At the Fogartyville, it’s always a beautiful day in the neighborhood — especially when there's a new concert series.
Fogartyville. Even the name sounds neighborly. It conjures up images of a small town like Mayberry or a cool district like Haight-Ashbury or maybe even Walden Pond. In actuality, it’s a community center.
You can find this welcoming watering hole on a quiet side street of the Rosemary District. It’s connected to the WSLR radio station, but the connection is more than physical. They’re two sides of the same organizational coin, as inseparable as yin and yang. WSLR creates community in the airwaves; Fogartyville draws people together in real life. It’s been doing it since birth.
The venue’s first incarnation was the Fogartyville Café in Bradenton. It actually took its name from a nearby cemetery, but it was a lively place. Sadly, the cafe closed in 2007, but co-founders David Beaton and Arlene Sweeting launched its Sarasota reincarnation in 2013. They gave it a new name, too. Officially, it’s the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center. If you’re curious about the mission statement, it’s all right there.
But don’t let the long name fool you. This watering hole doesn’t put on airs. It’s a cozy, air-conditioned space with art on the walls, exposed beams and a ceiling sprayed with sound-absorbing polyurethane. Up at the front, they sell beer, wine and soda with occasional light bites from a food truck. A wide range of community events and art happenings is also on the menu. And music.
The musicians and genres are as eclectic as the funky tables and chairs that fill the place.
“People ask if we do country music,” Sweeting says. “My reply is sure. What country?”
Fogartyville’s line-up backs this up. A short list includes Tumbledown House (jazz in a key of pub-crawling), Renesito Avich (a master of Cuba’s three-stringed tres guitar) and Dirty Cello (blues and bluegrass).
It’s a gumbo of genres. Tonight’s flavor is folk. It’s Sarasota Folk Club’s first monthly concert at Fogartyville. The club was looking for a new home and found it here. Judging by the packed house, it looks like the start of a beautiful friendship.
Deserie & Jim is the featured folk band. That name unpacks to Deserie Valloreo and Jim Gilmour. The St. Petersburg-based duo plays a bluesy, contemporary folk groove. A happy, folky crowd has come to hear them. But first, they will lend their ears to the open mic performers.
Mindy Simmons takes the stage to start the show. She’s a beloved singer-songwriter in her own right, but she’s doing emcee duty tonight. Simmons nods to the crowd like they’re all old friends. Smiles of warm recognition shine back at her.
“How are you all doing?”
Big applause and a few whistles. Evidently, they’re all doing great.
Six folk acts step up to the mic. These acoustic musicians tell tales, harmonize, crack jokes and sing from the heart. The audience seems to dig it. The folk club crowd is a civilized bunch. They don’t talk over the performers or huddle in private conversation. Eyes front, mouths closed, hands holding cellphones to capture the moment on video. This is a 21st century crowd after all.
The crowd lingers after the concert, a mix of Folk Club regulars and Fogartyville die-hards. Members of the two communities chat, share notes and get to know one another. Strangers become neighbors before the night is done.
In the friendly place called Fogartyville, it happens all the time.