Singer/guitarist Rob Garcia — best known for his solo show “Rock ’n’ Roll Love Letter” — has dreamed of being a touring band musician since he was a teenager. Nearly four decades after getting started in the music biz, his dream is finally coming true.
Come mid July, Mr. Garcia will be joining Sarasota-based band Paisley Craze for a whopping 40-city tour that will celebrate the music of the Woodstock era. The “Peace & Love Tour” will not only make its way around Florida, but also has dates scheduled in Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.
It’s more than just a concert, Mr. Garcia emphasized, it’s an experience — one that lasts upwards of three hours. That’s because doors open 90 minutes before show time, to give audiences a flavor of what the iconic 1969 music festival was all about.
“It’s more an electrified ‘circus’ environment and vibe, than it is your typical theater show,” Mr. Garcia explained. Once the doors open to the lobby, “There might be somebody strolling along with a guitar. There might be somebody in blue jeans putting a flower in your hair. They have photo booths with VW buses. It’s great. There’ll be 1,000 people, so there’ll be a lot of cavorting. I love that stuff. You can get tie-dyed shorts, spin art, beads, peace signs — it’s like the real Woodstock was. There are not many touring experiences like it.”
The concert itself opens with Mr. Garcia performing a 1960s acoustic singer/songwriter set. After that, Paisley Craze (guitarist Bob Dielman, Dave Mankes on keyboards, drummer Kenny Crawley, Marty Bednar on bass and vocalist Donna Lamoureaux) takes the stage, with Mr. Garcia joining them as the front man.
The show had a few test runs, including one at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center that, Mr. Garcia said, “got a really good reception.”
The tour is only one of the irons he has in his musical fire.
He still performs as a solo act, but he recently put together his own band, Jukebox Assassins, an endeavor he called his “passion project.” The winnowing process for that saw him audition dozens of musicians before deciding on three who would join him.
“I wanted everybody to be a better musician than me — and they are,” Mr. Garcia said. “And that was a strategic goal during the tryouts. You had to be a better singer, better at timing, had to understand rhythm better and be that kind of musician. Without question, they all are.”
Mr. Garcia has always sought to grow as a performer since he started playing in small clubs from New Jersey to Manhattan in the 1980s. Born in Staten Island, New York, he moved to Southwest Florida about seven years ago.
In an interview last year, he described this area as a “land of milk and honey” for musicians.
“I mean, I would live here even if I couldn’t make a living — but a musician can make a living in this part of Florida. I know many that do.”
His decision to diversify came after seeing how Sun Events was growing. The company had already backed his “Rock ‘’n’ Roll Love Letter,” which he has performed both solo and with a band.
“I could see the writing on the wall when Sun Events blew up,” Mr. Garcia said. “They’re doing big, big stuff. I figured I’m not going to get anywhere very far with the single act stuff. Joe Gallimore (promotions director at Sun Events) had enough — I don’t know if it was insanity or gambling spirit — to take a chance on me. He’s changing my life.”
From intimate venues of perhaps 30 people, to a couple of hundred or so at venues such as the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, Mr. Garcia will now play, as part of the Peace & Love Tour, to houses as large as 2,500 people.
It’s an experience for him, yes, but also an education.
“I’ve had the pleasure and great learning experience of putting it together,” he said. “It’s like the Wizard of Oz. I got to peek behind the curtain. I designed some of the stage. I designed the scrims and was even in conversation about the sound system, how we sell tickets. It has been a huge learning experience for me, and I think my solo act and Jukebox Assassins will benefit from it.”
While a lot of musicians might dream about touring, he said, actually doing it is a larger endeavor than most people realize.
“It’s a behemoth to move,” Mr. Garcia said. “It’s only, like, 16 people — but it’s 16 people plus instruments, venues, cables, sound boards, everything. The logistics behind it — what those 16 people going to eat, where they’re going to sleep, how to make arrangements if there’s a girl in the band — it’s nuts. It’s really complicated.”
The bus alone costs $2,500 a day to rent — and that’s without the driver, he noted. It takes 250 gallons in gas — and gets only 10 miles to the gallon.
There’s an additional concern if a critical piece of equipment is left behind.
“No. 1, you have your time constraints,” he said. “No. 2, it’s going to cost you because you’re going to need it fast.”
Despite the challenges,
Mr. Garcia hopes to stay on the road even beyond the Peace & Love Tour.
“The goal for me — I don’t know how everyone else is going to feel after 17 dates in 20 days on a bus — is to never get off the bus. I’ve known I’ve wanted this since I was 18. It’s an absolute dream come true. …
“I just don’t have the financial riches — but it doesn’t matter to me if it comes or if it doesn’t because I love this so much. As long as I can pay my bills, I wouldn’t change this for anything.” ¦
Peace & Love Tour: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Era
>> Where: Riverview Performing Arts Center, 1 Ram Way, Sarasota
>> When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2
>> Cost: $20-$39; VIP add-on is an additional $19 (includes T-shirt, CD signed by the band, VIP lanyard and a chance to meet the band before the show)
>> Tickets: tickets.sunevents.com/e/ peaceandlove-concert-08022019
>> List of tour cities: www.sunevents.com/ peace-love-tour
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