The Hottest Thing on the Emerald Coast Isn’t Just The Weather

Michelle Stancil Photography

Hotel Oscar released their newest album “Hotel Oscar: Live at Florabama” in the fall at the Funky Blues Shack. The three-member band that plays a little of everything hopes to release a self-titled studio album in early 2015.

The sun has taken its daily plunge into the Gulf of Mexico, and lights begin to twinkle along the Emerald Coast. As you brush the sand from your feet, the sounds of guitars and pianos, rhythms and beats enter your ear. You follow the music to a venue where the band is jamming, people are dancing, and before you know it, you’re dancing, too. You have entered the Emerald Coast music scene, where there is no lack of entertainment.

Hotel Oscar — plenty of vacancy, bring your dancing shoes 

Michelle Stancil Photography


Mose Wilson rocks vocals and plays lead guitar.

Hotel Oscar, formed in 2011, is a hometown original. Though members Mose Wilson (guitar, vocals), Isaac Eady (drums, vocals) and Owen Finley (bass, vocals) all come from different states, they have come together in the heart of the Florida Panhandle to create great music together. 

When it comes to music, they are about as diverse as they can be. From covers of The Rolling Stones, to catchy originals that will be sure to stick in your head, Hotel Oscar entertains from start to finish. Band manager Chris Ackridge describes their music: “Hotel Oscar’s music is about everything rock and roll, funk, country, folk, blues, R&B, jazz and hip hop. In the end, Hotel Oscar is just honest American rock and roll.”

From the stage, Jeff Hardwick, originally from Montgomery, Alabama, now a local and a diehard devotee, can always be seen dancing front row by the guys. “I’ve been a fan of Hotel Oscar since the beginning. They have been through a lot of changes, started at the bottom, but look at them now. I’m always front row yelling at Mose, ‘If someone gives you an axe, chop down some trees!’ ” Hardwick says. “He is the lumberjack of live entertainment around here!”

Hotel Oscar can be heard all along the Emerald Coast. They play regular gigs at several hot spots between Gulf Shores, Alabama, and 30A and are also popular on the wedding circuit. The guys love to entertain and, most importantly, want their audience to have a good time. 

One of the many cool aspects of Hotel Oscar, is that all of the guys can play multiple instruments. There is literally no end to what they can play. From songs with hard guitar riffs and drums like “Black Cat Jerry” and slow love songs like “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt” off of their second album, “Rock & Roll Graveyard,” you definitely sense the love they put into their music.

Shelly Swanger

Destin’s Donnie Sundal on keyboard.

You can check out Hotel Oscar performing live on New Year’s Eve at the Funky Blues Shack in The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Miramar Beach and on Jan. 15 with Grammy award-winning Rebirth Brass Band at the Vinyl Music Call in Pensacola. A full roster of dates can be found at Once there, you can hear some of their original recordings as well.

Boukou Groove — making the beach a funkier place 

Shelly Swanger


Devoted fans say Derwin “Big D” Perkins gives Boukou Groove beaucoup soul.

Got a funky music itch that you can’t scratch? Boukou Groove has the cure. Formed in 2010 in Destin by way of New Orleans, Boukou Groove is the creation of singer/producer Donnie Sundal and New Orleans guitar legend Derwin “Big D” Perkins. 

With upcoming tour dates in Japan, Boukou Groove’s music is universally popular. They consider themselves to be a New Orleans funk and a rootsy Southern soul group. They not only entertain but get folks up out of their seats and out onto the dance floor as well.

Over the years Boukou Groove has developed a large following in the area. Local music enthusiast Wilson Foster is one such devoted fan, traveling all the way to New Orleans to catch the band’s live shows. “There is more soul in Big D’s pinky finger than most people have in their entire body. The vibe and music of Boukou Groove is unmatched, and you just have to see them to understand!” Foster says.

Influenced by popular artists like Stevie Wonder and having shared the stage with names like Bonnie Raitt and The Neville Brothers, Big D and Sundal are no strangers to performing and are always prepared to entertain. If it has been awhile since you’ve seen them, you should revisit their show to hear their new twist on covering songs and jam out to their soul funk originals. Visit to find out where you can catch them on the Emerald Coast. 

Michael J. Thomas — the Emerald Coast’s soulful soloist 

NightMind Photography/


Michael J. Thomas is a class solo act that is right at home at fine dining establishments such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Destin.

Imagine yourself seated at dinner. Surrounded by great friends, food and cocktails. It seems pretty perfect, right? Not yet. Add music and you have yourself the makings of a wonderful dining experience. Luckily for you, that experience is located right here on the Emerald Coast. Nightly at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Destin you can find nationally known, chart topping, and “Best of the Emerald Coast” winning saxophonist/vocalist/songwriter Michael J. Thomas.

He adds an ambiance to the Ruth’s Chris’ main dining room that may just be why this steakhouse was voted Best Romantic Restaurant by EC Magazine readers. While known for his smooth and jazzy sax solos, he is not your typical saxophonist. By adding tracks and vocals, he is able to put on a full show solo. Something many don’t know about him is that he is also an accomplished vocalist and songwriter, too. His national debut album “City Beat,” released in 2010, has hit numerous charts, including Billboard’s Smooth Jazz chart.

General Manager Mike Sable says, “Michael J. Thomas is infectious. We are so lucky to have him perform in-house regularly. I really believe that it adds that extra spark to our guests’ dining experience. He makes our Ruth’s Chris special, and the music brings people back and encourages people to stay longer and enjoy themselves. We offer true dining and dancing, and I encourage people to come in and see him because he truly is a talent and local gem.”

Thomas is a staple musician here on the Emerald Coast. Ask almost anyone in the area and they can tell you about him. You can find him performing nightly at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Destin.

Check out one of Michael J. Thomas’ top hits here:


Continuum — making a serious splash on the Emerald Coast music scene

Have you ever wondered what your favorite rock and roll song would sound like on violin? Do you know what a cajon is? Members Anthony O’Shae, Jessica Heit, Caleb Schossow and Hope Given have arrived on the Emerald Coast to show you. 

A cajon looks like a regular wooden box, but it is actually a single instrument that can replicate almost every sound that an entire drum set can make. Caleb Schossow plays the cajon in one of the Emerald Coast’s newest music groups. Formed in 2012 along with Anthony O’Shae (vocals), Jessica Heit (violin and vocals) and Hope Given (guitars and vocals), Continuum now plays almost seven nights out of the week somewhere along the Emerald Coast.

Originally playing covers of popular Top 40 artists, and even covering some Indie bands, Continuum just released their first original EP, “Cover Up.” Filled with “folky pop” songs, this album is perfect to listen to while cruising along the Emerald Coast.

After just a few gigs around the area, the name Continuum caught on and soon they could be caught doing weekly gigs at Boshamps Oyster House and playing Pensacola, 30A and everywhere in between.

Continuum can be heard at various local hotspots like Harry T’s Lighthouse in Destin, Peg Leg Pete’s in Pensacola Beach and McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin. Check out for a roster of all upcoming local dates.

All over the Emerald Coast, from rock and roll to blues, there is no end to great music around here and no excuse not to check out the scene. With so many great bands, even new and undiscovered groups, there is bound to be something that will linger in your ear. 

Matt Burke

Continuum is one of the hottest bands playing the EC circuit. Known as an Indie Pop/Top 40 band, electronic violinist/vocalist Jessica Heit, vocalist Anthony O’Shae, acoustic guitarist/vocalist Hope Given and Caleb Schossow on the “cajon” box bring a unique blend of R&B, bluegrass and soulful music to the stage.

Categories: Music