Matt Cahur story - Dec. 14 issue of Florida Weekly
Sound engineer, talent buyer, guitarist, recording label head, band manager, consultant and promoter are all descriptions of Matt Cahur -- best-known as the man behind the music at Guanabanas (www.Guanabanas.com), the popular restaurant and live music venue in Jupiter, since 2008.
With a nod to the late, great James Brown, one can sum it all up by calling Mr. Cahur the hardest-working man in all aspects of show business. At least on the local level.
The 49-year-old Ohio native moved to Florida to attend college in Melbourne in 1986, and has lived in Jupiter since 1995. Tall and thin, Mr. Cahur looks like the surfer guy next-door, and for good reason. He's exactly that to neighbors in Jupiter, where he lives with his wife Carly and their children Luke (age 7) and Sadie (age 6).
"I make it a priority to get in the water," Mr. Cahur says. "I love it as much as music. But my family is first priority. Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my wife and kids. They are my life blood."
Mr. Cahur's customary current evening spot at Guanabanas is behind the sound board on the east end of the covered patio stage he designed, where his expert ears guide mixes for bands through a PA system he also designed. Between 10 and 20 years ago, Mr. Cahur's face was familiar directly on such stages via Boxelder, his reggae/rock hybrid band that was one of the area's most popular acts from the mid-1990s through mid-2000s. Having celebrated its 20-year anniversary last year, and still with fellow founding members Bryce Rutkowski (vocals), Eli McDonald (guitar) and Atlanta-based Pat Boggs (drums), Boxelder now plays occasional shows while rounded out by Gilly Gonzalez, bassist/vocalist for area reggae band Moska Project.
"We've been averaging six shows a year, depending on availability," Mr. Cahur says. "We rocked the House of Blues in Orlando and the Kelsey Theater in Lake Park in recent months. Great shows."
After building a huge local following, touring regionally and releasing four CDs, Boxelder de-accelerated in the mid-2000s. Which is where Mr. Cahur intersected with Guanabanas. Opened as a sandwich shop in 2004 before hurricane damage forced it to close later that year, the venue's current vision was largely shaped by Mr. Cahur. He'd been the Boxelder member who booked most of the band's gigs, and started Roots Music Inc. (www.RootsMusic.com), its recording label and live production company, which will celebrate its own 20-year anniversary next year. The organization currently represents not only Boxelder and Moska Project, but also fellow area artists like The Helmsmen and Bryce Allyn.
"Roots Music did the music install at Guanabanas in the summer and fall of 2008," Mr. Cahur says, "during the large remodel prior to reopening. I worked for a short stint in early 2009 in the bar, then Roots Music took over the music program and shaped it into its current form."
Guanabanas' current form is a rare blend of fine cuisine (with a renowned menu and atmospheric waterside dining along the Jupiter River, plus a new food truck that caters concerts and other events) and a heralded live music venue that features everything from local to international touring acts like Jamaican reggae sensation Third World. The 43-year-old band, which has been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, headlined Guanabanas' annual Dirty River Reggae Festival on Oct. 8. Mr. Cahur's 20 years of experience in talent buying, production, band management and event coordination has been the driving force in turning the restaurant into an additional live music destination.
"I used to listen to Third World at age 13 on my Walkman," Mr. Cahur says. "It was quite extraordinary to have such a legendary band play Guanabanas."
"The work Matt does through Roots Music is a critical component to our brand and concept," says Jon Sullivan, the venue's general manager and vice president. "He has been instrumental in establishing Guanabanas as a legitimate music venue. It's not always easy to sell a 'gig at a restaurant/bar' to some of the bigger bands that have outgrown that stage of their career, but he's done a great job making sure they know we take it seriously."
Roots Music has also presented shows at other venues, like international touring band Less Than Jake at the Seabreeze Ampitheater in Jupiter, where Mr. Cahur promises a multi-act 20th anniversary party for the organization sometime in 2018. Guanabanas has featured acts that have gone on to gain national status (like Georgia jam band Passafire), and the venue features recurring showcases like the Jerry Garcia tribute "Jerry Fest" and a showcase of Miami bands called "Noche Latina." One such Latin band, Electric Piquete, plays an upcoming 4 p.m. happy hour set on Dec. 9.
"I'll continue to build on Noche Latina as we celebrate its upcoming second anniversary," says Mr. Cahur. "We're actually doing a huge Afro-Roots festival in January that spans from Palm Beach County to Monroe County over six months. It'll finish in June with a large event in Miami featuring Afro-Roots and Latin music from all over."
Upcoming shows at Guanabanas include St. Augustine-based bluegrass trio the West King String Band (4 p.m. on Dec. 2), rootsy Sarasota-based trio the Bird Tribe (9 p.m. on Dec. 2), rising Asheville, NC funk band The Fritz (9 p.m. on Dec. 6), CT-based folk-funk act Goose (9 p.m. on Dec. 8), gifted regional rock/jazz singer/guitarist Bobby Lee Rodgers (9 p.m. on Dec. 15), Treasure Coast roots music duo the Nouveaux Honkies (4 p.m. on Dec. 16), Moska Project (9 p.m. on Dec. 16), local blues by singer/guitarist Micah Scott (4 p.m. on Dec. 23) and pop by Girlfriend Material (9 p.m. on Dec. 23), and area reggae icons Spred the Dub (9 p.m. on New Year's Eve).
"He has a great eye for bringing new and quality talent to Jupiter," Mr. Sullivan says of Mr. Cahur, "and he constantly gives back to the music community in South Florida by mentoring young bands and helping local bands book gigs."
"Right now, I'm working with the Ellameno Beat," Mr. Cahur says, "an amazing band from Jacksonville that has super potential. Deep roots and alt-reggae vibes. We have great things cooking for them in 2018."
In the current South Florida climate of open-air live music venues and the inevitable sound ordinances that have followed in recent years, Mr. Cahur also played an important role, helping Guanabanas become a rare nightspot that spent money to remedy the problem rather than putting the onus on bands to turn down their volume or get fired. Instead, Guanabanas invested several thousand dollars on sound baffles that aren't even noticeable along the east walkway and around the stage, plus Apex Hera and Argos sound controllers and limiters that further reduce decibels wafting from the stage toward multiple nearby residential areas -- all resulting in it becoming the Town of Jupiter's first officially-approved outdoor music venue.
"We worked in conjunction with the town, and designed a system that would fit their needs and ours," says Mr. Cahur. "It was a difficult four or five years, but we got it done. I think the inlet district is better for it, as we can enjoy live music within the respectful boundaries of our neighbors and community."