Back On The Scene

Georgio Valentino is home, for the holidays

Words By Shelton Hull

 

It’s been almost three years since Georgio Valentino was last in Jacksonville, the site of his last real job, editor of “Folio Weekly.” He hopped a plane to Athens for vacation in March 2020, with plans to return in just a couple of weeks. But then the pandemic happened, and he was stuck. “Folio,” in its original incarnation, died a month later, and then Valentino was suddenly without a job, isolated from his family, his friends and all of his possessions, including his musical instruments.

Most people would have quickly been driven crazy, but since he was already crazy, he’s held up pretty well. “I don’t do much these days,” Valentino said via Zoom from his hotel in Bologna, Italy. “I wake up, I hang out, and then I go to sleep.” He’s being modest, typically so, underselling the fact that 2022 has been one of the busiest years in his three-decade music career. But this was his day off, and he hasn’t had too many of those lately. Valentino maintains his base in Greece, where he has carved out a whole new existence for himself, although he hasn’t really spent much time there recently. 

Between his own music, and his extensive side work with friends, Valentino has spent much of the past few months on the road, as he was at the time of our conversation. A big chunk of the year was spent playing guitar in Crime and the City Solution, one of his favorite bands growing up. He is currently on a duo tour with another musical hero of his, Blaine L. Reininger. 

Georgio visited family in West Palm Beach this spring, but there was no music on the itinerary. This time, however, he’s planning a proper return engagement, with at least three Florida performances scheduled for December. 

The run begins at Rain Dogs on Dec. 9, followed by Dog Rose Brewing in St. Augustine on Dec. 10 and Epoca Brewing in Miami on Dec. 11. “The current iteration of the Georgio Valentino Band is Jax-centric,” he said. The Florida shows are trio gigs, featuring Jessica Leigh Walton on bass and Jason Irvin on drums, two more musicians out of the dozens who have worked for “Folio” over the years. “I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the whole ‘Folio’ fam in a big way!” he said.

Valentino’s newest album, “Lines of Flight,” dropped digitally last year, along with a limited-edition vinyl release. He’ll be bringing the last few extant copies to Florida, and it’s something you’re gonna want to have. The cover was painted by artist Camille Marceau, the granddaughter of legendary French performance artist Marcel Marceau, while the music was recorded in a variety of locations like Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Edinburgh, Los Angeles, Melbourne, and, of course, Jacksonville. 

“I took the first steps while I was still at ‘Folio,’” he said of the complicated recording process, which began with a chance meeting with his old Berlin buddy Craig Walker. “I ran down to have lunch with him in Orlando because I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come out to Berlin and get back in the game?’ Because I hadn’t made any music, at that point, in a couple of years. So I went to Berlin, and we wrote and recorded a track [“Bound Berlin”] in about three hours,” he recalled. “It was so much fun and so effortless that I thought, well, maybe I should start doing this again. Then, when I got stranded in Greece, I figured, well, I’ve got nothing else to do, so I might as well just work on some tunes.”

Everyone was forced to develop our own coping mechanisms for the pandemic era, and for Valentino, music was the answer. “We had a couple of severe lockdowns here, so that was sort of a bright light,” he said. “Even though we couldn’t all be in the same room, jamming together, it was communication, it was cognition, it was contact with fun, familiar people. And it was <new>. I’ve been doing this all my life, but my recent experience has been not completely different, but different enough. It gave me something to focus on that wasn’t some kind of existential dread.”

This year has seen Valentino’s artistry on display in a variety of settings, each of which has its own particular vibe. “Touring with Crime is like running away with the circus for months at a time,” he said. “It’s this big tent of characters and kit that somehow manages to slither from town to town without arrest or misadventure. Touring with Blaine is like a buddy movie, a joy ride to exotic destinations. Light footprint, max range, free and easy. And this Georgio Valentino Band tour is like going home.”  

Valentino’s return to Florida is also planting the seeds for more extensive touring in the new year, mainly with Crime and the City Solution, but also with his own band. “As soon as it’s possible to do that safely, and predictably, because these things take so long to put together. I know a lot of musicians, but it will take time to scout out a full band and get them ready to tour the U.S.” The logistics of touring are always a challenge, especially going international with such a large group. “The biggest obstacle to performing live these days is brute expense,” he said. “Just when the pandemic started letting up, the price of everything, especially everything travel-related, exploded. That said, any challenge encourages innovation, and we’re finding ways to survive. And it still beats working for a living!”

About Shelton Hull

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic. He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009. He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at [email protected]
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