'Free Fridays' Concert Series kicks off this week with tribute to Clapton

The Gainesville band Buffalo Spoonful, which includes, from left, Brad Bangstad, Kevin Kennedy, Tom Holtz, Mike Boulware and Carolina Boulware, performs a tribute to Eric Clapton with Friday's opening performance of the “Free Fridays” Concert Series.

Submitted photo
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 5:49 p.m.

Music will soon fill the air of downtown Gainesville, as the 2014 “Free Fridays” Concert Series gears up this week with a tribute to Eric Clapton.


'Free Fridays' Concert Series

What: 2014 series opens with Buffalo Spoonful's tribute to Eric Clapton
When: 8-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free
Info: www.gvlculturalaffairs.org

Upcoming shows:
May 9: Steely Dan tribute by The Shambles
May 16: Bob Dylan tribute by Mick Marino & Friends
May 23: Wester Joseph's Stereo Vudu, rock/ska
May 30: Bob Marley tribute by Howard Wapner & Friends
June 6: Little Jake Mitchell & The Soul Searchers, blues
June 13: Cool Corporate Cats, jazz/blues
June 20: De Lions of Jah, reggae
June 27: Bo Diddley tribute by Diddley's family and friends
July 4: All American Song Fest — “A Paynes Prairie Home Companion”
July 11: Morningbell, psychedelic Rock
July 18: Uncle Morty's Rhythm Cream, R&B/pop-rock
July 25: Ricky Kendall & Friends, Americana/blues/folk
Aug. 1: String Kings, classic rock
Aug. 8: R. Mutt Blues Band, blues
Aug. 15: The Irie Ones, reggae
Aug. 22: Fast Lane, R&B/soul/funk
Aug. 29: Crooked Counsel, classic rock
Sept. 5: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tribute by Other Voices
Sept. 12: Heavy Petty, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers tribute
Sept. 19: The Impostors, Beatles tribute band
Sept. 26: Tropix, Latin fusion
Oct. 3: GramFest, Gram Parsons tribute with various artists
Oct. 10: Relics & Erasables, Woodstock-era music and originals
Oct. 17: Dixie Desperados, Southern country rock
Oct. 24: UF School of Music Ensembles, world music

David Ballard, events coordinator for the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, says he chose Mike Boulware's group Buffalo Spoonful to open the series because of the caliber of musicianship he's capable of.

“Mike always puts together a special concert just for the plaza and brings in such talented musicians,” he says.

Boulware, a veteran Gainesville musician, says Bo Diddley Community Plaza audiences will be treated to songs from Clapton's entire catalog, beginning with his work in The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Blues Breakers and continuing through his years with Cream, Blind Faith and his later solo work. He says the group will perform nearly half of the 1967 Cream album “Disraeli Gears” as well as hits like “I Feel Free,” “White Room,” “Crossroads,” “After Midnight,” and the original, electric version of “Layla.”

“'I Feel Free' and a lot of the Cream songs were challenging because they didn't perform these versions live,” he says. “We're doing as close to the album version as we can. We're adding more musicians, like my son and daughter, for the overdubbed parts.”

He says Clapton's music still speaks to audiences today because its roots are in the blues.

“The blues are universal and timeless,” Boulware says. “Everyone gets sad sooner or later. And everyone feels better when they hear it happens to someone else.”

He hopes young audiences not familiar with names like Eric Clapton, who is the only artist to be inducted three times into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will discover such songs and cherish them.

“I hope they hear music that stirs something in them, and they trace it back to its roots,” he says, “Everyone needs to understand what a rich period of music we've come from in America.”

Ballard says the “Free Fridays” series, which he renamed six years ago when it was called “Let's Go Downtown,” has grown steadily to now host crowds of a couple thousand for some performances. This year's season runs through Oct.24, for a total of 26 performances.

“We have such an incredible music community in Gainesville and such support for that community,” he says.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the naming of the Downtown Plaza, and the June 27 show will feature a tribute to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and former Gainesville resident Bo Diddley by his family, friends and former bandmates. Other highlights include tributes to Steely Dan (May 9), Bob Dylan (May 16), Bob Marley (May 30) and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Sept. 5).

Crowd favorites like the Beatles tribute band The Impostors and local psychedelic-soul outfit Morningbell also will return. The season will end with a world music showcase by student ensembles from the University of Florida School of Music.

Ballard says the “Free Fridays” series cements the role of the Bo Diddley Community Plaza as a cultural hub for Gainesville residents.

“It's a gathering place where people share a community,” he says. “It lends to the growth and revitalization of downtown and helps make Gainesville such a great place to live.”

The Free Fridays concert series begins Friday at 8 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.

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