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Playing Around

The early afternoon sun bore over the hung-over and sun-crisped audience exhausted from the day prior of rocking and moshing and day-drinking. They rubbed their eyes and checked their phones and leaned into the spurts of water a gig tech was watering them with like a garden.

For most bands, playing for the day-after early-afternoon crowd would seem like an undesirable slot. Sick Puppies took the challenge with glee.

The Sydney, Australia-based trio took the stage by storm with guitar feedback clanging out of the speakers and their fists and the air.

“I know you’re tired, I don’t give a fuck,” vocalist and guitarist Shim Moore said, riling the audience up before kicking into the fast-paced “Cancer.”

The trio’s stage presence was solid. Bassist Emma Anzai crouched and swang her black hair back and forth like a person possessed while Moore banged out the power chords and worked the crowd.

Drummer Mark Goodwin banged on the snare drum using a full-upswing with biceps probably grown large from paddling through Australia's surf.

Sick Puppies got the crowd to shake off the cobwebs of the day prior with ease. When he asked for devil horns, they went into the air. When he told the Rockville crowd to move around, they would circle pit and dust from the foot worn park lawn would stir up into the air.

Sick Puppies’ live sound was on-point. The full-sounding, punchy guitars gave the songs like “Deliverance” and “War” a whole new dynamic and Moore would alternate flawlessly from harsh screaming vocals and clean singing.

The only slight downside to Sick Puppies’ performance was the overdubbed, pre-recorded voices that came in a few of the choruses. It made the chorus sound full, like the album, but that took away from the live experience. It’s OK for the live version of a song to be a little rough around the edges.

Though the set was a brief 30 minutes in length, Sick Puppies’ no-frills, solid songwriting an …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Jacksonville Axemen played the Baltimore Blues in their first game of the USA Rugby League season.

And they were singing everything but the blues at the end of it.

The Axemen, the defending national champions, routed the Blues 94-4 in front of a few hundred people at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium on June 1. The only other meeting between these teams was last year when the Axemen won 88-0.

The scoring started quickly and the Axemen already led 28-0 by the end of the first quarter. The Blues scored a try in the second quarter and missed the conversion, but the Axemen still scored 16 points to make the it 44-4 at halftime.

The second half continued in the same fashion with Jacksonville scoring on its first drive and possessing the ball nearly the rest of the game, outscoring the Blues 24-0 in the third quarter and 26-0 in the fourth quarter.

After the game, both teams were jovial and even posed for pictures together with the Axe Maidens, the cheerleaders for the Axemen. Raffle tickets were sold during the first half and the prizes were given out at halftime.

The Axemen were also selected to be on the cover of the 2013-'14 Yellow Pages and posed with a framed copy of the cover after the victory.

Jacksonville’s next game will be against the Philadelphia Fight on June 8 in Philadelphia. Baltimore’s next game will be against the Washington D.C. Slayers on June 8 in Washington, D.C. Both of those opponents played in the USA Rugby League playoffs last year and lost in the semifinals.

The Jacksonville Axemen can also be found on Twitter here.

Marty F. Nemec   More

Playing Around

A condom-fashioned-into-balloon drifts and bounces over the heads of a densely-packed audience that – 15 minutes before show time – stretches out about 75 yards from the stage A Day to Remember is to play. Since a well-received release of “What Separates Me From You” in 2010, the Ocala-based five-piece has stuck mostly to festival shows on world tours, typically playing late in the day.

So, unless you’re prepared to jostle through an ultra-high concentration of antsy kiddos reeking of second-rate ganja and teen spirit for prime real estate, 75 yards is as close as you’re going to get.

But if you’re here for the music, opting to sit out of the mosh pits and watch the side screen on the backfield bleachers is just fine. Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon and Co. delivered a set list to satisfy fans new and old. They opened with one of their breakout hits “All I Want” followed by the one-two punch of “I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of” and “Why Walk on Water When We Have Boats” – both quick-paced sonic uppers to get the audience moving.

A Day to Remember knows how to work the crowd, and they've got the home-field advantage here. Courageous audience members engaged in double-crowd surfing – an activity that required an explanation by McKinnon.

“Basically, you start with one person crowd-surfing, like normal,” he said. “Then you have another person ride that person like a fucking surfboard.”

McKinnon only asked for crowd surfing for one song, but the crowd must have enjoyed the new sport, because they kept doing it – even on the silent spaces in between songs.

A Day to Remember mostly stayed with songs of their most recent album, "Common Courtesy," which shows the band moving in an even more melodic direction of its brand of pop-punk. They peppered this set with heavy songs like "Second Sucks" and "Mr. Highway's Thinking About the End," during which they got a large portion of the audience jumping along to …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The University of North Florida rugby football club, the Deadbirds, placed second in a national sevens tournament June 1-2, held by the National Small College Rugby Organization in Philadelphia, Pa.

Eight schools were invited to participate after they won regional tournaments. The teams played three opponents, and four were picked by their records to be in the semi-finals.

The Deadbirds made the semi-finals after going to 2-1, with the lone loss being to Occidental College. They played New England College, which was the only team to go undefeated through that point of the tournament. The game was extremely close and was won on a last-second penalty drop kick. The Deadbirds won 15-14 in a grueling match.

In the finals against Occidental College, the Deadbirds scored first, but Occidental was too fast and talented. They took the lead and controlled the pace of the game until UNF scored two tries late in the game, but it was too late. Occidental won the game 28-15.

The Deadbirds were not disheartened by the loss because they knew how good Occidental was.

“There was definitely some wear-and-tear on our team, but also their coach was a USA Sevens Eagles player back in the day,” Deadbirds captain Steven Krueger said. “That definitely didn’t help our chances. They knew the game better than we did.”

Krueger said the Deadbirds were only practicing twice a week, sometimes only once, before they entered the qualifying tournament.

"I’m extremely proud,” Krueger said. “It was good going from getting 14 guys together to run around and play rugby, not to run drills, to going to second-place in the nation.”

Krueger said the 13-hour trip to Philadelphia was worth it for the Deadbirds and they wouldn’t have been able to make it without the help of their sponsors, Gate Petroleum Company and Republic Services.

Krueger also urged people to attend UNF Deadbirds games later this year when the season …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The lights are low, and the chairs frame a circular stage set by a ring of embroidered pillows on a wooden floor. As Zeina Salame walks in and positions herself center stage, a calm settles over the room. With just her words and a flowing black piece of fabric, Salame transports the audience through space and time to Iraq during the U.S.-led coalition invasion. Salame’s one-woman performance of nine different Iraqi women’s stories is transcendent.

As the characters share pieces of their lives with the audience, the desperation in their voices is palpable. A desire like winds that fan the fading embers of the soul emanates from each of these women. Their desire is not just to find freedom but to find peace. Salame loves with these women, she cries with these women, she becomes these women. Each story is her story. Despite language and custom barriers, the dialogue is honest and identifiable.

These women are the surviving remnants of a nation torn by war and unspeakable violence. Through each monologue, we begin to see a clearer picture of what it means to be an Iraqi woman. An artist, a doctor, a 9-year-old girl, a rugged street-woman and a mother are among those who lay out their lives for the world to see.

Recounts of torture, shame, confusion and hopelessness are woven together with themes of strength and love. There was laughter along with sorrow and resilience despite the helplessness.

In one of the most powerful scenes, Amal, the artist, is killed by a bombing of her house. Nanna, the rugged street-woman, salvages some of her paintings after the explosion. All of Amal — her beauty, her rebellion, her passion — is lost, except for her paintings. However, the value of her life is reduced to $2, the amount Nanna pleads with passersby to pay her for the artist’s work.  

The 5 & Dime Theater Company’s production was accompanied by complimentary authentic Middle-eastern dishes of stuffed grape leaves, …   More

PLAYING AROUND

It's not everyday that you see a beaver, a dog, a tiger and turtle walking down the streets of Downtown Jacksonville.

But that's the adorable image Jacksonville musician and photographer Joshua Wicker assembled for his music video of "Royals," a cover of the song by New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde (aka Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor).

Wicker convinced four lanky dudes to don big mascot costume heads while hanging out on streets, parks and rooftops around town: Kyle Horton as the beaver, Reid Parrish as the dog, Blake Parrish as the tiger and Chandler Merritt as the turtle. In one scene, a couple of the cool creatures leap-frog on the Northbank Riverwalk. 

The video popped up on Wicker's YouTube page on Oct. 17, and a photo by Cameron Korn was shared on igersjax's Instagram page the same day.

Check out the video for an amusing look at Jacksonville set to a seriously good soundtrack.

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Playing Around

Men and women are different. It’s the plain-as-day punch line of much relationship-driven comedy.

Lethargic men want to watch sports; fickle women desire undivided attention. Selfish men sweep problems under the rug; badgering women invent problems for the sake of discussing them.

The reason for all the tension? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Luckily, there’s manual for this sort of thing, and Peter Story, our “friendly resident Martian,” is here to bridge extraterrestrial barriers between the sexes. He’s traveled from afar to the Times Union Performing Arts Center, Jan. 14-17, to take this tired comedic formula a step further and bring something fresh to the relationship monologue — solutions.

Story takes the audience along on a recent date, a botched evening at the opera house ending in disdain from his wife because of his preoccupation with sports.

It’s a familiar scenario for many, and knowing glances between couples and nods of affirmation from Martians and Venusians alike show that Story’s quips and jabs are landing close to home.

While Story was mid-joke on Tuesday, Jan. 14, a woman who at first appeared to be part of the show approached the stage and set flowers at his feet. The resulting nonsensical exchange between her and the comedian revealed she was a heckler with too much liquid confidence.

Story appeared ready for anything on opening night for the four-show run, Jan. 14-17 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening came from a 30-year veteran of marriage in the audience who, when asked what date he and his wife’s anniversary falls on, answered “Memorial Day.”

Further into the show, Story receives a phone call from his wife, which he takes. He plays it off as a surprise, but the resulting conversation segues seamlessly into his next bit about communication in a …   More

PLAYING AROUND

New Yorkers make great pizza and dreadful tourists. They claim their city as the center of the universe, and won’t let anybody forget it. But for one night on Feb. 1 at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, we were the tourists, given a glimpse into the world of Broadway, a world that indeed has influenced our universe of entertainment.

"Broadway Rox," an ensemble of six talented singers and a backing band of authentic New York musicians brought Big Apple charm to the River City, promising to take the audience on a musical journey through 50 years of Broadway.

Half a century of ubiquitous, influential music is an ambitious journey, and "Broadway Rox" wasted no time getting into the thick of it. The show opened up with a medley of hits, ranging from rocker Jason Wooten’s "Jesus Christ Superstar," to Ashley Loren’s energetic rendition from "Footloose," to Green Day’s "21 Guns."

The performers encouraged the audience to sing along, and sometimes they did. On slower songs, like the haunting group a cappella of the Beatles' "Because," the audience stayed silent while the singers exercised their impressive range.

During his rendition of Jersey Boys’ "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You," the charming Darren Ritchie serenaded one lucky lady in the audience — concluding with a quick apology to the gentleman she was with.

"Broadway Rox" got the audience fired up with the energetic, slightly campy "Time Warp" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show." From the first few notes, the performers were able to get much of the crowd — ranging from older couples to children — grooving and pelvic thrusting along to the signature dance from the Broadway hit.

The performance was moved to the more intimate Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. With a capacity of 600, the theater was packed, but no one seemed to mind.

While the first half of the show mostly kept the very tight and professional backing band in the periphery, the …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The smell of alcohol and fried food was in the air for the Jacksonville Jazz Festival on May 24. The streets were lined with chairs as festival attendees staked out their places. When Jacksonville residents show up for an event, they really show.

The Stooges Brass Band's jazzy sound straight out of New Orleans had people dancing in the streets. The festival crowd had a peaceful, laid-back vibe, and one had to laugh at the over-50 set dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

On the Breezin’ Stage at the Jacksonville Landing, it was standing-room-only, as the Katz Downstairz went off. They serenaded the crowd with covers of R&B and hip-hop classics, such as The Isley Brothers “Between the Sheets” and OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The band looked to have a pretty big following judging by the size of the crowd and fans sporting tank tops with the band’s name in the fashion of the Run DMC logo.

At the jazz festival, it's the norm that about 60 things are going on at once. As evidence, Average White Band played the Groovin’ Stage while the Katz Downstairz kept the Landing crowd moving. I caught bits and pieces of Average White Band’s solid set, but I completely missed Al Jarreau, and I’m really not sorry about it. (Note to self after shuffling back and worth between stages: Don't wear flip-flops next year.)

As the clock struck 11 p.m., the jazz fest began to shut down with vendor tents being dismantled. But the night was still young and local favorites were just getting started for Jazz Fest After Dark.

The Band Be Easy kept the crowd satisfied with covers of recent hits like Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie." They didn’t even shy away from rapping Jay Z’s verse.

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PLAYING AROUND

DEEP HOUSE

LARS BEHRENROTH

Even heavyweights in the DJ remix world get flak from music purists for not treading new ground in songwriting. But a true remix, one that takes a song’s core element in a completely new direction, is a legit discipline on its own. Lars Behrenroth, host of the global weekly radio show Deeper Shades of House, has mastered that discipline, and he brings beats he uses to move and groove audiences the world over to Northeast Florida. Presented by The Garage, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. July 19, St. Augustine Amphitheatre, $15.   More

 
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