Weekend preview: Serendipity and a white tiger on Las Olas

Plantation native Emily Kopp’s new album, a gracefully crafted collection of pop ruminations on life as a 20-something  woman standing eagerly at the edge of life’s vast possibility, is called “Serendipity Find Me.” But it was hard work, not happenstance, that brought her a surprising mentor, blues guitar firebrand Joe Bonamassa.

Kopp is now living in Orlando, where she's getting a degree in event management from the University of Central Florida. It was during a UCF internship at the Plaza Theater concert venue in Orlando that she learned that her art and the music business sometimes prize the same thing: Authenticity.

“Genuine relationships are the most important thing,” she says. “It’s not just about trying to get something from somebody. It’s true not just in music but in any career.”

Kopp, who attended at David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, will return to South Florida to perform on Saturday at C&I Studios in Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village, a long way from her first professional gig at a Coral Springs wine bar during her freshman summer.

“I was playing three hours of cover songs, but I played whatever I wanted … obscure Tracy Chapman songs, the Beatles, Bob Marley,” she recalls. “I knew I loved music, but [a career as a performer] was never a realistic option. I figured I’d get a job in hospitality, corporate events.”

During her internship as a backstage go-fer, she was properly invisible, nose to the grindstone,  while tending to the whims of the Plaza performers (including Dr, John, Bryan Adams, Ani DiFranco and the Civil Wars), until one day her work got noticed. Bonamassa’s crew specifically requested that she return to work the second of the guitarist’s two sold-out nights in Orlando (“I guess I was efficient, fast, I don’t know,” she says).

The two got to talking, and an unlikely relationship developed between a guitarist best known for in-your-face blues pyrotechnics and one whose restrained acoustics allow her soulful storytelling to take center stage.  It is a bond that has endured, and Bonamassa and Kopp keep in touch by email.

“I picked his brain as much as I could. He was hands-down the nicest, most interesting, most genuine person I met,” recalls Kopp, who  says Bonamassa’s words were invaluable when she started out playing to small, virtually empty rooms.

 “He told me he literally played to a bartender one time,” Kopp says. “But, he said, all you can do is play the best show that bartender has ever heard. It’s about little victories. I’ve gotten by on hustle, hard work and little victories where I can find them.”

Kopp's all-ages concert at C&I Studios (541 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale) at 8 p.m.  Saturday includes special guests Carly Jo Jackson and Evan Sheres. There's a full bar and food trucks will be on site beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10, $12. Info: C-IStudios.com. For more on Kopp and her music, go to EmilyKoppMusic.com.

We’re thinking that 2014 will be special in some way, and that amateur historians will want to look back for a metaphor of some kind, a foreshadowing of the future … whatever it turns out to be.

The Vibe Las Olas Black + White New Year’s Eve Ball on Tuesday night promises to be a swank affair, with drinks from Perrier-Jouet Champagne and Absolut Vodka, music by DJ Excel and a white Bengal tiger, presumably caged, in the “ultra exclusive Tiger’s Den.” VIP tables are available in the main lounge and Tiger’s Den (call 954-713-7313), with free admission before 10 p.m. and a $20 cover after.

White tigers are, of course, symbolic. Researchers at WildCatSanctuary.org have this to say: “White tigers occur after breeding two Bengal tigers with a recessive gene that controls coat color. It has been said the entire captive white tiger population originated from one single white tiger and has been inbred ever since. In order to retain this recessive gene, zoos and breeders must continually breed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on.”

While it is not unusual to think of breeding at Vibe, this may give one pause.

But maybe you want an event representative of a Year of Living Thriftily: There’s free admission at the Fort Lauderdale Orange Bowl Downtown Countdown, which has live music from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Southwest Second Street in the Himmarshee District. Info: 954-828-5363. Same goes for the NYE celebration at Gulfstream Park from 8 p.m. to midnight. Info: 954-378-0900.

To symbolize a Year of Listening Locally, the frisky  Beach Day will lead a Tuesday-night bill including Band in Heaven, Pretty Girls and Wake Up at a costume party at Respectable Street in West Palm Beach. Admission: $10. Info: RespectableStreet.com. The Latin funk of Miami’s Suenalo is paired with old-school hip-hop of Rapper’s Delight, also known as Master Gee and Wonder Mike from the Sugarhill Gang (“Rapper’s Delight”) at the Stage in Miami. Tickets: $75, $100 with open bar. Info: TheStageMiami.com. The Spam Allstars play Gerry Kelly’s party at the Catalina on South Beach, accompanied by “True Blood” actress Jessica Clark. Tickets: $95. Info: CatalinaHotel.com.

If it’s the Year of the Family you want to spotlight, there’s the annual First Night celebration radiating out from Old School Square in Delray Beach from 4 p.m. to midnight. Tickets begin at $10. Info: VisitDelrayBeach.org. An early 7 p.m. ball drop highlights free 4:30-8:30 p.m. family activities at Fort Lauderdale's Esplanade Park on Southwest Second Street in front of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale. Info: 954-828-5363. The Palm Beach Zoo rings in 2014 with Zoo Year's Eve festivities for the very small, an 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. dance party, with hats and noisemakers and a noon apple-juice toast on the Fountain Plaza. No white tigers at the zoo, just the Malayan tiger named Berapi. Zoo admission: $18.95, $16.95 ages 60 and older, $12.95 ages 3-12. Info: PalmBeachZoo.org.

Eric Biddines, the idiosyncratic rapper who came up in Delray Beach, will likely not perform his 2009 song, "Walkin'," when he takes the stages at 9 p.m. Friday at the Arts Garage (180 NE First St., Delray Beach). Which makes sense, since he's got plenty of newer material to show off from the album released earlier this year, "planetcoffeebean2." But writing a song about the virtues of walking telegraphed the idea that Biddines would be a different cat, which he has proven to be. Hit the link for more on Eric Biddines' Arts Garage show.