February 1, 2018 Edition

Coastal Fire Salutes Military with Rock and Roll

By Kristina Wright

Pensacola is an extremely diverse city, full of unique food, restaurants and people. We are also known for our tremendous support of our military citizens. That being said, why would our musical influences be any different?

Coastal Fire is a Pensacola band that absolutely thrives on local support. The band consists of Ashley Henke on lead vocals, Jarret Smith on lead guitar, Charles Cirith Henke on rhythm guitar and vocals, Wayne Vannoy on bass and Steve Zolnierzak on drums. They play a mix of classic rock, (such as Pat Benatar, Pink Floyd and Joan Jett), pop (Madonna, Lady GaGa), rock (No Doubt, the Cranberries) and heavy metal (KISS, Poison and Motley Crue).

In each and every show, Charles Cirith Henke dedicates several songs to the country’s military servicemen and women, and makes sure to elaborate that he means past, present and veteran members. His own grandfather served 31 years in the U.S. Navy. He then went on to do 18 more years of civil service. Zolnierzak is active duty Air Force and Vannoy is an Army National Guard veteran.

We were able to sit down with the band at a Toys for Tots event in Decemnber that was organized by AJ Fratto (AJ’s Bravehearts) at the Vinyl Music Hall on Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. On the bill for the night was, of course, Coastal Fire, taking the opening act position, followed by AJ the Musician, Rothchild (with special guest Eric Brittingham from Cinderella) and Pensacola’s own Palafoxx, based on downtown Pensacola’s most central street.

How did you choose your instrument, and how long have you been playing?

Charles Cirith Henke: “I fell in love with KISS when I was about 10. My musical role model has always been Paul Stanley. I always wanted to be heavy on the ‘A’ and ‘E’ chords, and I’ve been slinging it out on the guitar for about 30 years.”

Wayne Vannoy: “I started on the bass, because I ran into a lot of guitar players that were way better than me. I fell in love with the instrument in the ’80s, and I love Gene Simmons, Nikki Sixx and Iron Maiden. Into the ’90s, I watched bassist who play without a pick, and I became more fascinated with the way it evolved, for close to 30 years now.”

Jarret Smith: “I got Rockband for Christmas one year and got pretty good at it, so I decided to try real guitar. I fell for Ozzy Osbourne, then shifted to Avenged Sevenfold. I’ve been playing for about seven years now, and it’s my life.”

Ashley Henke: “My whole life. Every time my family would put a camera on, or karaoke, I was always the ham. My influences were Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Pat Benatar and Blondie.”

Steve Zolnierzak: “I played guitar, but I could never find any drummers. About 15 years ago, I started playing drums, instead. I loved Metallica, the metal stuff, and I never looked back.

How did you meet each other, and what made you want to start a band?

Charles: “I’ve known Ashley all her life because we sang together through our church. I was working on another project, and Ashley came through and wanted to sing a few songs with the current band, and the guys in the band decided they wanted to include her in a different project. The year 2012 was the birth of Coastal Fire. Wayne has been a local legend for quite some time. I had known who Wayne was for many years, and when I met him it was like brothers at first sight. We were playing a block party about four years ago, when this kid (Jarett) and his entourage came up to ask if they could play one of the guitars. It was a Halloween party. They came up and said “Trick or treat,” and I said, “Why, can you play?” I had him take the stage, crank it up and show me what he could do. He rolled into “Crazy Train,” and the whole party just dropped their jaws in surprise. I got his number, helped him with a few projects, and he came on board about a year ago. Steve had been interested for a while, and we knew him from the music scene."

What is your favorite part about being a musician?

Jarett: “All of it. The feeling I get when I’m playing, when I rip a solo. There is no better high for me.”

Ashley: “I love the adrenaline drop, the energy that the audience gives you. It’s like having an entire night of karaoke all to myself with my own band.”

Wayne: “Playing the songs, reliving the younger years. I want to high-five myself. This is a dream come true, to be able to play music and sometimes get paid, too.”

Charles: “I’ll quote Paul Stanley here: “I am the Ringmaster.” When I go on stage, that is my circus. I love, and LIVE to play live. Really, there is, like Jarett said, no greater high than playing music in front of people.”

Steve: “It’s been 17 years. I’ve always loved it, and I’d like to keep doing it.”

Where would you like to be in the next five years?

Charles: “Vegas. A cruise-ship. Monsters of Rock, maybe? We’re working on some new material, and working toward playing bigger clubs. We play Chasers regularly, The Break, The Dock, The Islander, we’re aiming for the Sandshaker, Castaways, Bamboo Willie’s and, of course, the Vinyl Music Hall. I would like to do maybe two or three weekends a month playing the Sultans of Swing and having a blast.”

Do you have shows coming up in February?

Charles: “Feb. 9 at Patches in Mobile, and Feb. 23-34 we will be at Chasers.”

You can find the band on their facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/CoastalFireBand.

2018-02-01 / Features

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