The Benefit Show Preempted by Incredible Generosity

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It was supposed to be a benefit show.

Leisure Chief, the superb funk jazz quintet, had their van broken into after a gig in Miami, and Keegan Matthews lost all of his keyboards. Christian Ryan also lost some equipment, although fortunately none of his reeds.

So the benefit was arranged for Thursday, August 25, at The Red Lion Pub in Winter Park. That would be the same Red Lion Pub that announced it would be closing its doors forever next month (read more here). Leisure Chief would play, joined by the cream of the Orlando crop: Shak Nasti, Brownote, The Groove Orient, and Con Leche.

But then something wonderful happened, unexpected but not surprising to those who understand and appreciate our community. Christian Ryan explained it on Facebook:

“Alright y’all, some news to share: Thursday’s show at Red Lion Pub will no longer be a benefit…

That is to say, in less than 10 days from the theft, Keegan Matthews and I have officially raised all the funds necessary to obtain all of our gear back!


Through the GoFundMe and other generous donations by all of you, we’ve done it and no longer require a benefit. This was never considered a possibility when we set up this show that was less than two weeks after the theft.

Which means this Thursday, we’ll just be having one big party! It’s hard to put into words how I feel in having so much support and love from our friends, family and the music community in achieving our goal so quickly.”

That’s how Orlando — and Florida — rolls.

As it turned out, Con Leche did not play, but that left more time for the other four groups on the bill, starting with The Groove Orient, a very talented Orlando quintet who had just finished their most impressive tour out to Colorado and back. That time on the road clearly honed their collective skills to an even sharper focus. They delivered an excellent set.

Everybody was on point, but this really seemed to be Harry Ong night. The bass player and vocalist was simply on fire from the first Soulive tune to the end of the set. Chuck Magid again displayed his enormous enthusiasm on guitar and vocals. Meanwhile, Tommy Shugart was blowing it up on keyboards and on guitar as well.

This has probably happened to you: you’ve heard a band a number of times before you finally appreciate the contribution of one of its members. Clearly, I had never truly appreciated Bucky Buckingham’s time on drums. Guaranteed I’ll be paying attention from now on. He rocked!

David Vanegas was having a fine night on percussion (and bass when Ong was playing front man). And then the stage was rushed by Ryan and Anthony A.C. Cole on alto and tenor saxophones. Perhaps that was when the band covered Booker T’s “Soul Limbo.” The set ended with an absolutely ridiculous funk thing. Be sure to check out The Groove Orient for information about their upcoming fall tour.

After a quick set change, Leisure Chief was up, kicking off with a new tune. Jordan Garno (guitar) seems fully integrated into the band now, and he had a great night. It was wonderful to see Keegan Matthews smile so appreciatively as he thanked the crowd for their loving support in helping the band replace its equipment.

And his new equipment sounded just fine, thank you! My notes are absolutely indecipherable, which is probably just as well. Derek Engstrom sounded great at the kit and on vocals, and Chris McMullen was also grinning ear to ear, driving the beat with his bass.

Christian Ryan was already on stage, but Cole came back up for some more, along with Gabe Carson on tenor. Somewhere along the line there was a tremendous Afrobeat tune, according to my hieroglyphics.

Shak Nasti was also primed and ready to go as Tim Turner played the opening chords to “Treelocks.” Once again Matt Lapham killed on bass, first on a really funky tune, then on “Lemon Lime.” Rion Smith’s drums led into “Monster,” and Lapham took us to another galaxy altogether (well, me, at least). Ito Colon helped to fill out the sound with his excellent percussion work.

I think Ryan jumped on stage to blow some alto, and the set ended with an absolutely absurd version of The Captain’s “Frying Pan” (that’s Beefheart). Simply bedazzling, and that left it to Brownote to close out this wonderful night.

This band is ridiculous. Lapham stayed on stage as bassist, with Cole now moving to drums, Colon still on stage, and the birthday boy, Roland Simmons, on guitar. Naturally, Cole sang him Happy Birthday. After that, and I’m inventing titles here, was “Don’t Knock It ’Til You’ve Tried It.” Simmons was on fire immediately, and Lapham’s work can only be described, in the vernacular, as ‘stupid.’

They continued to tear it up well past 2 AM, including some P-Funk “Do That Stuff.” You owe it to yourself to check out every one of these bands. It will fill that hole in your soul.

Credit as always to James Freed of Black and Gold Recordings for his continuing work as a dedicated sound engineer.

Great thanks once again to AJ Hége Photography of New Source: His chronicling of the life and times at The Red Lion Pub has been an integral part of its success.

And please, please, please give Rosemarie and Pops and Christian and the fine staff at The Red Lion love, support, tips, and your patronage from now until they shutter forever. They have given so much love to you and the community for 27 years.

It’s time for the Big Payback.


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