LOOE KEY, Florida Keys — The marine life that inhabits the Florida Keys' living coral reef is widely acclaimed for its color and variety, but it usually doesn't include costumed mermaids or musicians playing instruments. Except, that is, during the annual Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival.
The 2013 underwater action is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13, at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary approximately six miles south of Big Pine Key. Staged by Keys radio station WWUS 104.1 FM, the unique festival typically draws several hundred divers and snorkelers each year to enjoy the sound of music in the ocean realm.
The 29th annual submerged songfest is to be themed "Salute to the Rolling Stone Crabs," in offbeat recognition of the Rolling Stones' 50-year career. Costumed divers portraying band members "Mick Jawfish," "Keith Pilchard" and their cohorts are to "perform" takeoffs of Stones hits such as "Jumping Jack Fish" and "HonkyConch Woman" beneath the waves.
As well as honoring the legendary band, the Rolling Stone Crabs' name recognizes sweet stone crab claws, a renewable seafood resource found in Keys waters.
During the festival, music broadcast by the radio station is to be piped underwater via Lubell Laboratory speakers suspended beneath boats positioned above the reef. The playlist typically ranges from humpback whale recordings to sea songs such as the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" and the theme from Disney's "The Little Mermaid."
Participants might even catch the Rolling Stone Crabs tooting their own horns — pretending to play underwater musical instruments like a manta-lin and clambourine sculpted by Florida Keys artist August Powers.
While many dive enthusiasts are drawn by the undersea fun, the concert also promotes the serious cause of preserving the Keys' unique coral reef ecosystem. The broadcast incorporates diver awareness announcements emphasizing ways to enjoy the reef while minimizing environmental impacts.
Divers and snorkelers interested in participating can reserve space on boats run by Lower Keys dive operators or launch their own boats from public ramps and marinas in the area.
The quirky concert also promotes the serious cause of preserving the Keys’ unique coral reef ecosystem.