Tag Archives: Jacksonville

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Album Review

against me (640x306)

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

When I was 17, I lived just outside of Jacksonville and began attending my fourth (and final) high school.  I met a cute brunette at a show, and she went to my school.  She was cooler than me, it’s true.  She kept playing this band from Gainesville in the car that I had never heard of before.  The opening song sounded like the beginning to a spaghetti western, and she knew all the words and I didn’t.  That would soon change as I fell head over heels for Against Me! and the girl.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little background information on what’s happening on this album.  Tom Gabel… I don’t know exactly how to phrase it.  Tom Gabel is not gone, but he’s also not here.  Even the band’s Wikipedia page does not list him under former members.  Let’s dig deeper.

Transgender Dysphoria is defined as a person’s discontent with the sex that they were assigned at birth, and the roles associated with that gender.  Tom Gabel suffers (suffered?) from transgender dysphoria and finally reached a breaking point where something had to give.  So, now Tom Gabel is Laura Jane Grace.  Out of what is seemingly a very complicated situation comes a relatively simplistic solution: tell the people in your life what you are feeling, and make changes accordingly.  Fortunately, Tom has the support of his family, bandmates, and I’m going to assume the majority of his fans as well.

The album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, starts off the same way that Reinventing Axl Rose  does; with a snare drum and Laura banging out chords on that beautiful Rickenbacker semi-hollow body that has inspired bouts of envy from me, time and again, over the years.  Laura’s voice remains unchanged and except for the subject matter, it’s still the same band.  The subject matter is confessional but should not ever be mistaken for an apology.  Laura jumps right into it with the opening track, which has the same name as the album.  “You want them to see you like they see every other girl. They just see a faggot.”  That about sums it up, right? We’re done here? Not quite.  Following the title track is “True Trans Soul Rebel” which is the tune that caught my attention on my drive home this evening and kicked my ass into writing this at one o’clock in the morning.  Laura knows, and always has known, how and when to tug on the heart strings to create the most effective songs and records.  This track has a melancholy feel to it (especially the verses) but when you start paying attention to the words it becomes truly heart-breaking.   “Yet to be born, you’re already dead” would sound cryptic or nonsensical taken out of context, but in the context of this record I think it’s one of the most profound statements Laura makes on the album.

Laura has always inspired quiet, introspective night drives through northeast Florida but as I rolled away from Duval county and picked up speed on the highway, “Two Coffins” punched me right in the nose with a closed fist.  I can’t tell who it is about (Laura’s wife? Her daughter, perhaps?), but that is hardly the point.  The point is that it makes sense to her and she has kindly left enough of a void in the lyrics for a person to insert themselves into the song.  It’s an acoustic song, and it drips with bittersweet longing for the person that she is singing to.  Maybe in my current state of mind I’m just not hearing the lyrics from the right angle and to someone else it would be quite obvious, but right now, tonight, the mystery of the song is part of why it’s one of my favorite tracks on this album.

Immediately following “Two Coffins” is “Paralytic States”, which upon first listen sounds like an up-tempo, feel good song.  Diving deeper into the lyrics you realize that it’s a terrifying account of someone suffering from Transgender Dysphoria, and the lengths to which a human could potentially go when they are unable, or unsure, of how to cope.  Add substance abuse to the mix and you have a really volatile, desperate, hopeless individual on your hands.  Laura said in another article that it came down to a matter of survival for her.  Just reading the lyrics sends a shiver down my spine and I am thankful that when unsatisfied with life she was strong enough to make a change, despite life and potentially relationship-changing implications.  In this instance it seems that there will be a happy ending, but I can’t help but wonder how many others there are in this world that will not arrive at the same destination.

I guess if I could take away one lesson from this album, it’s that things change.  Time changes, people change, places change.  Just like when I got back to Florida and drove down familiar roads only to realize that the people who lived in this house no longer live there, the same thing is happening to every other person in this world.  Maybe they didn’t realize it yesterday, or today, and maybe they won’t tomorrow, but it’s almost guaranteed that at least once in an individual’s life they will realize that the world is changing around them constantly.  The way that I don’t see that girl at shows anymore is the same as why I’ll never see Tom Gabel up on stage again screaming out the lyrics to “Walking Is Still Honest.”  Things change, and that’s okay.

Laura Jane Grace is here to help us keep the music playing.  Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one of the most affecting records I’ve ever heard in my life, and I only covered a handful of the ten tracks.  If you want to hear about, and feel, some really life changing, in your face, gritty stuff happening in someone’s life, please listen.  If you don’t want to feel what another person is feeling why do you listen to music in the first place?

Broken Birdie

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James Durbin Talks About His Upcoming Tour

James Durbin Photo
James Durbin – Photo by LeAnn Mueller

James Durbin’s “Celebrate” Tour Comes to Florida

The Central Florida 2014 rock concert season is about to instantly ratchet up a few notches with heralded young rocker James Durbin tearing through Orlando and Jacksonville as part of his current National Tour.

The American Idol success story is touring in support of his forthcoming release,Celebrate, on a tour that promises to spotlight his continued growth as an artist and performer. Durbin took some time out of his tour schedule to share some thoughts on the album and the tour, including one from our Twitter Community.

RARA’s Farm: For your new album Celebrate, you had considerably more time to complete the release. What was the greatest advantage to having that time to prepare?
James Durbin: The greatest advantage to having more time to make the record was that it gave me more time to write and craft the record itself. On the physical record (not including bonus tracks) I co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks. That definitely wouldn’t have happened without having that solid, creative time span.

RARA’s Farm:The first single “Parachute” is a pop anthem in the waiting, it possesses a bit more of a polished and mainstream feel than your earlier music, is that what we should expect throughout the album?
James Durbin: Yes and no. The whole record is composed of songs that are very hooky and catchy. It’s all fairly “mainstream” (if that word even still holds value). Like I said before, I had time on my side making Celebrate. Time to know and find out what worked and what didn’t.

RARA’s Farm:You have cited the influences of many diverse artists In your past, The Beatles and Paul McCartney seem to play a prominent role. Would you consider Paul your greatest influence as an artist?
James Durbin: Now that you mention it, I always find myself referring to The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s songwriting style. If you’re gonna look up to someone, might as well pick the greatest living legend, right? No one works for their entire life’s dream aiming for the middle.

RARA’s Farm:Which song off of Celebrate translates the best live, or is your favorite to perform live?
James Durbin: I really love performing “Parachute”. There’s nothing more important than loving your single because you’ll be playing it for the rest of your life. Whichever one it is. It sucks playing something over and over because you have to, but it’s a walk in the park when you listen to it like it’s your own theme song.

RARA’s Farm:Will fans from American Idol see any of the songs you performed on the show in your show setlist on this tour?
James Durbin: Probably not. But then again you never know. I like to perform “on the fly”. There’s so much liberty in being able to go off on some jam. Stray from the setlist ya know? I’m really loving that these days. We are musicians after all.

RARA’s Farm: You seem to wear your heart on your sleeve and are quite passionate when you perform. Which song touches your heart the most when you perform it these days?
James Durbin: “May” has been and always will be an emotional song to perform. Especially when I open my eyes, look into the audience, and see people crying.

RARA’s Farm:Could you tell us anything about the touring band?
James Durbin: It’s me on guitar the whole show. That’s a first. In addition I have my bassist Justin Kastner, who I found on Craigslist, no joke (Thanks Craig!), and one of my best friends Jeremy Cross on percussion. Jeremy was the first person to ever ask me if I wanted to join/start a band. It’s good to have friends with you on tour. Hallelujah!

And finally, from one of our Twitter followers:
Wendy Liu ‏@wendyucliu6h:  In one word, how would you describe your new album?
James Durbin: “CELEBRATE”, that’s why I named it that.

That pretty much says it all. Come out and CELEBRATE with RARA’s Farm as Durbin brings his show to Central Florida in the next week.  We’ll be at the show and providing our review and photos right here afterwards. Follow Us on Twitter and Like Us on Facebook for coverage of this show and everything rock music related in the Central Florida region.

Upcoming Area Shows
Wed. 1/15 – Will’s Pub, Orlando
Fri. 1/17 – Brewster’s Roc Bar, Jacksonville

Tix for both shows are available and at bargain prices! Tickets and a full concert listing are available here: James Durbin Tour Schedule

Rock On!
Cretin

Big Ticket Rocks Florida

Tyler Joseph Twenty One Pilots Big Ticket
Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots at The Big Ticket

The Big Ticket Festival Concert Review

The 2013 edition of The Big Ticket Festival came rolling through Florida over the weekend, providing a memorable rock and roll experience for the overflow crowds.

We have added links to all of our event photos at the bottom of this article. Please don’t forget to Follow Us on Twitter and Instagram for photos updates throughout the year, and to Like Us on Facebook to see all of our collections.

The event, co-sponsored by Jacksonville’s X102.9 historically features a broad spectrum of Alt-Rock acts, and serves as the highlight event for Alternative rock fans throughout Central Florida. This year was no different. Headlined by Thirty Seconds To Mars and the reformulated Stone Temple Pilots, we saw a harder edge then in prior years, but still quite a diverse offering of artists.

As it turned out, 21 was the key number for the day.  Spread out over the sprawling Metropolitan Park, we were offered the chance to see twenty-one bands over the three stages.  Over the course of the day, there were plenty of memorable highlights, but nothing more impressive than the amazing set from Twenty One Pilots.

30 Seconds to Mars and STP put on solid shows on the Main Stage, but in general, the smaller Jaegermeister Stage was the place to be. More on that later…

Let’s start with the Main Stage acts. Highlights included Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington making STP’s songs his own, and putting on his usual high energy show. Jimmy Eat World offered up forty minutes of non-stop hits, including a nice cover of “Last Christmas.” Crowd favorites, The Dirty Heads and Pepper (just three Coconut pokers from Hawaii)  got the crowd into a nice ska/reggae groove.  A distinctive pot odor permeated the crowd as both bands offered up fun, well-received sets, that seemed pretty much perfectly suited for the herb in the air.Local rockers, Breaking Through kicked off the main stage and looked and sounded perfectly at home on the big stage.  We also saw Ocala’s own A Day To Remember command the crowd with a powerful and creative set, including stuffing front man and lead singer Jeremy McKinnon into a big inflatable ball and bouncing him through the crowd during the best show of the event,”It’s Complicated.” The crowd loved the local guys, and their amped performance clearly fed off of the energy. Aside from his trip around the venue in the big beach ball, McKinnon was a mad man all over the stage and sounded great.

The main stage action was good, but truthfully, it paled in comparison to the events on the Jaegermeister Stage.  I was most excited to see Manchester Orchestra, but they truthfully were nothing special despite the fact they debuted some excellent new tracks.  Austin rockers Saints Of Valory kicked off the second stage with a tight set that featured a fresh rock sound. They also offered up the best cover of the day with a killer version of Lorde’s “Royals.”

Matthew Healy  The 1975 Big Ticket Festival
Matthew Healy of The 1975 at The Big Ticket Festival

The 1975 were clearly one of the most anticipated acts, and they lived up to expectations, led by charismatic lead singer Matthew Healy, they made the trip to Florida all the way from Manchester, England. Nothing More followed and delivered a powerful performance. Their powerful mix of metal and hardcore sounded strong, but I was more impressed by their stage show.  These guys were just fantastic, with all four band members also expert showmen,  They do some very creative things on stage and are a band that is truly a must see act just dripping with potential.

The festival also brought us another opportunity to see Frank Turner, and artist who I feel is one of the best touring the country today (see my recent review).  Accompanied by his uber-talented and hyper-energetic band The Sleeping Souls, they killed this, their 194th show of the year. They were a bit of an odd fit in the line-up, but walked away with many new fans.  Turner interacted with the crowd more than any other performer, and was his typical smart ass self, and as usual sounded superb. And, “yes,” the fans managed to get the flag onto the stage, after hitting every stop on this tour since it debuted in Cleveland.

As good as Turner was, he was not the best act on the stage; that honor for the 2nd year in a row went to Twenty One Pilots.  This duo out of Ohio, were astoundingly good live. Tyler Joseph is the lead singer and keyboard player, and he’s just a mad man on stage. He’s everywhere, he sounds great, he’s charming, he’s creative, he’s talented – in other words, he’s pretty damn good. Drummer Josh Dun is just as integral to the band’s success and also a great performer.

Highlights from their set, included a few new mandolin offerings, including a slick “Brown Eyed Girl” cover and their fantastic new single “House of Gold.” These guys are growing as musicians, impressive stuff, as they are already tremendous performers.  At different times, we saw Joseph crowd surfing, Dun perched on a small drumkit being held aloft by the crowd, and later dueling kettle drum solos where Joseph and Dunn were both being carried above the crowd by the fans.  They also did a bit of crowd-bonding through their new friend Austin, who led a bit of a group striptease with Joseph. Fun stuff!

Twenty One Pilots were our choice for best act at the 2012 (Read our review here) and have done it again this year.  Looking forward to 2014 when they return for an evening slot on the Main Stage.

Rock On!
Cretin

Big Ticket Festival Photos:

Saints of Valory Breaking through
The 1975 A Day To Remember
Pepper Dirty Heads
Nothing More Manchester Orchestra
Frank Turner Jimmy Eat World
Twenty One Pilots Crowd Shots

Great White takes a bite out of Jacksonville!


Great White Concert Review

HappyJack is back with another RARA’s Farm concert review.

Minutes after finishing my afternoon radio show here in Jacksonville, I grabbed my gear and headed downtown to the Jacksonville Fair; where on this rain soaked evening, the band had a show to do; live in front of thousands of fair go-er’s. A nice way to branch your music to others of all music genres.

Great White in Jacksonville
Great White in Jacksonville. Photo: Leon Jonjock

Now, I was born here in Jacksonville back in the Kennedy era – and we have always had a festival or fair for as long as I can remember. And this big Southern town – home of many music superstars and hall of fame artists – knows how to throw a party!

And when they chose artists for the annual “Jacksonville Fair” they wanted the best musical artists – acts with songs always on the radio – songs we always hear and sing along to.  This year’s line-up featured Great White, a popular band on classic rock radio stations. This band has came a long way from the beginning. Founding member and lead guitarist extraordinaire, Mark Kendall, was a rock music fan from his early days – always jamming to rock legends – his vision of a cool band was evolving. After a few years and a few bands, he got a group that seemed to sound like what he really wanted and put together the band we all know today as Great White.

Back then, MTV promoted bands of rock n roll on T.V. , not this hip hop junk they show today.  And, this band had some catchy hooks and more than one hit song .

In Jacksonville in the misty rain, on a cool black night – the thunder was loud and wind was starting to swirl in all directions, a great setting for rock ‘n roll. I was standing in my normal stage position to get a few photos – stage right, on the floor, right in front of the artist. While adjusting my cameras, I felt a chill in my bones, like something out of the normal was going to happen. Then with all the wind blowing and amplifiers humming, lighting bolts flashed across the Jacksonville skies, and we heard the first ominous notes from Jaws. With a powerful build up, the lights came up to a very energetic and happy to be here in Jacksonville band: Great White.

From the moment they came onstage, they smiled with everyone, and to each other. The guitars sounded crisp and the bass was super-smooth; the drums steady and loud! And then the guys from Great White:

  • Terry Ilous: Vocals, Background Vocals, very nice guy , happy to see us
  • Mark Kendall: Lead Guitars, Background Vocals,- Sunglasses at night – maniac guitarist
  • Michael Lardie: Guitar, Keyboards, Background Vocals, smiles and Harmonica
  • Audie Desbrow: Drums, Percussion, lots of energy and big sticks
  • Scott Snyder – Bass,Background Vocals, and a bass playing style that reminds me of Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx

Read Cretin’s Interview with the band here: Great White Interview

They had the crowd dancing and singing to every song.  Then when vocalist Ilous spoke to the Jacksonville crowd, the hometown fans came alive, swinging their fists, (and beer cans) to the band in perfect timing.

He was a very good singer with a voice that sounded like a seasoned veteran. He stopped between songs to tell the story line of the band and little gems of knowledge – which we all love to hear. Then every song they played was like they were playing in front of 12,000 screaming fans acting like they were fresh out the box instead of seasoned veterans like they are.

High energy, non-stop smiles, lots of hit songs. One highlight was their newest hit , an Ilous penned balled – “Hard to Say Goodbye.” It was top ten chart material and left the crowd with their lighters in the air. Then Kendall played solo that had the crowd jumping. The fingers were fast and the effect he had was cool and hot at the same time.

Great White in Jacksonville
Great White’s Mark Kendall in Jacksonville. Photo: Leon Jonjock

The band played an hour and a half to a very receptive Jacksonville crowd. Took their bows and exited the stage. I just wondered how they timed the lighting flashes in our Southern skies at the same time their biggest hits were being played? This show will be another great show in my rock and roll lifetime of memories. With cool night time visual effects you can’t buy – lighting flashes, wind gusts and total bliss  – what a show!

While getting my gear together to meet the band backstage I could overhear fans saying that the new singer was better than Jack Russell, their former front-man. And that this new guy is a great addition to the band; my thoughts exactly.

Backstage, my assistant, Kathleen and I took a few minutes to talk to the band. I first said “hello” to Micheal Lardie , a guy who gets second looks, because he looks a bit like Jack Russell, Nice guy, he mentioned that they are working with Vince Neil and making plans for other tour dates, including the Monsters of Rock Cruise.

Then we spoke to Terry Ilous and he was also refreshing to talk to. He came over and spoke to us a few times.  While speaking to him and listening to his visions of the future, the band, the ups and downs, the humbleness, the family man he is, the positive attitude the band has with each other – made me feel like I was his friend; and damn it, I am. I felt his compassion for this industry that seems to fade each year with the new crop of hip hoppers and glorified gang banger’s who steal the fans away to another culture; music with no value, just programmed beats and no guitars.

He was soft spoken, and charismatic, preaching that life is one moment at a time – take your time and learn from it. He was cool to chat with, not brushing us aside, and really wanted YOU FANS to know – Great White is back!

These guys have their heads on straight and their appreciation for their fans was not a put on. When they come to Jacksonville, we’ll all be back to see them jam! So, when they come to your town – go see a band that gives back to the fans 100%.

Great White – We all were bitten in Jacksonville!

Thanks again to RARAs Farm for supporting the Florida rock scene, the great Southern town of Jacksonville Florida, The Jacksonville Fair, Management of Great White, and especially new vocalist Terry Ilous , and the band “Great White”.

Thank God for California Rock!

(Like Us on Facebook, or check there soon for more photos from the show.)

Until next show…

HappyJack
WJXR 92.1FM
Rarasfarm.com


Kansas Headlines St. Augustine’s “Old City Music Fest”

Kansas in St. Augustine. Photo: Leon Jonjock
Kansas in St. Augustine. Photo: Leon Jonjock

Kansas Show Review at Old City Music Fest

Hello fans – HappyJack is back with another concert review.

I saw on my schedule, a wonderful event known around Florida as St. Augustine’s “Old City Music Fest.”  I was quickly impressed that the line-up consisted of a wide range of music, including Uncle Kracker, John Anderson, Bush Hawg, Angie Johnson and Morgan Frazier – Music for everyone, plus a D.J. spinning his wax during band breakdowns.

But, I requested this show for my next review because of the headliners, classic rockers, Kansas. Five professional progressive members of Kansas , the garage band from Topeka, are on their 40th anniversary tour. I was particularity excited because way back in 1975, a little kid known as HappyJack, got to go his first rock ‘n roll concert in the old Jacksonville’s Veteran Arena (now a new Auditorium has been built), where I saw Bob Seger open up for Kansas.

Back in ’75, this was a special show for me; I bought a neon necklace for $1 and stood in front of the stage. Soon after Seger’s act was done with their high energy set, Kansas came on with a blast of steam. I was mesmerized; this guy on the stage was dancing and kicking his legs high whenever he banged on his giant overshadowing steam organ. I had heard their songs on the radio and was glad to get the chance to see them perform live.

Flash forward to 2013 – I am standing in front of the stage again – this time with my cameras at the ready as I watch these guys get into their own playing. They played aggressively smooth and with subtle overtones – perfect for their style of music.  The fans were happy to see these legends live, and so was I. It’s been a few years since they were around , but it seemed like yesterday.

From “Carry On My Wayward Son” to “Dust In the Wind” and all of the other hits, we all sang and raised our glasses to this band from the heartland. 40 years of music experience, and it showed. The double bass drumming, powerful guitar solos and pounding bass lines, along with a piano and a fiddle player was such a sucess – and it sounded cool. They perfectly blended with each other, coming in at out at different times to showcase the instruments, a musical vision to behold!

The crowd reached ten thousand for the festival and there were thousands for the headliners.  Everyone danced all day long, not one fight, nor bottle thrown – everyone naturally respected the families in attendance that came to see the all star line up, and the headliners Kansas.

Kansas in St. Augustine. Photo: Leon Jonjock
Kansas in St. Augustine. Photo: Leon Jonjock

I met the band’s manager and he gave me a set of all three of the bands guitar picks. I took a few good photos which we will post soon. I’ll love to look at them again – many years later, and still enjoy every precious memory while looking forward to seeing them again soon.

St. Augustine’s OLD CITY MUSIC FEST was a blast – I was there for over 10 hours, and I’m already making plans to return in 2014.  I highly recommend that you see a festival when there is one in St. Augustine. Next year’s Old City Music Fest will be booking three days worth of acts to be held on November 7, 8 and 9.  Camping spots for next year’s event will be available beginning next week. Get in early for their version of a Southern Woodstock with all big time acts. Are you ready? Pack those sleeping bags, I’ll see ya at the stage! Visit their Facebook Page for more info.

Thanks to St. Augustine Flea Market , and the town of St. Augustine, Florida for having us! And a special thank you to Kansas Management team and Old City Music Fest for the media passes, you guys rocked North Florida!

And, thanks to the fans that keep us busy at Rarasfarm.com. HappyJack will be attending another show soon – until then – post  a comment!

Do you remember seeing Kansas?

Sick Puppies Rock Jacksonville’s Freebird Live Cafe


sick puppies freebird
Sick Puppies at Freebird Live

Sick Puppies Jacksonville Concert Review

I had just finished hosting nine hours on my FM Radio show here in Jacksonville, and was ready for my day off to see Sick Puppies, Indie rockers riding a recent wave of popularity – a band I had heard much about, but one I had never took the time to really listen to.

I grabbed my phone, lined up a photographer and began to plan for the show at the legendary Freebird Live Cafe in Jacksonville Beach.  I did my homework and quickly realized that Sick Puppies has been working the rock music scene for fifteen years. They have a lot of talent and plenty of hit songs. So, this assignment was going to be a fun one, and I was ready to go.

I was impressed by the venue. The first thing you notice is how clean and professionally set up the design is. With an upstairs balcony that allows the fans to watch from above, it really makes it much more accommodating and fun to enjoy, versus a venue with a flat floor.

Sick Puppies at Freebird Live
Sick Puppies at Freebird Live

Back to the show; after the opening bands took their bows, it was time for the headliners. The lights went black and smoke bellowed out unto the excited fans on the floor. Sick Puppies took the stage and were immediately busting loose with a fast uptempo song that had everyone head banging and dancing to the hard-driving tune. No metal, just really cool rock and roll jams that I will be listening to on my MP3 player long into the future.

These cool sounding Australian rockers formed back in 1997. Sick Puppies consists of vocalist and guitarist Shimon Moore, who the crowd immediately adored, with his good looks, happy attitude, and showmanship that other front men only wish they could offer. He was an instant success with the energetic crowd. Moore played his guitar with enthusiasm, but took time not to rush the solo’s, which were very well-received by the fans.

He stopped a few times to chat between songs. With triple duties: singer, lead guitarist and rhythm guitarist; he showed no signs of wear.

The long haired beauty playing bass guitar is Emma Anzai. She had everyone’s eyes, because she commanded the stage like no other female in a long time. With the mounted fans blowing at full speed and her hair swirling, it was hard to take your eyes off the visualization of this captivating musician.

Sick Puppies at Freebird Live
Sick Puppies’ Emma Anzai at Freebird Live

The pulsating beats that she hammered out were mesmerizing to watch and a joy to hear. She played to the fans and they really enjoyed her, seeming down-to-earth and untouchable at the same time.  Stalking the stage, she assured the fans were getting complete access to her, which was refreshing to see from a veteran musician. And her perfect on-time bass playing just added to the experience.

Drummer Mark Goodwin, was the backbone of this trio with thunder-drums and pounding excellence that you typically only see in the studios. One thing I realized watching and listening to this show – They could have recorded the next live CD right there at Freebird’s – they sounded like they just came from the studio.

These guys are professionals at what they do. After enough concerts, reviews and shows I’ve been to, I respect seeing a professional band that will always be remembered for how good they really are – without engineers changing the sounds or producers taking over the controls on the soundboard to make the band sound better than they actually are. Sick Puppies is one of those rare gems. No need for any adjustments; they have their sound and act down pat!

That’s why they have pushed through with popular rock hits for years, offering up jams that really are hits and great songs for over 15 years now, and still rocking like it was their first tour. This trio is a can’t miss act who I’ll be catching any time they return to town, and highly recommend that you do the same.

I also appreciated that they gave many fans an opportunity to meet them after the show, and impressed by Moore’s humility, something rarely seen in this world of rock and roll. Thanks to Sick Puppies for a great show and for showing love to the Florida fans who flocked to Freebird Live to see you. At this point, I will put this show down as the best of 2013 and I have witnessed a lot this year in my hometown (Skynyrd’s hometown) of Jacksonville.

Freebird Live was an ideal venue for the show. The club is owned by the the wife of the late Ronnie Van Zant (lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd).  If you ever get to Jacksonville, get down to the beach and check out Freebird Live Cafe; you’ll be glad you did. It has a nice historical context, as well. You’ll see rare memorabilia from the Lynyrd Skynyrd family – Gold and Platinum albums everywhere; guitars adorning the walls , and many memories for the hometown locals are shared throughout. I highly recommend everyone to visit  this venue and witness some rock history – the atmosphere is overwhelming! 

Another review for another cool band coming soon – right here at Rarasfarm.com – save us as a favorite on your toolbar.

I’ll be back!

HappyJack
92.1 FM
Jacksonville Florida

Bloc Party – Four – Album Review

Sperry Top Sider

In my younger and more formative years…

I’m just kidding. Let me start again. When I was just graduating high school, and for the first couple of years after, we spent our Thursday and Saturday nights at Jacksonville’s Art Bar, TSI, and the Pearl. Fueled by Pabst and hormones, we would dance until our feet quit working and all we wanted afterwards was a big, nasty slaw dog from the street vendor outside. Bloc Party was a staple during those days and I look back fondly in between moments of cringing from picturing what my actual dance skills probably looked like. “Helicopter” and “Banquet,” from their debut Silent Alarm could usually be heard creeping through the cracks of the dingy buildings.  We are far removed from those days and so are the London four-piece.

Track one of their new release, Four, “So He Begins To Lie”, starts off with in-studio talking among band members. When bands do this I’m not exactly sure what message they’re trying to convey.   Is it to show that the album was recorded live in the studio?   Is it just an obvious Easter egg for fans to have a behind the scenes feeling?  Everything gets thrown into Pro-tools anyway, so point, click and cut that 10 seconds from the final product.  I didn’t mean to rant, but I do feel better now. Regardless of that, the first track comes off sounding a bit like a b-side from Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3.  I love that album so the comparison is meant to be positive.

Track 3, “Octopus,” is when this album starts to remind me of the Bloc Party I remember.  Dancey beats, quick,  trembling guitars and singable vocals should get your hips shaking and if that doesn’t work just start guzzling cheap beer. Front-man Kele Okereke drops the tempo on “Real Talk” which sounds like it features a banjo in the second verse. Interesting chord progressions hit notes that make it a somewhat spooky sounding song, but not unenjoyable.

“Coliseum” has a slide guitar throughout most of it and, I kid you not, I can’t listen to this song without laughing and singing Days of the New’s “Touch, Peel, and Stand”.  If you were born after 1997, don’t worry about this reference.  If you look up that song it will not be funny, and only mildly enjoyable.

Following that is “V.A.L.I.S.”, which is probably my favorite track on the record. I think it was made abundantly clear in the review I did for Psychic Friend that I am a sucker for super-catchy, poppy songs. It’s true and I will not apologize for it.  Come to think of it, this song is along the same lines of Coheed and Cambria’s “Feathers”.  The two bands could tour together…

“Team A” and “Truth” bring more of the same danceable goodness, before the album ends with a full-on rocker titled “We Are Not Good People.” It’s a great song but (and maybe its just me) I find it a little difficult to take it too seriously with Kele’s British accent.  It’s adorable and I just want to pinch his cheeks when he tries to sound tough.

All in all this is an outstanding effort. Enjoyable from beginning to end, especially the danceable ones. On the other hand, I appreciate what they’re trying to do with songs like the first and last track, but there are other bands out there that have been doing it longer and are doing it better. We love Bloc Party for making us dance, not for melting our faces off. Play to your strengths, guys. You’re awesome.

– Broken Birdie –

SMS Audio LLC

Hunters pack the house in Jacksonville!


Hunters Live in Jacksonville - Credit: Leon Jonjock
Hunters Live in Jacksonville – Credit: Leon Jonjock

Hunters Packs the House in Jacksonville!

Last week, we had a chance to check out a very hip Indie Rock band called Hunters based out of Brooklyn, New York and touring in support of their new EP. I got the assignment to review and photograph the up and coming punk rockers while they were touring through Jacksonville. The location was Jack Rabbits, a downtown club, on a very hot muggy day. It was apparent that sweat was guaranteed tonight.

I arrived a few minutes early to set up, and the band soon followed in two vans, unloaded everything and went next door for a quick dinner before the show. The manager of Jack Rabbits was also the engineer of the soundboard, and was in great spirits, very excited about this particular show.

After the two opening bands, Queen Beef and Hank and Cupcakes had finished their high energy sets, the lights went out, and Hunters took the stage. The crowd was packed like sardines in this cool little Jacksonville club but despite the heat no one cared. They were all fired up and ready to see this energetic quartet, and you could tell right away that dancing was definitely gonna be happening this night!

We could instantly tell that this band was the real deal, as the crowd instantly came alive when they played their first song. The music was cool enough to keep everyone engaged and listening for the entire set, unlike some other bands that burn out after a couple songs.

The on-stage fog machine filled the concert hall cranking out cool air to the crowd, while covering the stage with a slick mist. The band’s talented lead singer, Isabel Almieda was instantly recognized by her luscious pink hair the moment she took the stage. She displayed a very smooth voice, and was a hit to everyone who watched her dance across the stage. She was joined by her primary collaborator Derek Watson, a hot shot lead guitarist with cool spiked hair.

This Brooklyn Indie rockers played a smart set, with three fast-paced songs right off the bat, to the delight of the crowd. Isabel was in complete control of the timing of the band and she had the crowd in the palm of her hand; at any moment, she had us in a frenzy, other times she slowed the pace, and the entire time, displaying her wonderful voice that connected to everybody in the room.

It wasn’t long before fans of the opening bands were captivated by her voice and they were quickly in the mix dancing to the beats of Hunters! The band played for 50 minutes and had everyone sweating for more.

Watson played his guitar like a seasoned pro and was a great entertainer, even playing upside down with his feet in the air at one point. The fast-paced finger work for this type of music isn’t easy for most guitarists, but he handled the show with grace, never himself to override his partners in the band and staying in perfect sync with the structure of the songs. Bassist Tommy played every solid note, without cheating the songs with sloppy work providing a cool vibe for everyone which was a pleasant relief from the doom and gloom bands that scream at you.

Hunters Live in Jacksonville - Credit: Leon Jonjock
Hunters Live in Jacksonville – Credit: Leon Jonjock

All the songs were handpicked by the band, and when record labels allow you to have that control it almost guarantees a better sound and show. The songs were presented in a way that brought attention to every song – great catchy hooks that kept everyone in attendance dancing. They finished their set to a very happy crowd and the fans were very excited when the band came out to hang with them after the show.

We reporters had a chance to talk to the band backstage, as they were heading for Orlando, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and other big time towns.

We got our photo’s taken with the band,  a nice wrap to a great night of rock at a place called Jack Rabbits – where the locals and the newbies go to rock!

This band is on my “TO SEE AGAIN LIST, and we’ll be back again when “Hunters” returns to town.

Thanks to “Hunters” management team, record label, and band members for a great show, and we can’t wait for the new album in 2014!  And Jack Rabbits of Jacksonville for always and for many years, putting North Florida on the map as the place to see cool Indie bands!

Click links for more band photo’s – Hunters Concert Pictures – and of course, Like us on Facebook!

Until then, stay cool !

Happy Jack
92.1fm
Jacksonville
Rarasfarm.com