Tag Archives: Orlando

Kickin off Summer with The Rocket Summer

 

Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer on the Keyboard

 

This Wednesday night was the first night of summer in Orlando.  For a few hundred happy fans it was a fantastic Rocket Summer.  Putting on a passionate and energetic performance, Bryce Avary, the soul of The Rocket Summer lit up the stage at The Social in Orlando for nearly two hours. He is currently on tour promoting the band’s fifth album Life Will Write the Words. Avary started performing in Orlando about 8 years back and has made the city a repeat destination on his tours, and for good reason; his fans love him!

The Rocket Summer opened the night with an extremely impressive showcase of Avary’s musical talents – the energetic, multi-talented musician displayed his ability to play the drums, then moved to the keyboard, slid over to the bass guitar and finally rocked on lead guitar. With guitar in hand he fired up the crowd as he kicked into “Do You Feel”

Quickly realizing the show was only going to get more intense and energetic he performed “Hills and Valleys” and then the band played the first song off of the new album – “Run and Don’t Stop.” The new album hit the shelves just two weeks ago, yet there was hardly a person in the venue not singing along.  For “Of Men and Angels” – a definite crowd-pleaser – he took things down a notch and moved over to the keyboard to express his piano abilities.

The Rocket Summer then picked things back up with one of their most popular songs “Break it Out” allowing the fans to sing along while showcasing his musical skills. “Prove It,” another hit off the new album got the crowd jumping, then just as they reached a frenzy, Avary disappeared from the stage leaving the crowd searching.

Suddenly, fans at the back of the venue started screaming as Avary, guitar in hand walks to the center of the floor – takes a seat – and performs yet another song off the new album, “Soldiers.” A much more personal performance sang right in the heart of the fans.  After his performance he stood up on the bar and dove into the crowd as they passed him along back to the stage.

Before the performance of “Walls,” Avary spoke to the crowd about how much this song meant to him and that he wanted everyone to know they weren’t alone – it was a goose-bump moment to say the least, as the crowd sang in unison and his very impressive piano performance was displayed. The performance of “Revival” was the most rocking performance of the night; we heard more edgy vocals and saw more head banging, guitar rocking, and crowd jumping in this song than any other of the night. The Rocket Summer closed the set with “You Tell Me To Live.”

Bryce Avary in the crowd
Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer in the crowd

With the crowd rhythmically chanting and clapping for more, Avary returned to the stage, this time without the band. He opened the encore with three solo acoustic songs – all highlighting his outstanding vocal talent. I found it very unique that Avary opened the floor to the crowd on which songs they wanted to hear next and gave a few lucky fans the satisfaction of having their request selected.

Avary then decided it was time to throw “a little dance party” and once again ran around stage playing every instrument he could get his hands on, while the crowd danced mesmerized by his diverse musical ability.

In total, The Rocket Summer put on an encore of seven songs plus a little dance party. Avary repeatedly noted to the crowd that he just wanted to keep playing. A highlight from the encore was the performance of “Circa ’46” – this was the first time ever performing the song live. Avary noted to the crowd they had practiced it a few days earlier and wanted to test it. Throughout the performance he yelled “well this isn’t going so bad.” Truly a fun experience to be part of.  They closed the night with” I Need a Break… but I’d Rather Have a Breakthrough.”

Not only are the vocals of Avary perfectly on key but his musical talent is absolutely amazing. How many artists do you know who can perform for close to two hours, sing in the midst of a frenzied crowd, stage dive, crowd surf, interact with the fans, and move between playing the keyboard to the guitar singing the entire time, then put on a 7 song encore?

Bryce Avary is one of those musicians that is grateful for the fans that continue to come out and support his dream year after year and he rewards them with a jaw dropping performance. He connected with the entire crowd throughout the show and made sure everyone knew how thankful he was, and by the length of his encore really showed he had no desire to leave the stage.

I also noted that The Rocket Summer played seven songs off their new album, whereas most bands only play a few new cuts off a brand new album and stick to the fan favorites. Avary took a risk and it paid off as the crowd knew all the words and not a person seemed disappointed; but after a show like that how could you be?

– Kerri –

Check out the setlist below.

Setlist

Do you Feel
Hills and valleys
Run and Don’t Stop
Of Men and Angels
Break it Out
Prove it
Soldiers (played in the middle of the crowd)
Brat Pack
200,000
Walls
Revival
So, In This Hour
You Tell Me To Live

Encore:

Around the clock
Save
Never Knew
“Dance Session”
So Much Love
Circa ‘46 (first performance ever)
Just for a Moment Forget Who You Are
I Need a Break… But I’d Rather Have a Breakthrough

Jackie Bristow Enchants Orlando

Just a woman and her guitar, but, oh my… what a nice sound…

Jackie Bristow live in Orlando
Jackie Bristow live in Orlando. Photo: Hallie Ballie

Jackie Bristow brought her beautiful voice back to Orlando, opening for John Waite at Plaza Live. The New Zealand born muse now hails from Austin, Texas, and she’s developed a distinctive, melodic voice that I would best describe as Kiwi Country.

The stories in the music were the clear highlight of the show. She offered soulful selections off of her 2007 release Crazy Love and several more from her 2010 offering Freedom. The highlight of her forty-five minute set was the title track off of “Crazy Love” an introspective look at a woman who can’t seem to shake the memory of a former love. “‘Cause there’s something about the way you look at me, I forgive your everything, Oh love, such a crazy love…” It’s a beautiful, tender song perfectly matched to Bristow and her pure style.

The sound in The Plaza Theater is pristine and was the perfect setting for Bristow who played her entire set solo, accompanied only by her trusty acoustic guitar. Her songs are stories from her life, and she did a great job bonding with the crowd all night.  In one humorous exchange she shared that she was a Southern Girl, born in Southern New Zealand, then moving to Austin (she also reminded the crowd that Southern New Zealand is a bit more frigid than the Southern U.S.)

On this night, she was the ideal opening act for John Waite and his band (see that review here). Surprisingly, she plays fairly often in Florida, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the next time she’s in town.  Good stuff!

Cretin
(see the full set list below)

Here’s Jackie performing Crazy Love from her show in Orlando last year: Crazy Love: Live

Setlist

Tempted
Running
Come Down
Freedom
Crazy Love
Rolling Stone
Innocence
Holy Mess
Crying

John Waite Tumbles through Orlando

Shaun Hague and John Waite
Shaun Hague and John Waite. Photo: Hallie Ballie

Almost a year to the day, John Waite returned to Orlando for another strong show at The Plaza Live in Orlando.  He’s supporting his Rough and Tumble Tour with a strong band and this night, he was at his interactive best. It was clear early on that this was going to be a special night. The cozy crowd of a few hundred folks seemed to instantly put Waite into a story-telling mode and he shared quick snippets, chatting and joking with the crowd all night, seemingly having a blast throughout the sixteen song set. The sound at the cozy Plaza Live venue is just great, and was spot on for this show.

The setlist featured songs from all stages of Waite’s career as well as a few nice surprises. He kicked off the set with two rocking cuts off of the new album, “Rough and Tumble,” the title track and “Better Off Gone,” which featured a fantastic guitar solo from the uber-talented Shaun Hague. From there, Waite deftly navigated through his catalog as well as a few classics from past bands Bad English and The Baby’s.

It’s been 30 plus years since the heyday of The Baby’s, yet Waite’s under-rated voice is as good as ever, and he’s always pushing himself in new directions. For fans of that era, we got to hear “Back On My Feet Again,” featuring some phenomenal bass work from Philadelphia native and Dee Dee Ramone lookalike Tim Hogan. “Head First,” “Every Time I Think of You” and a stripped down version of “Isn’t It Time” were also on the set list. They were all decent and certainly crowd favorites, but on this night, the new stuff really shined.

“If You Ever Get Lonely” is a great love song just screaming for radio play and one of a handful on the new album co-written with Kyle Cook of Matchbox Twenty.  “Sweet Rhode Island Red” is a groovy Tina turner cover that conjures up nice memories of The Baby’s. We also had a chance to listen to two other covers, a smoking version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” where Hogan, Hague and drummer Rhondo dominated the stage and then a cool version of Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around.”

When Waite introduced the fantastic “Bluebird Cafe” he shared a poignant moment with the crowd, noting that after composing that track, it was the first time he actually considered himself to be a story-teller.

He finished the night up with four huge crowd favorites. A nice Rhondo drum solo melded into Waite’s biggest hit “Missing You,” followed with his biggest Baby’s hit “Head First” which had the crowd on its feet and singing along.

The crowd pulled Waite back out for an encore and a solo version of Bad English’s “When I See You Smile.” It was a great singalong version that again had everyone on their feet and in fine voice.  His band mates then joined him for a powerful closing version of “Every Time I Think of You,” a great end to a great show.

I have to add that Waite did something almost unheard of these days after the show.  He and Hogan stayed around on stage mixing with the fans, until they had signed articles for everybody waiting; a wonderful touch of class!

Rock On – Cretin!

(Please check out the full setlist below)

Setlist

Rough and Tumble
Better Off Gone
Back on My Feet Again
If You Ever Get Lonely
All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan cover)
Whenever  You Come Around (Vince Gill cover)
Bluebird Cafe
Isn’t It Time
Mr. Wonderful
Downtown
Imaginary Girl
Sweet Rhode Island Red
Drum Solo
Missing You
Head First

Encore
When I see You Smile
Every Time I Think of You

River City Extension Rocks Orlando

River City Extension LiveRiver City Extension Live at The Social

Earlier this week, I had one of those moments that all rock music fans covet. I was out at a venue reviewing one band and stumbled across another act on the bill that really caught my attention. I was out at The Social in Orlando checking out The Drowning Men, who were great in their own right (see the review here) when I had the pleasure of catching the dynamic eight piece River City Extension.

The octet out of New Jersey crammed onto the small stage and delivered an energetic and diverse set that I would best classify as a creative merging of Mumford and Sons and Gogol Bordello! It might sound unusual, but they pull it off magnificently. Over the course of the night, the six men and two women traded off among fifteen different instruments, providing quite the aural feast. At different times, they featured two drummers, two banjo players, violin, trumpet, mandolin and more; a welcome diversion from much of the cookie cutter stuff dominating the airwaves these days.

Led by front man Joe Michelini, the band focused their set on music from their excellent new release Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger. I spoke to Michelini briefly after the set and asked him how he would classify their brand of rock.   There’s no easy classification, which is part of the beauty to their unique sound. We settled on Alt-Americana, but you can check out the link below and make your own judgment.

They kicked off the show with “Glastonbury,” the opening track off of the album and followed that up with nine other cuts from the new album as well as a few selections from their two prior releases.

“Welcome to Pittsburgh” was an early highlight. The track has a beautiful, optimistic feel to it, as Michelini shows off his broad vocal range.  The most impressive features of the song were Nicole Scorsone on violin and Dan Melius on trumpet! The violin absolutely powers the song and Melius also contributes some fantastic trumpet work.  Good stuff!

“Point of Surrender” and “Ballad of Oregon” were two other songs of the same vein that were crowd-pleasing favorites.

This band is quite diverse and they showed off their versatility all night. Other highlights included “Slander,” a poignant tune in the vein of classic rock, “Our New Intelligence” a nice boy/girl duet, and the stark “Standing Outside in a Southern Riot” which featured Michelini and vocalist Samantha Tacon alone on stage.

It was a great introduction to a talented band that we should be hearing much more from in the years ahead.

Rock On – Cretin

Setlist

Glastonbury
There & Back Again
Welcome To Pittsburgh
Our New Intelligence
Point of Surrender
Standing Outside a Southern Riot
If You Need Me Back In Brooklyn
Slander
Nautical Sabbatical
Ballad of Oregon
Everything West of Home
Something Salty, Something Sweet

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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