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Music

John Vanderslice connects with his Florida roots and waxes sentimental about David Berman

The Gainesville songwriter isn’t afraid of challenging material

Photo: Photo by Autumn de Wilde, License: N/A

Photo by Autumn de Wilde


Although Dagger Beach definitely continues that tradition, Vanderslice challenged himself structurally by relinquishing control at the start of the composing process to percussionist Jason Slota, who began the writing alone in a room, playing to a click track. The resulting illogical tempos created a new struggle for Vanderslice, an otherwise seasoned songwriter.

“There’s some time things that happen in ‘Song for David Berman’ that are very irrational, and it took me a long time to write around that into a song, and that’s why I think that song builds in such an unusual way,” Vanderslice says. “It’s because [Slota] was really road-mapping it. If I would’ve written that song, it would’ve been more square.”

A seeming glutton for punishing music experiments, Vanderslice wrapped Dagger Beach and immediately turned to reinterpreting songs from a different muse, David Bowie. On John Vanderslice Plays Diamond Dogs, Vanderslice assembled a band to record his version of the Bowie album in full. He did so in a total time crunch, as it was expensive and his bandmates had conflicting, busy schedules.

“We wanted the record to be very, very loose and somewhat reckless,” Vanderslice says, adding that he will be performing songs from Diamond Dogs on this tour, despite the difficulty of doing so live. “And it could’ve gone the wrong way. It could’ve been sloppy. But I’m really happy with that record.”

For Vanderslice’s Orlando show, there’s the potential for a similar sort of sparkling magic to what David Bowie achieved by theatrically reimagining George Orwell’s 1984 in a post-apocalyptic world on the second half of Diamond Dogs. With impromptu collaborations between Vanderslice and local musicians from the Pauses and Moon Jelly in the unique setting of the Acre, the only way show organizer Dave Plotkin could kick this up more is by inviting fire-eaters and acrobats.

Oh wait, he did. Fun Dipped Productions will add circus antics to the night in the outdoor venue that will likely be a compelling reminder to Vanderslice why he still considers our freak state of Florida to be his true home.

“I do really feel like I’m a product of Florida,” Vanderslice says. “Central/North Florida was everything to me. I moved to suburban Maryland after that, which does not have the same impact as far as landscape, as far as culture, as far as a geographical intensity. It just did not. I later really appreciated how much Florida had impacted me.”

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