Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jeff Vitolo & The Quarter Mile Rebels…Revving Up The Tampa Bay Music Scene

Like Don Henley, Phil Collins, and Dave Grohl, Jeff Vitolo has joined the ranks of these seasoned artists by taking the role of front and center.  This is something new for this talented and diverse guitarist, and he is tackling it with gusto. Starting his career in the Tampa Bay live local music scene in 1986, Vitolo worked his way through the industry, having the opportunity to work and perform with numerous talented individuals, crews, and set ups. Catching up with this versatile singer, songwriter, guitarist, and DJ, he was happy to spend time for some Q & A, talking about his new project and reflecting on his past endeavors.

Photo Courtesy of JeffVitolo.com
Q: How has your past experience in the music industry brought you to this new direction in your music?

A: I look back on all the bands I’ve been in with great adoration for the experiences and memories I’ve had, and I cannot put a price tag on those experiences. However, growth is necessary as an artist. I was never the type of person to be stuck on one decade. I’m not that same kid. This music now, it’s more convincing, going back to the roots, like southern rock, blues and rockabilly, really reaching out to the roots of Skynard and Ted Nugent with blues-based rock-n-roll like Hendrix, Chuck Berry, and Muddy Waters. They were the first rockers, and by playing roots rock stuff, and not getting hung up on waiting for the record deal, this is me. This is what I am, and where I’m happy. I thought, why not instead of putting a band together, I just put my own name out there and build my own brand, and do my own thing.

Q. How would you describe the sound and the feel of an average Jeff Vitolo & The Quarter Mile Rebels’ show?

A. We are a rock n’ roll revival band with a whole subculture of fans that live within the rockabilly and revival lifestyle. I gravitated towards that market because it is a part of my lifestyle as well, and after nine years it was just time to move on. It’s a breath of fresh air to the music of today, with a surprisingly diverse audience appeal. It’s pretty cool to have the potential for universal appeal, and break down the age barriers. We have grandparents, parents, and the young generation out there moving and grooving with us. Sometimes these kids don’t know who the greats are, and when we cover a Rolling Stones tune or something from Chuck Berry, they don’t realize what they are hearing. There’s a generation of kids these days that are going back and getting into the musical roots, they are sick of what’s being force-fed to them, and we enjoy helping educate them.

Photo Courtesy of JeffVitolo.com

Q. Tell us about the group itself--what brings you all together?

A. The group that I have put together, Talon Balque on drums and vocals, Garrison Collins playing stand-up bass and vocals, Lindey Mercer on harmonica and vocals, Jana Vitolo and Jessica Colon as back-up singers; we are all torn from the same cloth, we think alike in our feelings about this mature new step, and it makes writing and performing a memorable experience. It’s all about this experience because once the money is spent from the gig, that’s all you really have left.

Q. Since forming under a year ago, the band has been busy. What are some of your recent accomplishments?

A. We have had many great opportunities to play several local and regional events just since we started this whole project last year. January was our first gig for the Full Throttle Magazine Florida Motorcycle Expo and later that month we opened for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, and in April came the chance to open for the legendary Dick Dale along with many other performances at various car shows, local festivals and anywhere else we could get our name out to. We released our first single, “Keep On Moving” in March and it’s available on multiple digital distribution sites such as iTunes, Rhapsody, Google Play, Amazon MP3, and many others. We are always working on new material to keep the show fresh and fun.

Q. What is the one thing that sets you apart from other artists out there today?

A. As I have evolved, so has my music. As we move along, I want to continue to do things that are fresh and original, or have a new spin on an old classic. I’m all about yesterday is yesterday, we got that poster on the wall, so tomorrow lets make a new one. The biggest bands are special, there’s no bands that sound the way they do, and that’s also what sets this project apart from anything else. It’s a new picture to be painted as an artist, and if you ain’t paintin’ no new pictures, then you ain’t no artist.

Keep tabs on Jeff and all the Rebel fun at his website, JeffVitolo.com. Check out the pages on our favorite sites, Reverb Nation, Sound CloudFacebook, and Twitter for all the newest news on the band. Be sure to catch Jeff and his Rebels this Friday, September 6, at the grand opening of the Cloud Nine Hooka Lounge in Holiday, Florida. Showtime is 7 pm, so break out your rockabilly gear, grab some friends, go enjoy the music, and tell ‘em Betsy sent ya!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Rebel 5, Bringing the Bad Boys Back To Rock n' Roll!

Formed in the spring of 2009, Rebel 5 is the realization of two of Tampa’s live local music scene’s heavily seasoned musicians’ long road of hard work. Crossing several genres and six decades of rock and roll, this band is steadily growing its fan base both here in the Bay Area and beyond. Frontman Jake Steiner and co-founder Harold Post on bass (both formerly of Tampa based Treason and Boney Fiend), met up with a talented young guitar player, Luke Witkowski and yanked him out of his living room and into his first band. After picking up two other local legends in their own rights, Richard Bateman (Gardy Loo!) on rhythm guitar and Jim Coker (Brutality) on drums, Rebel 5 took on a new edge and a new attitude.

Saturday August 10, 2013, at Tampa’s Silver Dollar Saloon was the first chance for this new sound to be heard in its entirety. Fans, family and friends alike packed the venue, and as the band worked its way through a four-set night, the renewed energy of the band was clearly apparent. Working their way through a catalog of originals and covers done R5 style, the band and everyone present rode the tide of great tunes delivered with the professionalism that twenty plus years’ apiece in the music industry brings. The band is adamant that fan response is the most important goal at every Rebel 5 show. Frontman Steiner states, “At live shows our goal is for the audience to dance and sing along; our top priority is to make the audience part of the show keeping them engaged and involved.”

Rebel 5 Live @ Silver Dollar Tampa 8/10/13 Photo by B. Cooper

The band has completed the recording sessions for their first full-length album set for release in late fall/early winter. Until then, check them out on the usual sites, Facebook, BandmixTwitter and ReverbNation, where you can grab a few free downloads of R5’s original tracks. Rebel 5 will also be making appearances around the Bay Area in the coming months, so keep up with the show calendars for the latest news on one of Tampa’s favorite live local music artists. 

Check out a clip from their most recent show at Silver Dollar Tampa!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Da Purple Ranger: Tampa’s Live Local Music Scene’s Newest Entry To Hip-Hop

Lil Roddy Da Purple Ranger is as offbeat and eccentric as his name implies. This Tampa native has taken his love for the Power Rangers, Lil Kim, and his hip-hop influenced attitude and turned it all into a whole new music experience. A four-song set stretched over the night at Valentine’s Nightclub & Show Bar in Tampa, Florida, recently introduced live local music lovers in the Bay area to this unique offbeat artist.

Lil' Roddy Live @ Valentine's 7/9/13
Photo courtesy of Valentine's
Lil' Roddy began putting rhymes together the same year Lil'Kim went to prison in 2005.  She was one of his idols and the loss of her vocals in the industry affected him. This led to the formation of a group with his two best friends in 2009. They called themselves Rangers in Reality. The group lasted for a few years until the members decided to go their separate ways, leaving Roddy to pursue his solo career. According to Roddy, “I didn't really sit and think hard about purple wigs and things, the character came to me naturally and it is an exaggeration of myself and who I want to be. I take on character roles and costumes because that's my personality. Da Purple Ranger is a Power Ranger, he is a hero, he’s my hero, and he’s the industry hero.” Citing his personal past experiences with bullying as the inspiration for this heroic character, this artist is quick to state his views. “When I was a kid, I never fit in. But over the years, I have learned to embrace the qualities that make me unique. My persona, Lil' Roddy Da Purple Ranger, was born the day I decided to not give a damn about other people’s opinions of me and it is his birthday every time I put on that wig and walk up on the stage to entertain.”

Photo courtesy of Lil Roddy
And entertain he does, switching from melodies and rhymes to beats and raps. This high energy, and go-for-it-all performer is determined to shake up the live local music community with his aggressive performances. Crossing lines, gender bending, and blending the best of his influences in both music and his personal life, he works hard to drive each performance to be better than the last. “I draw on influences from so much in my life that the list may never stop! I hope to inspire others through my style and music and to help break down the barriers of what a real man is supposed to be. I don't feel there should be a set definition of what a person should act like or behave like, each individual should be himself or herself, and go wherever their paths lead them.”

Photo courtesy of Lil' Roddy

Make sure to catch this rising star as he takes on the live local scene now and in the future with his messages of inspiration, confidence and the importance of being true to oneself. Grab some free downloads at Roddy’s Reverb Nation page, and take a moment to introduce yourself to the Purple Ranger. You can also catch up with him on Facebook and Twitter, and as always, in the clubs and venues around Tampa Bay.

Check out live video from Roddy's most recent Tampa performance at Valentine's. Original video by B. Cooper.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mama Gina Live @ Mystikal Scents 7/13/13

Tucked into the corner of a shopping plaza off Fowler Avenue in Thonotosassa, Florida, is a small little known store named Mystikal ScentsA true diamond in the rough, it is a pagan/wiccan metaphysical retail operation that has a little bit of everything for the metaphysical fan. On this warm and muggy July evening, the strains of an Alvarez 12 string acoustic guitar poured out of the doorway of this unique shop, and was soon followed by the voice of a long-time songstress and storyteller, known as Mama Gina. Her blues-driven folk music with pagan styled lyrics weaves storied journeys, which take listeners down paths the singer has tread in her past connections with nature and the energy of the world.

Even though Mama Gina is still a fresh name to the music and pagan community, this talented lady got her start many years ago in her hometown of Tampa, Florida. After spending much time on the road singing and playing at many locales, she settled down in the land of palm trees, her roots, and has spent time with other local artists. All of this was building to a new evolution for the artist, “I stopped singing, I needed a break. I felt like I had lost my voice, not my physical voice but my heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to play in bars anymore, it wasn’t the vibe I was looking for.” During a 2009 camping trip to a festival in the Ozarks, Mama Gina had only her tent, a drum and nothing but nature around her.  With that background as inspiration, she found her voice and began singing and writing once again but on a new path. Describing her new sound,Mama Gina is quick to point out the source of her freedom with genres, “Vocally, I get to do whatever I want to with the music. If I write something that sounds bluesy I get to sing it bluesy, if I write something hip-hop influenced, I get to channel that energy, if I do something that sounds like country, I can perform it that way. I don’t get pigeonholed into any one sound anymore.”

Photo by B.L. Cooper
The many performances, tweaking and recording has produced her first full-length release, Goddess Kiss’d and this special night at Mystikal Scents was also the official CD release party.  The singer spend the better part of two hours entrancing her audience with her music, spurning laughter, love and at times even tears, as we journeyed with her down the road singing of birth, life, unity, and even a celebration of those lost to us. Switching easily from guitar to djembe to two different frame drums, the music and the voice blend went in all different ways for each song, with each as diverse and different as the last. Seemingly one with the instruments and the songs, she performs music that touches the heart. When asked about personal growth she states, “I think I’ve grown as a songwriter, I’m really staying true to the stuff that is literally falling out of me. I don’t want to sound all “frou-frou” and and say ‘oh I’m channeling it’, but the fact is that words are falling out of me and I’m not having to do very much. I’ve done a lot of work on my craft and now my craft is doing the work for me.”

And working it is, making this artist another must-see to add to any music fan’s list. Mama Gina has many upcoming shows both around Florida and around the country, make sure to check in with her on ReverbNation and Facebook for the latest show and festival dates. Grab a few free downloads while you’re there; also look for the new record on your favorite digital distribution sites, CD Baby, iTunes, Rhapsody and many more.

Mama Gina with Pearl of Mystikal Scents
Photo by: B.L. Cooper

Upcoming Shows:

Saturday, July 20, 2013
The Raven Faerie
Lakeland, FL

Friday, August 9, 2013
GreenSong 2013
Winchester, VA

Check out Mama Gina's "Waking Panther" from the CD release party, performed with an 18" synthetic head frame drum, using the hollow of the drum to amplify the voice. Original video by B.L. Cooper.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Taking The Expert's Advice To Heart

Based on Ms. Cockerton’s advice, changes to the company business plan include taking the expert’s words about defining the target market to heart, and further defining my business plan. In an effort to directly target a unique niche market that is growing by leaps and bounds, the LGBT community, the marketing and staffing requirements also change. This community needs more audio and event companies that will provide superior service that at it’s core, addresses the specific social needs of their events. Cockerton’s advice to make sure that the team is talented, while already implemented must now be re-defined to include the needs of this new niche market that the company is leaning towards.

In order to ensure the best place fit for an LGBT event, our crew must be as dedicated to filling their roles not only as our employees but also as part of a company that fully supports the community. Based in the southeast, that need is further exacerbated by its location making complete background and security checks necessary prior to a new crewmember joining this special team. This not only ensures the safety and comfort of our clients and artists but also prevents the reputation of the company and it’s officers from suffering any damage of an event not handled well.

According to both Cockerton and the second expert chosen, David McShea, the most first and most important thing that investors will be looking for is how the company will make money, and how fast they will see a return on their investment. At the heart of investing is the desire on the investor’s part to make money, not to provide charity. In order to garner a first glance from the right people, it is most important to highlight thoroughly and clearly how the company will make money, along with proper growth calculations of the first three years of operation. The other important things investors will look for is professionalism, realistic planning, and well-considered financials (Cockerton). All of these elements must be in place in order to inspire confidence when seeking any type of financial help for a new venture.