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Island Hopper Songwriter Fest comes to FMB this weekend

October 2, 2014
Craig Garrett - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

After a very successful hop-along on Sanibel and Captiva islands last weekend, the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest rolls into town Friday to Sunday, Oct. 3 to 5, featuring free music performed by country music singers and songwriters. Organizers have been promoting Fort Myers Beach as a nice backdrop, a quaint village atmosphere with soft beaches.

The players will perform in a dozen island locations, most within walking distance of one another, another key to bringing the event to the area, organizers said. Fort Myers Beach stops include Nervous Nellie's, Matanzas Upper Deck, Smokin' Oyster Brewery, Yucatan Beach Stand, the Beached Whale, Beach Pierside Grill, the Cottage, Big Game, Parrot Key, Coconuts at Pink Shell and a big welcome bash at the Red Coconut Thursday night.

Performances at each venue are about an hour long, and music-lovers will have a blast hopping around, venue to venue, catching the many great sounds of these superstars.

Article Photos

Grammy-award winning artist Kristian Bush will bring his energetic live show and new music, including his debut solo single “Trailer Hitch” to the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival on Fort Myers Beach, Friday, Oct. 3, at 9 p.m. at Nervous Nellie’s. Kristian (one-half of the Platinum-selling country duo Sugarland), will give fans an introduction to his voice and solo material.

"We're excited because I used to be a part of it when I?had restaurants on Captiva. It's going to be a fantastic event lots of people come out and have a lot of fun and it's a great family-fun venue," said Rob DeGennaro, owner of Nervous Nellie's, who will be hosting Tim McGeary, Brandan Fontes, Gary Hannan, Kendell Marvel, Dave Gibson and Kristian Bush during the three-day festival. "These are the folks that wrote the music that you're all hearing on the radio. They're top notch artists, and the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest is a great way to get up close and meet these talented musicians."

One of the performers Friday night at Nellie's, Grammy-award winning artist Kristian Bush will bring his energetic live show and new music, including his debut solo single "Trailer Hitch" to the festival at 9 p.m. The musician (who's one-half of the Platinum-selling country duo Sugarland), will give fans an introduction to his voice and solo material.

Throughout the weekend, Nervous Nellie's plans to host an array of specials for adults and kids, including many new liquor product promotions and giveaways offered and close-up magic with Magic Frank.

Fact Box

Fort Myers Beach Stops for the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest:

Nervous Nellie's

Yucatan Beach Stand

Smokin' Oyster Brewery

The Beached Whale

Beach Pierside

Gulfshore Grill

Parrot Key

Big Game Bar and Grill

The Red Coconut for opening celebration

Over the course of the weekend, the Immokalee Casino Zig Zag Girls will be on-site, along with Cat Country 107.1, and as you know, happy hour goes on all day and night upstairs at Ugly's. "It's going to be a dry, nice and sunny weekend, so come on out," said Stephen DeAngelis, general manager of the eatery.

"It will be a rain-or-shine event, with both inside and outside entertainment," Rob said. "Come on out and bring the whole family. You're going to have a great time."

Just like Nervous Nellie's other participating Fort Myers Beach venues will be offering specials throughout the festival. Visit for a complete schedule of events during the three days of island-hopping.

The festival is free but merchants expect that patrons will spend freely while visiting the island. Ultimately the key is bringing important songwriters within a few feet of the visitors at local bistros and restaurants.

Many of those performers scheduled are known best for songs written for higher profile artists like Tanya Tucker, Garth Brooks and Uncle Kracker. The writers perform their songs at a dozen venues over three days.

The Songwriter Fest originated with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB), a tourism development agency. Organizers were particularly eager to create a festival in the doldrums of the off-season. The Island Hopper is modeled after a similar and popular music festival in Key West, said Nancy MacPhee, a program developer with the Visitor Bureau.

A key to choosing Fort Myers Beach and Captiva is the walkability factor, MacPhee said, meaning visitors can navigate the festival without a car. A trolley will be available, however.

"We really wanted to touch the whole county. But we picked (these) two communities, hoping to grow" the festival, MacPhee said of the choices. "Our grassroots partners are so engaged, so excited."

Royce Allgood, a Fort Myers Beach performer, said the festival is wonderful news. He plans to accompany some of the visiting performers, many coming from Nashville.

"It's a great idea," said Allgood, shouldering his guitar for a morning gig at a Captiva eatery. "Everyone is really excited."

Phil Myrick, a Nashville music agent and performer, said Southwest Florida is an ideal setting for a festival. It's also an excellent opportunity for the musicians "to tell their stories," he said.

Myrick noted that music fans will likely see more festivals like the Island Hopper. With music pirating and the wealth of web spots to download, songwriters in particular are losing most of the wealth stream they enjoyed in pre-technology days, he said.

Songwriter Dave Gibson, appearing at the Fort Myers Beach Island Hopper Festival stretch, said performing is everything it appears to the novice.

"It's a rush," said Gibson, who has written songs for Tanya Tucker and Alabama. "It's an amazing feeling."

Details and performance schedules are at

MELISSA SCHNEIDER also contributed to this article



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