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Sarah Mac Band Nears the End of a Long and Happy Road


One of the Capital City’s most popular musical groups is calling it quits. The Sarah Mac Band will be breaking up at the end of the year.

There’s an old saying in the music world…you can always tell the groups that have been around a long time. They’re the ones who can’t even remember how many records they’ve produced.

“Well it depends…what’s that little thing that we had…” began guitarist Charlie Vanture. “That was a single!” insisted vocalist Sarah Mac and bassist Claire Swindell simultaneously. To which Vanture replied, “No the very first thing we did that we sold in the park out of….” Here Mac and Swindell both jumped in, “The back of the van!”

One can’t help but notice Vanture, Swindell and Mac all tend to finish each other’s sentences.

"So that makes this project…if you count that it would be, like 9.75….if we count that, it’s project number ten!” they concluded.

Swindell recalled the fact the three fell into a band situation in the first place was by no means planned.

“I mean in some ways it was sort of an accident. We’d be playing together at Charlie’s house for a while, just jamming together. And then Sarah got us to play as a trio on campus and we said, ‘Sure!’ And then we kept doing it and figuring it out as we went along. We didn’t really have any idea what we were doing.”

But now, after between 13 and 18 years of playing together, again depending on who you ask, the Sarah Mac Band is coming to an end.

“Claire, can you please tell Charlie our band is breaking up because he’s a jerk?” giggled Mac. “Yeah…that’s part of it.” Vanture agreed laughing.

Although Vanture also said there are some more serious reasons.

“It was just like the natural life. Just like it felt like it was coming to an end and the thing that it has really confirmed for me that it was the right time, because everyone was saying, ‘Oh please, don’t break up.’”

Sarah Mac insisted this was a chance to do this on their own terms.

“It was important to us to be able to end in a way that still is giving them everything we got.” “To end well.” Vanture added encouragingly. “Yeah, to end well rather than get burned out and taper off and then just disappear,” Mac agreed.

But each band member has great memories. Like the time Vanture and Swindell loaded Mac into the band van, telling her they were headed to a studio to produce a streaming online concert.

“I kind of doze off in the car and then I wake up and we’re in the Weeki Wachee parking lot,” Mac smiled. “So they took me to Weeki Wachee to watch the mermaids for my birthday and totally surprised me and nobody spilled the beans and I fell for it and it was such a nice surprise.”

Mac and Swindell did something similar to Vanture on the way to a gig near Macon, Georgia. They dragged him into a place they said sold women’s makeup.

“We go in the front door and they’re kind of looking at me. And I look over on the side in this display case with a ’57 Les Paul in it. I’m reading it and it says it’s Duane Allman’s guitar. And I’m going, where am I?”

Vanture, a huge Allman Brothers fan, identified that place as “The Big House”, Macon’s Allman Brothers Museum. Swindell fondly remembered all the road trips and the companionship of her bandmates.

“We don’t listen to music when we drive in the band because we talk about this and that and it often turns into Charlie telling stories of growing up and going to FSU. A lot of them are entertaining stories,” she said as her colleagues nodded in agreement.

Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6 and 7, the band was presenting “The Fond Farewell: Experience the Release” concerts at the Junction at Monroe. Both nights sold out almost immediately.

“We’re going to play a set of old Sarah Mac Band stuff. We’ve actually been playing around with some stuff from the very first album we played the other night,” Vanture said. “We haven’t played it in years,” added Swindell. “Some of it we had to relearn how to play,” Mac offered. “And then we’re going to do the new album and play it straight through,” concluded Vanture.

Swindell said it’s only right to play one of their last gigs in their hometown.

“Tallahassee specifically has been hugely supportive of us and we didn’t know that would be the case when we started.”

The very last performance will be the group’s holiday show at the Monticello Opera House, Mac said with just a touch of wistfulness.

“Now as we’re getting ready to end, we get to invert our perspective and realize what a fantastic journey it’s been and all the wonderful people we’ve met and places we’ve been able to travel.”

Along with the untold thousands of people whose lives have been made brighter by the Sarah Mac Band’s music.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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