When the crowds are thinner and the evenings provide the most pleasant weather of the day, the Friday Night Concert Series is in full swing.

A longtime local favorite weekend event, the concerts take place on Friday nights in Centennial Park, in Downtown Venice. Bands set up in the gazebo and music lovers sit on the grass around it, in folding chairs or on blankets or towels.

Beth Hammer is a local blues musician who hosts a Sunday show on WSLR radio called the Velvet Hammer Blues. For the past nine years or so, she has been booking talent for the Friday Night Music Series for Venice MainStreet, the primary presenter of the concerts.

She said that when Kat Crosby performs for the series on June 14 with her band the Rhythm Gators, she will be playing bass with her.

“The music that we book for the concerts is really a mix of all different kinds,” Hammer said. “I always select top-of-the-line musicians for these gigs.”

As a singer/songwriter, Kat Crosby presents blues from a woman’s perspective. Sometimes the song is celebrating the man she loves—her husband John Peterson, who plays in her band. Sometimes the song is a lecture about how a woman is affected by the world around her, but it’s always about telling the story. Her music, with both the Rhythm Gators and the Kat Crosby Band, is a mix of fresh, modern blues with a dash of jazz.

On July 12, John Howard will be performing at the Friday Night Series. Hammer said that he is considered to be a masterful storyteller with a rock and roll soul, and his original music reflects a strong connection with everyday people and the world we all live in.

She added that she never has a problem getting well-known artists to perform for these musical events, primarily because they thoroughly enjoy the Venice music aficionados.

“The people who come to Venice for the concert serious are so generous with us,” she said. “It’s a real fun gig to play and I just think it’s a really great setting.”

Seating is not provided for the 7 to 9 p.m. concerts, but guests are welcome to bring chairs, towels, blankets or whatever they need to make themselves comfortable while they enjoy the music.

Though there are not typically food vendors on site during the concerts, Hammer said that many concert goers take advantage of what the fantastic downtown restaurants have to offer—both before and after the performance.

“Some people bring their own food and drinks, and we also get a lot of folks who bring carry-out food from our local restaurants,” she said. “It’s a really nice evening out for people.”

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