By Nikki Hedrick
Fifteen years ago, I was 16 and working part time at Collaborations on 30A in Seagrove. Collaborations was a large art gallery and melting pot that lasted a nice long while before development knocked and the building—which also was home to other businesses, including House of Angels that my mother and I owned—was demolished. The planned development never materialized, and the little hill still remains empty with the exception of a giant real estate sign.
Beyond being important to me for numerous reasons, the building is also likely where I heard my first local band play. Collaborations was famous—and a bit infamous—for its parties, of which Dread Clampitt was usually the centerpiece.
Music was also a big deal to us. Although we would occasionally fight over control of the six-tray CD player, the choice was often local. I still have every lyric from Duke Bardwell, Jeff Caldwell, the Underdogs, early Dread, and Franko “Washboard” Jackson albums etched into my memory.
My first interaction with The Beachcomber is one that Chris Manson isn’t even aware of. When The Beachcomber was in its infancy, I submitted to be a writer—specifically wanting to do reviews of new music. I wasn’t the most confident personality, and vividly remember pacing Collaborations’ floor as I was talking on the phone to editor Leah Stratmann. She slightly scoffed at the idea as my heart just about flew out of my chest while I pleaded my case. She invited me to follow up in email, but my nerve was lost. I never did.
It was also about this time that I was first met Bruce Collier. We—along with former contributor Ritch Brinkley—were a part of the inaugural season of Seaside Repertory Theatre. Bruce even attempted to get me to write for the DeFuniak Herald shortly after, but I was the poster child for the phrase “shrinking violet” and bombed the interview.
Responsibilities intervened, and it wasn’t until 2010 that music shifted to the forefront. It started in Panama City Beach, frequenting metal shows and building lasting friendships on the scene. Every weekend mom and I were heading out to a new adventure, discovering a new venue or artist from Fort Walton Beach to Panama City.
My love for it all grew, and I was finally finding my sense of self. I bought a “real” camera, we started 850 Music (now 850ME) as an entertainment blog to support friends, and this unpredictable snowball happened. It can’t even be called a trickle, as it often feels like an avalanche.
I remember two conversations encouraging me to reach out to The Beachcomber. Ben Savage was running sound at the Shed (now Coyote Ugly), and he was determined that I needed to write for The Beachcomber. Mose Wilson of Hotel Oscar did the same to me at an LA Lounge (now Club LA) show. I was flattered but didn’t think I’d be taken seriously by a publication that had lasted over a decade.
Sometime shortly after, Chris emailed me, asking if I wanted to submit anything and later suggested I do reviews of new music. It all started with an email—the irony of that is something I’ve always cherished.
That was 2012, and I’m still here.
I’ve been to Hangout Festival as media, met my teenage idols, interviewed bona fide super stars, and—most importantly—made family all because of music. And all because of The Beachcomber.
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