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PLAYING AROUND

Four local music acts are competing for a chance to perform during the tournament and $5,000 in the Rock The Players contest.

The competition was open to musicians in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina, but the four finalists all have Northeast Florida roots.

Fans will have the opportunity to vote for Flagship Romance’s “Hit the Ground,” The Embraced’s “Let in the Light,” Stephen Carey’s “Love the Way You Love” or Billy Buchanan’s “Rock The Players” in voting Feb. 13-22.

"My co-writer, Michele Howe, and I are so honored to be chosen as finalists for the Rock The Players songwriting contest. We’re so thankful that The PGA Tour would give aspiring songwriters an opportunity like this,” Buchanan said, in a statement after the announcement Feb. 13.

In addition to the cash prize and opportunity to play before and during The Players Championship, the winning musicians’ song will become the unofficial “Song of The Players” and be featured in The Players’ excitement video.

A PGA Tour panel chose the finalists, and the tour announced them on Feb. 13.

Fans can watch the four music videos and vote via through the tour’s website at pgatour.com/rocktheplayers.

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PLAYING AROUND

“What is this even … a spaceship taking off?” a girl in the audience turns and asks as the first notes of Leverage Model’s set March 8 at Burro Bar. Apt guess.

Churning, synthesized electronics flow over pounding drumroll and anxiety-inducing guitar feedback. Ready for lift off.

Our interstellar guides look like they just beamed out of some Wes Anderson flick. Hell, maybe they did. If so, the ship must have found its home planet, because this audience is a spitting image.

Shannon Fields tangos his away up and down the stage while recounting the majesty of our Wells Fargo and Bank of America buildings (with what might be sarcasm or irony — take your pick) in a voice so effects-laden it appears disembodied from his nimble frame. The drummer looks like he just punched-out of his job in IT and the guitarist wears a Roaring '20s flapper-era headband with pearly bead tassels that bounce across his bushman face. You know, quirks for quirks' sake.

“We have a moral imperative to present ourselves with the upmost decency,” Fields says with businesslike candor.

Everything is offbeat, except for the tunes. Well, literally anyways.

It’s an entertaining assault on the senses. Soaring falsettos lead into frenetic, jittery grooves as Fields alternates between mic and megaphone. Dance beats drive every moment. There’s a lot going on, and it’s surprising to see such a layered and versatile amount of textures and tones coming from just four musicians. The synthesized samples and beats are expected and welcome in the pop genre Leverage Models calls home, but there’s a rock-and-roll, devil-may-care presence here, too.

Fields is energetic. One minute he’s dropping tango moves with the audience, the next he’s walking on any platform he can crawl on top of and the next he’s rolling around on stage. He’s the primary writer and driving force behind the project, and the backing band seems to perform as such. They’re professional, and …   More

PLAYING AROUND

In his first show at The Comedy Zone June 27, Keenen Ivory Wayans went straight for the jugular. From the moment he stepped on stage, he tore into Paula Deen's recent revelation that she had used racially charged languaged in the past.

Wayans sternly asked the crowd what they thought of Paula Deen and a few of the vocal fans yelled negative things about her. 

Wayans beautifully played it off like it was going to turn into a heated debate, then knocked it out of the park with repeated hilarious jokes about racism.

Wayans never stayed on the same subject for long; he kept the audience laughing as he smoothly transitioned through every aspect of his life. He discussed up his five children and how his daughters have changed from the “Daddy’s little angels” they used to be. He said he thought he would be that kind of dad that would threaten boys to leave his daughters alone. Now he is practically trying to give his daughters away. 

He talked about his marriage, divorce and dating as an older man. He recounted a time when he had a date and the day after woke up to 200 phone messages.

He joked that the messages start with "Hey, I'm thinking about you" and turned into "I know where you live!"

Jacksonville native Jeff Zenisek was the evening's host, and Josh Phillips was the opening comedian.   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Avondale gallery that’s helped Northeast Florida art lovers meet world-renowned artists Peter Max and Mackenzie Thorpe and actress-turned-artist Jane Seymour is closing on or before April 20.

Avondale Artworks proprietor Ken Stutes told Folio Weekly that “revenues haven’t been sufficient to justify continuing it,” and parking in Avondale had become a problem for visitors to his gallery.

Avondale Artworks has also hosted the works of Salvador Dalí, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dr. Seuss and others; it was open nearly five years at two locations on St. Johns Avenue.

“I really liked the Dali exhibits. We had over 107 pieces. We had six original works by Dali,” Stutes said. “Being able to bring that work into Jacksonville was incredible to me.”

Stutes reminisced about the interactions he and visitors had with the artists. He was at first hesitant to display Thorpe’s “Leap of Faith,” because it depicted children jumping off cliffs.

He shared his concern with Thorpe, who said: “They’re not jumping to their deaths. They’re learning how to fly." Stutes said visitors to the gallery loved “Leap of Faith.”

Stutes is offering major discounts on his inventory before he closes.

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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 world is divided into two distinct groups: Those offended by The Book of Mormon and those still laughing at the jokes days or even weeks later.

If you're still not sure where you belong, consider:

• "F-You, Heavenly Father?! Holy, moley! I said it like 13 times!"

• "I know you're really depressed, what with all your AIDS and everything."

• "I can't believe Jesus called me a dick!"

• "I have maggots in my scrotum!"

I'm laughing as I type these, and you'll have to trust that they're even funnier when sung on stage than read off a computer screen.

With Mormons in the cross hairs, Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park) are unrelenting. They skewer from every angle. They know God has a plan, and one of their stars believes "that plan involves me getting my own planet."

Stone and Parker have made a career (and millions) off vulgarity and sacrilege. They've pushed the line so far that most of the crowd at the Times-Union Center on Wednesday night — with a median age likely in the late 40s or 50s — was laughing far too hard to be offended. There's certainly a subset of Jacksonvillians who might find this offensive, but they aren't the type of crowd to spend $122 a seat to take a chance.

The stars of The Book of Mormon, David Larsen (as Elder Price) and Cody Jamison Strand (as Elder Cunningham), are a revelation. They're a classic oddball pair sent off to a village in Uganda to convert the locals while trying to avoid tribal warlord General Butt-Fucking Naked.

Elder Price's high-energy narcissism could easily go over the top in less skilled hands. Here, Larsen nails it. 

That gives Strand the chance to "Man Up" as Elder Cunningham. By then, he's easily won over the crowd, going from the awkward weirdo who's just looking for the Type-A Price to be his best friend to a plucky hero ready to share the Book of Mormon, even if he hasn't read it.

Stone, Parker and Robert Lopez weave …   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