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PLAYING AROUND

Despite the threat of thunderstorms, country fans showed up ready to rock at the Country Rocks the Beach concert June 22. The show featured Craig Morgan and special guests Dustin Lynch and The Lacs.

The gates at Ybor Alvarez Outdoor Sports Complex opened at 3 p.m. and several opening bands played as fans poured in.

The Lacs, a band from Georgia that has gained recent notoriety in 2011, played some of their hits including their first single, “Kickin’ Up Mud.” They played their set all while sipping on beer and taking swigs from a Jagermeister bottle.

Soon after, Dustin Lynch took the stage, performing all his well-known singles including “She Cranks My Tractor.” The single, which debuted in the Top 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs list, pumped up the crowd, especially the girls as he swayed his hips in his tight black jeans.

After these two outstanding opening acts, the crowd was ready for Craig Morgan to come on. As soon as the sound of the tractor played over the loud speakers, Morgan appeared and began singing his single, “International Harvester.” The song from his 2006 album, "Little Bit of Life," is one of Morgan’s most popular hits.

Morgan continue the party by performing some of his other well-known songs like “Redneck Yacht Club” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday.” Both of these songs are from his album, "My Kind of Livin,’ " which was released in 2005.

He played all seven of his top-10 hits, including his single “Almost Home” from his 2002 album, "I Love It." Not only did it top the country music charts, this song earned him a Songwriter’s Achievement Award from the Nashville Songwriter’s Association International and also Song of the Year at the Broadcast Music, Inc.

Morgan sang his most popular songs, but he also let the crowd be part of his history by performing a new song never before played in public. …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Whether you want to sing a pirate tune with your mateys or enjoy some light-hearted comedy, the Colonial Crew Revue has a little something for everyone.

The variety show written by Scott "Grimm" Abrams takes place at St. Augustine’s Colonial Quarter every Friday and Saturday night. The versatile Picolata Players perform a musical based on the days when pirates still roamed the streets.

Although suitable for families, the show includes themes and innuendo for a pirate experience adults can enjoy as well. Unlimited refills of beer, sangria and wine are included for adults 21 and older.

The singing was great and each of the characters had different singing styles, but they all mixed together well. The character named El Comico, who was the goofy and funny heart-breaker, was chased around the stage and tripped over himself as scripted, yet sang perfectly the entire time.

The show got even better when Mayhem de Magnifico, the drunk and multi-talented trickster, awoke and started performing impressive magic tricks. The cast was very talented in many different aspects and it showed.

Easily the best part of the show was the audience interaction. The characters walked into the crowd almost every scene to have viewers add to the show and even join them on the stage at one point. The scene where Don Ramon Bellagrande and his “lovely wife” use the audience to tell the story of how they met would make anyone laugh.

Unfortunately, near the end of the June 21 show, it started pouring rain mercilessly. Some people left, but a surprisingly large amount of people, many without umbrellas, stayed to watch the end. The characters started throwing puns about rain into the show, which was obviously improvised. I thought that was wonderfully done and it let the audience know the actors and actresses recognized the sacrifice they were making to see the end of the show.

After the show, the cast members waited at the nearby Taberna del Caballo …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The decline of printed publications is old news; the age of computers has been upon us for quite some time. As magazine sales and subscriptions drop, elements and techniques used in print have evolved to accommodate the shift into a digital world — but not all of them. Print cartoonists are among those now asking themselves a question: How can a craft evolve in the digital world without sacrificing tradition and technique?

"Very Semi-Serious," directed and co-produced by Jacksonville native Leah Wolchok, takes a quirky look at the humor, art and genius of the single panel cartoon. The documentary homes in on the 88-year-old New Yorker magazine and the artists who have helped make it what it is today.

There is a unique likeness between documentaries and cartoons: Both seek to uncover truths about society in an engaging, witty and sometimes confrontational way. Drawn to filmmaking in college, Wolchok said, "it was the beauty of the reality of documentary form that captured my attention."

Diving into this project and interviewing dozens of artists has revealed a lot of hard truths about the nature of the cartoon business, she said.

"Cartoonists face extreme rejection. One out of 15 pieces will be sold, maybe — if they're lucky. It's not uncommon for artists to go weeks at a time without any sold."

The fierce competitiveness of the industry reflects the importance of cartoons; they are no laughing matter.

"Over the last 90 years, the cartoons have represented a chronicle of the world's political issues," Wolchok said. "New Yorker cartoons have provided snapshots of social movements, cultural events and historical controversies for decades."

They are not always laugh-out-loud funny, nor do they always make readers comfortable. Cartoons — specifically those published in the New Yorker — can be subtle, edgy, political statements that shape and express the opinions of generations. 

"People feel a really personal connection to the cartoons …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The sold-out Capital Cities concert left the crowd at Jack Rabbits sore-footed, sweaty and smiling on the way out the door June 19 at Jack Rabbits.

The indie pop-rock quintet from Los Angeles had the crowd dancing while playing all but three of the songs from their debut album, “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” including the hugely popular “Safe and Sound.”

To close out the night, they played a remixed version of “Safe and Sound,” their Cash Cash remix.

Jack Rabbits allowed for an intimacy between fans and the bands, and Capital Cities stayed after the concert to talk with their fans.

The Dog Apollo, a local band from Jacksonville, played a seven-song set — including “Ghost” and “Spirit of the Plain" — to get the crowd on their feet and in the mood to sing and dance the night away.

Capital Cities started from pretty modest beginnings when jingle writers Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian met on Craigslist and came together to create the five-man band.

Vocalists Merchant and Simonian were accompanied by the jazzy melodies of Spencer Ludwig on the trumpet and the masterful strumming of guitarist Nick Merwin and bassist Manny Quintero. “Safe and Sound,” their first song, was released as an EP in 2011 and shot to No. 1 on Modern Rock radio.   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

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 Hurricane Junior Golf Tour has given golfers ages 11-18 a chance to play in tournament atmospheres since 2008. The HJGT is based out of Jacksonville and will be hosting the Junior Amateur Golfing Association (JAGA) City Jr. Championship at Deerwood Country Club June 17-18.

Three spots are being offered to local juniors who are members of local Jacksonville area chapters of The First Tee, a program that teaches children the fundamentals of golf and also builds character.

“It’s an honor to be chosen by The First Tee,” 13-year-old Trevor Madridejos said in a press release about the event.

Jeff Willoughby, program director of The First Tee in North Florida, said he hopes the program’s golfers will place well, gaining them and the program some recognition.

“Whether they win or place well, it will bring some light to the competitive golfers we have in our program,” Willoughby said.

While The First Tee prepares players for what they can expect on the course, Willoughby said they are essentially a youth development program.

“We make sure they are prepared for high school graduation,” Willoughby said. “Golf is more in the background as we want them to be more successful on the academic front.”

HJGT will also host a Tour Championship for the first time this year. Players with a win in their respected divisions — boys 11-14 and 15-18 and girls 15-18 — will earn a bid into the November championship.

“It takes a couple of months to prepare for,” said Dan Crowther, director of marketing for HJGT. “It’s one of the tournaments we have in rotation as we do 100 tournaments in a calendar year spanning eight states.”

This City Jr. Championship will host more than 60 participants. The registration fee is $179. The event will be open to the public.

Willoughby said he hopes to continue First Tee's partnership with HJGT.

“By allowing The First …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The lights dimmed to black. A near sell-out crowd went silent as a video started to play. The introduction set the tone for a night of chuckles and bursts of laughter.

An upbeat classic rock song began as the lights rose on a dancing Peter Story. The highly energetic “resident Martian” captured the audience from the start with his quick wit and punny humor. Story attempted to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between men and women.

Story described a date night to which many couples could relate. He mimed through the preparation process humming the "Mission Impossible" theme song. Their night at the opera included a comment that one of the largest women he had ever seen seemed to be singing “the Olive Garden menu,” which earned him a jab in the ribs from his wife. 

Story described the scene at dinner where he excitedly caught the last few seconds of the Oklahoma City Thunder game at the bar. His wife was not happy. “I’m glad you can have more fun with a stranger than me,” Story mocked in a female voice. 

Story asked the audience who all had been married for 10, 20 and 30 years by rounds of applause. The clapping grew fainter with each level.

Picking on a couple in the first row who had been married for 33 years, Story re-enacted their 10th anniversary — one in which the husband “probably forgot.” He described what is known as “guilt charades” when your spouse is upset, but you have no idea why, so a game of charades ensues. 

"I forgot my own 10-year anniversary, which wasn’t a big deal,” Story said. “But my wife remember.” 

He then showed a video by John Gray, author of the book "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," showing the chemical aspect of men and women’s brains through hilarious animations. 

Relating to the book on several occasions, Story spoke about the four words that describe what men and women need. …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Music education was the buzz at the I love Music Festival June 8. All the artists reinforcedthe importance of music education and schools, including the director of the event, Michael Butler, a “band nerd” himself.

The tour featured Teflon Don, EverSay, K-Lotto, and the headliner, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. 

“If they are getting ready to cut the football team, that is front page news. If they are getting ready to cut a music teacher, no one knows about it. It is very silent. The I Love Music Tour is here to try to bring that voice out and raise it up,” Butler said in a testimonial during the tour.

Two local artists made names for themselves: SweetLu, who sounded like a mix of Bruno Mars and Wiz Kahlifa, and GudGud, three women who sounded like a modern Destiny’s Child. Both artists are working with the Mighty Music Group, a management and production company.

GudGud sang “U” and had the crowds wanting more. Fans can catch the R&B’s group new single at the end of the summer. GudGud, Britney, Princess and Nina, sang and danced beyond expectations for an amateur band.

Jacksonville Beach native SweetLu's down-to-earth disposition continued even off-stage when he mingled with fans. 

"We have been lucky to have been a part of the I Love Music Tour, both in helping spread awareness for the show and in working with participating artists GudGud and Sweet Lu,” said Christopher Myers, co-founder of Mighty Music Group.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus took the stage with a roaring crowd ready to hear good music — and they didn't let them down, playing “As I the Enemy,” their No. 1 hit on the U.S Christian rock charts, and “Face Down,” their seemingly most popular song, along with “Reap,” a hit in the WWE wrestling realm.

Red Jumpsuit Apparatus' Ronnie Winter and Duke Kitchens met in an AP music theory class in 2001 and decided to put a band together. Since …   More

PLAYING AROUND

"Antiques Roadshow" has been on PBS since the late 1990s. It is a show that travels across the country throughout the summer, featuring the antiques of those attending and appraising those items.

This will be show's first trip to Jacksonville, but "Antiques Roadshow" has been to Florida five times previously. Executive Producer Marsha Bemko said they wanted to go to a city they had never been to before, and there are not many places they can go to for the first time anymore.

More than 15,000 people registered to attend the show, but ony 3,000 were randomly selected and given a pair of tickets. If you applied for a ticket online by the deadline, April 8, you can use Ticket Checker to check your ticket status.  

The event begins at 8 a.m., and ticket holders will be admited according to the time on their tickets. The last entrance time is 5 p.m., but the event will not end until all items have been appraised.

Each attendee can bring two items and must bring at least one. There are 20 categories in which the attendees' items will be placed and then matched with an appreaiser. The appraisals can be suspenseful and surprising, as usually items are worth either more or less than they were originally thought to be. 

"We know there will be treasures there, and we want to go find them. And we know that more than 15,000 people want to show us their treasures," Bemko said.

Three episodes will be created from the Jackonville visit, plus a "Junk in the Trunk" episode, which will be aired in the spring TV season starting in January. Bemko suggested subscribing to their newsletter for updates on when episodes will appear.

The show will also record a five-minute segment at Norman Sudios on June 7 called "Roadshow's Most Wanted." In the 1920s, Richard Norman, the founder of the studios, made a number of silent adventure films that broke the racial barrier in the film industry by including African-American actors in positive, …   More

 
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