Tribute to James Taylor Kicks Off Free Fridays

Michael Boulware and Friends (and family) will channel the singer/songwriter when they perform at Bo Diddley Plaza tonight at 8. Six months of free concerts will follow.


From left, Don David, Michael Boulware and Dino Campbell perform a James Taylor song during last year’s Free Fridays Tribute to Carole King. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

On the day before leading a tribute to Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Taylor, Michael Boulware was in a most appropriate place.

Up on the roof.

The Gainesville musician just happened to be replacing old tin on his shed and barn, but the irony was not lost on him that “Up on The Roof” is one of Taylor’s most iconic songs.

Michael Boulware performs last year on the Bo Diddley Plaza stage. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

“I just finished reading Carly Simon’s biography and discovered that James also liked to tinker around on barns and work with his hands,” Boulware said. “In that sense, I guess you could say that writing songs is sort of like building a barn.”

Added Boulware: “The good stuff is the good stuff!”

Boulware and his family and friends will be onstage tonight at Bo Diddley Plaza performing “A Tribute to James Taylor” to begin another season of the Free Fridays Concert Series sponsored by the City of Gainesville. The event begins at 8 p.m.

The Gainesville native will be joined onstage by Don David (guitars/vocals), Dino Campbell (congas/vocals), Cathy DeWitt, Heather Hall, Carolina Boulware (all backing vocals), Rob Rothschild (drums), Brad Bangstad (keyboard), Ron Thomas (bass) and Jon Alexander (pedal steel).

“We’re lucky to have the right people to be able to do this material convincingly,” Boulware said. “The vocals are really going to be a treat.”

For this special tribute concert, the band is calling itself The Sectional, a reference to Taylor’s band The Section. Boulware, who organized the tribute, as well as David, Thomas, Rothschild and Bangstad, are also members of the popular Beatles tribute band The Impostors.

Tonight, the talented ensemble is planning to perform more than 20 of Taylor’s greatest hits as well as a handful of his lesser-known tunes.

“I had to reject 40 of my favorite songs to narrow it down to two hours,” Boulware said.

James Taylor

Taylor is a five-time Grammy Award winner and has sold more than 100 million records, making him one of the bestselling recording artists of all time.

Boulware’s appreciation for Taylor goes back to his teenage years. He received his very first James Taylor record on his 18th birthday — in 1970 — and has loved his music ever since. His daughter Carolina is named after Taylor’s classic song “Carolina In My Mind.”

“I’ve always been drawn to the solo singer/songwriter because you can’t fake that,” Boulware said.

Almost three decades ago, Boulware saw Taylor perform at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. By chance, Boulware and his newlywed wife, Teresa, were on the same flight as Taylor back to Denver.

“I met him in the airport and we stood around and talked for a few minutes,” Boulware said. “The thing I said to him was ‘Thank you for doing ‘Walking Man.’ He seemed to appreciate that. He was cordial gracious and funny.”

The two crossed paths again a few years later when Taylor performed in Jacksonville.

But Taylor had already made an impression on Boulware, who was part of a band called the Don David Trio.

“The Don David Trio was originally conceived as a way for us — me, Don and Dino, as well as Kevin Wilson — to get away with playing James’s material. He also inspired and informed my efforts at songwriting.”

The band plans to start with Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” album, released in 1970, and follow somewhat chronologically through his career with other hits. Boulware will definitely perform “Walking Man,” which Taylor wrote about his father.

Boulware is no stranger to the Free Fridays stage. He has performed as many as four times a year as part of the concert series, which is now in its 10th year under the direction of David Ballard, events coordinator for the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.

Ballard said that choosing the acts to perform during Free Fridays is not an easy one..

“I am looking for musical excellence and a proven draw,” he said. “After that, we look to have a variety of musical genres. We often welcome back crowd favorites as well as look to introduce new bands to our Free Fridays audience each season.”

Ballard said he gets the most satisfaction by bringing local and regional musical artists together and showcasing them for the community.

Gainesville has offered free concerts for a number of years, but Ballard has taken it up a notch in the past decade.

Bo Diddley Plaza during a Free Fridays Concert last year. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

“In my first year, I rebranded the series and changed the name from Let’s Go Downtown to The Free Fridays Concert Series to better say what, when and how much it cost,” he said. “It’s grown quite a bit since then, with most shows attracting crowds that range from about 500 to 2,000 or more.”

Although other cities provide citizens with free summer concerts, few run for six months like the Free Fridays Series does.

“Gainesville citizens really appreciate the arts and come out to support them, and we have such an excellent community of bands to fill the dates,” he said. “The most difficult part of booking Free Fridays each season is not being able to schedule all of the great bands that would like to play.”

This season, the Free Fridays music genres will include rock, blues, jazz, soul, reggae, R&B, pop, folk, ska, funk, country, punk, Latin fusionvand adult contemporary — all culminating with the world music extravaganza presented by the UF School of Music ensembles.

A popular trend over the last several years at Free Fridays has been musicians who put together band tributes especially for the concert series. In addition to the James Taylor tribute, new tributes for 2017 include the Grateful Dead, Curtis Mayfield and an Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale tribute that was rained out last season.

The entire Free Fridays Concert Series is as follows:

April 14: James Taylor Tribute (Mike Boulware and Friends and Family)
April 21: Hot Club de Ville (Gypsy Jazz)
April 28: Flat Land (Rock, Funk, and Blues)

May 5: No concert
May 12: Fast Lane (Funk, Soul, and R&B)
May 19: A Tribute to the Music of the Grateful Dead (The Couch Messiahs, The Shambles and Uncle Mosie)
May 26: The Nancy Luca Band with Anna Marie Kirkpatrick (Classic Rock)

June 2: Little Jake Mitchell and The Soul Searchers (R&B, Soul)
June 9: Longineu Parsons and Ted Shumate (Blues)
June 16: Wester Joseph’s Stereo Vudu (Vudu Rawk, Ska)
June 23: A Tribute to the Music of Curtis Mayfield, with Travis Atria and Friends
June 30: De Lions of Jah (Reggae)

July 7: The All-American Song Fest: The High Nooners (A Musical Tribute to the American West with Michael Claytor and Friends)
July 14: The Delta Troubadours (Rock, Blues Rock, Garage Rock)
July 21: Wax Wings (Jazz, Folks)
July 28: Bridget Kelly Band (Blues)

Aug. 4: The Irie Ones (Reggae)
Aug. 11: The Savants of Soul (Soul, Blues, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Ska)
Aug. 18: Captive Eddies (Original Rock, Reggae, and Roots)
Aug. 25: The Shambles (Classic Rock)

Sept. 1: Heavy Petty/Hedges (Tom Petty Tribute and Original Rock)
Sept. 8: The Duppies (Ska, Reggae)
Sept. 15: The Impostors (Beatles Tribute)
Sept. 22: Wild Blue Yonder (Classic Rock)
Sept. 29: Gilberto de Paz and Tropix (Latin Fusion) In Partnership with the Latino Film Festival

Oct. 6: A Tribute to the Music of Eric Clapton and JJ Cale (Mark Miale, Tony McMahon and Friends)
Oct. 13: Gram Fest (Gram Parsons Tribute) Various Artists
Oct. 20: UF World Music Ensembles with Agbedidi Africa, Jacare Brazil, and More!

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