Sick Puppies recently went through some big changes. Splitting with lead singer and founding member of the band, Shimon Moore, then hooking up with new frontman Bryan Scott, they have just embarked on a tour to support their as yet unreleased album. When I was offered the chance to go see them at The Social on Saturday, I eagerly accepted.
The term “one-man band” has been recently redefined in every sense of the term. LA based multi-instrumentalist/producer/ (they haven’t made a word up yet to describe the genius) Robert DeLong has literally transcended the limits of music and technology with two full albums and sixty minute sets across the world. He recently nearly sold out The Social (if he didn’t I’m surprised) in a night that could be described only as innovative and infectious.
Here’s the cream of the crop for Central Florida area concerts this month. Lots of great shows at some of our favorite area venues. Support these awesome clubs, the Central FLorida rock scene and all of our hard-working local bands!
Echosmith Concert Review
Half of this band is still in high school, and until a few months ago, none of these four siblings could legally grab a drink. Still, Echosmith has managed to quickly establish themselves as a pop rock band just dripping with rock star potential and worthy of being on your Alt-Rock radar.
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(See a link for photos and the setlist below the review)
These four musicians are talented professionals honing their craft in front of packed rooms filled with dedicated (typically young) fans. As I witnessed Friday night, they still offer a few glimpses of their youthful and developing stage presence, but it is abundantly clear that they are all already becoming seasoned performers. The sold out Social in downtown Orlando was the perfect venue, offering the band and their fans to get close in an intimate environment.
17 year-old Sydney, the lead vocalist is the pretty focal point commanding center stage, but all three brothers were engaging and entertaining, as well. 16 year-old Graham on drums is the youngest, and decked out in his fedora cap, was steady all night. Jamie at 21, is the elder statesman and dished out vintage guitar riffs throughout the show, while nineteen year-old bassist Noah bounced around the stage constantly.
Many of Jamie’s guitar riffs were reminiscent of the 80’s rock that I grew up listening to, including more than a few of which reminded me fondly of the unique stylings of Echo & The Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant. It’s clear that these relatively young musicians have a strong 80’s influence, as they also chose to cover New Order and Talking Heads. The Heads’ selection, “This Must Be the Place,” was creatively re-imagined and one of the early set highlights and a creative choice for a cover song.
The focus of their set was music they’ve written themselves, primarily off of their recent release Talking Dreams. The title track was a poppy rocker that found Sydney dancing around under a parasol. My favorite track from the album was “Safest Place” which had strong, hard-driving bass and drums, and featured an excellent guitar solo from Jamie. Additionally, the raw “Tell Her You Love Her” was a nice opportunity for Sydney to share her vocal range, on a song that eventually meandered into a nice crowd singalong.
The band interacted with the crowd all night, and seemed comfortable doing so. They pulled their grandfather and Lauren, a young fan from the crowd, onto stage to fete them with “Happy Birthday;” grabbed a selfie with the crowd as Noah slipped into a quick snippet from “Uptown Funk” and then really offered up a special moment during the playing of their new single “Bright.” Sydney stopped half way through the song and pulled up Kristen and her fantastically surprised girlfriend, Shelby. Kristen dropped to a knee, Shelby said ‘Yes’ and the band, huddled together, serenaded them with an a capella chorus. A very nice touch!
They closed the set with a highly interactive version of “Cool Kids,” and then for the encore, offered up “Bizarre Love Triangle,” the New Order cover. However, it was stripped down as I never imagined, and was an entirely different song – a different version that would have made Hook and Sumner proud. They kicked it up a notch and delivered a fun version of “Nothing Wrong” to close the show.
I left The Social feeling excited for this band. They still have some maturing to do as a band, but they have plenty of time to get there. In the meantime, they’re offering entertaining, original music and delivering passionate performances that should keep their fans happy for years.
See our photos from the show on our Facebook Page (and Like Us while you’re there)
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Ran Off in the Night
This Must Be the Place (Talking Heads cover)
Tell Her You Love Her
Come With Me
Uptown Funk snippet
We’re Not Alone
Bizarre Love Triangle (New Order cover)
Sleeper Agent Concert Preview and Tony Smith Interview
Sleeper Agent, a distinctive and talented Alt-Rock band is headed to Orlando, and we had a chance to chat with front man Tony Smith a bit about the tour, the band’s new album, About Last Night, and a few other things.
RARA’s Farm: RARA’s Farm has an affinity these days for Alt-Rock with Male/Female vocal trade-offs, like Sleeper Agent, Grouplove, Mother Mother and a few others. As a music fan, do you find yourself drawn to that kind of music or are your tastes totally divergent?
Tony Smith: In 2009 when Alex joined, I originally intended for her to play bass and sing back-up, ala Kim Deal of the Pixies. It didn’t work out and we had a show coming up in a few days so to save time we just split the difference on vocals. I was also really into The XX at the time, too. Now that I think about it, all my favorite albums in the past couple of years have been from females: EMA, Grimes, Haim…
RARA’s Farm: When the songs are first written, are the vocal plans already decided, as in who takes or shares the lead? Or is that something that evolves after the fact?
Tony Smith: Melody always comes first and is most important to me. On the new album, About Last Night, I wanted to toy with more harmonies and reserved a lot of my vocals for back-up unless it needed that extra male vocal dynamic.
RARA’s Farm: Where did the new album title come from? Who’s the big Rob Lowe fan?
Tony Smith: The title’s somewhat of a continuation of Celabrasion. It’s the morning after that experience and the content is reflective of the past three years of being in this band, and 80’s Demi Moore was hot.
RARA’s Farm: When will the album hit the streets?
Tony Smith: March 25th.
RARA’s Farm: Which song from About Last Night has been the most positively received by your fans when playing live?
Tony Smith: It’s a little too soon to confidently say for sure. But, “Be Brave,” “Shut” and “Impressed” have been turning some heads.
RARA’s Farm: Is there a song or two from across your catalog that you particularly enjoy playing live?
Tony Smith: “That’s My Baby” is always fun to play because it seems to have resonated most with fans after all these years.
Grab “That’s My Baby” on iTunes here: That’s My Baby – Celabrasion
RARA’s Farm: After many years of sort of not being on the rock music landscape, Kentucky is a hot place right now. Any idea why?
Tony Smith: No idea. Is it really? I need to get out more.
RARA’s Farm: Humor seems to be such a prevalent part of your fabric as a band. Is that just my overactive imagination?
Tony Smith: We’re all too damned serious as individuals and so when you put us together we recognize how off putting that is and just start riffing on each other.
RARA’s Farm: You are touring with New Politics and Magic Man for the next few months. Is there any one place you are most looking forward to playing, other than Orlando, of course?
Tony Smith: It was -3 degrees in Kentucky the week we left for tour. Any place that’s warm is more than welcomed. Orlando’s warm, right? But, I’m looking forward to seeing St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta and Santa Barbara again, as well.
For those of you in Florida, you can catch this excellent live band at The Social in Orlando on Saturday, January 18th and at The Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale on the 19th.. They open the show with New Politics, so don’t be late. This is a killer show that RARA’s Farm will not miss, so Follow/Like Us for show updates…
Frank Turner Orlando Concert Review
Among American rock fans, he’s probably the most under-appreciated musician on the planet, but this talented artist is gaining passionate new fans at a tremendous pace. He’s part folk rock troubadour and part classic rocker. Mix in a healthy dose of punk, and you get a unique mix of music and one hell of an entertainer.
Frank Turner cut his teeth as the hardcore punk vocalist in the band Million Dead; abruptly evolved into a folk singer, before ultimately settling into his niche as a versatile rock front man. On Saturday night, he returned to Orlando to a packed house at The Beacham. It didn’t take long to get the crowd roiling as he kicked into “Photosynthesis,” with a clear synopsis of what we were all in for: “Now I’ll play and you sing, the perfect way for an evening to begin… I won’t sit down, I won’t shut up, but most of all I won’t grow up.” The party was on.
Uncharacteristically, Turner took the stage without his omnipresent acoustic guitar. He shared that after recently badly hurting his back, he was directed to cancel his tour, but chose instead to bring a new guitarist on tour and eschew the guitar. He introduced his ‘replacement’ an Irish bloke (whose name I missed) who learned the songs five minutes before they went on tour; and then showed his “Rocky Horror-esque” back brace and shared “We’re still going to have a rocking show,” before kicking into “Losing Days.”
Turner invited the crowd to get involved and open their mouths early in the show and they willingly complied, offering rousing accompaniment on “Reasons Not To Be an Idiot” and “Wessex Boy” as well as two tracks from his fantastic 2013 album Tape Deck Heart: “Plain Sailing Weather” and “Losing Days.” (See our album review here)
His band, The Sleeping Souls is the total opposite. They flew around the stage sounding perfect throughout, and appeared to be having a blast the entire time. During the hour and forty minute set, Frank and his band mates interacted with the crowd constantly, with the front man exuding his abundant charisma and charm throughout.
During a humorous interlude, Turner shared interesting facts about Orlando, as prepared by his tour manager – fun stuff. He referenced prior trips to the city throughout the night including his last visit which brought him next door to The Social. He also threw in some nice references to the Central Florida area; referencing “the best record store on the planet, Park Avenue Records,” the whiskey bar across the street (Elixir?), and worked The Social into the “I Am Disappeared” lyrics; all nice touches.
As an interesting anecdote, Turner pointed out a nice homemade Tape Deck Heart flag flowing form the rafters, noting that fans have arranged for it to be displayed in every venue since their stop in Cleveland over a month ago.
Turner had the crowd in the palm of his hand all night, the majority of whom had never seen him before, but reacted to his every command and movement. As the night drew to a close, the pace was ratcheted up to a fever pitch for a killer version of “Recovery.” He then masterfully slowed things down for the unaccompanied, tender “Broken Piano,” which ended the main set.
He returned to the stage solo and for the first time in the evening, slung the acoustic guitar over his shoulder. He shared with the crowd his preference to play a different song in tribute to his locale that evening. Thankfully, he skipped the Orlando bands, instead heading 100 miles to the North to honor The Allman Brothers with a slick rendition of “Rambling Man.”
Turner thanked the crowd and offered one more song, before kicking into the near perfect closer, “I Still Believe,” with The Sleeping Souls at his side “Now who’d have thought that after all, Something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all. And who’d have thought that after all, it was rock ‘n’ roll.” It seemed the perfect ending to what is likely the show of the year, until…
…he grabbed the mic and began the rollicking roller-coaster ride that is “Four Simple Words.” The song starts with a stark vocal and evolves into a Sleeping Souls punk rock party. “I want to dance, I want to dance. I want lust and love and a smattering of romance. But I’m no good at dancing, yet I have to do something. Tonight I’m going to play it straight, I’m going to take my chance, I want to dance.” And we did, deep into the cool Orlando evening.
Bad Veins Concert Review
For the past year, I’ve had Bad Veins near the top of my must see list. This talented indie rock duo out of Ohio ripped through Orlando a few times in the past year steadily gaining new followers, including a killer set opening for Two Door Cinema Club at The Beacham earlier this year. RARA’s FARM reader, Debbie, couldn’t heap enough praise on their live show. Now, I understand why.
The unique sound of Bad Veins is highlighted by lush alt-rock melodies,a heavy use of keyboards and punctuated with clever guitar riffs. On stage, we saw a bit more of a guitar-driven show which is equally entertaining. Singer Ben Davis bounced across the stage throughout the show and was joined by new drummer Jake Bonta, a non-stop bundle of energy.
Davis, the affable front man, is the creative force behind the band, in fact, the band name is an anagram for Ben Davis. He writes all of the music, provides the vocals and plays most of the instruments, and he’s a hell of a performer on stage. He’s an energetic and passionate artist who developed a quick rapport with his fans. Davis worked with the crowd all night and seemed to genuinely enjoy the interactions.
On this “New Jake Tour,” the Social’s stage set-up was cool, as you can see in our photos. A bit of sensory overload with red roses everywhere, clever lighting and an interesting stage set-up. Drum kit to the left, mic stand and keyboards to the right and a reel to reel tape player in the center of the stage. The tape provided the background music (typically bass and keyboards) while Davis and Bonta tore up the stage. It was a unique approach and quite fun, but I am intrigued to think what their sound would be like with a full four piece on the stage.
Their set was about an hour long and packed with eleven energetic cuts that had the crowd thoroughly pleased and longing for more. The Social was less than half full, but those in attendance were passionate about Bad Veins and sang along throughout. They opened the show with “Don’t Run,” a guitar driven rocker that nicely spotlighted Bonta’s aggressive drums. It’s the first song of their 2012 release The Mess We’ve Made which was prominently featured throughout the set. Speaking with Davis before the show, he noted that they’d probably be back in the studio working on their next effort after this tour closes.
The highlight song of the night for me was the rocking “Dancing on TV.” which had the crowd bouncing and singing along throughout. Other crowd favorites included “Nursery Rhyme” and “Gold and Warm,” and the fantastic “If Then” which had the entire crowd providing harmonies throughout.
Davis has been touring as Bad Veins for a scant four years, and I would not be at all surprised to see their popularity grow as they continue to evolve and add more material to their current catalog. Good stuff…
Gold and Warm
Dancing On TV
From the first time I heard these UK rockers and their distinctive piano driven Alt-rock sound, I’ve been anticipating the opportunity to catch them in person, anxious to see if their live show measured up to their fine albums. Monday night at The Social, I discovered that the band’s exciting live show was just as impressive.
Led by charismatic front man Robert Stevenson, this quartet makes a powerful and lasting impression. They are the complete package, tight talented musicians, affable personalities, energetic songs and a dynamic show. Surprisingly, they did not pack The Social, but the few hundred in attendance saw a young band about to break out big. I suspect their next time through Orlando is going to find them in a much larger venue.
The band’s songs are wonderfully constructed and highlight the group’s versatility. Stevenson, the lead singer and keyboard player had on-going dialogue with the audience and appeared genuinely appreciative of the crowd and their interaction. He joked with the fans throughout the evening and offered up some enjoyable commentary on Mickey Mouse and the whole Disney thing, including an impeccably timed “F – Mickey” at one point. Drummer, Spencer Walker also impressed. He offered up a powerful driving beat, solid background vocals, and an occasional emergency lead vocal, also sharing witty banter with Stevenson and the crowd.
Stevenson was battling a cold and shared that he was going to have a problem hitting some of the high notes. His honesty was refreshing, and endeared him to the crowd as he stepped up to the challenge (sometimes with mixed results). He handled those challenges with aplomb, a bit of humor, and a little help from his friend behind the drums.
The show kicked off with rousing versions of “Reaching the Potential” and “This Stage Is Your Life,” also the first two tracks off of the band’s 2012 hit album Sand & Snow. The latter cut featured excellent guitar work from Karl Bareham. The current album was heavily spotlighted throughout the show, but we also got a glimpse of two of the band’s earlier hits “You Will Leave a Mark” and the fantastic “Driven By a Beating Heart” off of their debut album The City That Sleeps.
The highlight of the show was the breakneck closing trio off of their current album. Three tremendous offerings, all with nice crowd interaction. “Love Takes a Wrecking Ball” was another spotlight for Bareham’s guitar and offered some tender moments from Stevenson before rocking to a close. Walker led the crowd’s singalong for the opening of “Harbour Lights,” a track that also features killer bass from Ali Hussain. They then closed with a flourish offering a fantastic version of their biggest hit “Danny, Dakota and The Wishing Well.” (RARA’s Farm’s #3 Song of 2012).
It was a great cap to an energetic, dynamic set from a band just beginning to build their legend.
Denver-based folk-infused rockers Churchill opened the show and offered a nice 40 minute set. Orlando fans were fortunate, as this was the only show on the tour where they the Denver-based band is opening for A Silent Film. They’re also a band with considerable potential, and offering up a diverse sound. They were led by boy/girl lead vocals Tim Bruns and Bethany Kelly and offered a unique touch with Mike Morter playing mandolin throughout the set. It was an excellent mix highlighted by a cool version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” and by the fantastically good “Change” and Kelly’s Duff-esque vocals.
Two excellent bands on their way up – a promising way to start the year.
See the setlist and link to the album below…
Reaching the Potential
This Stage Is Your Life
Driven By A Beating Heart
Queen Of A Sad Land
You Will Leave A Mark
Thousand Mile Race
Love Takes A Wrecking Ball
Danny, Dakota & The Wishing Well