Music and love are blessings in 2011

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So it's time to count your blessings on Thanksgiving.

Yeah, it's been a strange year, but it's essential to remember the good stuff because that's what makes the rest worthwhile, right?

So feel free to make yourself a turkey sandwich and munch along as I consider the things I'm thankful for in 2011:

Elbowroom

For starters, I'm happy that I didn't have to make any money putting on the inaugural Orlando Calling music festival, which drew about half the crowd that promoter Melvin Benn was hoping to attract Nov. 12 and 13 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

But all the bands made it, with the exception of Blues Traveler and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (the latter because the band's van and gear were stolen at another tour stop). As an audience member, I must selfishly confess that I enjoyed the extra elbowroom: Stretching out in the grass to listen to the Flatlanders and staking out a spot 10 feet from the stage to watch Justin Townes Earle was righteously awesome.

And it was also cool to watch Del McCoury, a bluegrass icon who once played with Bill Monroe, take shouted song requests from the audience on the main stage (!) on the festival's second day. Yeah, the bowl looked a little sad with so few people in the stands for the headlining sets, but hopefully Benn and his London company, Festival Republic, will find a way to return.

The week after the festival, Benn said through an email from a festival publicist that "a decision will not be made this side of the New Year" on the festival's prospects for 2012. Benn also said that he "took a loss for sure but financials have not been finalized yet so he can't give an exact figure."

Is there another spot where Orlando Calling could set up camp without the intimidating prospect of a 70,000-seat football stadium to fill? The Central Florida Fairgrounds work for the Warped Tour, a successful touring road show that usually draws about the same number of fans that attended each of the days at Orlando Calling.

Love

It has been a rough year for those in the local music and pop-culture scene in Orlando.

In September, beloved Orlando musician Ralph Ameduri was tragically killed in a robbery attempt while he was taking a break during a gig in Winter Haven. Less than two weeks later, Orlando Sentinel night-life columnist Kelly Fitzpatrick died in her sleep, gone way, way too soon at age 36.

The outpouring of love was a reminder that the bonds in this town endure.

In Ameduri's case, he was celebrated in an unprecedented musical street party that raised more than $22,000 for his family's expenses. Even better, it offered healing in songs, stories and special reunions that the man would've loved.

On what other occasion would cocktail-hour duo Mark Wayne and Lorna Lamby, a fixture for decades at the Red Fox Lounge in Winter Park, be on a street-party main stage? Yet it was totally fitting, because Ameduri embraced them in the same way he supported all his musical friends.

An art event to benefit Ameduri's family on Dec. 3 at the Peacock Room has been pushed to later in December, so look here for details when they are announced.

jcabbott@tribune.com or 407-420-6213

Holiday music time

On the list of things I'm thankful for: a CD player in my car.

That way, I have options to avoid the nonstop holiday music that will have started on Magic 107.7 FM (WMGF) by the time you read this.

The annual wall-to-wall Christmas music is wildly popular, especially among the businesses that want to spread the seasonal cheer. I'd be willing to bet that at least a few of the employees in those businesses might want a portable CD player of their own, at least by Christmas Eve.

That's the time that I'm actually ready for Rudolph and the rest. I think a week of nonstop yuletide music — between Christmas and New Year's Day — would be just perfect.

Call me a grinch, if you want. Guns N' Roses fans have called me worse.
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