A chilly Saturday night in Florida might have kept some Blues music enthusiasts home from attending the spectacular Blues concert at Hough Hall at the Palladium Theater in downtown St Petersburg, Florida on the St. Petersburg College campus. Still, the venue’s 850 seats were almost filled to capacity to see and hear the bands, Southern Hospitality and the Backtrack Blues Band. The Palladium was built in 1925 as a church of the First Church of Christ, Scientist. The building was sold in 1998 including the 1926 Skinner organ and was renovated to host musical and theatrical performances.
The Backtrack Blues Band took the stage at 8:00pm and immediately hit the ground running with their style of Chicago/Texas style Blues. Founded in 1980, this group of well seasoned Blues-men have shared the stage with such legends as Johnny Winter, Gregg Allman, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, BB King, and so many more. Sonny Charles took his place center stage and delighted the crowd with his Blues harmonica playing and soulful vocals. After a couple of songs, the stage got a bit more crowded as two ladies came on stage to sing back-up vocals to really fill out the Chicago vibe. It was as if the audience was sitting in Blue Chicago itself.
Their set was short, only 40 minutes, but it was filled with the energy of a tight band that have been playing together over 40 years. The Backtrack Blues Band are winners of the “Coolest Blues Song of 2019” Contest run by Detroit’s Big City Blues Magazine for the song “Best Friend’s Grave.” These musicians call the Tampa Bay region of Florida their home!
Little Johnny Walter – Guitar
Jeff “Stick” Davis – Bass
Joe Bencomo – Drums
Sonny Charles – Vocals/Harmonica
Kid Royal – Guitar
After a 20-minute intermission complete with complimentary Christmas cookies in the theater’s lobby, the Blues fans filed back into the general admission seating and found their places for the night’s main attraction, Southern Hospitality. This band is comprised of the outstanding Blues solo artists that joined together for the first time back in 2011 to bring the Blues world a jammed-packed and entertaining show.
Damon Fowler is from Brandon, Florida and is know in the music word as a lap steel guitar master who has released nine solo albums. J.P Sours, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida is an extraordinary guitarist that has won the 2009 International Blues Challenge and has released six solo albums. Rounding out these all stars is Georgian keyboard wizard, Victor Wainwright. Wainwright has won countless Blues awards and has recorded and released seven solo albums himself. The other two musicians of the rhythm section on the stage were Terrence Grayson (bass) from the band, “Victor Wainwright and The Train“, and Chris Peet (drums) from “J.P. Soars and the Red Hots.”
The three solo artists traded the lead back and forth all night long. The pure joy of performing together was easily seen and felt. The energy transcended throughout the theater as the side and back aisles were transformed into the dance floor. All three of these solo artists would have been great on their own and well worth the amount of admission, but with all three at the same time on the same stage, the chemistry was just magical. From the artistry of Soars on guitar, Wainwright’s crazy ability on the keys and his infectious smile, to Fowler’s ability to hold this locomotive together, this was a show I will always remember and make it a point to follow them in all their solo endeavors and absolutely checkout Southern Hospitality when possible. This show reminded me of when I witnessed Johnny Winter, James Cotton, and Muddy Waters on the same stage. Incredible musicians sharing their talents with a highly appreciative audience, it was Pure Magic!
Damon Fowler – Guitar/Vocals/Lap Steel Guitar
J.P. Soars – Guitar/Vocals
Victor Wainwright – Keyboards
Chris Peet – Drums
Terrence Grayson – Bass
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