Sarasota – If pop singer Dario can nearly double the number of people at Lexington’s 2014 Pride event, the organizer of Sarasota Pride believes he can do the same there.
“His commitment to the prides has been great,” said Sarasota Pride Chairman Cindy Barnes.
Dario’s performance dazzled her in Kentucky and convinced Barnes to sign him up to headline this year’s festival. at J.D. Hamel Park, which is noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18. Dario is scheduled to take the stage at 4 p.m.
“His energy is amazing, and his dancers are great,” she said. “He’s just super, super talented.”
Dario has been touring in support of his fifth album Evolution, featuring the infectious dance-floor banger “Save You.”
Barnes is confident Dario will heighten the party atmosphere of Sarasota Pride, which is in its 25th year and in its fifth year at the park.
But it hasn’t always been a party for Dario, who — despite an early appearance on Star Search, several well-received albums and touring with Destiny’s Child— found himself broke and homeless after being cleaned out by previous management.
After his accountant told him the devastating news, Dario still had to perform that night.
“My fans didn’t pay to see me cry,” he told his shell-shocked dancers and road crew of his first headlining tour.
When it ended, Dario wanted out of the business and settled into an office job to pay the bills. But after a few years, he found himself wanting his old life back. Badly.
Dario’s lifelong ambition to be a singer and performer began at the age of three and crystallized the moment he stepped onto the Star Search stage as a teenager.
“I remember the feeling I got throughout my entire body,” he tells Watermark. “That’s the moment I realized this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”
Following his decision to break back into the music business, Dario got positive buzz for a test track and was suddenly starring in a six-part reality series about the making of his new album “Talking Loud.” But only if the series went unscripted, he said.
His Evolution tour—with Sarasota Pride being the last of 62 dates — is building off the success of Dario: Undiscovered and the series’ 2.5 million viewers.
“Expect a lot of fun, high-energy dance music,” says Dario, now 31. “The park won’t allow us to bring our confetti cannons, but that’s okay as long as I get to see the fans dancing, singing and enjoying themselves.”
Dario is also looking forward to the revitalizing effects of Florida’s humidity.
“It’s just so dry in California,” he laments. “I feel like I need some moisture, which is also great for my voice the day I perform.”
Keeping the focus on his voice is also the reason Dario doesn’t appear on stage wearing revealing, skin-tight garments.
“I’m a singer and performer, not a model,” he says. “I’m not here to show skin. I’m here to sing and entertain with my music.”
Bug of course, Dario works out and takes care of himself.
“It goes with the territory. But I don’t need to go on stage half-naked to prove I can sing.”
Considering Sarasota Pride has grown yearly under the direction of Barnes, there will be plenty of skin in the audience.
“If Dario gets us up to 10,000, we’ll be thrilled,” says Barnes.
The event averaged attendance of about 1,000 before she became involved in 2006, becoming chairman of the event in 2010.
Since then, it’s averaged over 5,000 each year, but Barnes believes Dario can take it to the next level with his showmanship as well as his publicity team’s ability to get “Save You” in regular rotation on local radio stations.
In Lexington, this strategy paid off with all-day airplay and 21,000 people coming out to see Dario compared with 14,000 in 2013. Barnes told Watermark that interest in Dario is already pulling attracting attention from fans as far away as Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Naples.
“I’m getting phone calls asking about hotel accommodations and asking if he’ll be around to sign autographs,” Barnes says.
She does expect him to mingle around the stage after his set closes at 5 p.m., but Barnes warns he won’t stick around too long. He has an early morning flight back to California the next morning.
Dario is adjusting to his fame, and admits he’s surprised at the audience’s reaction when it spots his vibrant red hair moving toward the stage, eliciting screams.
Dario quips: “Who’s here? Madonna?”
WHERE: Sarasota Pride, J.D. Hamel Park
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 18, 4 p.m.