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Palm Coast Tuesday, May 8, 2018 1 year ago

Palm Coast Songwriters Festival exceeds expectations, plans to expand

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The visiting artists were approachable, funny, humble and made audiences weep.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

Someone approached Garry Lubi on Sunday, May 6, after the final show of the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival and said, “I’m mad.”

Lubi, who organized the event, the first of its kind in Palm Coast, asked why.

“Because I didn’t come to all three shows,” the man said.

Lubi said he heard this reaction over and over again after the free three-day festival, May 4-6, with renowned songwriters telling the stories behind the hit songs that they had written for some of country music’s biggest stars over the years.

“People that are not even country music fans — it resonated extremely well with them,” Lubi said. “They were shocked by the way it would connect with them.”

I was one of those residents who attended part of one of the free shows and regretted not having made time for more. I missed the Flagler Beach show on Friday, May 4, but after a birthday party, I dragged my family — including all five of my children — to the Daytona State College amphitheater on Saturday, May 5.

We could only stay for an hour, and I loved every minute of it. And to their surprise, so did my children.

We heard Thom Shepherd tell the story of how he wrote the song, “Redneck Yacht Club,” which was performed by Craig Morgan and peaked at No. 2 on the country Billboard chart. We heard Coley McCabe perform Shepherd’s song, “I Am a Woman,” which moved me with lyrics like this:

I’m a diamond, I am love

I’m a well-worn pair of light blue garden gloves

I am passion, I’m desire

Anticipation and a whisper by the fire

One thing I love about country music is the way it find great emotion on simple details of life. This festival had some great performances, but it wasn't about the singing as much as it was about the words. It was more like going to an audience-friendly poetry reading set to music than it was going to a country music concert.

Shepherd and McCabe were just two of the nine artists who performed. Some of them had multiple No. 1 hits and have worked with people like Brad Paisley — household names. These were world-class writers who have reached a rare level of success.

McCabe told Lubi after the final show, on Sunday, May 6, at the Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s stage at Town Center, that one of the audience members said it was an honor to have these writers visit our town. “She was blown away” by the compliment, Lubi said. “She was almost crying.”

The event was free to attend, thanks to some sponsors that included Centerstate Bank, the Observer and Flagler Broadcasting. The Tourist Development Council also contributed $15,000 with an eye toward growing the event to three or four times the number of artists and luring more travelers, including those on their way to a much bigger festival in Key West the following weekend.

And according to Lubi, growing this event is a very real possibility. The 500 or so people who stopped by the shows, he said, “really got to have something. The people that went there, trust me, they’re all telling other people about it today.”

PCAF Executive Director Nancy Crouch said she was honored to have helped host part of the event. “It exceeded my expectations as far as the quality of the artists,” she said. “Everyone I spoke to who attended the event were captivated by the stories. … The artists were so approachable when speaking to them after their performance. They were all thrilled to be able to perform before an audience. Their songs are often purchased by studios and made famous by recording artists, so when they have an opportunity to perform their song, it is truly a gift for the audience.”

Crouch and Lubi said the artists are excited to return. Hopefully we can give them an even better turn out next time. I certainly won’t miss it.

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