A Party with a Purpose

You spoke and we’re listening. We are changing the format of the event and negotiating with venues to bring you a new and improved Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribs Music Fest. Therefore, we have decided not to host an event this year in order to plan appropriately and solicit additional sponsorships. We will have an even better festival in Spring 2019.

Friday October 14th - 2016

8:30 PM - Lauren Mitchell Band.

Lauren Mitchell Band Soul Singer Lauren Mitchell Follows her Musical Heart

“My first solo singing performance happened in church!” recalls Lauren Mitchell, a woman who, in only a few short years, has crafted a singular, unmistakable voice in the world of blues. “I'd been a member of the chorus for productions, but performing in my grandparent's church was the first time I stood on my own and opened my mouth to sing for an audience.”

Lauren remembers being frightened and a little nervous but she also remembers that, as she looked out over the faces in the congregation, “it wasn't too scary-and all those people knew me and loved me and wanted me to succeed.”

And succeed she has. The Lauren Mitchell Band is a tour de force, performing around 250 dates per year, nationally and internationally. Lauren and her band perform in concert halls, venues, historic honky tonks, and festivals. She's put together a stellar blues group led by Hammond B3 aficionado, “The Professor” Michael Hensley, and is proud of the fact that she spends a lot of time “in a van, with a bunch of seasoned veteran players, being schooled in the blues!”

Lauren's love of music was passed to her from her grandparents and parents. “My grandfather was a guitarist and my grandmother was a singer. They both also played organ. They met when my grandmother auditioned for the bluegrass/country band my grandfather led. My mom also sang in the church choir and there was always music in the home.” Lauren remembers her dad playing guitar. “My favorite tune he played was Mr. Bojangles. I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight and Fatz Waller and Jelly Roll Morton. My education in soul and blues came from listening to music my parents listened to.” Lauren cites Etta James as profoundly influencing her sound. “People recognize the Etta influence,” says Lauren. “Our music is definitely more soul that straight blues.”

Lauren's gift was recognized by her parents and professional voice lessons became a part of her early life. “I sang opera and theater music through college. I stumbled on Janis Joplin and she deeply impacted my singing. I learned Bobby McGee, of course!” A chance encounter with a Karaoke contest set Lauren's musical path in stone. “My friends insisted I sing Bobby McGee and I won the contest and a hundred bucks! I thought, ‘Man, maybe I should just keep singing this stuff!’” Lauren started digging in to the blues and despite a few meandering career choices (bartending, makeup artist, managing a restaurant) Lauren finally made a heart decision to make music her livelihood.

“I met Michael Hensley in 2005 and we launched The Lauren Mitchell Band in 2011. We haven't looked back since then!” says Lauren.

The Lauren Mitchell Band is releasing Live! From The Bradfordville Blues Club in May of 2014 late this summer. The record follows up the band's first release, Please Come Home.

“Our fans liked the first record but said it didn't quite represent the feel and energy of our live performances,” says Lauren. “Bradfordville Blues Club is known for fabulous sound and it's a historic juke joint. The place is alive with the musical spirits of Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, John Lee Hooker and James Cotton, to name just a few. When you play music that comes from a place in history that is so rich and so significant to our culture, recording music where legendary figures also played is just magical.”

Lauren Mitchell has come a long way from that little girl singing in front of her church congregation. She's now a touring, professional blues singer, fronting a band and wowing audiences along the way. Audiences that know her, love her, and are sure she's succeeding in every musical way.

In 1968, Michael “The Professor” Hensley began his professional career in Huntington, West Virginia, where he received a music degree in B3ology from 9th Street University. His early influences were Jimmy Smith, Al Kooper, John Lord, Ray Manzarek & Brian Auger. Mike toured throughout the U.S. with various artists during the 70's and 80's including The Sarah Johns Band and Millie McClain (from The Orlons), before making Sarasota, Florida his home in 1989. Mike has had the pleasure of working with Chris Callaway, John Dittrich (Restless Heart), Dan Toler & the Townsend / Toler Band. Mike also heads up the Mike Hensley Organ Trio.

See the entire entertainment lineup.


Please consider volunteering your time at the 10th Annual Gulf Coast Rhythm & Ribs Music Fest. You will not only have fun volunteering at the event, but are able to stay before and after your shifts to enjoy the music and food. It will truly be a great weekend!
Registration Form


“Greatest Ribs in America”, “Golden Ribs Award”, “Best Sauce in the Nation” and numerous “People’s Choice Awards” are just a few of the Titles and Awards, the attending Rib Masters share amongst them. Last year’s winners of the “Best Ribs” and “Best Sauce” Awards will attend again and are ready to defend their titles.

Kids Fest

Families will find plenty to do and will enjoy Games, Rides, Prizes, Thrill Shows, and Live Entertainment in our Interactive Kid’s Fun Zone.


Read what The Sarasota Post had to say about last year's event.


Don’t miss your opportunity to place your products and services in front of the THOUSANDS that will attend Gulf Coast Rhythm and Ribs Music Fest. Sponsorship levels range from $500 up to $20,000 and we can even customize a sponsorship package that is perfect for your company!

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Sponsored by

MCR Health Services