We have just wrapped up our week long adventure at the Key West Songwriters Festival. It was a really great trip but boy are we tired--those musicians sure do know how to party!
For those of you who have no idea what this festival is about, allow me to give you the quick breakdown from my perspective. BMI is one of the three performing rights organization in the United States representing a massive number of musical artists. (I have a very limited understanding of how this industry works; however, I would point you to their website if it is a topic that is of interest: www.bmi.com)
The songwriters festival in Key West is an event sponsored by BMI and others which highlights some of the best-in-class songwriters found mostly in the world of country/pop country/cross-over country. We just so happen to be good friends with a couple of these talented folks and were pleased to join them as guests for four days as they took turns sharing the stage with one another and playing songs from each of their own respective catalogs. The format worked something like this; three songwriters would take the stage together and each take turns performing roughly three songs each. Each set lasted between 45 minutes to an hour and each performance included between 3-5 sets.
Between Wednesday and Sunday, there were multiple performances taking place all across the little town of Key West in varying bar and hotel venues. Although this festival appears to have gained great popularity the shows still seemed to maintain an air of intimacy that you don't get at your garden variety music festival. The environment was more along the lines of walking into a dive bar in New Orleans with a bunch of rowdy friends and neighbors who were all enjoying their own good friends playing some (really well written) tunes. At one point our dear friend Kylie Sackley who also performed at our wedding and multiple family crawfish boils, very kindly dedicated her beautiful song "Still Believe in Love" to Catherine and I--thanks sweet doll! Other notable favorites from the festival included Ashley Ray, Jacklyn North, Damien Horne, as well as our friend Courtney Jaye! Also, although it fell outside of the standard format we thoroughly enjoyed the full band performance by Randy Houser--kick ass!
Aside from spending our time enjoying the festival's music, Catherine and I meandered through the streets of Key West taking in the New Orleans-esque party feel, beautiful foliage, and some really great food. Should anyone ever decide to make a trip down to the southernmost point in the US, I would offer the following bits of advice:
1) Key West is not a beach town. Yes, you can get to a couple of beaches, but it is just a couple and they are mostly located at the bigger resorts. If you want to park your rear on the beach for the week, you may want to look further north in the
Keys and make a day trip down instead.
2) Key West is a fun town in a tropical climate--literally, think Bourbon Street in the middle of the tropics. There is a lot to do in terms of seeing music, checking out some legendary bars, seeing great art, and easy access to water sports.
3) Basically everything is off of Duval Street and walkable. If you are not into walking then the city offers a wide variety of other transportation options including tuk-tuks, scooter, e-car, and bicycle rentals as well as taxis.
4) I was shocked by the quality of the food available in Key West. We had delicious meals almost everywhere we went, but a few highlights included:
Seven Fish: Our absolute favorite! As indicated by their name, this place specializes in local, fresh caught fish, and boy is it delicious. We split a sushi roll for an appetizer and then enjoyed two local catches--Mahi Mahi and Black Fin Tuna. The sushi was so good that we actually skipped dessert and had the second roll offered that evening. www.7fish.com
Louie's Backyard: Very yummy. This was definitely the most elegant meal we had and if we had caught it on the right day, then the outdoor patio would have made for a beautiful view of the ocean while you dine. http://www.louiesbackyard.com/
Nine One Five: We had a fabulous 3+ hour dinner here with friends Robin, Scott, and Mike. The food was delicious and made even better by the fact that everything we ordered we shared. The wine list was solid and we made a point of making it through several lovely varietals. www.915duval.com
I cannot leave the topic of food without mentioning that if you find yourself feeling a bit unhealthy after a solid dose of Key West socializing you should definitely try one of the two natural foods/vegetarian delis in town. Sugar Apple and Help Yourself offer fresh and "slow-food" to nourish a healthy body (or body in need of health).
5) The foliage throughout Key West is breath taking. A wide assortment of palm tress in every shape and size accompanied by dozens of tropical flowers are on display throughout the towns boutique hotels and homes. Make time to take a walk and enjoy some of the plant life.
We had an uneventful trip back to Miami yesterday in the Grand National but did enjoy one of the most famous stretches of road in the US! If you do decide on a Key West trip you should really consider the 3.5 hour drive from Miami--I don't think you would be disappointed.
Now we are back in Nassau and after two weeks on the sea/road it is time to do some LAUNDRY!