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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ People yearning for a taste of N’awlins music need wait no longer than this weekend. On July10 and 11, North Florida will be treated to a taste of New Orleans unique musical style as the High Springs Lions Club hosts a two-day concert featuring some of the top session musicians from Louisiana.

Nicknamed the “Big Easy” and “The Crescent City,” New Orleans is known for its round-the-clock nightlife, vibrant live-music scene that mixes musical genres of Funk, Jazz, Blues, Rock & Soul as well as its spicy, singular cuisine reflecting its history as a melting pot of French, African and American cultures.

This show, called the FloraNola Festival, was the brainchild of national touring and High Springs native Jesse Smith who has gathered a few of his favorite musicians to bring the finest musical GUMBO around.

Like everywhere else, live performances disappeared this past year due to COVID-19 restrictions and entertainers were suddenly out of work.

“We've been locked down so long, we’re ready to explode,” Smith said. “This was an opportunity to get back on the road and introduce my hometown to some of the unique New Orleans style played by some of my favorite New Orleans musicians.”

Many of the musicians joining him onstage originally met at Florida State University while seeking various music degrees. After performing, recording and creating for several years, Smith and bassist Ron Williams moved to New Orleans to improve their skills in the Crescent City. “This was the beginning of a beautiful time of our lives, and a journey that took us around the world performing the traditions of New Orleans R&B, Funk, Blues and Jazz” Smith said.

Over the next few years, another musician from Florida State University joined them in New Orleans as multi-instrumentalist Joe Goldberg on saxophone, flute, and keys began touring with them. “This is where we all found our voices, where we found our gigs to pay the rent, and the jumping point of which led to our travels,” Smith said. While on tour in Savannah, they were introduced to Kenny Murphy who played bass, guitar and vocals and he joined the band on tour.

“One thing that New Orleans is known for is their special breed of drummers/percussionists,” said Smith. “The heartbeat of the city dances to a special kind of rhythm, one that is not easily mastered and comes from generations of passed down lineage. Luckily the first couch I had to crash on during my first visit to the city was none other than New Orleans native Nick Solnick, a world class drummer in his own right who completed our band.”

“Fast forward a few years and we've all spend thousands of hours together on the road, on the stage, in the studio, at the back yard barbecue, on the side of the road, at a hang around the holidays and everywhere else you can wind up with a few of your best friends,” said Smith. “We've become our own large family and that's what this FloraNola Festival is all about.”

While the concert is free, it is not just about the musicians performing some great music. The event is also about raising money for the Lions Clubs mission to benefit local charitable needs in the surrounding communities. An effect of the COVID pandemic was the cancellation of charitable events, which limited the ability of many organizations to raise funds. “We are doing this to help get the charitable causes back on track,” Smith said. “The concert is free, but we are asking people to make donations to help others.”

The Lions Club will also be selling food and drinks to raise money. Due to this, they ask that while people are welcome to bring chairs, they leave all food and drinks at home and enjoy the affordable food and drinks offered by the club. The concert will begin on Saturday, July 10 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the gates opening at 4 p.m. and continue on Sunday, July 11 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with the gates opening at 12 noon. The High Springs Lions Club is located at 26900 U.S. Highway 27, High Springs. Additional information can be found by calling 386-454-4521.

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