Florida Folk Scene 25 @ Green Bench Brewing

Folk fans and Green Bench Brewery patrons alike braved the damp cold of the Florida winter Thursday to make it out to the Florida Folk Scene holiday showcase. In addition to getting concertgoers in to the Holiday spirit by freezing their asses off outside Green Bench, Florida Folk Scene was also celebrating it’s 25th event since the local showcase first began in February.

St. Pete local T. Rider McBride opened Thursday’s show with his song “Sold My Things,” a folk ballad with a southern twang. McBride is best known for his eclectic mix of storytelling and more traditional folk sound and some of his best songs of the night centered around acclimating (or not) to loneliness, owning too much shit, or just trying to make it by. Hearing him perform for the first time, I was surprised when, a few songs in, McBride began adding a little spacey harmony lines. While many of his songs were only four or five chord progressions, that didn’t matter. His deep and soulful voice combined with his intricate lyricism really pushed his vocal-centric songs above and beyond. McBride told Zero Warning he is currently in the studio working on potentially a full-length album. He hopes it will be ready for release by spring of next year.

McBride had set the bar pretty high when Matt Yungaitis, better known as Have Sprit, walked up for the second set of the night. It was clear from the first song, however, that the soft melodies of the New Port Richey native was far different. The highlight of Yungaitis’ set was his song “Only A Bruise,” which perfectly exemplified his honest lyricism and knack for capturing the human experience through his songs.  Watching Yugaitis’ set was like watching a less whiny Paul Baribeau and I mean that in the best way possible. Before the showcase, Roger Lanfranchi, host and co-founder of Florida Folk Scene, told me Have Spirit was his favorite artist even though he very rarely plays public sets. After roughly 30 minutes of listening to his solo set, it’s easy to see why. Yugaitis showed no signs that he will be playing with more regularity in the new year, so for fans of Have Spirit you may just have to live with Sound Cloud tracks and the occasional public appearance.

Lanfranchi, who plays under the stage name Ophelia, filled in for the last third of the showcase, opening up with a folksy rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” He then opened his set with an old song he’s been performing for years titled “High Again.” Lanfranchi’s self-described psychedelic folk delivers surprisingly high-pitched vocals against the backdrop of almost dream-like harmonies. The technicality Lanfranchi displayed on the guitar was a change from the vocal-centric sets that dominated the Florida Folk Scene’s 25th showcase. Ophelia has recently become O.P.H.E.L.I.A, a “folkestra” five-piece band. The new full band recently recorded a few tracks at WMNF Studios.

The Florida Folk Scene showcases are every first and third Thursday of the month at Green Bench Brewery in downtown St. Pete.