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PLAYING AROUND

Daniel Austin will always remember his first time, and stars Amanda Morales and Carl Vorwerk will remember what might be their last for a Northeast Florida audience. The result is a can't-miss production of Venus in Fur, continuing through June 21 at Players by the Sea.

The first-time director collaborates with two actors about to pursue theater in New York on this sexy and mentally stimulating comedy. This should keep Jacksonville Beach's reputation as one of the nation's sexiest suburbs in play for years to come.

For all that talk about sex, the 100-minute comedy without an intermission truly excels in posing questions on pleasure, pain, power, domination, subjugation and freedom while keeping the audience off-balance in this audition-within-a-play work by David Ives.

In Venus in Fur, Thomas (Vorwerk) is at his wit's end after a day of auditioning a "panoply of outcasts" for the starring role of Vanda. The director is ready to go home when in walks an actress of the same name — the mystery doesn't end there. The role of power between director and aspiring actress sets the stage, then the game of seduction ramps it up. Thomas reveals that Venus in Fur is based on a work by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch; masochism is named after Sacher-Masoch, so you know where this is going or you think you do.

First, Vanda (Morales) must convince Thomas to let her read for it: "Anyway, this play is sure amazing. I mean, the parts of it I read. Pretty wild stuff." She's really convincing.

Austin takes major risks with a minimalistic set, a production that's more conceptional than its New York counterpart but with more tongue (you'll have to watch).

All those risks, and it's Morales and Vorwerk who need to whip it good. And they do.

Morales, a graduate of Indiana University (Bloomington) who plans to leave for New York in early July, delivers a commanding performance as the woman on top for most of this romp. She'll remind some of Julia …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The smell of alcohol and fried food was in the air for the Jacksonville Jazz Festival on May 24. The streets were lined with chairs as festival attendees staked out their places. When Jacksonville residents show up for an event, they really show.

The Stooges Brass Band's jazzy sound straight out of New Orleans had people dancing in the streets. The festival crowd had a peaceful, laid-back vibe, and one had to laugh at the over-50 set dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.”

On the Breezin’ Stage at the Jacksonville Landing, it was standing-room-only, as the Katz Downstairz went off. They serenaded the crowd with covers of R&B and hip-hop classics, such as The Isley Brothers “Between the Sheets” and OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.” The band looked to have a pretty big following judging by the size of the crowd and fans sporting tank tops with the band’s name in the fashion of the Run DMC logo.

At the jazz festival, it's the norm that about 60 things are going on at once. As evidence, Average White Band played the Groovin’ Stage while the Katz Downstairz kept the Landing crowd moving. I caught bits and pieces of Average White Band’s solid set, but I completely missed Al Jarreau, and I’m really not sorry about it. (Note to self after shuffling back and worth between stages: Don't wear flip-flops next year.)

As the clock struck 11 p.m., the jazz fest began to shut down with vendor tents being dismantled. But the night was still young and local favorites were just getting started for Jazz Fest After Dark.

The Band Be Easy kept the crowd satisfied with covers of recent hits like Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie." They didn’t even shy away from rapping Jay Z’s verse.

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Playing Around

The early afternoon sun bore over the hung-over and sun-crisped audience exhausted from the day prior of rocking and moshing and day-drinking. They rubbed their eyes and checked their phones and leaned into the spurts of water a gig tech was watering them with like a garden.

For most bands, playing for the day-after early-afternoon crowd would seem like an undesirable slot. Sick Puppies took the challenge with glee.

The Sydney, Australia-based trio took the stage by storm with guitar feedback clanging out of the speakers and their fists and the air.

“I know you’re tired, I don’t give a fuck,” vocalist and guitarist Shim Moore said, riling the audience up before kicking into the fast-paced “Cancer.”

The trio’s stage presence was solid. Bassist Emma Anzai crouched and swang her black hair back and forth like a person possessed while Moore banged out the power chords and worked the crowd.

Drummer Mark Goodwin banged on the snare drum using a full-upswing with biceps probably grown large from paddling through Australia's surf.

Sick Puppies got the crowd to shake off the cobwebs of the day prior with ease. When he asked for devil horns, they went into the air. When he told the Rockville crowd to move around, they would circle pit and dust from the foot worn park lawn would stir up into the air.

Sick Puppies’ live sound was on-point. The full-sounding, punchy guitars gave the songs like “Deliverance” and “War” a whole new dynamic and Moore would alternate flawlessly from harsh screaming vocals and clean singing.

The only slight downside to Sick Puppies’ performance was the overdubbed, pre-recorded voices that came in a few of the choruses. It made the chorus sound full, like the album, but that took away from the live experience. It’s OK for the live version of a song to be a little rough around the edges.

Though the set was a brief 30 minutes in length, Sick Puppies’ no-frills, solid songwriting an …   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

Playing Around

Hailing from Troy, Mich., We Came As Romans features an interplay of clean singing and brutal screaming vocals over punchy guitar riffs, tight drumming and electronic sections. Vocalists Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone and guitarist Joshua Moore spoke with Folio Weekly before their set on the opening day of Welcome to Rockville.

F.W.: Your latest album, “Tracing Back Roots,” came out in July 2013, what do you think is different about this album, in relation to “To Plant a Seed” or “Dreams EP”?

D.S.: It’s definitely more melodic. We went with a different producer this time. On our last two records, we used Joey Sturgis. This time around we went with John Feldman. Feldman is so focused on melodies and stuff like that, so it really shines through.

F.W.: Are you currently writing?

D.S.: We’re brainstorming some ideas, but nothing too crazy right now. We’re still on the album cycle for “Tracing Back Roots," so we’re still focused on touring.

F.W.: When you do write, do you usually set aside some time to write or do you work on ideas on the road?

J.M.: It’s kind of both. Usually we’re on the road, and we’re kind of crunched, you know? But we’ll start pulling out ideas and stuff like that. Then we’ll take those ideas and work on them in rehearsal. Hopefully, on the next record we’ll be able to sit down and work things out together, like we did on the last one.

F.W. When touring, do you prefer to play big festival shows like Welcome to Rockville, or do you prefer the smaller, more intimate club shows?

K.P.: Both have their ups and downs. We like the smaller shows, because we get to see our fans close up. But we also like the bigger shows at the same time, because we like seeing all the energy, and it pulls in new fans too.

F.W.: Do you notice any difference between the shows you play here and your international tours?

D.S.: They like to circle pit a lot in Europe. They’ll circle pit to anything. It could …   More

Playing Around

A condom-fashioned-into-balloon drifts and bounces over the heads of a densely-packed audience that – 15 minutes before show time – stretches out about 75 yards from the stage A Day to Remember is to play. Since a well-received release of “What Separates Me From You” in 2010, the Ocala-based five-piece has stuck mostly to festival shows on world tours, typically playing late in the day.

So, unless you’re prepared to jostle through an ultra-high concentration of antsy kiddos reeking of second-rate ganja and teen spirit for prime real estate, 75 yards is as close as you’re going to get.

But if you’re here for the music, opting to sit out of the mosh pits and watch the side screen on the backfield bleachers is just fine. Vocalist Jeremy McKinnon and Co. delivered a set list to satisfy fans new and old. They opened with one of their breakout hits “All I Want” followed by the one-two punch of “I’m Made of Wax Larry, What Are You Made Of” and “Why Walk on Water When We Have Boats” – both quick-paced sonic uppers to get the audience moving.

A Day to Remember knows how to work the crowd, and they've got the home-field advantage here. Courageous audience members engaged in double-crowd surfing – an activity that required an explanation by McKinnon.

“Basically, you start with one person crowd-surfing, like normal,” he said. “Then you have another person ride that person like a fucking surfboard.”

McKinnon only asked for crowd surfing for one song, but the crowd must have enjoyed the new sport, because they kept doing it – even on the silent spaces in between songs.

A Day to Remember mostly stayed with songs of their most recent album, "Common Courtesy," which shows the band moving in an even more melodic direction of its brand of pop-punk. They peppered this set with heavy songs like "Second Sucks" and "Mr. Highway's Thinking About the End," during which they got a large portion of the audience jumping along to …   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

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

For the final 15 minutes, “Million Dollar Quartet” had the crowd on its feet.

Keep in mind, this came only after a standing ovation that felt more obligatory than any the Artist Series had seen this season. If only the writers allowed these legends to uncork their fire earlier and if only the story was engaging enough to hold it all together.

Don't blame the stars. Cody Ray Slaughter (Elvis Presley), James Barry (Carl Perkins), Scott Moreau (Johnny Cash) and John Countryman (Jerry Lee Lewis) displayed the vocal and musical talent to keep the Times-Union Center's Moran Theater rocking on April 22. But for too long, the 100-minute musical (without an intermission) rests on a thin plot of four legends arriving in Memphis with very different agendas.

Based on the legendary recording session on Dec. 4, 1956, at Sun Records, the jukebox musical takes liberties with the songbook, but that mostly can be forgiven. (Other lesser-known songs and more gospel hits were played at the actual session, which was recorded by Sun founder Sam Phillips.)

To be fair, major hits "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Folsom Prison Blues" kept the opening night crowd tapping their feet, and that finale of "Hound Dog," "Riders in the Sky," "See You Later Alligator" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" sent many home satisfied.

However, some of the lines in "Million Dollar Quartet" might leave you wondering if these jokes were even funny in 1956. At one point, Sam pleads "Say amen, somebody," and Jerry Lee replies, "Amen, somebody."

No, it wasn't all that bad. Carl points out that "drunks don't buy records," and Johnny's reply, "they just make them," earned one of the night's biggest laughs.

Barry delivers the most memorable performance, though he has the advantage of playing the least-known of the four legends.

As Sam, Vince Nappo has the unenviable task of trying to hold the story together. More than once, he comes running out, begging for applause from the audience. …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The Avondale gallery that’s helped Northeast Florida art lovers meet world-renowned artists Peter Max and Mackenzie Thorpe and actress-turned-artist Jane Seymour is closing on or before April 20.

Avondale Artworks proprietor Ken Stutes told Folio Weekly that “revenues haven’t been sufficient to justify continuing it,” and parking in Avondale had become a problem for visitors to his gallery.

Avondale Artworks has also hosted the works of Salvador Dalí, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dr. Seuss and others; it was open nearly five years at two locations on St. Johns Avenue.

“I really liked the Dali exhibits. We had over 107 pieces. We had six original works by Dali,” Stutes said. “Being able to bring that work into Jacksonville was incredible to me.”

Stutes reminisced about the interactions he and visitors had with the artists. He was at first hesitant to display Thorpe’s “Leap of Faith,” because it depicted children jumping off cliffs.

He shared his concern with Thorpe, who said: “They’re not jumping to their deaths. They’re learning how to fly." Stutes said visitors to the gallery loved “Leap of Faith.”

Stutes is offering major discounts on his inventory before he closes.

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