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PLAYING AROUND

If metal’s “golden age” of macabre on-stage personas, outlaw getup and pyrotechnic extravaganza has passed, Avenged Sevenfold resuscitated its charm on April 26 at Welcome to Rockville.

Preparing for last performance of the day, those who hadn’t succumbed to a beer- and funnel cake-induced coma on the littered grounds made their way over to witness the metal mainstays. Well before the band’s set time, the audience had accumulated past the stage-light tower, nearly 150 yards from the stage barricade.

Ears perked up and quiet anticipation turned to cheering as the first burly, Sabbath-inspired riff of “Shepherd of Fire” pummeled out over the audience. Sevenfold took the stage and delivered an unrelenting sonic assault for the duration of its near 90-minute performance.

The audience was going to get their money’s worth, like it or not.

“We’re on a strict curfew, and we don’t want this to get canceled for next year,” vocalist M. Shadows said in a very brief lull between guitar solos and fireballs. “So, let’s just play another song before I chit-chat our way to the curfew.”

The statue of a skull king sitting on a throne of skulls holding a skull scepter watching over the proceedings was a bit much. But that’s the point. In case you were standing at a far distance from the stage, the camera crew would make a dramatic cut to it every few minutes.

Their live performance sounds tighter than ever. Synyster Gates effortlessly rips solos out his custom Schecter guitar with a disinterested, bored expression that only adds to his charm.

Sometimes, guitar solos can feel like an indulgence of the guitarist, while the audience and the rest of the band wait for the next verse. That feeling doesn’t come into Synyster’s playing; the solos feel like an organic part of the song. And the guy has got style, bending a note with one hand and flipping the bird with the other. The crowd ate it up.

M. Shadows showed impressive …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The posh, velvet seats and ribbed halls of the Florida Theatre might not have seemed like the ideal setting for stoner-rock quintet Queens of the Stone Age Feb. 3. Tufts of beard with residue of cheap ale hung plentifully over tattooed throats and secondhand shirts as fans crowded into carpeted aisles, anticipation and unextinguished tobacco palpable in the air.

When a 60-second countdown led into the simmering, adrenaline-drenched riff of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire,” it was clear the once-assigned seats would serve no further purpose.

The top balcony stood and gathered at the rails. Hands and fists and drinks raised into the air. Queens of the Stone Age had a rock and roll show on their hands.

And that’s just where they wanted it. There’s no smoke and mirrors to the band’s stage presence — it’s hard-hitting drums, overdriven guitars and plain, old-fashioned style. They used stop-and-go rhythms often to keep listeners on their toes, waiting for applause to start before pummeling the audience with an additional few measures.

The theater screen behind the band showed images that might not surprise you — but ones you could never really predict — from stoner rock, including a crow pecking the gizzards out of a bandaged man and bare-breasted ladies with exploding planets for faces. The theatrics helped set the tone, but most of the audience’s focus fell on singer Josh Homme’s tequila-lubed dance grooves and loose guitar playing; both only got groovier and looser as the over two-hour set wore on.

Much of Homme’s charm seems to come from being one with the crowd. He’s accessible. He takes drags from his cigarette and croons a verse on the exhale. When he drops his guitar pick, he just squats down and picks it up. He has a one-sided chat with an audience member about penis length between songs, outstretching his arm as means of reference.

After security pulled a fan out of the show, …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Indie folk project Whetherman begins a Kickstarter fundraising project Feb. 10, with a goal of $13,500 to send the trio on its first European tour.

Founded by Nicholas Williams in 2007, Whetherman has independently released five full-length studio albums and embarked on three nationwide tours. The grassroots project has recently been placed on Pandora Radio and featured in Relix Magazine as an “Artist on the Rise.”

“Songs and Whispers,” an artist development network based in Bremen Germany, has already booked the tour and recently invited Whetherman to join the 25-day May/June circuit of shows between Germany and Denmark. The shows are all booked and ready, and the band just needs to get across the pond.

Funds raised will go toward travel and living expenses for the band, in addition to new merchandise for the tour. Any funds raised above the goal will go toward funding Whetherman’s sixth record, “Seeds for Harvest,” scheduled for release in winter 2014.

Incentives and goodies for donating funds range from digital downloads of the band’s latest songs and albums to artwork, jewelry and merchandise from the band to an intimate show at your house during their fall 2014 tour and two-year VIP show treatment.   More

PLAYING AROUND

Open mic has a proud tradition in Jacksonville dating back a couple of decades — and then some. I emceed nights at Fusion Café and Fuel in the 1990s, and, of course ,Al Letson (who has gone on to accomplish as much as any writer of his generation) had his night at Voodoo years ago.

To borrow a phrase from Sonny and Cher, the beat goes on, in the form of the Cypher Open Mic Poetry and Soul, held at Da Real Ting Café every first, third, and fifth Thursday of the month. Hosted by DJ Monsta and Ill Clinton — names familiar to those who know what's happening in Duval — this is a showcase for talent and is worth checking out.

Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show starts at 9 p.m. The show ends at midnight. Entry is $5 all night long, 18 and older. There is a full dinner menu, and for those who need liquid fortification, there are 3-for-1 well drinks, which is a drink offer that no reasonable person can refuse.

On April 4, the WB will be in the house, recording the event for a local program. The smart performer would show up tomorrow, do a poem or a song, then bring it back in April for the cameras.   More

PLAYING AROUND

Pacific Dub In Jacksonville: Take Two

West Coasters Pacific Dub brought their trademark energy and charisma back to Jacksonville on July 17 as they started the Florida leg of their "Red, White and Booze Tour" at Jack Rabbits.

One of the band's most meaningful and well known songs, "Dreaming," kicked off the show.

“I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming of a place so far away, yes somewhere we can take our great escape,” lead singer Colton Place sang to the crowd, who quickly showed their appreciation.

Openers Prime Trees and Sidereal set the reggae/rock feel that Pacific Dub personifies as the crowd swayed to the melodies.

After rocking out to “Close To You,” Pacific Dub played an original song “Best of All Time,” one they re-mastered for their latest album “Tightrope.”

“You with us Jax?” asked guitarist Bryce Klemer as the crowd responded with yelps and applause.

Lead singer Place asked the crowd if it was okay for drummer David Delaney to take over the mic for a few songs, prompting more yells of approval.

Playing “Young Girl” and an old favorite, “Foolin’ Around,” Delaney held his own vocally while playing the drums simultaneously.

Both the bassist, Ryan Naglich, and keyboard player Casey Eubanks clearly enjoyed the crowd’s energy as they played with smiles on their faces.

After playing the album's title song “Tightrope,” the group followed with a crowd favorite “California Girl” that had the audience swaying to the smooth reggae melody.

The band's enjoyment of the show was clear as guitarist Klemer raised his beer to the crowd and asked they drink for the lead singer who could not partake.

“Can’t drink while I’m taking these steroids,” Place said, flexing his muscles.

The singer announced that problems with his vocal cords may keep him out for a few months after the end of …   More

PLAYING AROUND

It’s a reliable indicator that the talent’s doing something right when the normally stoic security staff is head banging along to the music.

Nu metal powerhouse Korn had the entire Welcome to Rockville audience and staff bobbing their heads and singing along during its closing performance of the festival April 27. It’s hard not to; the band’s sound is infectious.

If you don’t happen to be a genre-snob and are wondering about the funky spelling, don’t open that Google tab — here’s the skinny:

Nu metal is a blend of hip-hop style verses over heavily distorted, temper-tantrum guitar riffs that give way to big-sounding choruses (see early Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Slipknot and early Deftones) that was popular during the turn of the century.

Korn uses that recipe, but it’s not what the California-based five-piece has staked its reputation on. It’s those wall-of-sound breakdowns on down-tuned, seven-string guitars that assault the senses while vocalist Jonathan Davis flings his dreads around and screams charming one-liners like “Get the fuck out of my face” and “Shut the fuck up, yeah.”

So, if you’re an impressionable teen looking for a noisy group that just, like, gets you, welcome to your not-so-new favorite band. If Korn already caught your ear during the early years and you’re now a functioning adult saddled with real-world responsibilities, rest assured that your guilty pleasure aged well. Korn has stayed true to its sound, and the Rockville crowd was happy it did.

After a few seconds of ambient feedback and guitar noise, Korn stormed the stage with the crowd-pleasing “Falling Away From Me,” which features one of the heaviest riffs in the band’s catalogue.

It followed that up with “Got The Life,” another classic from the band’s repertoire that features prominent dance grooves with Davis and Co. shimmying and romping about the stage between breakdowns.

Yes, there were some newer tracks that …   More

 

In dolphin years, 60 looks pretty young. Nellie, the bottlenose dolphin and mascot of Jacksonville University, is spending the whole year celebrating her birthday at Marineland as the oldest dolphin living in human care.

While most dolphins in the wild are estimated to live up to 25 years and dolphins in captivity usually live to 40, Nellie is breaking records. Born and raised in captivity, Nellie doesn't have to worry about predators, food shortages or pollution and gets regular veterinary care. With only a few minor health issues, such as failing eyesight, Nellie is in great shape for her age. 

At the peek of her career, tourists and fans could see her jumping through rings and starring in TV shows that were filmed at Marineland’s original dolphin stadium. According to the park's website, she was featured in a Timex watch TV commercial in 1961 that aired on Frank Sinatra’s special “Welcome Home Elvis.” She has lived through the discovery of DNA, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and the first iPhone. Nellie doesn’t perform for the public anymore. Now, she swims casually in her tank with another dolphin, Betty, and listens to the younger dolphins playing with basketballs or doing stunts in the nearby tanks.

Visitors might notice the zinc oxide Nellie wears to protect her aging skin.

“She spends a lot of time at the surface, so we don't want her to get sunburned. They have really sensitive skin like we do, ” Sky Austin, a Marineland assistant.

Nellie's talents have been recognized with honorary undergraduate and graduate degrees from JU. Yes, we are still talking about a bottlenose dolphin. To add to her credentials, this year, JU will bestow an honorary doctoral degree to Nellie as part of the park’s 75th anniversary. People are encouraged to attend the May 30 ceremony.

Nellie, who turned 60 on Feb. 27, is a product of the care and love she has received since birth. As she ages, …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Dallas-based quintet Memphis May Fire delivers heavy-hitting, energetic metal fused with soaring choruses and electronic, orchestral sections. The band released its fourth full-length studio album, “Unconditional,” last month. Guitarist Anthony Sepe, guitarist Kellin McGregor and bass guitarist Cory Elder sat down with Folio Weekly just before their set April 26 at Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville.

F.W.: You’re most recent release, “Unconditional,” came out last month. Did you take any different approach to writing/recording this album?

K.M: Yeah, a little bit. The last two records we did all in one studio. On this one, we came straight out of Warped Tour, finished writing and went into my home studio. We knocked it out quickly.

F.W.: So you did a good amount of writing on the road?

K.M. You kind of have to. This last year particularly, we were out a lot.

F.W.: It seems like on some of your first releases, "Memphis May Fire" EP and "Sleepwalking," there was a pretty pronounced Southern tone, especially with the guitars … not so much on the new stuff. Is there a reason for the shift?

K.M.: All I knew was the pentatonic scale when we wrote the first two CDs. That’s really what it is. With every CD – I wouldn’t say that I’ve gotten better – but I’ve like learned a little bit here and there. I still can’t solo to save my life. That first EP man, we wrote that in fall 2006, that was forever ago. You just grow and change, you know?

F.W.: Do you prefer festival-sized shows like this when you’re touring, or do you prefer the smaller intimate shows in local venues?

A.S.: I say the bigger the better. The amount of energy you get from the crowd and the vibe of the festival just seems a lot better.

K.M: You don’t have to worry about getting smacked in the face with a bass, either.

A.S.: Yeah, there’s always plenty of room on stage, and the sound's always good.

C.E.: I think we all enjoy both a lot. …   More

PLAYING AROUND

It can be difficult to predict what something will become when you’re close to it. Whether it will endure. If it will stay relevant in a fickle market. How it will grow, if at all.

Though the bohemian artists in John Larson’s Rent faced similarly uncertain futures, there was no doubt in the musical’s enduring potential when it debuted off-Broadway in 1996.

With 160 in attendance for opening night on Players by the Sea’s Main Stage, the cast and director Alejandro Rodriguez rose to the occasion note-for-note. The size of the stage and sparse set might have seemed too minimalist in staging one of the best musicals ever written. Two tables, three simple scaffoldings and a backdrop painted by Chip Southworth (Keith Haring’s Ghost) was the whole of home-sweet-slum New York. But like the characters that inhabited the stage, the theater made ends meet with no shortage of charisma and charm. 

And it really was the small details that added that charm. You could smell the matches as Roger stamped them out on the floor during “Light My Candle.” You could hear the live band just out of eyeshot off stage flip their sheet music or tune an instrument. You could feel Joanne’s heels as she stomped and dragged them during “Tango Maureen,” and you could see the tears trickle down the cheeks of the company on the emotional “I’ll Cover You — Reprise.”

Charming as those things were, they were simply background noise to the talented voices in this cast.

The narrative starts slow with Mark and Roger (Ross Frontz and Elias Hionides), but the 525,600 minutes of their story kicks into overdrive when the live band and company arrive to perform “Rent."

Some of the best performances of the night came from songs that featured the entire company, as the actors created harmonies with each character pushing their voice to pop out of the melody and then back in with …   More

Playing Around

Local theater in Jacksonville gets a bad rep, when it’s paid attention to at all. Those outside of the theater community think that all this town has to offer is rotating performances of My Fair Lady or Little Orphan Annie at the Alhambra. But there are local artists and producers that are taking chances, and doing theater that is thought-provoking, unconventional and daring, at least by Jacksonville standards.

33 Variations, produced by The 5 & Dime, a small Jacksonville-based theater company, is one of the best productions I've seen in town. Drawing from a fantastic script by Moises Kaufman, author of The Laramie Project, the play tells the story of Beethoven's obsession with a seemingly pedestrian waltz, a dying woman's journey to understand that obsession, and her daughter's attempts to be close to her mother despite their distance. In lesser hands, it might have come off as prosaic or overly sentimental, but here it's played gently and honestly. It's touching, funny and beautifully acted, with a minimal set and lighting design that somehow manages to weave three stories from two time periods into one cohesive narrative.

“[The set] is very minimal and almost jarring at first glance,” says Joshua Taylor, a founding member of The 5 & Dime who plays Beethoven's biographer and friend. “But it has been my experience that more minimal sets tend to pull less focus from the audience during the show and really serve to allow the work on stage to shine through.”

With only a backdrop of music sheets and a few tables and chairs, the play goes back and forth between Beethoven's time and the present day. The main character, a musicologist too preoccupied with discerning Beethoven's motivations to spend time with her daughter, is played deftly by actress and former public radio host Sinda Nichols. Her performance is captivating without being over the top. I don't know if it was the pre-show wine, but at one point I noted, …   More

 
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