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.
I decided to bring my older daughter along. She’s an aspiring photographer who had never been to a rock concert. We arrived in downtown Orlando about an hour before the doors, and got near the front of the small line that was forming. As we waited for the doors to open, I spotted Bryan Scott walking across the street to get some food, as well as members of Stitched Up Heart, one of the opening acts.
Once we got inside, it dawned on me just how “intimate” The Social really is. The stage is maybe eight feet deep, and the space between the edge of the stage to the bar is probably twenty feet at best. We secured our spots as we entered, literally up against the stage, resting our elbows on the raised platform. We watched while security checked in the rest of the fans, who numbered maybe two hundred. I was shocked that a band like Sick Puppies, who I had been listening to on Orlando’s only rock station for the better part of fourteen years drew such a paltry crowd.
The audience may have been small in number, but they were true fans. We spoke with one young man while we waited for the first act to set up who told us he had gone to probably twenty or more Sick Puppies shows throughout his short life, and there was also a group of girls front and center wearing Sick Puppies World Crew shirts.
After a bit, the opening band, Hudson, came on. This four-piece, based out of L.A., was unique. They sounded less like a group from Southern California, and more like something from South Texas or Louisiana. They had a groovy, Southern rock/blues sound not unlike the style of Stevie Ray Vaughn, or the Black Crowes, but with a modern twist. Singer David Hudson, from whom the band takes their namesake, belts out heartfelt lyrics with a deep, guttural voice, not unlike Bob Dylan.
David’s vocals were good, but the real stars of this band, in my opinion, were the bass/keyboard player- Brian Cohen, who didn’t switch between instruments – he played them at the same time, and guitarist/harmonicist Chris Llewellyn, who performed a cool behind-his-head guitar solo like the fellow pictured on his shirt: Jimi Hendrix.
The band played eight bluesy-rock songs, among them a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” before leaving the stage. To sum Hudson up: if you like the sound of classic rock, and want to see a band of talented guys, and strange dance moves, check out their website HERE.
Up next was another band based out of Los Angeles, Stitched Up Heart. They are a hard rock group fronted by Alecia Mixi Demner, better known as Mixi, and four guys who absolutely kick ass. Their set was short, and left the small crowd wanting more, and included songs such as “Grave”, and “Finally Free”.
Stitched Up Heart does have a very “L.A. sound”, reminiscent of bands like Otep or In This Moment, singer Mixi combines hard growls with beautiful, melodic parts to create an epic whole better than the sum of its parts. The rest of the band are not just along for the ride, either. This is a hard rocking, very driven, professional group of people. I was most impressed by drummer Decker.
He looks like an emo Ben Stiller, and is self-proclaimed hater of raisins, but this guy knows how to handle a kit. Everyone in the band was really good, also, and during one of their songs, Mixi reached out and touched members of the audience; including my daughter Jamee. I could see the stars in her eyes after that, and I felt for certain she would feel differently about rock music after this experience.
Not only did Mixi touch the people in the room, she also touched people’s lives in the outside world, announcing that she was not just there to sing, but also to make a difference. She let everyone know that a portion of the CD sales went to http://kittenrescue.org/ , an organization based out of L.A. that rescues kittens. How cool is that? A band not even financially set already giving money to a favorite cause of theirs. Great bunch of people, love them. To learn more about Stitched Up Heart, follow them on Facebook.
Then, finally the main event: Sick Puppies!
There is no curtain that drops while bands set up their equipment at The Social. So, as the roadies did their bit, first setting up, then doing the sound check, the audience sort of moved towards the stage. Drummer Mark Goodwin came out first as the crowd erupted. He was followed by new singer Bryan Scott, then bassist- and only original member of the band- Emma Anzai. They immediately broke into song, playing “War”.
I don’t know what bands Bryan Scott played in before, but somewhere along the way, he learned how to interact with a crowd. He was in complete control as they ripped through hits like “Cancer”, “Riptide”, and their new single: “Stick To Your Guns”. To be honest, he may be a better front man than Shim ever was.
Things got kind of somber when they announced that this show would have been a fan named Dave’s 100th show, but he had lost a long battle with a chronic disease. They released hundreds of white balloons, which the audience had fun with, bouncing them into the air for the entire duration of “Maybe”.
Bryan announced that the night was a special night also; that it was Emma’s birthday, and everyone in the place sung her happy birthday before she blew out the candles on a cake brought out by the crew.
Another fun thing was when the Sick Puppies World Crew fans brought out big Nicolas Cage faces on sticks, and the band posed for pictures with them. Not sure what that was about, but it was fun, and showed that the group really cares about their fans. Then they said goodnight before exiting the stage.
But it was not to last. The fans chanted “One more song” repeatedly until Sick Puppies returned to play a really cool rendition of Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerilla Radio”, and crowd favorite “You’re Going Down”. Afterwards, they invited everyone to come to the merch booth to meet them, which of course we did. I also got the chance to get to speak to Mixi, and she took a picture with my daughter.
All in all, it was a really cool night. The bands were awesome, they really care about their fans and causes, and everyone had a great time. They are currently making tour stops on the Hard Drive Live Tour, for more info about that, see here: http://www.harddrivelivetour.com/ Also, check out the video for the new Sick Puppies single:
Hopefully, you get the chance to catch one of their shows before they head over to the Midwest, you won’t be sorry you did. In the meantime, stay tuned to RARAs Farm for all the latest on the central Florida rock scene, and if you haven’t already, like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rarasfarm/
Related: Photos from 2014’s Sick Puppies set at Welcome To Rockville
Hard Drive Live Tour
May 09, New York, NY
May 11, Buffalo, NY
May 12, Flint, MI
May 13, Arlington Heights, IL
May 14,Fort Wayne, IN
May 15, Battle Creek, MI
May 17, Bloomington, IL
May 18, Nashville, TN
Remaining Tour Dates
May 20, Rock on the Range, Columbus, OH
May 21, POINTFEST, Saint Louis, MO
May 23, Speaking Rock Entertainment Center, El Paso, TX
Jun 03, Portland Rose Festival, Portland, OR
Jun 04, Showbox Sodo, Seattle, WA
Jun 12, The Bear’s Big Growl 5, South Bend, IN
Jul 14, Rockfest, Cadott, WI
Jul 15, Rock USA, Oshkosh, WI