Want to hear some live music all weekend? As usual, there are plenty of options in Broward and Palm Beach County, to meet all budgets. For $10 on Friday night, prolific local bluesman Albert Castiglia, former lead guitarist for the late Junior Wells, perform his engaging mix of covers and originals at the newly relocated Back Room Blues Bar (7200 N. Dixie Highway, Boca Raton). For $5 at the Funky Buddha on Saturday night (2621 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton), you can catch Boca-based Americana quintet the Stonecutters play their endearing, twangy rock in the style of Old Crow Medicine Show. And for $20 to $30 Sunday at the Arts Garage (180 N.E. First St., Delray Beach), you can catch one of the weekend’s hottest tickets: Barrelhouse Chuck, a world-famous electric blues singer and songwriter who apprenticed under Pinetop Perkins and Sunnyland Slim, will perform selections from his five albums in a recently added show, booked after his Saturday show sold out.
But me? I’m partial to a once-a-year music event happening a little further south. Apparently there is such a thing as the Florida Ukulele Network. I did not know this. And each year, it puts on the Ukulele Festival South Florida. This I did not know either, but it’s happening all day Saturday at Dania Beach Hilton, 1870 Griffin Road, for $35.
Ukes aren’t employed a whole lot in pop music these days, but when they are, the plucky string instrument is unmistakable. John Lennon, Buster Keaton, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Buffet and Stephin Merritt have played the diminutive instrument at one time or another over their careers, and Eddie Vedder is currently touring in support of an all-uke album. Still, the thought of an entire festival dedicated to the ukulele is like the idea of an entire food festival dedicated to garlic. But hey, if that can work, anything can.
The homepage for the festival shows a cartoon of a nightmarishly dressed geezer plucking at his ukulele with his lea-wearing pooch, suggesting an element of fun that befits the instrument’s sprightly tones. The festival features the music of the Barnkickers, aka jazz bassist Steve Boisen and his uke-strumming daughter Amanda; Uncle Zac, a veteran uke maestro who has played the instrument for 45 years; local duo Luna Jade and Keith Cronin, who reimagine pop-rock classics for the ukulele; and Big Jim Allen, whose wide breadth of music knowledge is incorporated into his eclectic ukulele shows.
The performers take the stage at 7, but prior to that, aspiring uke players can attend a number of workshops beginning at 10. There also will be vendor booths, raffle drawings and jam sessions, so – and it’s not often I get to say this – don’t leave your uke at home.
For more information, visit ukulelefestivalsouthflorida.com.