Music is a form of art so it makes perfect sense for a concert to be in a museum right? Well, maybe not perfect sense but I feel it does fit quite well. The high ceilings and classic architecture complimented the music perfectly at the Music at the Mansion concert on the cold afternoon of December 29th. The entire cast of local performers lined up by organizer Dansare Marks for the event were carefully chosen to fit the environment and at the end of the afternoon it was clear she did a phenomenal job.
Starting in the early hours of the afternoon the environment was a little strange. Having never been to the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion/museum, I decided to poke around for a few minutes before the music started. The bottom floor was filled with animal paintings and a fine dining setup while the second floor possessed a full sized stuffed male African lion among a few other animals. It also had a kid friendly room with a crawl-in beaver dam among other things. The third floor was the most impressive; it had various taxidermy animals including a full display of water fowl, a snake pit, several small mammals and my favorite, a ton of awesome looking owls.
I could faintly hear the music starting so I went down to check it out. Playing first and starting in the smaller room was the duo Shut Up and Love It. Singer Morgan Breckenridge strummed her acoustic guitar while Joe Stretch tapped on his cajon drum. The band has a soft edged approach to songs with a lot of emphasis on the lyrics. They did a nice, gentle cover of Modest Mouse’s “Float On” during their set. Each band would get 30 minutes to play with the act after them always setting up in another room. While Shut Up and Love It finished up in the smaller of the two rooms, the bluegrass band Under The Big Oak Tree got ready to play in the larger room. Under The Big Oak Tree had two singers who would display the band’s twang. They would work through a mixture of covers and originals with the instrumentation of a banjo, stand up bass, acoustic guitar and dobro. The highlight would be a swinging cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”
One of the biggest supporters of the St. Joe music scene would be up next in Zale Bledsoe operating under his moniker For The Sound. Bledsoe worked through a few For The Sound songs as well as a couple Dsoedean songs. Bledsoe would take advantage of the acoustics of the high ceilings by backing away from the mic and filling the empty space with his voice. He would end by dedicating his song “Brother Bear” to the 9 foot stuffed Brown Bear in the next room. The Reagents would be next in the big room. They would literally pick songs out of their pocket to fill their set. Their music was a mixture of americana and blues songs composed by three acoustic guitars, a cajon drum, a bass and congas. They even threw in a well done cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Got Stripes.”
Singer/songwriter Matthew Coman would be up next. He looked like a young Jeff Tweedy as he sang all original songs with his acoustic guitar. He would do several off his new album No Other Animal including “When You’re Down” “The Last Setting Sun” and the burning “Fix On You.” He would quickly fill his half-hour of solo Paul Westerberg style songs before the next act. Eyelit, featuring the main organizer of the event Dansare Marks and her husband Austin, would be up next and play for easily the largest crowd of the afternoon. The large room had three wide doorways leading into it with the band in the other side of the room and all the doorways would be full. Most of the time I couldn’t even see the band but their gentle acoustics filled the entire bottom floor of the mansion. Eyelit had a new look with three new members to help fill out their ambient sound. They would get a huge reception on songs like “She Holds His Hand Tight” but the true highlight would be Dansare Marks belting out the vocals on their song “High.”
Brean Reiley would reluctantly follow Eyelit with her ukulele. She would employ boyfriend/rocker Brian Shank to help her out by drumming on a small lap drum. Reiley would bare her soul with her quiet, gentle songs highlighted by the family friendly version of her song “You Know What They Say.” In a vast departure from Reiley’s quiet music; Scruffy & The Janitors geared up in the big room and were easily the loudest band on the bill. They would stomp through tunes mainly from their debut album Pino like “Use Me Up” and “Plain Jane.” One of the afternoon’s coolest moments came when guitarist Teriq Newton used a lighter to play slide on the bluesy original “Poor Boy.” The Souveneers would be the final band to play. The bubbly personalities of Jerrad Hardin and Colby Walter are hard to resist as they sing their style of throwback music. Hardin writes and sings the songs for the band with his soft early 70’s Bob Dylan vocal style. They would get a great response as they worked through tunes like “The Long Road” and “I Carry Her With Me.”
At the end of the day it was staggering to see a collection of this much talent all gathered for one show. The environment complimented most of the music perfectly and it happened to be a great chance for people to see these musicians without having to go to a bar to do so. The Wyeth-Tootle Mansion is a great piece of history in St. Joe I didn’t know about as well, so it was as great to see it as it was to see all the talent that gathered for the event.