NEW PORT RICHEY — On week days, there's a sleepy kind of feel in downtown New Port Richey. But on the last Tuesday of the month, there's a bit of a boost for those who want to get out and about.
Locals Night is a multi-site event dedicated to the original music scene in New Port Richey and beyond.
During the most recent offering in March, Natalia Bonfini, a singer/songwriter from Cape Cod, was working through an acoustic set of covers and originals in the small cafe at Wrights Natural Food Market on Main Street. A few doors down, local boy Mitchel Duval was crooning away at Cotee River Brewing Company. Folk musician Ian Haas, of Tampa, was making a solo debut at Ordinance One.
Over at the Karl Reef on Grand Boulevard, Nashville indie-pop artist Roger Jaeger was trading acoustic guitar for the sitar. A short walk away, 15-year-old Malia Camille of Spring Hill was belting covers accompanied by Forest Hartman on guitar at Sip, a wine and craft beer bar owned by her parents.
Locals Night had an accidental genesis.
In 2016, pop and R & B artist Taylor Reed and her husband, Joe Karl III, were hosting a CD release party at his dad's bar, the Karl Reef.
It was on a Tuesday, when the place is usually closed, but there was a good crowd, said Karl, who serves as pastor of Journey Church on Main Street.
"It was so cool to see the barfly sitting next to the church lady who typically would never come into a bar," he said. "Everyone was having a great time and (were) just so supportive of the music."
That got them thinking about opening Tuesday nights to other local musicians, said Karl, who got the go-ahead from his dad.
In the beginning, it was a solo effort with Karl and Reed paying musicians out-of-pocket to play at his dad's bar. A year later, other establishments came on board, giving rise to the thought that downtown New Port Richey could be a haven for original music.
Almost two years in, Locals Night — much like the city of New Port Richey — has had a fits-and-starts kind of evolution. It was a packed room in December when Reed played at Karl Reef, with another good showing in February for swing dance lessons offered before a performance by the Hot Rod Hornets. The bar was humming at Ordinance One and Cotee River Brewing for the March event, but it was a slow night elsewhere.
"It's hit or miss," Karl said, adding that participation can range from three to eight establishments.
"We've learning along the way," he said. "If there's another big event going on at Sims Park, we know it's going to be slow."
"And if it rains, people don't want to come out," Reed said.
Even so, business owners have been patient and supportive of the reciprocal arrangement, Karl said.
Musicians often are willing to earn a little less for picking up an extra gig in New Port Richey, he said. And business owners are bringing in acts that their patrons might otherwise have to travel to see.
Ian Haas, who typically plays with the Bee Whisperers in Tampa and St. Pete, said he first heard about Locals Night when he came to see a friend play at Ordinance One.
"Everyone has been so welcoming here," he said. "And we're always excited to support local music, local creativity, which in turn supports the local community.”
Live music, trivia contests and open mic nights are among the offerings downtown, and Locals Night adds another element to the mix, said Brett Ciper, owner of Ordinance One.
"We've had some really great, original artists here," he said. "Frankly, I wouldn't be able to afford to have them play here on the weekends."
Lisa and Kris Bolster, proprietors of Sip, said they have been pleased with the eclectic talent they've hired, but also the neighborhood feel the event helps generate.
"We were interested in being a part of Locals Night, the same as we're interested with being a part of anything that's going on downtown," Lisa Bolster said. "We're establishing good relationships, not only with our patrons, but with other businesses."
Musicians from across the country have been added to the mix, courtesy of Reed’s connections. She is signed with Brave Enough Artist Agency, which has garnered attention on the college circuit. She recently was named Favorite Female Soloist of the Year at the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities conference in Orlando.
As the couple focuses on Reed's burgeoning career, they are pulling back from Locals Night and looking for others to take the reins.
They recently hired Rock the Boat Productions to generate more social media buzz and want to hire someone to explore fundraising and grants.
"We're new to promoting Locals Night, but we've been supporters since it started and are happy to be on board," said Kira Atkinson, of Rock the Boat. "They've done a really good job of making New Port Richey a destination for original artists, kind of putting New Port Richey on the map in letting musicians in the Tampa Bay area that (this) is a place where they can showcase their talents."
If you go: Locals Night will be held April 30 at various establishments in downtown New Port Richey. Scheduled performers: Penn Johnson, 6 p.m. at Cotee River Brewing Company, 5760 Main St.; Klein & Hopper Duo, Ordinance One, 5738 Main St.; Mwiza Simfukwe, 6:30 p.m. at Sip, 6231 Grand Boulevard.
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/localsnightnpr
To check out Taylor Reed's music and touring schedule, go to www.taylorreedmusic.com
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] or (727) 869-6251. Follow @MicheleMiller52.