Among his CEO duties helming self-started Grand Hustle Records, rubbing elbows with the likes of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in Hollywood films, and serving two stints in county clinks, it’s undeniably impressive that Atlanta-based rapper T.I. (pictured) has found time to write and release eight studio albums, nearly all to chart-topping reception. The three-time Grammy-winning rubberband man brings his brand of hip-hop street cred to Jacksonville’s Aqua Nightclub. Say what you will about one-dimensional songwriting, objectification of women and migraine-inducing grammar – this man knows how to top charts and fill clubs.
When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. Or sometimes you just enjoy a really fabulous Game of Thrones-inspired cocktail. Superfans celebrate their obsession this weekend with a GOT-themed party, complete with fire-dancers, GOT-inspired burlesque shows and a costume contest. The best represented house will claim the Iron Throne and the glory that goes with it, and all can take pictures seated on the massive replica, created just for the event. Oh, and, uh, brace yourselves. Winter, and lots of geeky-fun cosplay, is coming.
In 2003, The Early November released its debut studio album The Room’s Too Cold, and the song “Ever So Sweet” guided many teenagers through the breakup of their first relationship. Emo music was on the rise, and The Early November were at the top of the game. The band split up for a while, reuniting a half-decade later. Currently, they’re taking a break from their day jobs and going on a small acoustic tour. They’re purposely playing in smaller venues, they say, to create that same intimacy that a teenager would feel listening to records at home.
Once touted as the thinking person’s heavy metal band, Helmet – aka Page Hamilton and the revolving door of musicians who support him – has stayed faithful to the atonal, aggressive songwriting style it helped develop in the post-hardcore days of the early ’90s. Initially, it’s hard to believe the ham-fisted, distorted, stop-and-go drop-D riffs are the brainchild of a guy with dual degrees in classical and jazz performance, but that’s kind of the point. The band’s breakthrough 1992 release, Meantime, captures the dissonance, grit and (dare we say) sloppiness that signified the bands of the era. Filter (“Hey Man, Nice Shot”) headlines.
Mother Superior is the newest addition to local label Infintesmal Records, known for putting out Duval’s best post-punk, indie and garage rock music. The band is a perfect fit for the label, with a super-scratchy, distortion-heavy sound and lots of feedback. Unique to the band, though, are the singer’s use of almost-whiny pop-punk vocals and a snarky sense of humor. It’s a bit sloppy, but a lot of fun, with lyrics like “I’m going to kill you, baby, ooh lalala. I’m going to suck your blood like Dracula.” Austin’s post-punks Vetter Kids (pictured) headline. They’re so good they got a shout out from music elitist blog Brooklyn Vegan. Bravo, guys.
The Ice Plant is Christiana Key’s favorite bar in St. Augustine. It reminds her of a place she frequented while she lived in New York City, with high ceilings and a modern atmosphere. She didn’t love New York, but it’s where she started her experimental magic-infused pop music project, Delphic Oracle.
“Ultimately I would like it to be called priestess pop,” she says.
She’s a one-woman band who plays everything through a loop pedal. Her medium is her electric violin, a keyboard synthesiser, a microphone and a four-channel interface mixer.
In the two years since she started the project, Key’s done an East Coast and West Coast tour, but has recently settled into St. Augustine, close to where she grew up, in Jacksonville. Most of her days are spent in a pirate souvenir and costume shop, a touristy place where she works and lives in a tiny room off to the side with only a curtain as her door. She works as a clerk in the shop, and sews some of the costumes sold there.
When I meet Key, she’s dressed in a black plunging-neckline dress, a color she feels most comfortable in. She’s 27, but looks younger on account of her edgy aesthetics and petite body.
We order drinks. The bar’s cocktail menu employs songs titles and pop culture references. She chooses the Mellow Gold, named after a Beck album: Old Forester bourbon, Liquor 43, ginger, lemon, orange, sugar and bitters. It’s a tall glass — and, she says, a big bang for your buck. It’ll get you drunk after just one. I press record on my iPhone, and for the rest of the night I’m engulfed in Key’s strange mind.
She starts by telling me about her music.
“I try to write songs that are really spiritually uplifting, and then I find myself going for a sexually tinged spiritual pursuit,” Key says.
A lot of the revelations she’s had in her life have been through sex and relationships, and she’s more …
NOT A ONE-HIT WONDER
As solid and catchy as it is, if “Love Song” is the only hook by songwriter Sara Bareilles rattling around in your gray matter, it’s time to take your head outta that Jax Beach Pier sand and get hit with some culture. Bareilles’ new release, The Blessed Unrest, shows her ability to create varied themes and melodies across an album. fun.’s Jack Antonoff lends his voice on “Brave,” the pop synth-pulsating lead single. On tracks like “Chasing the Sun” and “Manhattan,” Bareilles swaps her sound for more mellow, piano-based ballads. 7 p.m. July 26 at St. Augustine Amphitheatre, $29.50-$55.
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, …
Einstein A Go-Go, which closed more than a decade ago, was as legendary a nightclub in the Northeast Florida alt music scene as New York City’s CBGB or Whisky a Go Go in LA.
Before the area became a dead zone for new/interesting traveling musicians, the Jax Beach venue hosted an incredible lineup of quintessential ’80s and ’90s bands, from Nirvana and Jane’s Addiction to The Replacements, 10,000 Maniacs and Sonic Youth.
It was a haven for music fans, a second home for many, especially teenagers who couldn’t get in anywhere else (the all-ages club didn’t serve alcohol). Now, surviving A Go-Goers are throwing a reunion party for nostalgic fans to come together and reminisce.
One of the original Einstein DJs — DJ Ricky — spins classic tunes from the era. 8 p.m. July 26 at Eclipse Nightclub in Avondale, $10 door charge (proceeds benefit Gateway Community Services) or donate to Girls Rock Jax online in advance.
At times hokey, vague couplets like “We’re the fire, from the sun/we’re the light, when the day is done” are the norm for this husband-and-wife songwriting duo, but Johnnyswim’s able musicianship on their debut record, Diamonds, made that an easier pill. Amanda Sudano Ramirez, daughter of disco diva Donna Summers, leads most of the catchy, heartfelt pop material with a delicate, affecting voice. It’s pitch-perfect, but not so polished as to sound inorganic. Abner Ramirez, who studied at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, supports the melodies with an equally able, dynamic voice and acoustic guitar. No earth-shaking going on here, but that’s OK. 7:30 p.m. July 25 at Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, $22.