Drowning Men Rock Orlando


In a sparsely filled room on a rainy night in Orlando, I saw the future of rock ‘n roll.

The Drowning Men brought their unique style of rock to The Social and absolutely blew away the energetic, yet small crowd. For those of you who don’t know the music of The Drowning Men, you’re missing something special. I’d characterize them as a cross between Arcade Fire and Pink Floyd, but I’m sure everyone else in attendance could come up with different comparisons. Bottom line: they’re unique, they’re creative. they’re interesting, they’re provocative, and they’re pretty damn good!

The band does things their own way, from their look, their arrangements and their sound, and it’s a method that works exceptionally well. The first impression you’ll get from the quintet covered in tattoos and facial hair is of a group of longshoremen or bikers, but then they start to play…  Pure majesty.

They exploded onto the stage with a rich versions of “More Than This” and “Caroline You’re A Mess,” both off of their critically acclaimed 2011 re-release of Beheading of the Songbird – a fantastic album that dominated the night’s set list.  It was apparent quite early that this group fits together exceptionally well.

Nato Bardeen and his distinctive voice are the focal point, but the band is comprised of five equally talented musicians. Drummer, Rory Dolan is the driving force that powers the band throughout all of the songs, and he’s joined by the very talented James Smith on guitar, Gabriel Messier on an old-school organ and Todd Eisenkerch on bass and keyboards.  Over the course of the night, we also get to see the talented Bardeen trading off instruments, from his magnificent Gretsch guitar, to a melodica, a mandolin and the keyboard.

After the show, Smith acknowledged that the band got a little flexible with their set list, and the next three songs featured cuts off of their upcoming release All of the Unknown. Messier provided a nice lead-in into “I am the Beggar Man” the first of the three and carried the song, along with the steady driving beat from Dolan. Bardeen’s fantastic vocals on this one are reminiscent of Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Bardeen then took a seat at the keyboards for the interesting “Bored In a Belly,” which starts off with a bit of a carnival fun. It’s a new sound for The Drowning Men, but again an excellent tune.  They wrapped up thier sojourn into All of the Unknown with the mandolin driven “Lost in a Lullaby” which has the potential to become an anthem for the band.

The remainder of the set was a nice diverse mix of the old and new, with the highlight being a great version of “Courageous Son.” It’s a consummate rock song that came together perfectly on this night. Bardeen sitting at the keys and Messier on the organ got it off to a rollicking start, then the rest of the crew took over, featuring some of Smith’s best work with his Fender Telecaster.  The frenzied foot-stomping finish is damn near perfect in a song that I’d describe as beautifully chaotic.

For their closing song, it was their biggest hit “Rita,” which had the band still passionately pouring it out on stage. It’s an addictive tune that had the crowd dancing and singing along.  An excellent end to a great set (see the full setlist below)

I suspect the next time I have a chance to see these guys, it’s going to be in a much larger, more crowded venue, but that’s okay for me: losing a bit of that intimacy means good news for the future of rock ‘n roll.

Rock on!
Cretin

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought about the show, the band, the review, facial hair…

Setlist

More Than This
Caroline You’re A mess
I Am The Beggar Man
Bored in a Belly
Lost in a Lullaby
Courageous Son
The Waltz
Michelle is Getting Old
Smile
Rita

 

Central Florida June Concert Calendar

SMS Audio LLC

Another great month of diverse Rock and Roll across Central Florida, highlighted by the Drowning Men in Orlando, as well as The Cult, Against Me!, Coldplay and The Rocket Summer.

Orlando

6/4, Two Door Cinema Club – These Alt-Rockers are all over the airwaves on Sirius-XM and for good reason. Check them out at The Beacham. They’re also touring with a nice opener: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

6/5, The Drowning Men open for River City Extension at The Social. Check out these guys. We loved their last album Beheading of the Songbird, and have heard they are great live! Here’s our album review to whet your appetite.

6/5, Bon Iver at Hard Rock Live

6/6, John Waite at The Plaza Theater.  The former Baby’s front man puts on an excellent show and sounds great still today. We caught him last year. Check out our review, and don’t miss Jackie Bristow who opens, beautiful voice…

6/6, City and Colour at The Beacham

6/13, Puscifer at Hard Rock Live

6/16, BoDeans at The Plaza Theater

6/16, The Cult with Against Me! tear up HOB.  Both bands are fantastic live; required attendance for all of you Rock and Roll Animals!

6/16, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down. Both bands are playing at Universal Studios, which requires park admission. Might be worth going if you already have passes.

6/16, Roger Waters. The legendary guitarist from Pink Floyd performs The Wall. It will be a great show, but break open your piggy bank for this one.

6/18, G. Love and Special Sauce, Beachside Tavern in New Smyrna Beach

6/20, The Rocket Summer at The Social

6/28, Eric Johnson at The Plaza Theater

Cheap concert tickets

Tampa Area

6/3, Styx at Ruth Eckard Hall

6/5, City and Colour at The Ritz Ybor

6/6, Two Door Cinema Club at The Ritz Ybor with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

6/7, Bon Iver at Carol Morsoni Hall

6/8, John Waite at Capitol Theater in Clearwater with Jackie Bristow

6/11, Puscifer at Ferguson Hall

6/14, BoDeans at Jannus Live in St. Pete

6/17, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at Tropicana Field

6/19, The Rocket Summer at The State Theater in St. Pete

6/28, Coldplay in support of their fantastic Mylo Xyloto album comes to the Tampa Bay Times Forum

6/29, Boston at Ruth Eckard Hall. This one intrigues as I’ve never had the chance to see “this local band out of Boston…”

6/30, Def Leppard and Poison at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This one is a guaranteed fun time.

Jacksonville

6/8, ZZ Top and 3 Doors Down at St. Augustine Amphitheater

6/27, Eric Johnson at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall

6/29, Rinog Starr and His All-Star Band at St. Augustine Amphitheater. Ringo’s touring with Steve Lukather and Todd Rundgren among others.

6/30, Chevelle at Mavericks. Check out our album review here.

Mickey Thomas and Starship Touch Down in O-Town

When I first heard that Starship featuring Mickey Thomas was playing at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions I was ambivalent about attending.  I was a big Jefferson Starship fan, but “We Built This City” was one of those eighties rock songs where I felt rock music was jumping the shark. Then I remembered how much I enjoy the cozy venue at Orlando’s Coolest Rock ‘n Roll cocktail party: The Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel.  I made a late decision to attend the show and Damn, am I glad that I did!

In 1992, after ten years of leading Jefferson Starship to unprecedented chart success, Thomas created Starship; and for the past twenty years, he’s been touring with his own incarnation of the band, playing many of their classics hits. His recognizable voice  is still as pure and powerful as ever, he looks fantastic and is backed by an excellent band. Thomas got the show off to an energetic start, strutting around the stage and belting out a strong version of “Layin’ It On the Line,” featuring longtime Starship keyboardist Phil Bennett.

From there, the setlist was jam packed with the highlight tracks of the Jefferson Starship era, coupled with some nice surprises. Thomas interacted with the crowd throughout the evening and seemed to be having a great time. The band offered up powerful versions of classics “No Way Out” and “Jane” and then slowed things down with monster hits “Sara” and “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now.” The latter featuring a nice duet between Thomas and the beautiful Stephanie Calvert.


Calvert took the spotlight a bit later in the set, as she conquered the Jefferson Airplane era Grace Slick anthems “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love.” Calvert took the songs and made them her own. The the band was spot on, with Jeff Adams on bass and Darrell Verdusco on drums powering the classics and having a blast doing so.

Thomas then returned to the stage and shared a great version of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,’ a song he sang for Bishop’s band a few years before replacing Marty Balin in Jefferson Starship. The guitar work of Mark Abrahamian was solid all night, and he lent a fantastic solo to this one. He carried that through as the band closed the set with a fantastic extended version of “Find Your Way Back.”

For the encore, it was a little bit of the predictable and a nice dose of the unexpected.  They belted out a pure version of fan favorite (my least favorite) “We Built This City.” Then, as a few band members stripped off their instruments, Thomas grabbed an acoustic guitar shouted something to his mates, and started “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota. There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon.” It was his second Beatles reference of the night, as earlier he slipped into a spontaneous stanza from “Sgt. Pepper.”

For “Rocky Raccoon” it was the full song, and it got the packed house dancing and singing along throughout.  Starship put their own twist on it, and it came off perfectly, a fitting way to end a great night. We spoke with Calvert after the show, and the diminutive rocker said “Rocky Raccoon” was a bit of an Orlando tradition.  Good stuff and a great end to a great show!

Check out their greatest hits on iTunes, or page down to see the setlist.

Rock On – Cretin

Setlist

Layin’ It On the Line
No Way Out
Jane
Sara
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Stranger
Winds of Change
Set the Night to Music
White Rabbit
Somebody to Love
Fooled Around and Fell in Love
Find Your Way Back

Encore:
We Built This City
Rocky Raccoon

Joey Ramone’s New Music is the Answer

Sixteen years after parting ways with the godfathers of punk rock, and ten years after losing a long battle with lymphoma, Ramones front man Joey Ramone is again making waves with his latest album, …Ya Know?

Like so many other posthumous releases, I suspected the album would be a pure money grab packed with leftover dregs from earlier projects. I was wrong.  The album is a nice collection of earlier stuff, but with a cool twist. The project started when Ed Stasium and Ramone’s real brother Mickey Leigh obtained the rights to the remaining tapes of Joey’s unreleased vocal tracks, all recorded in the dozen years preceding his passing. From there, they assembled an all-star band to lend their music to the project; folks like Richie Ramone, Steve Van Zandt, Joan Jett, Bun E. Carlos, Mickey Leigh and a slew of other contemporaries from New York City.

The result is an album that’s pretty damn diverse, and a fitting tribute.  You’ll hear a few cuts that hearken back to the Gabba Gaaba Heydays of the Ramones, but you’ll also hear Joey stretching himself in numerous surprising ways throughout the album.

The album kicks off with “Rock ‘N Roll is the Answer,” the first single.  It’s a decent song, but there are plenty of better choices as single releases.  “New York City” is reminiscent of classic Ramones and a hell of a lot of fun.  It’s a straight forward ode to the city where Joey reached legendary status.

A couple of the songs remind me musically of Social Distortion, just with Joey subbing in for Mike Ness.  Check out “What Did I Do to Deserve You” and “Seven Days of Gloom” for a taste.  “Eyes of Green” and “I Couldn’t Sleep” could have been plucked directly from the happy hard-driving regional rock of the late 80’s. “21st Century Girl” is of the same vein, and as a bonus, features Joan Jett on guitar and backing vocals.

“Party Line” is surely a holdover from the Phil Spector days and is the most intriguing track on the album. It comes off as a duet with Holly Beth Vincent, who you may remember from Joey’s “I Got You Babe” cover. The song also features Van Zandt on guitar, and shows Ramone singing in a new range.  It’s addictive stuff.

…’Ya Know? also displays Joey’s tender side on “Make Me Tremble and “Waiting for That Railroad.” Neither will remind you of Ramones, but they’re both interesting peeks into Ramone’s soft side, and the former is a pretty good song. You’ll also get to hear Joey put a nice spin on his previously released Christmas tune “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”

The album is a nice surprise and leaves me reminiscing once again about the Godfather of American Punk and wishing we had been given the chance to watch him mature and adapt to the times.  On …’Ya Know? at least we finally get  a glimpse.

Rock On – Cretin

Musical Manure – The Break-up Edition?

Two not so surprising announcements this week offered by a few of our favorite rockers from totally different ends of the spectrum.

Van Halen announced that they were cancelling about 30 tour dates, and the Handsome Furs said good-bye forever.  If I had to wager at this time, I’d say the likelihood of you seeing the Handsome Furs again after this summer is considerable stronger than Diamond Dave and the family Van Halen sharing the same stage.

The “official” reason for VH canceling their last 30 shows, those after June, was that they needed a break.  It may indeed be that they still play their asses off every night and age is starting to catch up. These guys do not just walk on to stage, strum their guitars and collect a paycheck like more than a handful of their fifty-plus aging rocker peers do night after night. My guess is that it is more likely that this marriage simply was just not made to last. These guys just don’t get along, and have not for many years. My guess is that after this June, they’re done forever, or at least until the 2014 Van Hagar reunion tour.

Switching genres, Indie Alt-Rockers, The Handsome Furs shared the following on their website last week:

The End.
May 17th, 2012 – With a heavy heart the time has come to let all of you know that Handsome Furs are no more. The most important thing that needs to be said right now is how extremely grateful we are to all the fans all over the world that showered us with love and support over the years. Thank you for everything! It’s been an incredible 6 years and we owe it all to you.

The H-Furs had canceled their summer tour two months earlier for unspecified health problems, and rumors of the Montreal band’s demise were running rampant. The band is comprised of husband and wife duo Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and Alexei Perry. It’s a bummer because after six years of marriage and touring, they were finally gaining some well-deserved national notoriety. If you like danceable rock and roll, here are two downloads you need to add to your iPod: What About Us? – Sound Kapital (Bonus Track Version) and Repatriated – Sound Kapital (Bonus Track Version)

A few other random musings:

    • Denver’s The Amends has a nice new EP available for cheap. These guys make good music, and it’s worth checking out their stuff on Bandcamp:  Signal (EP)
    • Recently stumbled across a new acoustic version to Ball Park Music’s “It’s Nice To Be Alive.” It’s quirky, yet cool. Check out the original and the acoustic versions. Fun stuff.
    • Shirley Manson and Garbage have emerged from years of hiding, and that’s a groovy thing. Their new single “Blood From Poppies” has got a nice fresh sound, and brings back some of their early career ska roots.

Rock On – Cretin

Some Nights are More FUN.

Nate Ruess is not Freddie Mercury, but the front man for FUN. is definitely channeling Freddie’s spirit on the band’s latest release, Some Nights. No one will confuse this band with rock icons Queen, but Ruess’s voice will certainly conjure up some nice memories of their Mercurial lead singer.

(Let’s just get this out of the way first; the band refers to themselves with a period after their name and always either all lower case or all CAPS. I’ve chosen the latter throughout this review.  So, please, no comments on my apparent crappy grammar.)

Ruess has been around the Indie music scene for ten years, previously with Format, and now back with FUN.’s second release.  Some Nights is in a word, fun. It’s a great vehicle for the talented vocal stylings of Reuss and packed with memorable addicting ditties.

Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost round out the trio and lend their voices to create impressive harmonies throughout.  While the vocals border on spectacular, the music is fairly uninspiring. Like many of today’s Indie bands, it’s primarily synthesizers and canned drum beats. While not the greatest musicianship, it is still pretty damn fun. The music may be bubble-gum, but it’s certainly not cookie-cutter. FUN. has developed a unique sound and have carved a nice niche in today’s Alt-Rock landscape.

By now, everyone has surely heard the first single, “We Are Young (featuring Janelle Monáe).” It’s been all over TV, and for good reason; it’s a great addictive tune. It’s a good peek into what you can expect from the rest of the album, and chances are if you dig “We Are Young,” you’ll really enjoy the other tracks.

The album kicks off with a powerful Broadway-inspired introduction that beautifully highlights the vocal prowess of Reuss. It’s different, it’s innovative and it’s fun. From there, it’s generally a trip through a series of entertaining enjoyable cuts. The title track, “Carry On,” “All Alone” and “One Foot” are all in the same vein as “We Are Young.” They’ll all have you singing along and tapping your feet throughout.

“It Gets Better” reminded me a bit of Blink 182, and had a welcome edge to it.  My personal favorite is “Why Am I the One.” It’s more tender than the other tunes, and reflects on a challenging relationship and the impact on our protagonist’s life as evidenced by these lyrics: “Cause my life has become as vapid as a night out in Los Angeles.” The song ebbs and flows with hopeful desperation and is a great journey.

The album features fantastic vocals, catchy tunes and plenty of diversity. Check it out on iTunes below and enjoy the FUN.

Rock On! – Cretin

Cy Curnin – Unplugged and Engaged

Cy Curnin Live
Cy Curnin at Velvet Sessions Unplugged

Cy Curnin, has been entertaining rock music fans for more than twenty-five years. He continues to morph his sound and polish his approach keeping him a relevant voice in the rock music world. Best known as the distinctive voice behind The Fixx, he’s also had a successful solo career, and he impressed the crowd Saturday night with an engaging Unplugged set at the Velvet Lounge in Orlando.

This was my first trip to a Velvet Sessions Unplugged show and it was a great experience.  The stage is set up in the lobby lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel, and is a nice intimate arrangement.  There were reasonable priced reserved tables near the stage and plenty of free standing-room spots. The sparse stage this night included an acoustic guitar, a keyboard and the dapper Curnin, himself, adorned in his frock from Kilimanjaro

Curnin shared a nice mix of Fixx hits, a few deeper cuts and some of his solo stuff during the highly interactive 90 minute set. His voice was perfect, having held up magnificently after all of these years of performing. He conversed with the audience throughout, sharing many stories and life experiences and truly seemed to enjoy the interactions. He was an affable front man, who engaged everyone in the crowd throughout the show.

The highlight of the set was a haunting stripped down version of “Saved By Zero.” It was almost unrecognizable versus the original, yet was a fantastic spin on The Fixx classic. The audience favorite was “Red Skies,” which featured considerable audience participation.

He’s also a rocker with a conscience, sharing his experiences and affinity for  Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF) and a few environmental organizations with the crowd. LHSF is the brain child of Mike Peters (The Alarm) and is a musician driven organization focused on Cancer survivors.

All told, it was a fantastic, unplugged concert, showcasing a talented, engaging and caring performer.

Super Moon Tunes – Moon Songs

Moon Songs – In Honor of Full Moon

 

Great “Moon” Tunes

Super Moon is back, and here are the most appropriate moon songs – super rock ‘n roll moon tunes to accompany its magical voyage across the sky; The RARA’s Farmer’s Dozen of Moon Tunes.  The rules? Pretty simple stuff – it needs to rock, the word “moon” needs to be in each song title, and I have to like it.

Continue reading Super Moon Tunes – Moon Songs

A Rock 'n Roll Community

%d bloggers like this: