O.A.R., Oct. 4, Centre for the Arts at Mizner Park, Boca Raton
You can have all of the billboards in the world. You can put videos on MTV. You can drive around the suburbs in an old police car with a giant bullhorn attached. You can even release five singles from your first album at the same time.
But nothing beats word of mouth.
That’s how O.A.R. got momentum going at first. Mind you, it’s not like that band in college that everyone knew because of literal word of mouth. The Internet helped. So did good musicianship and songwriting.
The band kept its fans through superb work on stage, and it’s definitely worth your time.
Enjoy one of their earliest songs, “That Was A Crazy Game of Poker”:
Also: Tampa supergroup Dive Bar Stalkers invade Delray’s City Limits on Friday… Apocalyptica is worth a glance because they play “cello metal”, and seeing once-in-a-lifetime things right now is a good idea. Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale, Saturday … Also one of those OIAL things is the great blues vocalist Bobby “Blue” Bland, coming to City Limits on Saturday … Two comedians head to town Sunday: Lewis Black at the Kravis Center in West Palm, and Joel McHale of E!’s “The Soup” to Fort Pierce’s Sunrise Theater.
Kind of an easy choice, and now that I’m awake enough, here it is:
My Morning Jacket, Aug. 29, Fillmore Miami Beach.
I flipped for My Morning Jacket in 2005, when they put out Z. It was right when I had just purchased my XM receiver, and I think it was XMU that was playing “Gideon”. My jaw just dropped.
It never quite recovered. I went to see them in Charleston, S.C., and they were even more brilliant live. Their older songs, which really never caught me in their recorded form, had a lot of resonance in a live setting.
This is the big ticket for this time of year. MMJ is regarded by a lot of folks, including myself, as the best live band going right now. The band is an incredibly tight unit, and frontman Jim James has one of the best voices around.
Currently, MMJ is touring in support of Evil Urges, their first studio album since Z — though they did release the excellent live album Okonokos. A friend recently told me that he was really put off by the new LP’s first two tracks — hey, not everything is for everyone, and even Rolling Stone said Evil Urges has its WTF moments, but I happen to like it. It’s a real stretch for the band, while putting out a more live vibe. Besides, songs like “I’m Amazed”. “Librarian” and “Sec Walkin” are among their very best.
Watch “I’m Amazed” from this year’s Coachella Fest (great sound, you just have to see between everyone else’s heads — just like a real show!!):
Also appearing: A night of rollin’ with ja at Mizner on Saturday: Half Pint, Pepper, Slightly Stoopid and the always remarkable Sly & Robbie. … Thank God It’s Honey includes Ex Norwegians and Noble Rocket at The Lounge in West Palm. … Kill Miss Pretty’s CD release party with The Holy Terrors and Captain Dan & The Scurvy Crew on Saturday at Respectable Street.
Aug. 13, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Fillmore Miami Beach
At first blush, the acoustic sound of Rodrigo y Gabriela, Mexican-born guitar-playing duo currently residing in Ireland, is a mix of classical and Latin styles. But you begin to realize that these two really like metal.
And not just because they do a very good cover of the Led Zep chestnut “Stairway to Heaven.” Give a listen to “Diablo Rojo” from their first album and you get the general idea: parts of the song can only be described as shredding.
Alternatively nicknamed Rodgab and RyG, this is a duo worth seeing live.
Watch “Diablo Rojo”:
ALSO THIS WEEK: The Honeycomb introduces Thank God It’s Honey!, its Friday-night music party at West Palm’s The Lounge. Scheduled to appear: Summer Blanket and Fire Zuave.
Who knew that the highlights of a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers show would be provided by Steve Winwood?
I mean, at first, it wasn’t looking that way. Winwood, the support act for Petty’s tour, was in the midst of a competent but at times dull hour-long Latin-flavored set at Sunrise’s BankAtlantic Center. His band’s best element to that point was Paul Booth, a standout multi-instrumentalist. The thing is, Booth had a couple of flute solos.
And the thing about flute players is….
… we tend to make fun of them.
But Booth acquitted himself on both those solos and his sax work.
And that’s when Winwood became the king of the guitar for the night. Coaxing notes out of his Fender the way Eric Clapton — his showmate at one point this year — can, Winwood was blowing the roof off the place. The crowd seemed pleasantly surprised in its ovation.
Nor has Winwood lost an ounce of that remarkable voice that has held strong since his days as a teen lead singer in the Spencer Davis Group. Joining Petty and co. on stage for both “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Gimme Some Lovin'”, Winwood actually lifted the show — already at a pretty high level — into the rafters.
Now, Petty was no slouch this night. He was in fine form, clearly enjoying being back in his home state of Florida, and with the crowd in the palm of his hand from “You Wreck Me”, he wheeled the Heartbreakers through a set of recent, classic and cover songs.
Me, I do also go to a Petty show to see two of my favorite musicians — guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench. Campbell was his usual, remarkable self, never overly flashy, with a penchant for the economy of notes, whether it was the staccato of his “American Girl” solo or his always wild work on “Don’t Come Around Here No More”.
(A side note. Tom, sir, please consider reinstating the top hat for this song. It loses something without the top hat. I thank you.)
Few have as great an understanding of how keyboards — and especially piano — fit into rock songs as Tench. He knows what works for Petty, and yet somehow has a classically trained pianist’s sound. Never wonder why he’s constantly in demand for backup work.
Aside from the Winwood bits, the highlight of Petty’s show for me was actually his work on “Saving Grace”, his most recent single from “Highway Companion”. He’s shaped it into a tough, hard-nosed song that I simply can’t get out of my head. Surprised me — I’m a fan of his early stuff, but on this night, a new sound really worked.
First of all, I hate when they don’t allow cameras at a show. I don’t know whether it was in one of these bands’ riders or it’s a standing rule at Revolution, but I never saw what sense it made.
Hence, no photos from this show.
The good news is that this show — which was outside, while Thursday’s show was indoors — was blessed by some of the best weather South Florida’s had in months. And that made it easier to endure a three-band bill.
Now, these were three bands I happen to like, but I don’t care if R.E.M. shows up with Radiohead and Guster, I’m going to be suffering if it’s in a club. I’m not exactly a kid.
That said, I can’t say there was necessarily a bad moment during the show. Headliner Kings of Leon — and there was more than a little shock among the group I went with that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was opening for the Kings — showed they earned that status by getting the crowd whipped into a frenzy with a good mix of songs from their three albums.
However, this is what I was expecting:
Long hair, right? (note Caleb Followill, the band’s lead singer, second from right)
This is what I saw:
They still sounded as if they had the long hair associated with their modern-but-Southern sound. Most of the songs had quick tempos — and boom, mosh pit! — but still had Caleb’s growly twang, unmistakably Southern.
The Followills — brothers Caleb, Jared (bass) and Nathan (drums), and cousin Matthew (guitar) — are as tight as a duck’s ass, though Caleb clearly wasn’t happy with something on stage: “Are you guys havin’ fun tonight? (cheer!!) Well, I’m not! But I am getting drunk, so that’s something!”
If drink fueled the Kings’ performance, antipathy seemed to do the same for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. It appeared the three men in the band — guitarist Peter Hayes, bassist Robert Levon Been and drummer Nick Jago — had little interest in talking with one another, focusing instead on delivering a blistering set.
Most of the set came from the band’s latest album, Baby 81, generally considered the least of BRMC’s four LPs. But its original-BRMC-sound-meets-Love-and-Rockets vibe did seem to work well for the most part. I thought “666 Conducer” was a high point of the show — but I also rather enjoyed hearing “Ain’t No Easy Way Out”, their only nod to Howl, their shocking (and, in my opinion, very successful) shift into an Americana band. I only wish they would’ve broken out “Shuffle Your Feet”, but I gather they’re trying to move away from that sound, as Jago, who didn’t play on the Howl sessions, has a fuller role in BRMC again.
It was very exciting for me to see The Features, a band from Tennessee that I figured I might not get the chance to see. Despite having one of the best albums from 2004, Exhibit A, Universal Music dropped the band.
But the band persevered, even when their original keyboardist left. They picked up a new keyboardist — and considering the huge role keyboard instruments play in The Features’ sound, it was a big-time move — released the Contrast EP on their own dime and starting to build their audience on the road.
The Features’ set was all too brief, hitting high points from both discs. Not everyone gets into lead singer Matt Pelham’s quavering vocal, but I think it works with their songs full of what feels like nervous energy. (Plus Matt seems like a hell of a nice guy, as I chatted with him afterwards while buying a T-shirt.)
It’s difficult to relay a concert by Mute Math without resorting to onomatopoeia: Smash! Boom! Crash! Oh!
The quartet from New Orleans has gained its audience mostly on the backs of its live performances – which by no means belittles its creative output. Mute Math knows how to deliver it.
And that delivery is instant – one look at how these guys crawl, flip and fly all over the stage and the energy can’t help but be felt. The near-capacity crowd at Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution was absorbing it, and throwing it back just as much.
The boys in Mute Math are crowd-pleasers – they didn’t force the audience to wait for their most recognizable song, they came right out and cranked “Typical” after opening with the percussive instrumental “Collapse”.
(Apologies for the photos: They’re off a cell phone…)
Suitably enthused, the audience embraced Mute Math from there – not that there was any doubt from the word go. There are few bands that exhibit Mute Math’s kind of energy, both in its songs and in its stage work.
In both cases, the energy emanates from drummer Darren King, a frenetic sticksman who set the show’s pace at the very start: After putting on his headphones, he literally strapped them on by wrapping them around his head in gaffer’s tape.
Mute Math doesn’t back away from King’s important role. His kit is placed at the front of the stage, and many of the songs seem to be built with his strong work in mind. King is a showman the way few drummers have even dreamt, at times flying over his kit to play cymbals or even climbing onto keyboardist/lead singer Paul Meany’s well-worn Rhodes with bass drum in hand to get the crowd even more riled.
In turn, though, the rest of the band doesn’t suffer in King’s presence. Meany is a very strong frontman who doesn’t have “lead-singer disease” – he’s affable and fun, but he shares the spotlight with his other bandmates. Roy Mitchell-Cardenas not only was a very solid bassist, he helped out with drumming and even took center stage with, of all things, a double-bass solo on “Stare At The Sun”. Guitarist Greg Hill is the band’s soundmaster – attacking an assortment of pedals and keyboards in a way that rivals Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood; if Hill gains Greenwood’s experience there, he could lay down some serious sonic tableaus.
You’d think that by comparison, opening band (in sequence only) Eisley – with their haunting, sister-driven harmonies and more subtle approach – would suffer. But for at least some members of the crowd, I’ll bet an Eisley song pops into their head a day or two from now.
It’s because no one quite sings the way the sisters DuPree do – recalling Fleetwood Mac at its height (singing Christine McVie’s songs – check out “Ten Cent Blues” for a real strong comparison), but with those well-placed harmonies throughout. Sometimes, the Tyler, Texas quintet can come out sounding downright eerie, proving they were an excellent choice to sing the theme song to The Invasion, even if the movie was an utter bomb.
Having seen them twice, the only real problem I’ve encountered is that they really haven’t played in front of their own kind of crowd – in both cases they opened for a high-energy band: Hot Hot Heat, then Mute Math. Not to say the crowds in both cases couldn’t embrace Eisley’s subtleties and gorgeous songwriting, but more likely they simply weren’t in the mood to do it. Maybe a bill with Fountains of Wayne, Crowded House or even Eels would be a better fit.