Published on May 3rd, 2018

Poster by Andrew McGranahan

The importance of blues and jazz to genres that came after was never lost on Ray Carbone, the man behind the legendary, scene-building Ray’s Downtown Blues. That West Palm Beach live-music hangout, born in 1994, expanded beyond its founder’s first loves to become a showcase for punk, rock and metal — homegrown and touring. Gone since 2007, its influence on the region’s cultural life endures.

Last September Carbone took up weekly residence at Voltaire, the cozy West Palm club upstairs from Lost Weekend, creating a new space for live blues and more. Ray’s Downtown Presents holds court at Voltaire on Sunday nights, with Carbone booking the acts and slinging the drinks. All of which brings us to CAMP RAY  aka RayFest, a culmination of the Voltaire gig and everything Carbone has done to make jazz and blues happen in South Florida. The confirmed lineup for the inaugural RayFest as of press time includes J.M. and the Sweets (soul), JL Fulks (blues), Joey George (blues), TCHAA (funk),  The Blues Crusaders with Rockin’ Jake and The Derek McLean Trio. This is Carbone throwing a party with a few of his favorite bands.

Ray’s Downtown at 519 Clematis Street was a beacon for music heads and, for better and worse, a catalyst of neighborhood revival. In a story as old as development itself, a cultural outpost operating on a shoestring in a beat-up part of town showed others the value of a written-off urban space. Speculation, gentrification and storefront rent spikes followed. While some pioneering venues, like the even older Respectable Street, survived the onslaught, Ray’s folded, a victim to some degree of its own good work.

Carbone stayed busy. He opened another club for a while, and has found other gigs and event nights to promote. With Voltaire he’s returned to Clematis. So here we are in 2018, back among people who made the art that made a scene and people who sustained and supported it. Meanwhile, official West Palm seems to be reconsidering its efforts to turn downtown into a theme park. It’s a good moment. So come out and say cheers to one of the people that put Clematis on the map for all the right reasons.

CAMP RAY will take place May 27 beginning at 7pm at Voltaire in West Palm. ~ Tim Moffatt

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