The Loquats keep island buzzing all night
A soca beat kicks in and it gets half the crowd to the left of the dancefloor.
Then the sound lifts to popular soft rock and there’s singing to the right.
It’s the kind of atmosphere Ben Payne loves.
The frontman formed band for hire, The Loquats, last month. They kicked off the season as Newstead’s newest happy-hour live act.
“We’re doing our best to appeal to everybody,” he said. “There’s such a wide range in age groups.
“I’m doing modern, soca beat, stuff you’d hear on the radio and there’s a group off to my left that are dancing; then I’ll do Sweet Caroline, and there’s a group of people over here singing along.
“It’s quite a mixed crowd. Anybody can fit in.”
Mr Payne, a fixture at the Pickled Onion’s regular jam nights, moved to the island three years ago. For him, Bermuda’s size makes performing a pleasure.
“There are fewer venues and fewer options here than in Toronto,” the Canadian said.
“The market in Toronto is absolutely saturated, it’s really hard to get a crowd out. And when you do, it’s really hard to make them dance.
“In Bermuda, there’s a more vocal appreciation for live music and fewer options, so everybody winds up going to the same places together and seeing all the people they know; they’re hanging out and having a good time and the music is there to enhance the experience. It’s really nice.”
The 42-year-old has been playing professionally since he was 18.
A “multi-instrumentalist”, Mr Payne holds a music degree from Toronto’s Humber College.
He plays piano, guitar, bass guitar, keys and drums and he’s busy six days a week.
When Newstead’s happy hour ends at 9pm, he heads back to Pickled Onion to play guitar and sing with Graffiti Park.
The Loquats came about after he met the other members at Pickled Onion’s Tuesday Jam.
Janita Adderley, the other lead vocalist, is a server there and a regular with female rock group Stiletto 5; James Woolf is on keys, Spencer Wood on percussion.
The band hopes to expand to five members within the month. Aside from Newstead, they play at weddings, parties and corporate events.
“We’re all seasoned musicians,” Mr Payne said. “Newstead is our nursing and training ground.
“We’re here for hire. Sometimes the band will be larger depending on the situation; we have some subs on the roster.”
He’s played in “hundreds” of bands.
“I’ve also led about four or five of my own. When I was freelancing, it was 12 different groups a month. If the regular guitar player couldn’t make it out I’d get the call, I’d learn their songs. They might call me back if they needed me.
“Whenever there was an active group that needed a guitar player, singer or bass player, I’d get the call and I’d be that guy. I was quite busy doing that.”
It did wonders for perfecting his onstage communication.
“But it wasn’t so good for developing being a frontman, which is where Graffiti Park at Pickled Onion has really helped me,” he said.
“Because I’m singing lead for one-third of the night, I’ve changed my hat from the side guy to the front guy and I’m enjoying it.”
In the off season, he picks up work as a music teacher. For now, he’s excited about his latest residency.
“It’s happy-hour cocktails, food, chatting after work ... it’s a Friday happy hour with live entertainment,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful set-up too. There’s a pool; the whole harbour behind the band is such a beautiful backdrop.”
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