Trop Rockin’ In The USA Takes Part In Annual Jimmy Buffett Parrothead Party
Each year, thousands of trop rock fans flock to Key West to enjoy Meeting of the Minds, a Jimmy Buffett fan club convention that was started by Jerry and Mary Diaz in New Orleans 27 years ago.
Although Meeting of the Minds “proper,” as I like to call it, takes place at the Casa Marina Hotel, this blog will focus on the events outside the walls of the Casa Marina. These events are not officially part of MOTM (Meeting Of The Minds), but are something special in their own right. They combine to form a trop rock music festival that takes place at virtually every bar on the small island. Before I go any further, I’ll explain, to the best of my ability, what this thing called “trop rock” actually is.
“Trop rock” music consists of a broad spectrum of music types. The description also varies depending on who you ask, and sometimes, when you ask. A trop rock song sometimes may sound “country”. Sometimes it may be “rock”, “reggae”, “Caribbean”, or even a ballad. A recent movie release, Chasing the Sun, defines trop rock as this: “A genre of popular music that incorporates elements of Rock & Roll, Country, Caribbean, Reggae or other musical genres to create a laid-back or escapist state of mind.” That is how I would describe it. It is music that helps you escape from the ordinary, day-to-day grind. It takes you to the beach. It may take you to happy hour at your favorite bar, if only in your mind.
Bamboo Bob, the Trop Rock DJ character in the movie Chasing the Sun says it best when he said: “It’s whatever the hell you want it to be as long as it gets you out of the rat race into to your own tropical paradise. Any song that does that…..” Mike Nash also has a great quote in Chasing the Sun about trop rock, “You hate your job right? You like to drink right? Let me introduce you to something that will change your life.”
This event brings about 5,000 folks to the island of Key West to enjoy this type of music taking place all over the island for almost a week around the first weekend of November every year. This event is well known not just among the established trop rock musicians, but also the artists that may be considering getting into the genre, and want to network with others in the industry to gain contacts to move their careers forward. Another fantastic by-product of this trop rock music festival is the fans of this genre simply appreciate good music. Some artists on the “trop rock” tour don’t really have “escapism” songs; they may be bluesy, country, Americana…. But, what they do have is a talent of producing great entertaining music that the “trop rock” fans appreciate.
Although technically this is a three day weekend event, the party stretches nearly a week. Beginning Tuesday afternoon the bars begin to fill with the early arrivers. The trop rock fans begin to arrive on the island and begin to congregate at the bars along Old Town Key West. You can see the transition in Key West from Fantasy Fest, the big event prior to MOTM as the flamboyant and erotic costumes people wear along Duval Street change to brightly colored flowered Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats.
One of the first stops for many is Margaritaville Café. This past Meeting of the Minds the powerful duo Drop Dead Dangerous packed the venue to standing room only all week. The first of their shows that week was their CD release party for their newest project Roadside Attraction. This show was broadcast live on Radio Trop Rock. (Roadside attraction is Available at www.WeAreDropDeadDangerous.com) . They played each night as Drop Dead Dangerous “Loaded” which means they add drums, bass, and fiddle to complete the band. They also added a saxophone player for a few of their shows.
Sam and Gina Densler of Songwriter’s Island Radio hosted events late into each evening at Willy T’s. This is a unique venue that has a stage almost on Duval Street. The venue is open air, and the stage is separated from the sidewalk only by a rod iron fence. Sam brings in some of the top talent in town for the event. It’s a fast paced format having musicians jump on stage for just 2 or 3 songs, then the next artist jumps on. The magic of this is there are so many musicians “in the wings” many times each artist’s time on stage carries over with the next.
This results in “jam sessions” with artists that rarely play together, but obviously appreciate each other’s music. For those that are not musicians, you have to look at these “jam sessions” and assume they’ve played together hundreds of times and had many rehearsals, yet they have not.
Andy Forsyth with Beachfront Radio holds a similar show just down the island from Willy T’s at The Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. It’s a multiple day revolving door of several artists coming through to entertain those in attendance. The first day Donny Brewer, the Trop Rock Music Association Entertainer of the Year, hosted the event. Donny does a great job of accompanying the artists that jump on stage for their short set. Donny also has a knack for pairing up musicians for interesting combinations.
Danny Lynn with Tiki Man Radio, has a multi-day event at the Tiki House. Danny has Key West local Brian Fields host the event. This year they had forty eight artists take their turns on stage. The Tiki House is right next door to the world famous Captain Tony’s which had the former Trop Rock Music Association Band of the Year, fronted by Mike Miller, hosting the music for the week. Just down the street from the Tiki House, and Captain Tony’s the “grandfather of trop rock” Brent Burns was hosting a similar show at Island Dogs.
Their were also more traditional shows going on to include the Southern Drawl Band performing at the Key West Theater most of the week. Just a little farther up Duval Street Catamaran Concerts always hosts one-of-a-kind music events throughout the week. This year those included a Beatles Tribute Show hosted by Jimi Pappas. They also had “Fools on Stools” for the third year in a row. This show is part music, party comedy, and all fun.
This year’s “fools” were Brent Burns, Donny Brewer, Thom Shepherd and Stoney Gable. It’s an audience participation show since “Vanna” (Gina Babin) keeps score on stage as the audience’s roar lets her know when to give a point to one of the “fools” after they’ve delivered a worthy zinger. Another Catamaran Concert show that was very popular this year was Donny Brewer’s Blues Revue.
This show was broadcast live on Radio Trop Rock and had Donny with most of his Dock Rocker Band play a more bluesy side. It also included visits from various trop rock musicians allowing them to show their talent for playing the blues. Donny started the show with a few songs in which he explained the blues, and why each song was considered that genre.
He also required each band member to discuss key, tempo, etc on the microphones so the audience could hear the terms and communication bands use to help each other know how to play the next song. You see, this is another time you’ve got musicians on stage playing together that have not rehearsed. This is great example of the level of talent you see during the week. These guys and girls don’t need to read sheet music, or even rehearse… they feel the music and can follow along sounding as if they’ve been playing together for years.
Another big draw for the week are sunset cruises that include a trop rock artist or band along with complimentary beer, wine and margaritas along with finger foods. Jerry Diaz is one that does a great job of bringing in guest musicians to join him on these. Jerry’s cruises are always “the ticket” to get when folks are making their plans for the week. Jon Burns of Pirates & Poets Songwriter Showcases also hosts a couple of shows at First Flight. These showcase the “songwriter” aspect of the artists in Key West.
Sunday at the Blue Heaven is the unofficial “end” to the festival. James “Sunny Jim” White hosts multiple musicians as they all take turns playing from the “water tower”. People begin showing up early for the fantastic breakfast Blue Heaven is famous for. They then stick around to enjoy hours of music from their favorite trop rock musicians. You never know who will show up on that water tower. It’s a mellow show which allows you to ease out of the “party” atmosphere you’ve been experiencing all week in Key West.
Writing this I have to be sure to share the overall feeling for this week in Key West. It is much more than just a “music festival.” It’s a chance for like minded people to get together to celebrate their love not only for trop rock music, but also for the artists that perform for them all over the country. Even more for each of us to reconnect in a tropical location with people we’ve become close friends with at other trop rock music events. We may have made friends with someone at an event in Olympia Washington a few years ago and haven’t seen them since… but we reconnect over a cold beer at a warm bar listening to our favorite trop rock artist.
The events, bars, venues, bands, musicians mentioned above are a small part of all the activity taking place throughout the island. There is no way I could mention every one of them. The purpose of this particular blog is to get you to consider joining us in Key West the very end of October and beginning of November 2019 for this amazing trop rock music festival. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you want additional information or advice regarding the fun!
For details on “trop rock” music and the genre visit www.TropRock.org
I invite you to check out these internet radio stations to hear more:
RADIO TROP ROCK (full disclosure – the writer of this blog, owns Radio Trop Rock)
SONGWRITERS ISLAND RADIO
Tiki Man Radio
Shore Life Radio
Tiki Pod Radio
Palapa Mac Radio