Wobbly Fest draws large crowds at White Lion

By Emily Hoover | ehoover@flagler.edu
Photographs by Phillip C. Sunkel IV

Fans of the St. Augustine sing-a-long band Wobbly Toms were not bothered by news of a CD release delay on Saturday, Jan. 15, the second day of Wobbly Fest at the White Lion Restaurant & Pub. Instead, they did not seem to notice. They were too busy dancing, singing, drinking and celebrating what the eight-piece band calls “feel good music.”

“The Drift [Magazine] article was a little premature, ” vocalist and bassist Andy Calvert said, referring to an article in the magazine’s last issue, which broke the news of the upcoming CD release. “The CD is not finished, it needs to be printed.”

Calvert said that the CD, titled “Everybody Happy,” will be sold at shows and on bandcamp.com as soon as it is printed. He said that interested fans could obtain CD information from the Wobbly Toms’ Facebook page.

Wobbly Fest, which took place on Friday, Jan. 14 and Saturday, Jan. 15, invited locals and fans to what the flier called “two nights of Wobbly fun.” Other artists, Glamour Girl & Choir Boy and Terri Gamble, preceded the Wobbly Toms’ acoustic set on Friday.

On Saturday, the Wobbly Toms, who said they cite everything from “traditional” bluegrass and folk music to punk and swing music as influences, played a three-hour set, featuring covers of Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple,” The Pogues’ “Streams of Whiskey” and the traditional bluegrass song “Pig in a Pen.”

“The CD has both covers and originals,” Travis Hembree, who plays keyboard and drums, said. “But, it is 90 percent original.”
Calvert agrees.
“[The main reason] we play covers is to fill up a three-hour set,” he said.

The band, which pairs guitars, drums and bass with mandolins, banjos, harmonicas, flutes and bagpipes, said they continue to play music because of their size.

“We’re inspired by each other,” vocalist and banjo player Richard Steinmeyer said. “With eight people in a band, [we’re always incorporating] different influences.”

While each member of the band said that they embrace all types of music genres and many play multiple instruments, they also said that playing in St. Augustine, which serves as home, is a contributing factor.

“It’s where our friends are,” guitarist Zach Lively said.

Flute and bagpipe player Tim Preston agrees. He said that the live music culture allows the band to continue to play.

“If it weren’t for St. Augustine, we couldn’t do what we do,” he said. “We could only jam if we lived, say, 50 miles away.”

Calvert said the Wobbly Toms formed in November 2003 as a result of “jam sessions” among “buddies.” He said it has progressed over the years, featuring numerous members. Other current band members include Tony Kistka, Dave Haynes and Jeremy Rogers.

As Steinmeyer said he likes Northeast Florida ska band General Tso’s Fury, he said that he also enjoys the music that St. Augustine offers.

“[St. Augustine] has pretty good artists,” Steinmeyer said. “There are a lot of good bands around here.”

While The Wobbly Toms said they are preparing for upcoming shows—they will play Santa Maria on Jan. 28, Meehan’s on Feb. 4 and the St. Augustine Celtic Festival in March—they also hope to help make the St. Augustine music scene better.

“The music scene needs exposure,” Calvert said, “publicity from The Drift [and other publications.] We’ve been trying to put together shows with other bands around town. We want to share the fun.”

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