Tag Archives: Orlando

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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Central Florida April Concert Calendar

After a rocking March, we’re in for another great month for Rock And Roll Animals who love live Rock ‘n Roll  There are a few interesting shows headed to Central Florida, as well as a cool festival in a beautiful part of the state.

Van Halen

Yup, they’re still together after six weeks on the road.  I’m surprised, but that’s good news for Floridians.  They’re one of the rare big acts to hit all three major Central Florida venues. Thu, Apr 12 in Orlando at Amway Center, Sat, Apr 14 at Tampa Bay Times Forum and Mon, Apr 16 at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. When they are on top of their game they are one of the best acts around.

Orlando

4/12, Daughtry – saw him just after his American Idol success and the band put on a good show. He’s at The Hard Rock Cafe for those folks not headed out to see Van Halen.

4/13, Marshall Tucker – the classic rockers are at The Orlando Jai Alai.  Interesting venue selection, but sometimes these shows are nice surprises.

4/19 – 4/21, Florida Music Festival – Diverse festival at locations around the area. The Dirty Heads, Filter and Candlebox are the big attractions, but there’s tons of offerings for new and emerging artists, too such as two of our favorites The Dropa Stone and Jackie Bristow. Check out their site here: Florida Music Festival

4/25, Say  Anything – they’re at The Beacham with Kevin Devine and Fake Problems

4/26, Lit – this month’s Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel is a good one.  These guys rock and put on a great show.  And you know how much we love this intimate little gathering place.

Tampa Area

4/11. Daughtry – Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater

4/12, Marshall Tucker – this time they hit the fairground circuit with WAR.  Sounds cool to us; Manatee County Fairgrounds

4/20, Candlebox – they hit Jannus Live in St. Pete.

4/20, Dick Dale – this one is intriguing.  Dick Dale is the greatest surf rock guitarist ever, and is just basically a guitar god.  He’s at State Theater in St. Pete.

4/21, Filter – Another good live act with a powerful show. You can catch them at State Theater, too.

4/24, Elvis – This guy is hit or miss. We’ve seen Mr. Costello rock and also seen him kind of suck.  If you want to roll the dice, he’ll be at Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater.

4/27, Lit – State Theater

4/28, 98 Rockfest – The Tampa Bay Times Forum will be rocking. Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch and Evanescence headline this big show.

4/28, Sister Hazel – Gainesville rockers head West.  They usually put on a solid show.

4/28. Greg Lake – fantastic and under-appreciated musician. Highly recommended. He’s also at The Capitol Theater in Clearwater on the 30th.

Jacksonville

4/6, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band – Fun, fun stuff, and a BIG sound. They are a blast and you can see them at Cafe Eleven

4/10, Candlebox – Maverick’s

4/15, Daughtry – Moran Theater

4/27, Elvis Costello – Florida Theater

4/28, Rise Against – Help is on the way, Jacksonville! Get your hard rock fix at St. Augustine Amphitheater

4/29, Greg Lake – continues criss-crossing the state; he’s at Florida Theater

4/29, Welcome to Rockville – take Tampa’s 98 Rockfest and kick it up a notch or two by adding Korn and P.O.D. Powerful.  They’ll all be at Metropolitan Park.

Rock By The Sea

How about a rock festival with a good line-up, a great cause and a fantastic location? It’s Rock By The Sea in Panama City. Sister Hazel and Shawn Mullins are two headliners, but we’re really stoked about Stroke 9. These guys rarely play in Florida and are phenomenal live.  They alone might be worth the trip.  Get more information on the festival and this year’s charities at: Rock By The Sea
Cheap concert tickets

Back Booth – Orlando Cool Coziness

I had a chance to check out BackBooth when Lovedrug bright their Wild Blood tour to Orlando recently.

The small club formerly in the UCF area is now located downtown on Pine Street just off of Orange.  The venue accommodates around 350 people and is a truly intimate place to see a show.  Despite the relative small size, they still get a good mix of national and local acts.

There are a few stools around the place, but it is generally a standing room kind of place, yet site lines are pretty good throughout.  There’s a riser towards the back of the room, and a small balcony, both offering nice views of the stage.

It’s a tight room and the sound mix is a bit of a challenge. Surprisingly, the sound was pretty good for the room configuration.  Not the best sound system you will find in the city, but more than adequate for this club. Overall, it is a great cozy place to see a show.  You’re never more than fifty feet from the stage, there’s always a clear view and the sound mix is decent.  Definitely a good place to catch a show and a cool crowd to spend a few hours with.

Offering about 20 diverse beers on tap, they have a fantastic draft beer selection. It’s fairly priced, and they also offered cheap deals with PBR oil cans.

The one down side – short set lists.  They seemed to be in a rush to get the bands off the stage to start a late night dance party.  I’d rather see fewer bands play longer sets if they need to clear the crowd out early in the night.

Miscellaneous Ramblings:

  • The staff was friendly both at the door and behind the bar, and they graciously let us sample some of the more unusual brews.
  • Ticket prices are reasonable.
  • For the show, the room was non-smoking, but pretty sure that ban is lifted when bands are not performing.
  • Parking available and plentiful at local garages ($5 to $10)

Bottom line: Worth a visit, and definitely check out the beer selection!

Lovedrug Concert Review

Lovedrug touched down in Orlando this weekend as they tour in support of their excellent new release of Wild Blood.

They played an energetic, yet short set in the cozy confines of Back Booth.  The quartet sounded excellent and seemed to truly enjoy their limited time on stage, from Michael Sheppard’s opening guitar riff on “Pink Champagne” through the powerful closer “Anodyne.” The group was tight, and sounded excellent during the forty-five minute set.

Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live
Lovedrug Michael Sheppard Live at Back Booth

The first three selections were all off of Wild Blood. “Pimk Champagne” and “Wild Blood” had the crowd bouncing and singing along to kick the show off, and singer/guitarist Michael Sheppard sounded great.  Jeremy Gifford, who played guitar most of the night shifted over to keyboards during “Dinosaur” which was one of the early crowd favorites, particularly during the call-and-answer segment.

The highlight of the show was the fantastic “In Red” off of the band’s Pretend Your Alive album. Drummer James Freshwater and bassist Thomas Bragg absolutely powered this driving song, and seemed to have a blast doing it. Gifford and Sheppard traded off impressive guitar leads, with the latter displaying his broad vocal range hitting some nice high notes.

The foursome closed out the show with a great version of “Anodyne,” the song that also closes out the new album.  The crowd packed the small club and knew all of the songs. Speaking with the band after the show, they felt good about the Orlando welcome, and were looking forward to the next few months on the road.

I was hoping to hear “Ladders” and “Premonition” but imagine they were casualties of the shortened set time.  All told, it was an evening that whet my appetite for more Lovedrug.

Local bands Valise and Savannah did a nice job opening the show.

Rock On – Cretin!

Check out our Album Review of Wild Blood

Setlist:
Pink Champagne
Wild Blood
Dinosaur
Blood Like
Ghost By Your Side
Pushing the Shine
Great Divide
In Red
Black Out
Anodyne

Drew Yardis – Unto You Album Review

It was one of those unexpected winter nights in Orlando where it was actually cold.  I was at a party, and due to the frigid air, no one was outside watching the lone musician passionately singing and playing his guitar to a meager crowd. The guy in the suit was Drew Yardis, and he was working his ass off while all of the party-goers were inside enjoying the heat. I was impressed by his passion, and loved his very unique voice. He told me that night that his new album was on the way. Finally, it hits the streets on the 15th, and it’s a nice effort.

Yardis has been playing around Orlando for the past ten years in various incarnations, and now he’s back, fronting his new band, The Drew Yardis Project. He’s got an impressive and versatile voice and is an accomplished guitarist. He’s put together a good band of fellow Orlando music veterans, including Shane Smith on guitar, Dave Plakon on bass and drummer Austin Smith.

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The musicians sound great, and Yardis’ voice is great, particularly while hitting the higher notes. I found the album a bit heavy with slower paced songs. They do a nice job highlighting the range of his voice, and generally excellent guitar and bass work, but there’s a lot of slower tracks. Of these tunes, I felt that “Bright Child” and “Do What You Do” were the best, with the latter featuring beautiful vocals.

My favorite cuts on the album were generally the more fast-paced tracks. “Liberty” is a bitter look at today’s state of world affairs. The guitars are excellent, and we get to see a different side to Yardis’ vocals.  The chorus is one of the more memorable on the album, and Austin Smith’s powerful drums carry the song throughout. An excellent track.

Other highlights on the album include “Fallout” which features some fun funk-driven guitar riffs and “Human Heart” which will remind you in a good way of some of Jason Mraz’s best stuff.  It’s excellent, and probably the one song on the album song with the most commercial appeal.

All told, it’s a nice debut album from a talented group of musicians. Definitely worth a listen.

Mike G.

Check out the band’s upcoming shows at: DrewYardis.com