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