Into the Unknown with The Drowning Men

All of the Unknown – The Drowning Men

Passion… Creativity… Power… Vulnerability… Raw Emotion…

For years, these traits have defined what makes the best rock ‘n roll so special and personal. Unfortunately, today it seems to get more difficult to find, as a steady stream of Techno-driven music acts dominate the rock music landscape (see Foster the People and MGMT). It’s good stuff in its own right, but it’s just not that wonderful rock and roll that grabs you by the ears and screams that you pay attention.  Then, along came The Drowning Men.

The Drowning Men
The Drowning Men - credit: Ryan Renteria

They’re back with their second full-length album release, All of the Unknown, proving that there’s still a throbbing pulse left in the rock music universe.  The album, their first on Flogging Molly’s Borstal Beats label builds on the success of their debut album Beheading of the Songbird, and shows the talented quintet continuing to grow.

The Drowning Men, out of Oceanside, California are Indie rockers with a sound that reminds a bit of the layered harmonies of Arcade Fire, with a clear West Coast U.S. bent.  Nate ‘Nato’ Bardeen is the creative vision behind the tracks on All of the Unknown, yet all of the band members contribute, offering a unique powerful sound that builds as the songs move on.

The album kicks off with a strong track that gives you a good idea of what you’re in for. “Lost in a Lullaby,” the first single off of the album is an excellent song about a relationship that couldn’t work out. It begins with a nice keyboard intro from Gabe Messer; then Bardeen jumps in with his mandolin, and finally the remainder of the group kicks in and ratchets it up a notch.  It’s a great start and a of hint of things to come, as many of the tunes on the album build to a crescendo as the song progresses. It’s rock and roll with an orchestral flair; music that highlights a fantastic juxtaposition hard to find these days: powerful driving rock and roll, lush melodies and beautiful harmonies.

Producer Billy Mohler has really done a masterful job on this album. Guitarist James Smith and Todd Eisenkerch on bass are played off expertly against the keys from Bardeen and Messer. One hallmark of the band’s music that remains on All of the Unknown is the powerful backbone supplied by drummer Rory Dolan. The raw powerful drums are prevalent and steady throughout and absolutely appreciated in these days where computer generated drums are the norm. “I am the Beggar Man” is a strong rocker that highlights some of Dolan’s best stuff and nicely pulls together the entire band.

Bardeen’s voice is strong and infectious, and his distinctive sound meshes perfectly with the expert musicianship from his band mates.  The lyrics remain poignant and introspective as Bardeen reflects and shares captivating life experiences. This is never more prevalent than in the introspective “The Waltz.” The vocals truly shine on “Smile” a hopeful song that features Bardeen’s voice, and on one of the album’s best tracks, “Bored in a Belly,” a swaying roller-coaster ride that finds Bardeen in top form. It’s also a nice showcase for some interesting keys from both Bardeen and Messer.

“A Long, Long Walk” takes us to the other end of the spectrum. It’s a beautiful song with Bardeen reminiscing back to the last night with a long lost love. It’s a great ballad that had me repeatedly flashing back to early George Harrison. Great stuff!

The best cut on the album is “A Fool’s Campaign.” The song features excellent guitar work from Smith, pristine drum work from Dolan and tender, honest vocals from Bardeen. It’s a song that would appeal to many different genres of rock fans and hopefully another cut that will find its way to US radio. I suspect that radio play in today’s “safe” radio landscape may be a challenge to find, but would not be surprised to see these men develop the same kind of passionate following as their record label sponsors, Flogging Molly.

A few of the deeper cuts are mediocre, but there’s a slew of great music on All of the Unknown.  For sure, it is not a perfect album, but it’s the perfect tonic for our current rock ‘n roll landscape screaming for passionate, powerful rock music.

Check out the album linked above – it’s only $7.99 on iTunes! If you like reading about rock music, please take a moment to Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Rock on!

The Drowning Men concert review

Beheading of the Songbird album review

Jefferey Gaines Live in Europe Album Review

Jeffrey Gaines is back on the new music radar with his first album release in eight years. The Live in Europe album is a solo acoustic CD that features his soulful voice and heart-felt lyrics, recorded on a 2010 tour across the European continent supporting Joe Jackson.

Jeffrey Gaines Live in Europe
Jeffrey Gaines latest release, Live in Europe

Gaines’ voice, once touted by Rolling Stone as “the voice of a new generation” is still as powerful and poignant as ever and his guitar playing is excellent throughout. The collection of songs that he performs includes some selections from earlier albums, as well as some previously unreleased tracks all performed with a fresh new light.

The highlight for me was a killer version of  “Five Years,” the masterpiece opening track to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (unbelievably recorded forty years ago), about the impending end of the world.  The vocals on this track are superb.

Other highlights included the second track, “Scares Me More” and the poignant “Headmasters of Time,” two tracks off of his debut album, recast twenty years later by a more seasoned rocker, but still possessing the same raw emotion and gritty vocals.

His biggest hit, “In Your Eyes,” the Peter Gabriel cover (which was better than Gabriel’s original), is not included on the album, which gives us more time to focus on the rest of his excellent catalog. We’ll reflect on relationships, the state of the world, war time and other introspective moments. It’s a nice collection of tunes.

Gaines will be touring throughout the Northeast over the summer in support of the new album.  In the mean time, grab a drink, kick up your feet and enjoy this quick trip to Europe with a classic storyteller.

Mike Gavan

Coldplay in Atlanta: Look at the (xylo)bands. Look how they shine for you.

About 7 months ago I begrudgingly purchased tickets to Coldplay – Christmas gifts for my 13 and 15 year old daughters. I liked Coldplay, but not enough to pay close attention to their music or to try to distinguish between their songs, which to me, all sounded similar. Not being the biggest fan of huge, mainstream productions in arenas, I cringed at the thought of going, and continued cringing all the way up until the point that I entered the venue.

Coldplay’s graffiti-inspired Mylo Xyloto set has got to be one of the most vivid backdrops I’ve ever seen – almost to the point of distraction. Adding to the spectacle, upon entering the arena fans were given “Xylobands,” light-up wristbands to wear during the concert. (A quick Google search revealed that the band spends nearly $600,000 per night on these bracelets for the tour.) The wristbands were programmed to light up at certain points throughout the show. I was skeptical at first, but have to admit, it really was pretty cool to see Atlanta’s Philips Arena, lit up with 20,000 lights. In fact, the Xylobands almost stole the show.

Coldplay Live in Atlanta
Coldplay Live in Atlanta at Phillip’s Arena

About half of the songs on the evening’s set list were from their most recent Mylo Xyloto album. And the other half pretty evenly spread from their older albums. The highlight of the evening was the encore set. Spotlights illuminated a small section of the lower balcony where two rows of about five seats were roped off. One by one, the band members joined Chris Martin in that very small area and performed an acoustic set of “Up Against the World” and “Speed of Sound.” (The only thing that could have made this any cooler was if the band members weren’t wearing matchy-matchy colorful outfits with parachute pants…but I digress.) The encore then continued from the main stage with “Clocks” “Fix You” and “MMIX”. Chris Martin led into “Fix You” with Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind.” The crowd went wild.

The music was much better than expected, and the scenery was spectacular. So over-the top in fact, that every now and then I found myself feeling like I was watching some sort of elaborate Disney concert, or perhaps Coldplay had stolen the Wiggles’ uniforms, but those thoughts were fleeting and overpowered by the fact that, all in all, it was a really good show.


Editor: Click here for a recent review of Wolf Gang the opening band on this tour.

Central Florida July Concert Calendar


The Summer doldrums.  Not as many rocking shows in Orlando this month with the college students gone and so many outdoor festivals in Tampa and across the rest of the country, but still a few interesting shows:

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7/3, Boston – Hard Rock Hotel – They were just a local band out of Boston…

7/6, Reel Big Fish – House of Blues. Great ska music from The West Coast, Cali style.

7/9, Best Coast – The Social. Another West Coast band, this time Surf Punk style.

7/10, Tyler Hilton – The Social. The part-time actor plays rock star this month, singing and playing guitar for us this month

7/25, Styper – House of Blues

7/27, The Toadies – House of Blues. Reunited and back on tour supporting a new album.  Make up Your Mind…

7/27, Vans Warped Tour – Central Florida Fairgrounds. This year’s festival features about 3,000 bands, including Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, All Time Low, New Found Glory and The Lost Prophets.

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Cheap concert tickets

Tampa Area

Lots of cool shows to pick from at the amphitheater this month!

7/4, Three Dog Night – Sutton Park Pavilion. Should be Joyous

7/11, Tyler Hilton – Orpheum.

7/13, Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival – 1 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater. Headbangers special with Slipknot, Slayer, Anthrax and Motorhead, plus a few others

7/17, Last Summer on Earth Tour –  1 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater. Some 90’s Bands hanging out together again under the stars: Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, Big Head Todd &the Monsters and Blues Traveler

7/18, Dave Matthews –  1 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater. Still don’t understand the appeal for this guy…

7/20, Unity Tour – 1 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater. 311, Slightly Stoopid, The Aggrolites

7/26, Toadies – State Theater (St. Pete)

7/28, KISS and Motley Crue – 1 800 Ask Gary Amphitheater. This one just reeks of fun! Might have to make the trip for this one.

7/29, Vans Warped Tour – Vinoy Waterfront Park (St. Pete).  This year’s festival features about 3,000 bands, including Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard, All Time Low, New Found Glory and The Lost Prophets.


7/20, Unity Tour – St. Augustine Amphitheater. 311, Slightly Stoopid, The Aggrolites

7/24, Toadies – Jack Rabbits.

7/28, Yes with Procul Harem – St. Augustine Amphitheater. Some classic Progressive rockers who have found the Fountain of Youth visit the oldest city in America. These bands may have been playing back when Ponce DeLeon was roaming these streets.

7/31, Little Feat – Florida Theater

Wolf Gang Tears Up Orlando at The Social

I’ve seen a slew of concerts over the first half of the year, but none of them stood up to the dynamic show that London’s Wolf Gang delivered at The Social this weekend. This talented and energetic quintet is a band that we’re going to be hearing a lot from in the years to come, and they blew away the Orlando crowd with a blazing sixty minute set.

While most of Orlando was at The Amway Center abusing their ears with thousands of screaming pre-teens at the One Direction show, a sage group of discerning Rock And Roll Animals saw some truly majestic rock ‘n roll in the cozy club on Orange Avenue. If you were one of the many who chose the wrong venue on this evening, you really missed something special.

Max McElligott is the musical vision behind these young alt-rockers, having penned and performed all of the songs on the band’s excellent debut album Suego Faults. He’s also assembled a fantastic line-up of passionate musicians who have been touring extensively for about a year. Their set was predictable, with all but nine cuts off of the album, plus three other new songs. Suego Faults is really quite good, certainly one of the top ten of the year thus far. Surprisingly, the live performance actually exceeded those lofty standards.

They opened the set with a new track, “Into the Fire,” one that featured McElligott on guitar that got the house rocking from the start.  He switched over to keyboards for the next song, “Something Unusual” where we had our first taste of the band’s amazing harmonies. He traded off between guitar and keyboards throughout the show and on quite a few songs, he left the playing to the remainder of the band and took center stage with just the mic.

McElligot voice is powerful and distinctive and his range broad. The uber-talented front man sounded near perfect and the backing harmonies from his band mates were spot on, matching the excellent vocals from the album. On stage, McElligott reeks of charisma and certainly offers a theatrical touch. At times I thought of Freddie, other times Bowie, most times…I thought I was seeing the next legend out of England.

Interacting with the crowd throughout, McElligott was comfortable on stage, from his opening “Welcome to the wonderful people of the Social Bar” to sharing the London lads’ rough initial taste of our searing Florida sun. I was impressed by the energy of the band at the relatively small Social, immediately after wrapping up a huge arena tour with Coldplay, yet they seemed to thrive in the more intimate club.

The band members were tight and cohesive throughout the evening, and they all switched off between instruments, as well. James Woods on bass was a non-stop whirling dervish and powered the band through a rollicking version of Stay & Defend. Lasse Petersen on drums was the band’s backbone all night, and absolutely shined on another new cut, “The Kill.”

We had a chance to witness the group’s softer side on both “Promises” and the spectacular “Suego Faults” which featured three keyboards, highlighted by McElligott and Jamie Jones, and some of the best vocals/harmonies of the night. McElligott had the crowd in the palms of his hands, expertly adjusting the flow and timbre of the show throughout.

The entire band seemed energized during “Dancing With the Devil” which featured a nice solo from Gavin Slater, before slowing things down with a nice love song, “Midnight Dancers.” From there, the band wrapped up the show with their two biggest singles to date, “The King and All His Men” and “Lions in Cages” closing out a great set, raising the energy level to a fever pitch and sending the crowd home convinced they had seen something special.

Random Ramblings:

  • Charlotte’s Flagship offered a nice opening set in their first trip to Orlando, highlighted by their drummer, Mike Finster, who tore it up the entire set, despite playing on a borrowed drum kit! They’ve got a unique sound and are definitely worth a trip to check out next time they are in town.
  • Wolf Gang’s drummer, Lasse Petersen is apparently an excellent cook, with a fondness for duck, and actually cooked at Hard Rock Hotel this week.
  • All five members of Wolf Gang hung around after the show and got to know their fans; they really seemed to care about meeting everyone, asking names, chatting, and listening! It was refreshing to see.
  • Wolf Gang is looking to come back to Orlando this fall, so keep your eyes peeled to RARA’s Farm for the show announcement, and next time, don’t let some teeny-bopper boy band deter you from their excellent show.

If you were there, let us know what you thought in the comments below. If you were trapped into seeing One Direction to please your eight year-old niece and want to rehabilitate your ears, check out the album below.

Rock On! – Cretin

See the setlist below

Wolf Gang with RARA's Farm's Kerri
Wolf Gang with RARA's Farm's Kerri in Orlando


Into the Fire
Something Unusual
Stay & Defend
The Kill
Where are You Now?
Suego Faults
Back to Back
Dancing with the Devil
Midnight Dancers
The King and All His Men
Lions in Cages


It’s What’s Inside That Matters – Musical Essentials

The Karaoke Channel Channel Membership Community 480 x 60

Alright, I’m back with my semi-regular look at must have music if you want to impress your friends.  Most of the stuff is new, but once in awhile I’ll throw an olden nugget to impress you. You know how this works a RARA’s Dozen’s worth of cuts to choose from.

Let’s start with three very diverse videos:

The Live Aid Set – Queen: This is an old one, in case you couldn’t tell by the fact the lead singer died twenty years ago. Still get goosebumps remembering watching this concert live and the amazing fan reaction, despite the fact that we were staring at a big screen at JFK stadium while Queen played Wembley across the Atlantic.

Lost and Found – Katie Herzig: A beautiful video, of a beautiful song, from a beautiful artist with a beautiful voice. Check out our beautiful album review, too: The Waking Sleep

Vehicle City Blues – The Swellers: This was a previously unreleased track from their Good For Me sessions recorded at The Blasting Room. It might remind you a bit of Propagandi. Released as a 7″, it sold out all 1,000 copies before it was delivered.

Enough of the eye candy, now here’s some ear candy.  These links take you to iTunes where you can either sample the song or take that RARA’s Farm leap of faith and snag a few:

When I Write My Master’s Thesis – John K Sampson – Something new from the former lead singer of Propagandhi (when’s the last time you read an article with two Propagandhi references?) and The Weakerthans. Reminds me a bit of Death Cab For Cutie. This one will be a hit.

Quiver – Davie Allan & The Arrows – Our next cut is a lost nugget from the 60’s.  It’s great surf rock from an under-appreciated guitar virtuoso. Most 60’s surf rock was great, this is greater.

Monarchy of Roses – Red Hot Chili Peppers – The latest single off of I’m With You, the same album that gave us the 2011 Song of the Year. This one has got a cool psychedelic vibe.  Definitely a hip new feel for RHCP.

Headlights – Morning Parade – Here’s a cut off of this British quintet’s self-titled debut album. Rock fans of all genres will dig this one and find it hard to shake from your memory.

What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way) – Wolf Parade – Another favorite on Sirius XM’s  The Verge. These Canadians made lots of great music, including tihs quirky tune from 2010.

This Summer -Superchunk – These Indie rock veterans prove that there are some cool rockers from the heart of ACC basketball territory, Chapel Hill, NC.  This one features some punk flashbacks and killer guitar work.

Summer of ’89 – Butch Walker and the Black Widows – Walker is a great producer (like Lit’s latest) and a damn good artist, too.  This is a fun little ditty that throws in a few gratuitous Bryan Adams’ references as a bonus.

Fire It Up – Thousand Foot Krutch – This one is a few years old, but it’s a great one to blow out the speakers Canadian Christian Rock style…

Wasted Days – Cloud Nothings – Cleveland Rocks! This one is eight plus minutes of raw, powerful, miserable rock ‘n roll.  It’s great stuff, too, from one of today’s most interesting new acts.

Loro – Pinback – A cool song to chill to.  My son turned me on to these fellows from San Diego.  Worth a listen.

Rock On – Cretin



Katie Herzig – The Waking Sleep Album Review

Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep
Katie Herzig The Waking Sleep

Time for us to wake up.  The Waking Sleep has been out awhile, but I just recently gave it a listen, didn’t know what I was missing…

Katie Herzig is evolving. With her latest release, The Waking Sleep, she has reinvented herself, building on her prior successes, while pushing herself in an entirely new direction. The result is a fantastically produced album, courtesy of Cason Cooley, packed with fresh, catchy tunes.

A few years ago she had proven herself as a reputable folk rock talent, well-known for her heart felt acoustic performances. Then she took an unexpected new route, when she had the opportunity to pen and perform a handful of songs for both the big and small screen (i.e. Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City).

Subsequent to that experience, she started experimenting with tape loops, sampling and digital recording. The result is a new sound for the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, a sound that is more energetic and diverse, a sound that is unique. Where else can you find beautiful cello mixed with techno drum beats? Cool stuff for sure.  At times I think of Metric, other times Enya, but most frequently it is her own distinctive sound.

The album kicks off with “Free My Mind,” a melodic, rich song that will leave you singing and bopping along joyfully.  It’s an excellent cut and one of several on the album cut from the same cloth, along with “Way To the Future” and the unforgettably addictive “Best Day of Your Life.”

Herzig demonstrates her immense versatility throughout the album, On “Make a Noise” she reflects on current world affairs and the need to speak out, while deftly channeling derivative sounds of Enya. “Midnight Serenade” is similar musically but focuses on a challenging relationship while beautifully spotlighting Herzig’s soulful voice.

“Oh My Darlin” is a bit more stripped down compared to the rest of the album but the perfect showcase for her captivating vocals as she reminisces about early love. It’s also my favorite cut on a superb album.

Check it out below and prepare for a nice selection of creative tunes on an album you won’t soon get tired of.

Rock On!

RCE – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger


You can’t go more than a few minutes on any Alternative rock station without hearing the latest folk rock band and their twist on Indie-Americana. So much of today’s music blends together, post-Mumford and Sons malaise, but the latest release from River City Extension, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down on Your Anger truly stands out.  I’m guessing it never reaches the heights of Sigh No More, but it should, as it’s better and deeper.

The second release from this talented octet out of New Jersey is a musical and lyrical journey well worth a listen or two (or twelve). It’s an album packed with original sounds and with each listen a different track stands out.

Joe Michelini, the band’s singer and guitarist is the primary songwriter and he takes us through a varied collection of memories. He offers: “Half of this record is love songs, and the other half is ‘I’m sorry that I fucked up’ songs,” and he writes about both in a compelling way.

The album kicks off with Glastonbury,” a beautiful song that ebbs and flows magnificently as it builds up from a stripped down start to the full eight piece ensemble, then ultimately winds down with just Michelini on guitar and vocals. It’s a microcosm of the album and a good preview for what’s in store for the next sixty minutes.  Michelini’s vocals are damn near perfect, and showcase his broad range, both on the opener and throughout.  On “If You Need Me Back in Brooklyn” we hear a nice boy/girl duet with Sam Tacon, but for most of the album it’s all Michelini expertly carrying the vocals.

The musicians accompanying Michelini are quite talented, and the diversity of instruments offered is musical bliss. With superb production, we hear all eight musicians blend together perfectly, nicely highlighting each of the various instruments without overloading our senses.  Mike Costaney on drums and percussion offers an amazingly creative approach which is an absolute highlight of the album. Jenn Fantaccione’s cello is a refreshing change.  The cello is an under-utilized instrument in the rock world, but as River City Extension proves, there’s a definite place for it.  It was refreshing to hear, and one of the features that sets this band apart. You’ll also hear mandolin, trumpet, banjo, piano, melaphone and so much more – a feast for the ears.

There are a few cuts on the album that absolutely scream out for airplay.  Hopefully, we’ll be hearing tracks like “Welcome to Pittsburgh,” “Down, Down, Down” and “Point of Surrender” gracing the airwaves at some point in the future.

My two personal favorites highlight the diversity of the band, “Ballad of Oregon” is a fantastic introspective tune that spotlights all of the band members as it travels through Michelini’s troubled search for love; and “Lord I Have Changed” which is a stark introspective peek into Michelini’s past with him accompanied solely by Costantey’s drums, an interesting conclusion to an excellent album.

Don’t let this excellent new album pass you by, pick it up and give it a few spins. You’ll be happy to have found this Alt-Americana gem.

Rock on – Cretin

Related Story: River City Extension Live in Orlando

River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch
River City Extension. Photo credit: Danny Clinch

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