Bordering on the obsessive, two South Florida music lovers vowed more than five years ago to bring back the glory days of live rock & roll music. Friends Richard DiBenedetto and Mickey Filippucci have been hard at work ever since. And the way things are going they just might succeed.
Although both have real jobs, Richard and Mickey’s true passion comes out at their music festivals. It’s always a broad smile and a flurry of activity for these two. They seem to instinctively know what the other is doing at any given time and finish each others sentences. With this easily seen camaraderie and deep, honest passion they’ve earned a legion of loyal followers and fans.
It all started early in 2010 when Richard and Mickey were introduced during a (what else) night of live music. Mickey was and is a guitar player for Head First and Richard came to hear them play. “It was a grassroots thing with mutual friends,” explained Richard, “We quickly discovered our common interest, became friends, and soon thereafter planned our first music festival.”
DiBenedetto recalls, “Florida Rock Stars was born when we put on the first South Dade Food & Rock Festival at Homestead’s Harris Field Pavilion and got an immediate euphoria. We didn’t even know what we were doing, but we knew we were doing it right.” Filippucci added, “There’s nothing quite like good live music coupled with good food and good people. It’s just a feeling of exhilaration!”
As an attendee of many Florida Rock Stars shows, I can tell you there is just something special in the air. It's a feeling of community, doing good and of course exceptional music. During the past five years, I’ve seen their growth and learning experience. Each show is bigger and better, leading them out of Homestead to Palmetto Bay. There’s no question their passion is working and turning heads. Richard and Mickey are putting on shows that inspire attendees, vendors, musicians and towns to do more.
“We’re all about community and Palmetto Bay has opened their arms to us,” smiled Richard. “We’ve loved our time in Homestead, but going forward Palmetto Bay is our town.” Florida Rock Stars has settled from a chaotic pace of four shows a year to just two, a Country show in the spring and Rock in the winter. “This allows us to really focus and put on killer shows with the best talent,” explains Mickey.
An important part of the festival show mix is Florida Rock Stars’ commitment to charity. They’ll typically raise and donate over $10,000 to charity each show. And the involvement of local businesses is also paramount. Mickey picked up the mic at a recent show, “Everyone out here, all you business sponsors, all these fans, you guys are all part of this. We love ya!” At the same show County Commissioner Danielle Levine-Cava said, “This feels so intimate. It feels like a community coming together.”
Making any real money with these shows has been elusive thus far. This is truly a labor of love for both Richard and Mickey. “If it was about the money, we’d have stopped a long time ago. We know we are building something special here,” explained Mickey. Richard added, “Our dream is to bring back good live music and entertain people. I think we’re living that dream.”
If you want to fuel their dream and thoroughly enjoy yourself in the process, circle November 14 on your calendar. The 4th Annual Palmetto Bay Food & Rock Festival runs from 4-11 p.m. You can find out more at floridarockstars.com. Until then, enjoy a few videos I shot over the past few years.