Every Friday and Saturday night I am 50% of the Acoustic Classic Rock Duo “Evolution” which plays from 6 to 9 at Sandy Bottoms on Main Beach. Not looking for fame, been there, done that, in the sixties and seventies. I do it mainly for fun and to keep some of my licks practiced and voice oiled and let’s face it, when it comes to beachside food and fun, you can’t beat the location.
The thing however that bothers me is that we’re contracted from 6 to 9pm, yet I haven’t seen the night yet, that we quit before 9:30 or even later. And no, this isn’t because we’re so hard up or nostalgic once we start playing. It’s purely and simply because many tourists are not used to a vacation destination rolling up its sidewalks and closing down the halls of entertainment by 10 o’clock at night.
We have been playing these Friday and Saturday gigs now for the last 12 weeks or so and EVERY night it’s the same story, rain or shine. The moment we shut down the amps and say goodnight we get dozens of requests from people that have either just cleaned their diner plates or are in the middle of desert, getting ready for some fun. Music, drinks, some social interaction, yes, even a dance or two; things a memorable vacation is made off. Not here on Amelia however.
Every time we give the crowd a little extra, 30 maybe 45 minutes, especially if they’re real lively and our “charity” box gets properly filled with donations. But beyond that point, they’re on their own. In the summer of ’69 I couldn’t have cared less and often played till my fingers bled and in 2009 I still would, but that is not in the picture here. I remember several nights in Germany when we opened for Jethro Tull I jammed with Ian Anderson until the sun came up. Those are memories I’ll carry to my grave.
I guess vacationing on Amelia Island is still in the quiet atmosphere. I guess the news hasn’t reached the island yet, but visitors who used to travel to the Caribbean and European beaches and cities have scaled down their vacation budgets because of the economy and cut out long haul travel as an expense. These are the people now who crowd SR 200 also known as A1A as they exit I-95 on their way to a Florida Paradise called Amelia Island. Their past “exotic” vacations included dance clubs on the Costa Brava or Ladies Nights in Caribbean Hideaway Bars and Restaurants. And what do they find: T-shirts that say I went to Amelia Island, but it was closed.
Last week we had a “crazy” party group walk onto the Sandy Bottoms beach deck coming of some yachts. Big yachts! It was quarter to 9 and the waiting staff was ready to call it a day, but these people had it going and big wallets to back it up. Dave and I played about 45 minutes into overtime and were nicely rewarded. We would have played until midnight or beyond because the party was turning out memories. But as the place was in closing down mode, the party mood changed and by ten o’clock all lively banter, laughing and singing had vacated the premises.
Every Friday and Saturday we have similar experiences. Sometimes people want to hear specific requests when we reach the overtime bell, other times they just don’t want the party to end. They just don’t think that 9 or 10 o’clock at night is the proper closing time for a tourist destination. Even sending them downtown is not a solution as not everyone is Palace Saloon material.
Amelia Island has to learn to cater to a wider variety of visitors and their individual needs, if tourism dollars are ever going to be considered a steady economic pillar under the island’s economy.