Way down upon Seminole Square . . .
Twenty-two years had passed since I was last at Skipper’s Smokehouse, so it was a long overdue treat to get back to the legendary outdoor jam spot in Tampa after more than two decades had slipped away. Skipper’s has a timeless and mellow quality with its sandy, open-air vibe. The Spanish moss hanging from the old live oaks that tower above the venue lends to the funky atmosphere. The last show I’d seen there was the New Riders of the Purple Sage sometime in 1996. When I heard that the John Kadlecik Band would be playing under the “Skipperdome” while I was visiting the area, I decided to drop back into the old roots music haunt.
The JKB did not disappoint. Upon rolling up to the place, which first opened its doors in 1980, I noticed, thankfully, that it hadn’t changed much — the only notable adjustment being that the interior has been improved and now offers great food in the attached restaurant and ample covered vending space at the back of the main venue. Joined by an old buddy from college, we each grabbed a mixed drink and a tasty blackened grouper sandwich before getting into the music.
Kadlecik and company kicked things off with a spacey jam that blossomed into a version of “Any Road,” an uplifting and appropriate song following a two-day drive from Colorado.
This was followed by “Lazy River Road,” a request that this writer and fan had submitted via email. John honored the request by playing an excellent version of the latter day Hunter-Garcia chestnut that fit perfectly with the relaxed sylvan surroundings of Skipper’s. It was an auspicious start to the evening.
Other highlights from the first set included a run through the old JGB favorite (originally written and released by Little Milton in 1971) “That’s What Love Will Make You Do,” a compelling rendition of the Peter Rowan-penned, “Tin Roof Shack,” a soulful “Looks Like Rain,” and a sweet take on the gospel classic “My Sisters and Brothers.”
Come set number two, the group dialed up the jammy goodness under the Florida moonlight, kicking it off with a spritely cover of Van Morrison’s “Alan Watts Blues,” and sidling into a supremely satisfying “Shakedown Street,” which featured impressive vocal scatting by the very talented keyboardist Benjie Porecki.
The evening rose ever upwards with a soul-lifting “Unbroken Chain,” and a rocking take on the Who classic “Join Together” that segued into a crowd-frenzying “Terrapin Station,” before returning to “Join Together.” The band capped it all off with a festive “Sugar Magnolia” and a “Not Fade Away” encore. The audience danced, sang and grooved to the consistently inspired sound of the tight four-piece, which also featured Jay Lane on drums and Wavy Dave Burlingame on bass. It was a magical evening that demonstrated the power of live music performed by a great band in a relaxed setting.
(Jerry looks on from the wall of Skipper’s Smokehouse)
Lazy River Road
That’s What Love Will Make You Do
Tin Roof Shack
Looks Like Rain >
My Sisters and Brothers
Alan Watts Blues
Join Together >
Lady with a Fan>
Terrapin Station >
E: Not Fade Away
* w/Benjie Porecki scatting