MARCO ISLAND — A Marco tradition is back – just be sure to bring your own lawn chair. The Winter Concert Series, which brings free concerts to Mackle Park every Sunday afternoon during the winter season, kicked off the 2013 edition on Sunday with a performance by the "Mr. & Mrs. Trio."
This musical ménage a trois features transplanted New Yorkers Diane and Mark Fogel on vocals (her as the headliner, augmented by him) and guitar (all him), augmented by Michael Nardi on keyboard. The keyboard, a Kurzweil digital, takes the part of everything from electric piano, to organ, to horn section, and even steel drums on "Margaritaville." The band was further augmented by bass and drums, electronically, as those musicians were nowhere to be seen.
Four different groups of musicians will rotate through the season. "Music of Marco Big Band" takes the stage Sunday, Jan. 13, followed by the Marco Island Strummers on Jan. 20. Bob Smith and Friends round out the rotation, playing their first show on Jan. 27, before "Mr. and Mrs." Take their next turn on Feb. 3.
If the Bob Smith group doesn't sound familiar, the ensemble is essentially the same as the Jim Manard Band, which has played the series previously, minus Mr. Manard, compelled to bow out for health reasons, said recreation manager Mindy Gordon of the Marco Island Parks and Recreation Dept., which hosts the affairs. If the name Mindy Gordon doesn't sound familiar, she is the same dynamic event organizer previously known by her maiden name, Mindy Matusiak.
"We've been doing the Winter Concert series since Parks & Rec. began," said Gordon. "I've been here eight years, but it was happening for a couple of years before that. The shows are offered free to the public."
The mix of music spans the decades, but cuts off around the 1960s, said Gordon. "We go from big bands up to the fifties with doo-wop, and some sixties." The Mr. & Mrs. Trio were up at the modern end of that musical spectrum – Mark Fogel even sports a ponytail behind the thinning locks on top of his head, to go along with the adept lead guitar riffs he produces on his heritage cherry sunburst Les Paul, a beautiful and history-laden instrument.
The band opened with "Stand by Me," and then posed the musical question, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"
The city encourages the audience to bring their own folding chairs. On Sunday, a portion of the audience chose instead to soak up the sun, sitting outside the open-roofed rec center that housed the performers, most of the audience, and the dance floor.
Even many of those who did bring their own seating quickly abandoned the chairs. Some people just love to dance, particularly to live music, and they were well-represented at Mackle Park on Sunday. Carmela and Fritz Rath are regulars, showing up at venues from Marco to Estero to cut a rug, always looking like they're enjoying themselves immensely. Songs such as "Jailhouse Rock" and "Dancin' in the Streets" turned the show into a dance party, with up to a dozen couples boogying away.
New this year, refreshments will be available, from the Beach Dogs cart, with hotdogs and a variety of other food and drink. Each concert is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m., with Mr. and Mrs. Back on April 21 for the last show of the season.
For a complete schedule, go to the city's website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com.