Sandbar Sessions concerts at Little Palm Island



It’s rare – exceeding rare – when the promises made in an advertisement actually tell the truth about a product or service. But in the case of the Sandbar Sessions concert series on Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, located about 28 miles north of Key West, whoa Nelly!

The ads on the resort website have lovely photographs of the private island property; secluded chaise lounges on impossibly white sand under an impossibly blue sky. But on a recent visit, there they were. Ethereal golden lighting in the open-air cocktail lounge at sunset. Yep, there it is. Pristine hammocks strung between palm trees that look right out of central casting in Hollywood. Check.

Little Palm Island does look like a Hollywood movie set. But its 15 thatched-roof bungalows seem completely natural, assuming your idea of natural is a magnificent blue heron standing one-legged in a pool of rainbow colors as the sun reaches the horizon behind it.

But that’s not why we are here. The reason for our ferry over to Little Palm Island (on a gorgeous 1930’s-era wooden launch named “The Truman,” no less) is to attend one of the irregular concerts held, no kidding, on a sandbar at the water’s edge. The music “sessions,” like the hotel itself, are not for mere mortals, with a ticket price of $150 and up (free to guests staying at the resort who pay around $1,500 a night). But this is not just a concert. It’s more like you’ve been invited over to your best friend’s living room to hear some music and your best friend just happens to be a famous musician. The night we were there, country music star Jana Kramer was playing. Past artists include Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jefferson Starship and The Eclipse Quartet, a unique ensemble dedicated to the music of the 20th Century, including a collaboration with the singer/songwriter Beck.

Only about three to four Sandbar Sessions are held each year, says Bill Foster, the area director of marketing for the hotel’s owner, Noble House. And they are limited to hotel guest, which top out around 60, plus another 40 tickets sold to the public. The concerts, plus a few lectures in the series, started five years ago.

“It’s not about making money,” said Foster. “It’s about insuring there’s always something exciting going on for our guests, many of whom come back again and again. And for locals who are passionate about Little Palm Island.”

Sabrina Hendry Acevedo was one of those locals. She took a video selfie of herself in the middle of Kramer’s hit, “Why Ya Wanna,” while Kramer sat on the edge of the stage next to her. So relaxed was Kramer that she kept passing the microphone to Acevedo for her to sing the chorus. The crowd loved it and so, it seemed, did Kramer.

And that’s what Sandbar Sessions are supposed to be, as the resort advertises them as “an intimate performance.” Where else can you sink into a chair at the water’s edge to watch the sunset, strike up a conservation with the stranger sitting next to you and find out he’s the drummer for Kramer’s band? We chatted about the music scenes in Key West and Nashville, where he lives, before he was called away to start the show.

“Isn’t this beautiful,” Kramer said from the stage after her first song, gesturing to the fading colors of the sunset behind her. “This is probably the coolest place we’ve ever played.”