Category Archives: Show preview

Van Halen reunion tour show preview


If you were anywhere near the Internet in early February, you likely couldn’t miss the hue and cry of a certain cohort of Dudes of a Certain Age crowing about how amazingly incredibly awesomely surprisingly kickass the new Van Halen album was. Comments like “picked up where they left off” and “it’s so great to hear these guys playing together again” and “reunion albums are never this great” were definitely in the mix, and, most amazingly, they were issued without the many caveats and qualifiers that typically accompany such declarations.

As one of those Dudes of a Certain Age, I confess that I was certainly a vocal contributor to said hue and cry, as I was completely flabbergasted at the strength of the album as a whole, at how well the mid-’70s demos were converted into brand-new rockers, and, of course, at the fact that I was sitting here – a grown-ass man with generally respectable (and occasionally respected) taste in music – in 2012, giddy with joy over a new Van Halen album.

I also confess that I haven’t listened to A Different Kind of Truth since the week after its release. In fact, when it came time to buckle down and write a preview of the band’s reunion tour stop at the Amway Center, all I wanted to do wasnot listen to Truth, and instead luxuriate in the eternal excellence of Fair Warning or side two of 1984. This is not a comment on the quality of A Different Kind of Truth – the album is the best ever put out by a reconstituted legacy act 30 years after their prime.

But it doesn’t matter. Van Halen in 2012 simply can’t be anything more than a band and a sound that trades completely on nostalgia, evoking the decadent possibilities of the era in which they did matter. The hedonism, debauchery and Jack-from-the-bottle days of the late-’70s and early-’80s have come and gone, and even though Eddie, Alex and Diamond Dave are gelling fantastically, and even though they’ve made an album that eclipses everything Van Halen has done post-1984, it just doesn’t matter. They may as well have released a crap album – or no album at all – and just gone on tour. It’s great that they didn’t, and diehard Van Halen fans have every reason to be pleased with how good A Different Kind of Truth is. But pretending that it’s anything other than a respectable reminder of how powerful the band – and hard rock in general – was in the group’s early days is a fool’s errand.

And, in exactly the same way that Truth acted as that reminder, so too will the reunion shows. There will be moments of ecstatic rock & roll happiness, but the fact remains that as a culture, we’re well into the post-Van Halen era. They served up a solid reminder of past glories, but that’s really all they can do anymore.

First appeared April 12, 2012 in Orlando Weekly.

Floor concert preview

Around this time last year, we giddily announced that South Florida metal legends Floor were reuniting to play a few shows and pimp a comprehensive box set of all the material the band had ever recorded. The fleeting and temporary nature of the reunion – “But for us, this is it,” guitarist Steve Brooks told us – made it all the more awesome. Of course, we naïvely believed him, and now, here we are telling you that Floor is playing a gig at Will’s Pub. Still, this is a capital-B Big Deal. While the band that Floor evolved into (Torche) has seen substantial success among alt-metal fans, the relentless, gut-punching intensity of the original band’s material is something else altogether. And hey, if you don’t see ’em now …

First appeared Feb. 25, 2012 in Orlando Weekly.

Tinariwen feature

For a band of nomads – a literal band of nomads – to make a musical impact on Western ears is an unusual achievement. Maybe such a group constitutes a curious aside on your favorite world music show, or garner a tiny blog mention as the preferred obscure listening habit of your favorite indie musician, but to be signed to the same label as Tom Waits and Nick Cave? To embark on a tour that takes them to rock clubs across the U.S.? That’s not just unusual, that’s nearly unprecedented.

But that’s exactly what’s happened with Tinariwen, a group born in the sands of Northern Africa that has exploded beyond the typical constraints of world music festivals and into a legitimate underground rock & roll phenomenon. One could argue that this newfound attention is due to the fact that Tinariwen’s compelling back story – they’re a loose collective of Malian musicians who were forced into Libyan refugee camps while their country was at war in the late ’70s – has helped them garner this newfound attention, but a story only goes so far.

The group’s raw, blues-flecked and dirty guitar sounds instantly resonate with Western audiences raised on rock. The guitarists’ circular, trance-like melodies are as insistent as they are inviting, as foreign as they are familiar. When threaded through the Tuareg rhythms and vocals that define the music of these Saharan nomads, the combination is deeply affecting and resonant, and not a little bit punk rock. Unlike other world musicians who have evolved over time to accommodate the ears of those in Europe and America, Tinariwen has remained true to their original sound, if not their ad-hoc roots.

“We always do what we want. In the ’80s, we were not a professional band, we were a collective of musicians who used to perform together for some traditional events,” explains lead guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who helped found the group while a refugee in Libya. “There was no planning, no touring. We were recording tapes in some radios and people shared our music with tapes. [But] from the beginning of 2000, we became more professional; we hired a manager, an agent and so on. The music didn’t really change, though. We just needed to adapt it for a record.”

That newfound professionalism yielded results quickly, and in 2001, Tinariwen headlined the Festival in the Desert in Mali, which began that year as a celebration of traditional Tuareg culture, but would quickly grow into a massive annual event thanks to their popularity. (The 2003 edition featured Robert Plant and was documented in the excellentFestival in the Desert film.) This popularity soon spread to European audiences and, over the years, the group has gone on to play festivals like Coachella, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Glastonbury and others. For a group playing semi-traditional music in a language that few Westerners speak, this is a major feat, but it’s also been frustrating for Alhabib and the rest of Tinariwen, since so much of their music is message-based, touching on both broad issues of freedom and more overtly political themes.

“We try to offer translation in the CD’s booklet [and on] our website for people interested,” Alhabib says. “But I think that first, this is our special camel groove and this trance feeling that people love; they can enter in the meanings later.”

Those meanings, though, are still deeply important to Tinariwen, especially in these days of the Arab Spring.

“We are really happy about what [has] happened in the Arabic countries these days,” Alhabib says. “Libya is a more complex situation as [deceased Libyan dictator Moammar] Gadhafi had some relationship with Eastern governments and West African politics. A lot of people died also, and a lot of our people needed to leave Libya and have no lands to leave.” But, he adds, “Freedom is always what we were looking for as nomadic people.”

First appeared Nov. 3, 2011 in Orlando Weekly.

Wanda Jackson concert preview

Think of the coolest rock & roll icon. No matter what visage just popped up in your mind, Wanda Jackson is cooler. Not only is she an original rock & roller who made her name on bills with Elvis Presley (who was one of her biggest champions), and not only was she an original female badass, delivering her growling, proto- feminist take on rockabilly into a genre dominated by men, but Wanda Jackson still does all of those things to this day, more than a half-century after debuting. Although for a while her badassery was masked in sparkly gowns and twangy delivery (a la Loretta Lynn), Jackson has rekindled her “Mean Mean Man” vibe, thanks to a recent collaboration with Jack White.

First appeared Oct. 13, 2011 in Orlando Weekly.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan show preview

It may seem odd that legendary Qawwali singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is playing the Silver Spurs Arena out in Kissimmee – you know, where the rodeo is – but what’s odder is that this will be his second time performing there. There’s little reason to believe that this will be a show to pull out the spurs and chaps for, and those expecting a night of intense, devotional Sufi music, or Qawwali, are likely to be disappointed, too. Although he established himself as a traditional singer years ago, Khan has, for the last half-decade or so, made his fame by being the Voice That Gives You Butterflies on Bollywood soundtracks. It’s in Qawwali style, but it’s definitely not strict; and it’s made him quite the celebrity. Expect at least a bit of post-Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman-style flash at this show, and not just a guy on a rug with a microphone.

First appeared March 24, 2011 in Orlando Weekly.

Oak Hill Drifters show preview

Orlando country purists the Oak Hill Drifters do not mess around. Although the trio seems to be open to playing with pretty much anyone in pretty much any venue, they always seem to transform any bill into a shit-kicking twang-fest of the highest order. The group’s approach to classic country amps up the raw, good-time swing of Bob Wills and Webb Pierce, while eschewing sad-sack balladry and countrypolitan shimmer. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that this weekend’s Oak Hill gig finds the trio going full-on honky-tonk style, turning McRaney’s Tavern into something called “the Hicklebilly Hoedown.” In addition to the Drifters, the show also features the likeminded twang-banging of Giddy Up Go, record-spinning from WPRK’s DJ White Lightning, the Burlesque Troops and even free Miller High Life.

First appeared Jan. 27, 2011 in Orlando Weekly.

No Friends, Khann, Grave Return, Teenage Softies show preview

Is it OK if we just go ahead and refer to No Friends as a local band? Yeah, we know the reason most people outside of Orlando pay attention to them is because Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste is the lead singer, but hey, it’s not for nothing that the other 75 percent of the group – current and former members of New Mexican Disaster Squad, VRGNS and Gatorface – hail from right here in the 407. So, yeah, they’re local, which gives Orlando yet another excellent hardcore band to call its own. Of course, No Friends doesn’t play anywhere all that often, so this free show is a no-excuses kind of deal, made more enticing by the inclusion of local grindcore titans Khann and the punks in Grave Return and Teenage Softies. –Jason Ferguson (with Khann, Grave Return, Teenage Softies; 9 p.m. at Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave.; free; 407-898-5070;

First appeared Dec. 23, 2010 in Orlando Weekly.

Southern Fried Sunday Holiday Edition show preview

Big Jef Special

If it’s the third Sunday of the month, that means it’s time for Southern Fried Sunday at the Copper Rocket. Of course, this month, SFS falls just a few days before Christmas, right about the time you’re either feeling excessively festive and generous or completely exhausted and financially ruined. Either way, December’s edition is the perfect prescription: Five bucks not only gets you an (early) evening with three bands – Big Jef Special, Wilbur and Thomas Wynn & the Believers – but it also gets you a “Southern-style holiday dinner.” Plus, the event also serves as a canned food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank, and anyone who brings five or more canned-food items will get a special gift. Just don’t bring beets or sauerkraut or whatever that weird stuff from the Asian market is in the back of your pantry, because really, Orlando, we can do better than that. –Jason Ferguson (with Thomas Wynn & the Believers, Big Jef Special, Wilbur; 5 p.m. at Copper Rocket Pub, 106 Lake Ave., Maitland; $5; 407-645-0069;

First appeared Dec. 19, 2010 in Orlando Weekly.

Diwali 2010 festival preview

In years past, there’s been an unfortunate undercurrent of rivalry and promoter-driven one-upmanship when it came to celebrating Diwali in Orlando. Without getting into all the down-and-dirty details, it suffices to say that when it comes to the Festival of Lights, area Hindus were faced with deciding between competing *melas*, each with its own detractors and supporters. It’s not entirely clear if that rivalry continues, but we’ve only heard about one Diwali Mela this year, put on by Hari Singh out at Ocoee High School. Yeah, it’s not the Citrus Bowl (where Singh has produced melas in the past), but the celebration – complete with a full cultural program featuring singing and dancing, as well as local vendors and a kids’ pageant – but hey, not having to choose sides for such a celebratory festival more than makes up for the smaller scale of the event.

Originally appeared Oct. 23, 2010 in Orlando Weekly.

Gary Numan show preview

There are one-hit wonders, and then there’s Gary Numan. Sure, “Cars” is just about the only song most people know him for, but Numan’s less a one-hit wonder than a one-note mastermind; the guy has managed to come off as omniscient and a little fascist-creepy for almost 30 years now, and to this day, it still seems like he’s got a bead on the future that nobody else has figured out yet. Between 1978 and 1980 he cranked out four consecutive albums of singularly awesome, top-shelf synthetic amazingness and also managed to exponentially up the ante for over-the-top dramatics in his live show (which, really, is saying something when you’re talking about the ‘80s). More impressive: He’s continued – relatively uninterrupted – right through to today without losing any of his ominous and dystopic view of what lays in store for our overconnected society.

First appeared Oct. 14, 2010 in Orlando Weekly.