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Local artists (and their kids) stir up some fun at Alchemy Fest




One lucky Tampa Bay daddy's girl gets a huge, open-to-the-public rock 'n' roll party at Skipper's Smokehouse thrown in her honor. 

For little Alchemy Oppelt, above, it’s just another cool thing that her musician/promoter father does every year at Skipper’s Smokehouse.

Judging by her ear-to-ear smile and the unbridled enthusiasm of her scamper entourage, her fourth birthday party was indeed a success.

An added bonus: She managed to keep her princess tiara on tight over her pigtails the entire time.

This year’s Alchemy Fest -- yes, it’s even named in her honor -- took over the outdoor patio of Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa all afternoon Sunday, under the leadership of Joran Oppelt, head of the Southeast Music Alliance, a local networking organization.

“We had around 200 people this year,” says daddy Oppelt. “It gets bigger every year. This was the first time we had an out-of-town headliner (the blues-poppy Thomas Wynn and the Believers from Orlando) and next year we’re going to go more toward a Circus McGirkus vibe with local vendors and henna artists.”

Music-wise, Alchemy Fest offered birthday presents to everyone in attendance, with an energetically tight performance by headliner Thomas Wynn and the Believers; a solid rock set by the Sheaks; a sparkling and compelling collection of songs by Geri X., whose lead singer and namesake catches you off guard with her raspy-melodic siren call; and the equally mesmerizing and fascinating Sons of Hippies. The Tom Morey Band, Tampa eclectic gypsy-jazz instrumentalists, offered a pleasant interlude and got the little ones and grown-ups moving.

Vocals and instruments sounded great without noise or excessive volume. Katherine Kelly of Sons of Hippies said she likes to do Skipper’s shows all-acoustic, a choice that did not minimize the band’s performance.

One highlight of the afternoon occurred during the beginning of the Sheaks set, when drummer Hunter Oswald’s 2 1/2-year-old son ran on stage to hang out with Daddy.

Yes, the cute-as-hell toddlers and tykes were indeed the co-stars, running to and fro, blowing bubbles, dancing, coloring and getting tattoos and face paintings.

Grown-ups looked to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. Moms and dad had to keep an eye on the tots but got to relax a bit while friends took turns chasing and wrangling up kids. The cooperative spirit and lack of blind spots in the venue allowed them to enjoy some beers and some of the best music Central Florida has to offer. 

For some, it might seem like worlds colliding, but the good vibes and youthful energy seemed natural for a daytime rock show, and it’s too bad we don’t do this more often.

-- Story and photos by Julie Garisto

Below, check out more photos, including shots of Joran Oppent and Ryan Wendell Bauer; Thomas Wynn and the Believers; Sons of Hippies; the Semis' Billy Summer and girlfriend Zoe Rita; Geri X., and Sheaks drummer Hunter Oswald with kids Chase and Eli.

[Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009 1:33pm]


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