U2 just might be my favorite band. They were the first “new” band to catch my attention as a young rock fan hooked on classic rock. And, over the last 35 years, I’ve seen them a handful of times, including some of the most memorable shows of my life. I’m also a bit of a closet Irish Republican, and early U2 had a special place in my heart.
There are musicians in the world that if they conformed to the pop normalcy of over-production, sleek synth bop sounds, and meta-love songs, they would be global “superstars”. I say this with tongue in cheek due to the insignificance of the term “superstars”, but I think you get the just of what I’m saying.
This year’s 101.1 WJRR Earthday Birthday was the most women-centric rock event I can remember, and the approach helped make it one of the best festivals I’ve experienced. We were treated to five female fronted bands, a key sponsor was breast health awareness non-profit organization Rock Pink, we had a chance to honor a local survivor, we saw plenty of Mel and LT, and of course, there were painted breasts celebrated everywhere.
We were back in Downtown Orlando for another excellent sampling of Orlando’s vibrant music scene on Friday night. This time, we brought along excellent local photographer Jay Verdesca who helped capture the night in photographs.
These days, we celebrate with reverence the amazing careers of iconic bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Moody Blues, all of whom are touring an impressive 50 years after breaking through onto the rock ‘n roll scene. Impressive? For sure, but it pales in comparison to the 5,000 years that the members of Here Come The Mummies have been working their magic.
They’re already on the brink of a huge breakthrough in the UK and now find themselves poised on the verge of exploding onto the US rock music scene. If you haven’t heard their music yet, it’s time to get on The Struts’ bandwagon, because big things are destined for this talented new quartet with an effervescent, vintage pop rock sound.
Unfortunately for the local rock fans, they also had to endure a thunderous show from Mother Nature, but in the end the story was still all about the rock ‘n roll.
The key word for the 2015 version of Welcome To Rockville was “More.” More stages, more bands, more food trucks, more vendors, more space (a lot more space), more activities and more fans, and it all came together nicely.
For this year’s event, we were treated to four stages of music spread across the greatly expanded footprint. The set-up this year was perfect for the sound, with very little bleed over from one stage to the others. The Reverbnation and Jagermeister Stages were side by side and located in the shadows of Everbank Field, an entirely new area for 2015. In the slightly expanded original festival area, the Jack Daniels and Monster Energy Stages faced each other, but probably had an additional 100 feet or so of space, which came in handy for the headliners, Korn.
The first band we caught was Red Sun Rising, a quintet out of Akron, Ohio. they delivered an energetic entertaining set that proved to be one of the highlights of the day for us. They debuted “The Other Side,” the first single from their new album which will be released on June 9th. It’s a perfect fit for active rock radio stations that should be blasting through our speakers all summer. We chatted with the talented band after their set and will have the full interview on this site in the next few days.
We caught powerful sets from Sangre, Stars in Heaven and Sons Of Texas before the first alarm went off. Due to severe weather in the area, the crowd was asked to disperse back to their cars for about two hours while the storms cleared through the area. The organizers handled it well, and with calm, and did a nice thing when they opened the VIP areas under the overpass to all fans. It was a nice touch and the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, we missed a few bands due to the rain, including Fozzy, Hollywood Undead and Scott Weiland and The Walkabouts. But, we did get back underway in time to catch the full set from legendary progressive metal rockers Queensryche. With Todd La Torre manning the vocals in place of Geoff Tate, they sounded pristine and offered a great sampling of tracks from their fantastic thirty year career.
From there, we trekked across the field in time to hear the crowd chanting for Testament, a band I had never seen previously. And, they delivered a tremendous, fiery 30 minute set. All of the band members flew around the stage, constantly connecting with the crowd, defying their age as thirty year veterans of the heavy metal scene. Front man Chuck Billy stalked the stage constantly playing air guitar on his mic stand. It was a great surprise and the highlight of the day for me.
We then sat through another hour storm delay, but were excited to see that the festival was able to squeeze in a late performance from Halestorm who sounded great and dished out a fun and engaging set. We also saw Mike Muir and Suicidal Tendencies who dished out an equal serving of thrash metal and solid motivational life advice.
Marilyn Manson closed down the Jack Daniels Stage with an entertaining freak show. His mobscene sounded great, but the show seemed a little sloppy. I did, however enjoy his stories, particularly of the time he was arrested in Florida. From there, it was across the grounds to the fevered Monster Energy Stage, where Korn thundered through a set that had the remaining crowd headed to the streets extremely pleased with their fill of rock music.
It was a powerful ending to a turbulent day, but a day that ultimately was all about the rock ‘n roll, and a great way to kick off Rockville.
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Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley Open Rockin’ Oviedo Eatery
Let me start off by clearly stating that I am not a card carrying member of the KISS Army. I know and appreciate many of their hits and realize they played a huge role in paving the way for many future metal acts. I don’t own any of their albums, and although I’ve seen about 500 concerts in my life, I have yet to catch my first KISS show. So, when I learned that two legendary KISS members were opening a restaurant in Oviedo, I wasn’t totally enthused. After today’s event, I’ve made a complete 180.
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Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, two iconic founding members of KISS, are behind a cool new restaurant concept, Rock & Brews. On Tuesday, they held the Grand Opening celebration for their first East Coast location, in our own backyard, here in Oviedo. Why Oviedo? Simmons summed it up clearly, “We wanted to show everyone that we’re not about the highfalutin city life and that rock star thing, but we’re good neighbors. This is a family place, where you can bring your family, bring your kids and bring your dogs.” And, yes they do serve dog beer, as well as offering 56 draft beers including a great selection of local craft brews for their human customers.
The rock-themed event revolved around a bountiful luncheon honoring our country’s true heroes, the many Veterans of our Armed Forces. There were more than 100 honorees present including a few octogenarians who fought in World War II. The event was a smashing success and a harbinger of good things to come from this group.
The magnanimous hosts, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, joined by Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere, kicked off the celebration with a touching tribute, the Pledge Of Allegiance, followed by the ceremonial ribbon cutting where Stanley did the snipping.
Stanley and Simmons were the focal point throughout the affair, but both performers were constantly humble, personable and thankful for the veterans who filled their dazzling new joint. The large, open restaurant is plastered with cool rock ‘n roll memorabilia, colorful over-sized portraits, huge album covers and greater than life concert performance photos, where legends of rock seemed to stare down at the guests of honor, many of whom were in full military uniform.
The food flew out non-stop, and I sampled the ribs, chicken wings and pizza, all pretty damn good. The servers were everywhere, oozed friendliness and seemed happy as hell to be there. Scott Paul, the chain’s GM for the Florida region noted how focused he and his staff have been on hiring the right fit, looking for family-oriented employees willing to work hard and have fun. From what I saw this day, he’s been quite successful.
After the meal wrapped up, Stanley presented a $10,000 check to the Central Florida VA Hospital. It’s obvious that Stanley and Simmons, who openly discuss their deep appreciation for our veterans, are quite willing to put their money behind their beliefs. We spoke to Winter Park’s Marc Simon, an Army veteran who was among the honorees, and who spent some quality time with Simmons and shared the experience. “I thanked him for his appreciation of veterans and everything he does. It was very humbling to meet him. As Gene is humble himself, he said it’s all about us, we’re the real heroes and he’s appreciative of us.”
Stanley seemed to be having a blast, and was singing along to various songs constantly. Two musical highlights from the affair included Stanley and Simmons grabbing acoustic guitars from members of the VA hospital and spontaneously jumping into a pair of Elvis Presley classics, and more poignantly, during a quiet moment, Stanley led an impromptu singalong version of “America The Beautiful” that left more than a handful of eyes just a bit watery, including the aforementioned Scott Paul, who had the unenviable task of following that act on stage.
We spoke to Paul a bit later. He’s a microcosm of the employees we met, he’s passionate about his job, is focused on morals, values and integrity and he made it abundantly clear that Rock & Brew is not just a huge corporate behemoth looking to make a buck off of the area. No, this crew is ingrained in the area. They hire local, buy local and support numerous area groups. He explained the decision to start their East Coast operations in Oviedo, “This fits our demographic of nuclear families, middle class. It’s middle America.”
The restaurant in Oviedo is the first in Florida, but two more will follow soon in the Orlando airport area and then one in New Tampa.
Check out the Oviedo spot soon, and get to meet your rocking new neighbors.
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