Backed by drums, percussion and guitars, singers representing Filipino, Colombian, Cuban, Venezuelan and U.S. cultures fused their divergent backgrounds into an original "Get in the Move" concert that featured neo-soul music with doses of Latin, modern jazz, R&B, pop and Brazilian Bossa Nova.
And where did the musical group Treebo serve up this musical stew last week? At the Ruskin Firehouse Cultural Center, of course.
Striving to be an educational and cultural focal point in the SouthShore area, the cultural center has transformed its Blackbox Theater into an intimate and relaxed weekend pub, offering a lively lineup of entertainment, including everything from jazz and comedy revues to big band music, Broadway show tunes and salsa.
"We're providing a venue for live music with groups that have a following," says Georgia Vahue, the Firehouse Cultural Center's new executive director, who brings a combination of arts administration, teaching and curatorial experience to the position.
"The Ruskin area doesn't have an entertainment center, and this fits our mission of supporting the community and offering culture and art to patrons of all ages."
The Arts Council of Hillsborough County gave Vahue the idea for a pub, and put her in touch with Carollwood's Cultural Center, which hosts similar live musical and theatrical entertainment throughout the year for their neighborhood. Now, both centers have a north-south sharing agreement that works well for them.
"Carollwood's director invited me to see their center, and he was very helpful," Vahue said. "He showed me how to choose talent and how to set up the pub."
Treebo, a West Palm Beach-based group that is recording its second album and raising money for a major concert, says the Firehouse Pub is the perfect place to branch out and experience another side of the coast.
"I always envisioned Tampa being something like the city of Austin, a lot of groups coming and going and a lot of original music being exchanged," said Noel Lorica, Treebo's leader. "We are a multi-ethnic group, and the flavor is great here."
Ruskin resident Joe Henvey couldn't agree more. He and his Peruvian wife, Nelly, and their son, Jonatan Molina, decided to check out the band and enjoy a Saturday night at the Firehouse Pub, their second visit in a month.
"This is extremely positive for Ruskin," Henvey said. "We tend to go into Tampa or travel to downtown St. Pete for live entertainment, so this is convenient. We just saw the Rick Gee's Jazz Jamm, and we have tickets to see him here again because the jazz is really good."
Besides Rick Gee's Jazz Jamm Concert, the Firehouse Pub hosts live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night through the rest of the year, with a lineup of talent that includes the Stage Door Canteen, Big Band Night, Craig Hartfield's Broadway by the Numbers and a Girls Night Out comedy show.
"I'm envisioning this to be like Joe's Pub at the Public Theater," Vahue says referring to a popular nightclub in the East Village of New York that hosts live performances regularly. "That's the kind of atmosphere I want, an eclectic mix of music."
The pub has cozy, candle-lit communal table seating for about 85 guests. There's a cash bar along with refreshments and snacks served at every performance. Nonrefundable tickets are discounted when purchased in advance, either by phone at (813) 645-7651 or online at www.firehouseculturalcenter.org.