In Florida, Hometeam refers to a collective of musicians, promoters, engineers and fans who have formed a truly remarkable family bond. That bond evidences itself at festivals such Hometeam New Year’s Rally, The Great Outdoors Jam, and Orange Blossom Jamboree. Geographically, it is centered around the Tampa Bay area, but musicians from all over the state are part of that family.
Friday evening (July 28th) at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa was billed as the Hometeam All-Stars, with more than 20 musicians interwoven between two sets. The All-Stars played the second set, but they had to play their collective asses off to match the world-class next-level set delivered by Este Loves. You may accuse me of hyperbole, but I stand by both of those descriptions.
Este Loves is a fireball singer who plays acoustic guitar. She has been delighting Hometeam crowds for years, including memorable performances the past two years at The Great Outdoors Jam, and nobody there can forget the 19-member choir she organized at OBJ in May for Este Loves’ Church.
Joining her were Dennis Stadelman (Sonic Stew, guitar, vocals), Dani Jaye (Come Back Alice, fiddle, vocals), Juan ? (Dre, bass), Yral ‘datdudeondrums’ Morris (Come Back Alice, Joose, drums), Juanjamon (The Juanjamon Band, keyboards, tenor sax, vocals), and ? (vocals).
Those who had never seen Este before were blown away. But that applies to those of us already familiar: she took it to the next level, big time. This truly was a world-class performance, and it got better with each successive tune. After MC PK, introduced her, the band jumped into a powerful opener in “We Can Go Together.” The vocals were absolutely on point. Este and Ashley work so beautifully together, and the male voices kicked it up another notch. On 2, Stadelman and Jaye traded excellent solos back and forth. Stadelman was at the top of his game the entire evening, with wonderful, meaningful solos and some great shredding as well.
“We Do Our Own Thing” was a funkified romp, Jaye stepping out first before Nook added raps to Este’s singing, and finally Juanjamon crushed a synthesizer solo. Jaye, Stadelman and Juanjamon (tenor sax) all took turns before Jaye duelled it out with Juan on bass. Suddenly a choir appeared on stage, with Jenelle Bean (who organizes Hometeam with husband Cody), Jillian Melucci (one of the best festival masterminds ever), and [several others for a gorgeous song.
What followed was one of those WOW moments, as the band lit up “A Little Life Under the Moonlight.” It was stunning, from the initial vocal duet to all voices and then solos from Jaye, Isaac Corbitt (where’d he come from?) on harp, then both of them trading fours, Nook for a quick rap, and then titanic funk. With a capital T. Este closed with her magnificent composition “I Just Want to Come Inside Your Mind.”
Let me point out that Este Loves returns to Skipper’s Smokehouse on August 12 along with Stadelman’s Sonic Stew and Damon Fowler. You might just put that one on your calendar. In ink.
It was clear that the second set of Hometeamers, the alleged All-Stars, had their work cut out for them, because our minds were already blown. They rose to the occasion with lots of fan favorites and several deluxe blasts from the past.
This amalgam included the aforementioned Stadelman, Morris, and Juanjamon. Added to those three were Shannon Biss (Applebutter Express, vocals), Kyle Biss (Applebutter Express, ukulele, vocals), Kenny Harvey (Holey Miss Moley, bass), Tony Tyler (Come Back Alice, The Tony Tyler Band, guitar, vocals), Jimmy Rector (Come Back Alice, Joose, percussion), and Isaac Corbitt (Harp Smoke, harp).
What better way to start a set than “Give Up the Funk (We Want the Funk)” with Kyle on lead ukulele! Juanjamon blew some wicked sax and Tyler evil slide guitar on a smokin’ hot version with a great cold ending. Juanjamon was responsible for the next insanity with “Same Difference/ Can I Tell You” that eventually veered into “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang’.” He played tenor again, and Stadelman and Corbitt also blasted off.
For many Hometeamers, home away from home is the righteous Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, where many of these musicians have played a variety of festivals and where many of us have reveled with them. So there was joy all around when Kyle and Shannon led the troops into their Applebutter Express homage “Wanee Trippin’,” absolute shitkicker style, high octane, and that led, gloriously, into “Suwannee River Scrubdown,” one of the best-loved songs by CopE, one of Florida’s jam kings before they went separate ways. Stadelman and Juanjamon comprised half of CopE, so this was heavenly.
Come Back Alice, about to release a new album, have been thrilling fans with a new tune titled “Love is the Answer,” on which Tyler, Morris and Rector led the way. Tyler wailed on guitar and sang with that gospel/jam voice, Corbitt took a shot at it, and Harvey and Morris had a great go-‘round. Then Tyler came back, scat-singing jazz in unison with his guitar.
Suddenly, things seemed to go all prog rock, and out flew “Eminence Front,” with Stadelman on vocal. Nook delivered a couple of quick raps, and the song bent into “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near),” then back to “Eminence Front” before going Latin, Juanjamon on tenor, Rector on percussion, and Tyler guitar. Next, they blasted Holey Miss Moley’s “Devil Funk,” one that band’s monster funk outings.
There was a great pivot at this point into a really scorching version of “Eleanor Rigby,” followed by “Don’t Bring Me Down.” The power of the vocals — Stadelman, Tyler, Biss & Biss, and Juanjamon — was deluxe. They threw in a romping “The Shape I’m In,” Juanjamon handling the important organ passages. Juanjamon then grabbed the bass as Michael ‘Thunderfoot’ Garrie jumped on kit for Juanjamon Band favorite “Booty,” done up very nicely.
Tyler returned to gospel/jam vocals as he led the band through a quartet of Sly and the Family Stone gems, beginning with “Everyday People.” That moved into “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” with an easy morph into “Sing a Simple Song” and finally “I Wanna Take you Higher.” That funk was deeper than deep.
They dialed back the intensity for the great CopE ballad “Goin’ Home,” Stadelman’s vocal out front. Corbitt took a nice turn on this one. Then Tyler, surveying the clock (11:50), observed that this would be the last tune. He encouraged us to “sing along.” Juanjamon observed, “I just learned this one.”
So of course they played the number one song in the CopE canon, “Shake Anything.” Talk about smiles all around for those who had seen this performed live before! HELL, YES!
Online comments continue to express the same thoughts: we are phenomenally blessed by the amazing music in Hometeam and Florida, and we are blessed to have such an amazing family of reminds to share the music with. There were countless hugs all around, and that will never change.
P.S. I kvetch about sound a lot, but last night was spot-on perfect — volume and balance. Bravo!
[ESTE: We Can Go Together (Changes), 2?, We Do Our Own Thing, 4?, 5?, A Little Life Under the Moonlight, I Want You to Come Inside My Mind]
[HOMETEAM: Give Up the Funk (We Want the Funk), Same Difference/ Can I Tell You > Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang, Wanee Trippin’, Suwannee River Scrubdown, Love is the Answer, Where is My Mind, Eminence Front > I Keep Forgettin’, Devil Funk, The End is Coming, Shit Ain’t Illegal, Eleanor Rigby, Don’t Let Me Down, The Shape I’m In, Booty, Everyday People > Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) > Sing a Simple Song > I Wanna Take you Higher, Goin’ Home > ? > Goin’ Home, Shake Anything]
Photographs by kind permission of Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.