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    Concert series heats up Friday nights

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published June 22, 2001


    There are three good reasons to attend Clearwater's summer concert series: A. It's free. B. The music is good. C. No one will yell at you for bringing a cooler -- providing it doesn't contain alcohol.

    For 13 years the city of Clearwater has put on the event featuring six varied acts spread over six steamy Fridays through July 27.

    This year the entertainment will be provided by Orquesta Infinidad, a Latin group; jazz singer Fred Johnson; Joe Bruno's Dixieland Hot Dogs, Dixieland jazz; the Barracudas, 1960s and '70s rock; Cheeky Monkee, 1980s and '90s rock; and Spy vs. Spy, island music.

    "Based on the weather and the band, we usually have 1,500 to 3,000 people" at each performance, said Terry Schmidt, parks and recreation department event producer.

    Melissa Brahm, a 24-year Clearwater resident, said she and her family are usually among them.

    "When my kids were little, it was a really nice thing to do, and it didn't cost a thing," she said. "On Friday nights, I really don't want to cook. It's just so pleasant sitting at Coachman Park, and the music -- what could be better?"

    Schmidt said that while Fred Johnson is a crowd favorite, Orquesta Infinidad "is probably going to be the bigger draw.".

    "It appeals to everybody," Schmidt said.

    Especially for those who like their music as hot as a summer night in Florida, the 11-member band may fit the bill.

    Their sound is pure Latin America, with heaps of salsa, merengue, cumbia and romanicas.

    They have two vocalists, a section of trumpets, trombone, flute and sax, a bass player, keyboard player and three percussionists.

    On June 29, Fred Johnson, a jazz vocalist and vice president of education and humanities at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, will sing, followed by Joe Bruno's Dixieland Hot Dogs on July 6.

    If you don't know anything about the Dogs, here's some info: It's a 10-year-old band which started in Sarasota. Its sound comes from clarinet, trombone, banjo, bass and drums.

    If you like British invasion-era rock by the likes of The Beatles, The Kinks, The Animals, the Beach Boys and the Rascals, you might like the Barracudas, a band that will play the summer series July 13.

    The local four-member oldies act which has shared the stage with such greats as Ray Charles, The Association and Steppenwolf, provides a decidedly vintage sound.

    On July 20, the band Cheeky Monkee, a rock band from St. Petersburg, will do familiar songs and originals. The last band on the summer series line up is Spy vs. Spy, a local reggae band that specializes in soca, cadance, calypso and Top 40 sounds.

    Schmidt encourages concertgoers to bring blankets, chairs and coolers full of picnic lunches and soda. No alcohol will be sold at these family-oriented concerts.

    But that's okay with the crowds, he said.

    "After 13 years, people look forward to the Friday concert series," said Schmidt. "It's a Friday-evening-watch-the-sunset-free concert."

    Said Brahm: "It's why we moved to Florida in the first place."

    If you go

    The St. Petersburg Times/Clearwater Free Summer Concert Series will be from 7 to 9 p.m. each Friday from today through July 27 at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. Here's the lineup: today, Orquesta Infinidad; June 29, Fred Johnson; July 6, Joe Bruno's Dixieland Hot Dogs; July 13, Barracudas; July 20, Cheeky Monkee; and July 27, Spy vs. Spy. Coolers allowed, but no alcohol.

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