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

Lit Tears It Up in Orlando

Lit still has it.  They’ve been relatively quiet over the last seven years dealing with some crushing tragedies, but have bounced back powerfully!

The Fullerton, California quintet is touring in support of their forthcoming release The View From the Bottom. As front man A. Jay Popoff shared, the band always seems to start or end their tours in the Sunshine State. True to his word, they just started  this tour the prior night in South Florida. But, they’re already in prime touring form.

The set list at Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions featured most of the band’s hits, including a handful off of their breakthrough 1999 release A Place In the Sun, including their energetic opener “Four” and the fan favorite “My Own Worst Enemy” which closed the show. Overall, the band offered an energetic passionate set and were on top of their game, mixing in some choice cuts from their forthcoming release The View From the Bottom.

Brothers A. Jay and Jeremy Popoff (lead guitar) with Kevin Blades (bass) are the original core to the band and still dominate the stage. They engaged the crowd throughout the night and genuinely seemed to be having a fun time.  They were joined on stage by Ryan Gilmor on guitar and former drum tech Nathan Walker who has replaced the deceased Allen Shellenberger. The band was cohesive on stage and genuinely seemed to be having a great time playing along side each other. It carries through on stage,where they interacted with the crowd all night. (As a nice touch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band shower the crowd with more souvenir guitar picks.)

The band played a handful of new songs off of the forthcoming album and they were well-received by the appreciative crowd.  “You Tonight” and “Same Shit. Different Drink” are two that are destined to be fan favorites, but they were all strong cuts. The album comes out on June 29th.  In the meantime, click on the Free Music Friday link on the top of this page for a free download of “Same Shit, Different Drink.”

The band came out for their encore with a great rendition of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” then ratcheted up the frenzied crowd with a fantastic version of “My Own Worst Enemy.” It was a perfect way to wrap up a great set.

Rock On! – Cretin

Setlist

Four
You Tonight
C’mon
Something to Someone
Too Fast for a U-Turn
Looks Like They Were Right
She Don’t Know
Lipstick and Bruises
Over My Head
Zip-Lock
Same Shit Different Drink
Miserable
Miss U Gone
The Broken

Encore
(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding
My Own Worst Enemy

 

 

Your iPod – It’s What’s on the Inside that Matters

Recently, I was talking to an old friend who grumbled that there was no good new rock music on the airwaves.  Oh, how wrong he was.  There’s plenty – you just need to know where to look.  Hint: Sirius XM is a good start: XM Radios Starting at $29.99

In reality, there’s lots of damn good new music out there.  Here are 10 new tunes that are clearly worth a listen, probably even worth digging $1.29 out of your piggy bank (follow the links to visit iTunes). Download these to your iPhone or iPod and begin to impress your friends.  I’ve added in a few older tunes, too, for your consideration, giving you a nice Farmer’s Dozen.

Danny, Dakota & the Wishing Well – A Silent Film – This song is addictive.  The first single from the band’s forthcoming second album reminds me a bit of the Killers.  Great stuff from these lads out of Oxford, England. I have a feeling this one is destined to be one of those classic songs that ends up being a defining song of that summer.

Stay Useless – Cloud Nothings – Great Indie Rock out of Cleveland. This is pure, rough alternative with a punk flare.  It’s a ton of fun, and unique in today’s marketplace. Want to sound cool to your friends, play them this song.

Away Frm U – Oberhofer – The Beach Boys meet Oingo Boingo.  It’s a unique, cool sound from 21 year old Brad Oberhofer and his band. The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite, that’s impressive!  Based on this first single, the band has a ton of potential.

Girls Like You – Naked and Famous – Another hip cool band out of New Zealand.  This one has been out for a few months, but is just now starting to get airplay.  Thom Powers’ vocals are fantastic and the synth-laden song is a perfect alt-rock dance track.

That Old Black Hole – Dr. Dog Fun, fun stuff from the suburbs of Philly. It’s got a reggae, ska, funky feel and is just a blast to listen to.  Surprised this band has seen more success over the past decade. They are playing at the Hangout Festival in Alabama next month, with the next band…

Apartment – Young the Giant – The album is a year and a half old, but the third single is just now getting airplay.  It’s as good as the two predecessors “My Body” and “Cough Syrup.”  I’m truly bummed I missed the chance to catch these guys touring with Grouplove earlier this year.  Highly recommend this one.

Simple Song – The Shins – They’re a guilty pleasure, this quintet out of New Mexico. They play kid rock (that’s, kiddie rock, not Kid Rock), alt rock and bubble gum pop, but it’s all pretty damn good.  This one is a nice simple love song.  I love it…

Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) -Silversun Pickups – I was a huge fan of these guys three or four years ago.  They’re prolific, and continually release new stuff.  Think it might be time for a break.  I find this track to be absolutely mediocre.  Check it out for yourself and see if you agree…

Rocky Mountain Way – Godsmack – It’s a nice cover. You’ll find a few of the staples from Joe Walsh’s original masterpiece as well as a few unique Godsmack-like touches.

Sirius XM’s Octane is featuring Egypt Central’s “Enemy Inside” as featured new music.  It’s a great tune, that we featured last year.  Check out Kerri’s review: White Rabbit

Life’s a Song – Jets Overhead – This one is about five years old now, but new to me.  Love the sound of this Canadian Quintet.  The lyrics are cool, too.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up – Ramones – It’s a timeless classic off of their Adios Amigos album.  Probably the best guitar work on any Ramones tune.

Your Love – Outfield – This song crosses a few genres of Rock, and it’s really an under appreciated classic.  Tony Lewis’s vocals on this 80’s hit are timeless.

There you go; thirteen tunes worth checking out, adding to your playlist and dazzling your friends, family, co-workers, and that dude at Starbucks.  Guaranteed you’ll like at least seven of them. OK, there’s no guarantee, but you’ll like most of them. Trust me…

Rock On – Cretin

Orlando Jai Alai Fronton – Historic Rock ‘n Roll Venue

When I heard that the Marshall Tucker Band was playing the Orlando Jai Alai Fronton I was surprised. I never picked it as the right atmosphere for a rock show. So, when I trekked out to Fern Park to review the band, I was just as curious to check out the venue as I was the show. As it turned out, it was an excellent experience. (Check out the concert review here)

The Jai Alai can accommodate around 1,200 fans, with every seat fairly close to the stage. The stage is set-up on the playing surface, with the seating area being narrow and wide. The result is that there are only about 20 rows of seats, giving the venue an intimate feel. I’d strongly recommend the seats within the first 10 rows or so (anything under Row G) as the seats are huge and comfortable with copious leg room.

During the Marshall Tucker show, the sound system was excellent. There were a few issues with a buzz on one of the guitars, but that appeared to be an issue with the band’s equipment.

After returning from the show, I researched the Jai Alai venues after hearing Marshall Tucker front man Doug Gray comment about playing the venue in the 70’s. I was surprised to learn that huge acts such as Bruce Springsteen, U-2, Kiss and David Bowie have played there. I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for another opportunity to see a show here and hopefully catch some other future rock legends.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Plenty of free parking on-site
  • There were about a dozen seats available literally on the stage
  • Decent bar selections at decent prices
  • Security strongly discouraged folks from standing during the show

Marshall Tucker Orlando Concert Review

Legendary rockers, The Marshall Tucker Band brought their tour to Florida last night, and they put on a strong show at the Orlando Jai Alai. Doug Gray is the sole original member still touring with the band, as they celebrate 40 years of classic Southern Rock.  Although not original members, the current version of the band has been touring together for years, and they are a tremendously talented, cohesive group of musicians.

Gray’s voice was rough, and he struggled to hit the notes that were originally sung by founding member and primary song-writer, the deceased Toy Caldwell. But, that was the only negative the entire night. Gray was still an affable, entertaining front man.  He interacted with the crowd all night, was constantly smiling and laughing, and shared more than a few priceless nuggets from the band’s storied past, including the fact that the last time they played a Jai Alai venue was in 1972 in Miami.

As for the venue, it was surprisingly a great place to see a show.  I’ll leave it at that for now, but we’ll have a review for the venue posted in the next day or two.

The band kicked off the show with a crisp extended version of “This Old Cowboy,” where Rick Willis and Stuart Swanlund traded off nice guitar riffs.  In total, they played just eight songs, yet played for over 90 minutes as most songs included extended versions and solos galore.

One of the early highlights was “Take the Highway,” where keyboard player and flutist, Marcus James Henderson, took the lead vocal.  Aside from nailing the vocals, he shared several powerful flute solos that brought the crowd to their feet.  Before this show, I hadn’t realized how prominently The Marshall Tucker Band featured the flute, but it was a welcome change.

During “24 Hours at a Time,” Marcus traded his flute for a sax, and absolutely tore up the stage.  Willis and Swanlund  again traded off guitar leads, and we also got to see nice bass and drum solos from Pat Elwood and B.B. Borden respectively.  The song lasted at least fifteen minutes, and went by in a flash as it was thoroughly entertaining.

The talent in the band was impressive throughout the night.  The solos were powerful and passionate, and the band members all had their moments in the spotlight.  Henderson, Swanlund and Willis all took lead vocals on for at least one song.  I loved Willis’s powerful vocals which were eerily reminiscent of Toy Caldwell’s back in the 70’s.  Good stuff!

They closed with a fantastic sing-along version of “Can’t You See” which was Gray’s shining moment. The song that some consider to be the greatest Southern Rock song ever, had the crowd fully engaged, on their feet and singing along throughout. They took a few bows, introduced their encore without leaving the stage and belted out a great version of “Blue Ridge Mountain Sky.”

Overall, a nice show with some fantastic musicians that helped bring back that great 70’s classic Southern Rock vibe, at least for a night.

Local musicians Charlie D and the Things opened the show with a fun thirty minute set. The band features Charlie De Cosa a local musician who has played with many bands over the years. The definitely give off a Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers vibe, and did a good job warming up the crowd.

Rock On – Cretin

See the Setlist below.


Setlist:

This Old Cowboy
Fire On the Mountain
Take the Highway
Heard It In A Love Song
Midnight Promises
24 Hours At A Time
Can’t You See
Blue Ridge Mountain Sky

The Karaoke Channel Store

The Dropa Stone Release their Starry Message

Starry Messenger, from Orlando rockers The Dropa Stone is now available, and it’s aptly titled.  These talented musicians describe their music as a groovy fusion of rock with rhythm and blues. I can see that, but I’d say it has more of a progressive jam feel to it. It’s different than most of the stuff on the airways and in the local venues and it’s a welcome change.

The album features deep, layered powerful songs and showcases the excellent musical talent in the line-up. It’s extremely difficult to categorize the band, and that’s a good thing. If I had to compare them to any artists, it would be a creative combination of Incubus and King Crimson.  It does not capture their sound perfectly, and I know it sounds odd, but it works.

The music on Starry Messenger is quite diverse; a fact that may hurt the band commercially, as it’s hard to find rock music fans who are going to enjoy all of the many directions the band pulls us. However, throughout the nine selections, the guitar work from Justin Henry and Jon Meyers is excellent.  Meyers is the lead vocalist and has a nice, fresh, unique voice.  Will Richey on bass and Joe Lederman on drums consistently provide a powerful bass groove.

The album kicks off with a spacey Rush-esque rocker titled “Vectors,” it’s a good peek at what to expect over the remainder of the album, but the songs, direction and groove change throughout.  There are a few nice tunes with more of a blues feel, such as “Catfish Blues” and Salsa Verde.”

The best cuts were the ones with more of an Alternative Rock bent, particularly my favorite “Kinski’s Spiral” and “Other Worlds Than These.”

The remainder of the album is pretty heavy on jam based rock with a clear classic rock feel. It well be well-received by fans of jam rock, but there are varied options for other rock fans. Starry Messenger is worth a listen for sure, and I suspect everyone will find a song or two that they really like.

Mike G

Check out the Central Florida Concert Highlights for April

 

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