Eslava Creek Sessions-First show

November 18, 2018

I woke up excited yesterday. There was a wonderful, new songwriter’s festival going to take place. I wouldn’t have to drive across town, downtown or over the bayway. It was close to Dauphin Island Parkway on Riveria. 


It was Eslava Creek Sessions, a fabulous concert series and I heard it said this was only the first of many to come. I had seen pictures of the preparations for this event and parts of it reminded me on one of my favorite places on earth….The Frog Pond.


Parking was a little bit hairy, but it is in a pretty close neighborhood. To me the parking situation  just meant there was a great turnout for the event…so it was a plus!


It was obvious that Ryan Balthrop (a local musician who is one of the best ever, he is also a very talented artist— southern window art), had thought of everything. 


For me above all those things Ryan Balthrop is the kind of citizen we should aspire to be. He picks up trash at a local fishing hole on DIP when he rides his bike over there. He has a crew (and invites others to join him), his crew is the Eslava Creek Yak Club. They gather at his place on a regular basis; hop in their kayaks and pick up floating debris from the creek. This creek is one of the tributaries that feed into Dog River, then on into Mobile Bay. 

Ryan is passionate about taking care of our environment and our waterways so that it will remain ALIVE and be there for future generations. I have never known a greater steward for our neighborhood, our planet. It makes me just love this wonderful wonderful man.


When I plan to go somewhere new I have  certain expectations in my head. I sometimes have doubts about how it will turn out. I never doubted this event. The minute I learned it was Ryan Balthrop and Kelli Ferguson Balthrop putting it on, I knew I was in for a great experience!


There were three rounds, (groups) lined up for the stage.

The first round included Harrison McInnis, Laurie Anne Armour, Jesh Yancey, Ryan Balthrop. Enhancing that round (and all of the rounds) was a wonderful pianist/keyboardist named Andrew Ayers. He is part of a great up-and-coming rock band called Stereo Dogs. He is a person who is a natural talent. He had not played with most of the people who performed today, but he found himself a place to jump right in and fill-out the song. Andrew smiled the whole time and his energy remained even though it turned pretty cold once the sun went down.


Briefly joining the music was Andrew’s twin brother (Bryan Ayers) who is a part of The Stereo Dogs and a great drummer.


I looked around the crowd of people sitting there near the edge of the woods and the banks of the Eslava Creek and I saw so many familiar faces from my music friends. There were plenty of unfamiliar faces as well. I was so thrilled to see them and spend the afternoon enjoying great food, great music and just loving my life!


The second round was set up to feature our guests of honor. A couple my son is friends with and co-writes music with out of Florida…Lindsey and Will Thompson. She is a keyboardist and he a guitarist. They sang some of the most beautiful songs of the day. To enhance their music Molly Thomas and Eric Erdman each took an end of the stage and piped in with their instruments to make it all even more full and rich in sound. Lindsey and Will were wonderful.


The third and final round was Molly Thomas, Rick Hirsch, Abe Partridge, Eric Erdman and Ferrill Gibbs (accompanied by Brent Busby on guitar).  It was WOW! During this session others joined in with back-up vocals for certain songs and made it even more wonderful.


Ryan and Kelli thought of absolutely everything. The stage was perfect and it was adorned with furniture and lamps to make it look cozy. There was a gazebo-type building nearby that housed the fresh hot coffee and additional seating near the fire that burned. There was a long winding rock path that lead everyone to and from the area where the food was set up.


To sum it up….for me it could not have been better. I am proud to know Ryan and Kelli Balthrop and call them my friends. They worked hard for weeks, along with others that volunteered. My understanding is the proceeds were earmarked for people who lost so much in the recent hurricane that hit our neighbors in Florida. Our guests of honor Lindsay and Will were two of those people who were effected by that storm.


So we had great music, and wonderful people came together for it and brought great food. We did a lot of hugging and visiting before the show and on breaks but we focused on the stage when these musicians were singing for us.


There will be more of these shows in the future. So keep your eyes and ears pealed for the announcement of Eslava Creek Sessions coming up!


Thank you Kelli and Ryan Balthrop for this wonderful event

Thank you to all the great musicians who volunteered to perform

Thank you to all the people who pitched in and helped make it happen

                          (Especially David Ayers)

Juanita Smith

Music Mom



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