By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: The Palladium, St. Petersburg, Florida–August 13, 2017
A word of advice to all bands playing mellower music: Add a belly dancer for visual excitement!
Okay, seriously, for a guy who’s written about mostly punk and metal bands, and younger artists, Florida’s, Gypsy Star was visually calm. No hair flips, back flips, screaming (yet on key) vocals, just good music! Gypsy Star artfully fuses original indie folk rock with rhythms from around the world to create their unique sound.
Imagine if Fleetwood Mac, Blackmore’s Night and the Gipsy Kings got together to form a new band… it might sound very much like Gypsy Star. That’s not a bad thing, just a considerable change from the drummer’s last band (more about that later).
With their eclectic instrumentation of classical flamenco guitar, violin, bass, drums and an array of hand percussion along with sultry pop vocals and melodic harmonies, Gypsy Star weaves a colorful tapestry of enchanting, uplifting music. Add to that a guest cellist, accordianist, and the aforementioned belly dancer, and you have all the elements for an exceptionally entertaining night!
The mystique behind this dynamic folk rock band’s songs lie at the creative hand of guitarist/composer Billy Keen, who merges his own musical roots in American rock, folk and blues with a more global influence tapping into Spanish, Celtic, Renaissance, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Latin flavors. A serendipitous collaboration with long time bandmate, vocalist/percussionist Belinda Brodsky, breathes poetry into Keen’s tunes with lyrics that capture the essence of ancient tales, the insight of modern storytelling and the charm of timeless, heartfelt sentiments. And when we say percussionist, don’t think just a conga drum or tambourine, but multiple instruments, some of which I can’t even name. (There was something with a vaguely sexual connotation that looked like a fish made on a lathe – but it really was an instrument!)
Rounding out Gypsy Star’s signature sound are musically-gifted bandmates Steve Roberts (from England) on bass, Bonnie Deeds on violin, and background vocals and Kana Leimbach (from Japan) on drums. The international flavor is, as you can see, quite authentic. Steve and Kana’s pairing makes for a tight, melodic and percussive rhythm section. I’ll note that Kana is the main reason I was there, I’ve had the pleasure of her acquaintance for over three years through her former band, Undercover Betty – at the time, an all-female band known for straight-ahead rock and roll! Bonnie’s classically trained violin skills and vocal harmonies beautifully complement the band’s lush arrangements. Accordionist, Joli Rome, Cuban-American, adds her talents to Gypsy Star’s line-up as their special guest on some performances. In addition, Natalie Creager lent her beautiful cello talents, and for this performance, adding some visual excitement was Belly Dancer Kimara Lee
Gypsy Star has headlined at various music festivals and plays to enthusiastic crowds at theaters, concert halls, and listening rooms. They have performed at Clearwater Florida’s Ruth Eckerd Hall; The Tin Pan in Richmond, VA; Andrea Clearfield’s Salon in Philadelphia, PA; Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY and The Triad in NYC just to name a few.
Their musical performances have been featured on television and radio. Notably, their songs “Mistress Moon” and “Bossa” have been on the charts including the #1 spot on Florida’s WMTB 96.7 from 2014 through 2016. Their song “I Feel Love” has entered and has remained in the top 5 on the 2017 charts.
Gypsy Star has compiled an accomplished catalog of original music with 3 albums and a single to their credit. Their debut album, “Gypsy Star” released in 2007, “Once In A Dream,” released in 2011 and their single ~ a charming musical tale rendered in a Renaissance/Celtic style, “The Tale Of The Mistletoe” released in 2014. In 2016 Gypsy Star went back in the studio to record their new album, “Under The Moonlit Night” which was released in 2017.
Watch a video interview HERE.
Video Interview with the Band!
When not in custody, I've been involved with music, photography, and writing my entire life. Ever since I was a young boy and played those silver tunes, I've had the beat, but being a drummer didn't suit me so I became a lead singer, which lasted a few years. Settling down, sort of, I translated my knowledge of audio and glib tongue into mobile emcee work, and my training as a photographer and videographer into a living in the wedding, party, bar/bat mitzvah, and entertainment industry. During this time I also managed to bamboozle my way into a master's degree in writing, worked for a couple of magazines (yes, I took photos for a nudist magazine!), have photographed hotels, done commercial work (shot the cover of Tablet and Capsule magazine), published a few articles, hosted some public access shows (a couple times in drag, but that's another story), and generally made a nuisance of myself until I landed here.