No Margaritaville. No “Fly Me to the Moon.” No standards or cover tunes at all.
“All right, now we’re going to do a song you haven’t heard before.”
These words will be appropriate for just about any number played by the bands in the Naples Showcase Live series being presented Thursday evenings at IIWII Beach Bar & Grille. All the songs will be the original compositions of the musicians onstage — and that’s the point, said IIWII co-owner Dean Meyers.
If you go
'SPRING INTO ORIGINALS'
Where: IIWII Beach Bar & Grille, 13510 U.S. 41 N., North Naples
Admission: No cover charge
When: Here are the bands for the next month. Check with the venue for future bands.
Thursday, Feb. 14: Loathing Self-Praise, acoustic rock
Feb. 21: Musical Orange Juice, reggae, jam
Feb. 28: The Wholetones, folk, metal, bluegrass
March 7:Sarah Hadeka, pop, rock
IIWII (pronounced “EE-wee”) stands for “it is what it is,” and sort of expresses the ethos of the restaurant and performance venue, located off the Tamiami Trail in North Naples, that Meyers and his wife Tamra opened last September.
“There is so much musical talent here, it’s insane. You can hear music all over, from the corner bar to the Philharmonic. But there’s really no place for musicians to play their own stuff,” said Dean Meyers. “We wanted to give people a venue to play their own original music.”
So they worked with John Sochor, who already was playing at IIWII, and said, “Why not do it here?” They put together a lineup of musicians who might play covers at other gigs on a regular basis but also had two hours of their own material, and wanted the chance to let it be heard.
They started with four acts, which quickly expanded to eight, and now have bands lined up for 12 consecutive Thursdays of original music. The styles are all over the map, from the “acoustic rock” on tap tonight with Loathing Self-Praise — not your typical band name, even today — featuring Gregg Lepore, to the pop-reggae of Musical Orange Juice, slated for next Thursday. There also will be the driving acoustic metal, bluegrass and folk of Naples favorite the Wholetones, scheduled for Feb. 28, and on from there.
The “Spring into Originals” Performance Series began last Thursday with the Gladezmen, which Sochor described as a “swamp rock supershow, a sludgy mix of upbeat twang with a hearty helping of kick and punch.” The results, said Dean Meyers, were electric.
“It was unbelievable — we never had such a large crowd. We were at full capacity,” he said. “I would suggest if people want to eat dinner during the show, they might want to make reservations.”
The best part, said Soochow, was that the audience was actually listening to the music.
“People were focused on the band, really paying attention. They danced; they cheered. It wasn’t just background music.”
Any musician who has ever played what is sometimes known as a “wallpaper gig,” during which the crowd ignores the performer, knows what a difference the appreciation makes and how it can spark the creativity and inspiration that sometimes takes live music to another level, turning the musical into the magical.
This has practical benefits for the promoter. Sochor indicated that many of the musical acts are playing for a reduced rate, in return for being allowed, even required, to play their own music.
“The bands said the pay doesn’t matter. They want to promote the series,” to open up the local music scene and get more original music heard. Sochor should know; he is one of the musicians participating. For tonight’s show, he is sitting in with Loathing Self-Praise as its bass player, although he is primarily a guitarist when he plays his original songs.
Sochor’s own loose aggregation, Lost Très, will serve as house band for the series, playing music — yes, original — as an opening act. Even the bumper music, the recorded tunes played over the PA system before the live show starts, will be original, he said.
Gregg Lepore, who will front Loathing Self-Praise and is the principal songwriter for tonight’s show, agreed that this area is in dire need of more outlets for non-cover music.
“Any time I can go out and play my own original music, it’s great. I come from New Orleans, and lived in Nashville, so I’m used to all kinds of coffeehouses and cafes where you can hear new stuff.”
He described the music listeners will hear as “melodic acoustic rock, like a Doobie Brothers feel.” According to Sochor, you will hear a little Keith Urban influence as well.
Of course, you don’t know exactly what you will hear, and that excitement is the spark the Spring into Originals Performance Series hopes to ignite.
“We’re already working on next year’s series. I’m getting five to 10 calls a day from bands wanting to be part of this,” said Meyers.