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"I don't know how to drive a commercial boat and I don't know how to clean a pelican," says singer Loretta James, left. "But I can organize a concert and play music." Photo by Hal Moore
Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Local musicians organize Gulf benefit concert

by: Heidi Kurpiela Contributing Writer

It used to be when you organized a concert, you blanketed a city with fliers. You plastered the walls in coffee shops, bookstores and bus stops with papers boasting your band lineup. It was time-consuming, but effective.

These days, you do it on Facebook.

It’s how Loretta James got Anna Maria Island’s Save the Gulf benefit concert off the ground.

“It actually started a few weeks after the spill,” James says. “A friend of mine (Jeff Van Praag, from the local band, Not Tuna) posted something on Facebook asking ‘Where are all the ‘Save the Gulf’ concerts?’
And I commented back, ‘Let’s do one.’ I figured it would be him and me giving a few bucks to Save Our Seabirds or something.”

James, a Cortez resident and frontwoman for The Loretta James Band, had no idea it would explode so quickly.

She created a Facebook page for a benefit concert on Anna Maria Island, pegging it simply: “Save the Gulf.” When she went to bed that night the page had two fans: herself and Van Praag. The next morning, the page had 500 fans and James had 50 e-mails in her inbox from people and bands asking how they could help.

“It just sort of ballooned into this huge event,” James says.

In the months following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the blues singer began scouting for local bands willing to play for free. As more and more acts signed on, it became apparent the concert would have to stretch over multiple days and multiple stages.

“Everybody just jumped on board and said, ‘Let’s do a big thing,’” James says. “What it really comes down to is that we really want to help the people who depend on the water for their living. We’re really hoping to create a fisherman’s relief fund out of this, something to help pay for groceries and bills.”

Since few Sarasota and Bradenton fishermen have been affected by the spill, organizers chose to give all proceeds to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.) to go toward the creation of a fishermen’s relief fund.

Despite the fact that media coverage of the spill has petered out in the last few months, James views the concert as an opportunity to thrust the issue back into the public view.

Scheduled for Nov. 19 to Nov. 21, at Holmes Beach City Hall Park, the concert features 22 bands, ranging from rock and blues bands to acoustic singer/songwriter acts, cover bands and country acts.

Musicians will perform on two stages set up at each end of the park. The marine education pavilion will be located at the center of the activity, surrounded by food vendors.

There will be no admission charge, but donations for F.I.S.H will be collected at the gate.

“I think it’s a good time to remind people that this is far from over yet,” James says. “The oil disaster didn’t end when the well was capped.”


Save the Gulf runs 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21. Bands include Razing Cane, Dakota Rose featuring Henry Lawrence, Steve Arvey, Not Tuna, The Loretta James Band, The Smokin’ Bones, Kip DeBellevue, R.J. Howson, The Island Rockers, Kachina Bluestar, Melanie Massell & Hot Item, Will Scott, Shaarda, Shineola, Another Roadside Attraction, The Smokin’ J’s, Bud Buckley, James Cademan, Vanessa Chastain, Fogt’s Jr. Allstars and The YaHoo’s.

For more information, visit

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected].


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