As Northeast Florida sees continued growth in its established entertainment districts, there has been a commensurate upturn for various alternative performance spaces–warehouses, back alleys, rooftops and other little nooks and crannies across this almost impossibly large region. One of the cooler such developments in the past year has been Bold City Circuit, which has endeavored to showcase a new generation of singer-songwriters in the most intimate of settings. We’ve covered a couple of those acts (Dylan Gerard and Fort Defiance) here before.
“We typically look to create a diverse show by combining versatile acts,” says impresario Dennis Negrin, who launched the series in June. “We know musicians who know musicians, and it’s been great.” The sixth show on Sunday night features three acts who’ve been on local radars for a while now, starting with Duval’s own Chelsey Michelle Duo, who opened for Fort Defiance here on April 5. Michelle’s been a regular presence at places like Prohibition Kitchen and Blue Jay Listening Room, and partner Chris Underdal is one of the most interesting young guitarists working anywhere today.
They will be followed by the Tumbling Wheels, a rollicking quintet out of New Orleans whose style straddles genres like a hobby-horse, incorporating elements of roots, folk, blues and country. “They have a pretty unique sound,” says Negrin, “but you could say they take the sounds of Bessie Smith and the Smothers Brothers and put their own twang and indie-spin on it.”
Their debut album, The Tumbling Wheels Play the No Counts, was released in 2016 on United Bakery Records, a label named after a now-defunct gallery and performance space that helped galvanize a big chunk of the New Orleans scene, including the band itself. (The Wheels also featured on the label comp, which is certainly worth hearing in its own right.) The album’s 12 tracks maintain moderately up-tempo pacing with old-school harmonics on songs like “Gin House Prodigy” and “You Never Showed Me How.”
The evening ends with Dunedin-based Danielle Mohr, who’s already made a name for herself in South Florida music spheres, working both solo and as leader of the band Honey What, a five-piece that sets her vocals against a classic-rock backdrop. “Danielle will be performing a more eclectic solo set, with loop pedals, and creating arrangements on stage,” says Negrin. The 23-year-old has slowly built up a loyal following since debuting downstate in 2012, with a number of festivals and radio spots to her credit; this is her initial splash here in Northeast Florida.
The house-party aesthetic has always been central to the city’s cultural identity, and the small areas involved actually make them ideal to present certain kinds of music. Jazz, chamber music, acoustic folk and electric blues are just some of the genres whose sounds and aesthetics work well this way, and Bold City Circuit caters particularly well to the last two. There are a whole slate of performers scheduled to perform in the months ahead, including the 502s on Sept. 29. “It’s growing organically and evolving; we’re learning as we do it,” says Negrin. “We’re just sharing what the artists are already doing, so we’re looking to share that snapshot of the scene with our community. I love the fact we’re bringing in bands that people in Jax might not otherwise hear.”
In the long term, Negrin and company are seeking to bring in some classical and jazz musicians, and maybe even look into recording or broadcasting certain events, but the future is mostly wide open. “Good music is good music,” Dennis Negrin says. “If we can present good music and the audience trusts the brand, we’ve succeeded.” By any objective standard, they already have, and there’s more to come.
Bold City Circuit presents:
Chelsey Michelle Duo, The Tumbling Wheels, Danielle Mohr
Sunday, Aug. 12, 7-10 p.m.
Location TBA; $10