the Way: Upcoming second-Friday concerts in the series include:
- Friday, February 13: Chana
- Friday, March 13: DJ Le Spam & The Spam Allstars
- Friday, April 10: Conjunto Progresso with special guest Arturo Sandoval