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PLAYING AROUND

Indie folk project Whetherman begins a Kickstarter fundraising project Feb. 10, with a goal of $13,500 to send the trio on its first European tour.

Founded by Nicholas Williams in 2007, Whetherman has independently released five full-length studio albums and embarked on three nationwide tours. The grassroots project has recently been placed on Pandora Radio and featured in Relix Magazine as an “Artist on the Rise.”

“Songs and Whispers,” an artist development network based in Bremen Germany, has already booked the tour and recently invited Whetherman to join the 25-day May/June circuit of shows between Germany and Denmark. The shows are all booked and ready, and the band just needs to get across the pond.

Funds raised will go toward travel and living expenses for the band, in addition to new merchandise for the tour. Any funds raised above the goal will go toward funding Whetherman’s sixth record, “Seeds for Harvest,” scheduled for release in winter 2014.

Incentives and goodies for donating funds range from digital downloads of the band’s latest songs and albums to artwork, jewelry and merchandise from the band to an intimate show at your house during their fall 2014 tour and two-year VIP show treatment.   More

PLAYING AROUND

The posh, velvet seats and ribbed halls of the Florida Theatre might not have seemed like the ideal setting for stoner-rock quintet Queens of the Stone Age Feb. 3. Tufts of beard with residue of cheap ale hung plentifully over tattooed throats and secondhand shirts as fans crowded into carpeted aisles, anticipation and unextinguished tobacco palpable in the air.

When a 60-second countdown led into the simmering, adrenaline-drenched riff of “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire,” it was clear the once-assigned seats would serve no further purpose.

The top balcony stood and gathered at the rails. Hands and fists and drinks raised into the air. Queens of the Stone Age had a rock and roll show on their hands.

And that’s just where they wanted it. There’s no smoke and mirrors to the band’s stage presence — it’s hard-hitting drums, overdriven guitars and plain, old-fashioned style. They used stop-and-go rhythms often to keep listeners on their toes, waiting for applause to start before pummeling the audience with an additional few measures.

The theater screen behind the band showed images that might not surprise you — but ones you could never really predict — from stoner rock, including a crow pecking the gizzards out of a bandaged man and bare-breasted ladies with exploding planets for faces. The theatrics helped set the tone, but most of the audience’s focus fell on singer Josh Homme’s tequila-lubed dance grooves and loose guitar playing; both only got groovier and looser as the over two-hour set wore on.

Much of Homme’s charm seems to come from being one with the crowd. He’s accessible. He takes drags from his cigarette and croons a verse on the exhale. When he drops his guitar pick, he just squats down and picks it up. He has a one-sided chat with an audience member about penis length between songs, outstretching his arm as means of reference.

After security pulled a fan out of the show, …   More

PLAYING AROUND

New Yorkers make great pizza and dreadful tourists. They claim their city as the center of the universe, and won’t let anybody forget it. But for one night on Feb. 1 at the Times-Union Performing Arts Center, we were the tourists, given a glimpse into the world of Broadway, a world that indeed has influenced our universe of entertainment.

"Broadway Rox," an ensemble of six talented singers and a backing band of authentic New York musicians brought Big Apple charm to the River City, promising to take the audience on a musical journey through 50 years of Broadway.

Half a century of ubiquitous, influential music is an ambitious journey, and "Broadway Rox" wasted no time getting into the thick of it. The show opened up with a medley of hits, ranging from rocker Jason Wooten’s "Jesus Christ Superstar," to Ashley Loren’s energetic rendition from "Footloose," to Green Day’s "21 Guns."

The performers encouraged the audience to sing along, and sometimes they did. On slower songs, like the haunting group a cappella of the Beatles' "Because," the audience stayed silent while the singers exercised their impressive range.

During his rendition of Jersey Boys’ "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You," the charming Darren Ritchie serenaded one lucky lady in the audience — concluding with a quick apology to the gentleman she was with.

"Broadway Rox" got the audience fired up with the energetic, slightly campy "Time Warp" from "Rocky Horror Picture Show." From the first few notes, the performers were able to get much of the crowd — ranging from older couples to children — grooving and pelvic thrusting along to the signature dance from the Broadway hit.

The performance was moved to the more intimate Terry Theater at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts. With a capacity of 600, the theater was packed, but no one seemed to mind.

While the first half of the show mostly kept the very tight and professional backing band in the periphery, the …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The blue men of Blue Man Group never talk, so of course, they must have handlers.

Before opening night Jan. 21, those handlers picked me randomly in the audience and sized me up. They were seeing whether I had what it took to become a human paintbrush.

As it turned out, one of those handlers doesn't like reporters. After she heard I was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Folio Weekly, I was not surprisingly almost out. But the other guy (Aaron) liked either me or chaos — or both. Fortunately, I met their other criteria: skinny, geeky, lover of the arts, not claustrophobic and seriously in need of a haircut. So, I was the man for the job.

Then, that woman who really hates reporters swore me to secrecy on BMG’s methods at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts’ Moran Theater. Maybe, I was getting the theater version of good cop, bad cop.

Backstage, I saw things that I may never speak of again.

The audience saw the rest. Near the end of a wild performance featuring Twinkies, lots of paint, plumbing, lots of percussion and several stunts, a blue man ventured into the crowd and found me. I hugged him, thinking this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He didn’t hug me back.

On stage, they put me in a jumpsuit and a helmet, setting me up for the human paintbrush stunt they teased.

Throughout the Artist Series show — the first of eight shows through Jan. 26 — Blue Man Group amazed. They caught “paint balls” and candy in their mouths, taught “Rock Concert” movements to the crowd and created paintings and sculpture in ways most of us could never imagine.

They took shots at high-priced art and our cultural fascination with technology while fusing audience interaction, stunts and percussion in a show estimated at about 100 minutes (no intermission). Many of the stunts — including mine — were videotaped, so theatergoers in the balcony could see the action via the big screen.

Though BMG maintains a vow of silence, …   More

PLAYING AROUND

You might have seen her guest star in big name shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Homeland," "Matlock" or "The Office.' Of course, that doesn’t include her extensive career in theater productions including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," "The Baby Dance" and "Getting and Spending." She has also released several albums of jazz music.

Is there anything Linda Purl can’t do?

Her most recent endeavor involves performing in a one-woman play, "The Year of Magical Thinking," directed by Jenny Sullivan. The show is staged for three performances, 8 p.m. Jan. 17 and 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 18, at Theater Jacksonville in San Marco. The production is part of Theatre Jacksonville's Guerilla Show Series.

The play is about one woman’s emotional journey after unexpectedly losing her husband and their only daughter. Purl describes her character as “brutally honest, a formidable talent and intellect, and very exacting of herself in her writing.”

Purl faced a common fear when preparing for the play. “This play is so brilliantly written, it is such a truthful piece that my primary fear of doing a one-woman play is that it would be crushingly boring to watch one woman talk on an empty stage. I happily discovered this was unfounded.”

While there is quite a bit of grief and mourning in this play, Purl believes that it’s much deeper than that. “There’s a good deal of humor and I can tell you, from having done the play and spoken to a number of audience members after the show, that for many, the play has deep tides of healing in it.”

Purl’s preparation for this play did not solely entail memorization and acting lessons. It was an emotional journey that took a lot of strength. It’s a story that happened behind-the-scenes. And it is one of the reasons that Purl’s character, Joan Didion, really comes to life.

“The journey to the play was life meeting art. My friend and wonderful actress Bonnie Franklin was slated to do the role. However, she …   More

Playing Around

Men and women are different. It’s the plain-as-day punch line of much relationship-driven comedy.

Lethargic men want to watch sports; fickle women desire undivided attention. Selfish men sweep problems under the rug; badgering women invent problems for the sake of discussing them.

The reason for all the tension? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Luckily, there’s manual for this sort of thing, and Peter Story, our “friendly resident Martian,” is here to bridge extraterrestrial barriers between the sexes. He’s traveled from afar to the Times Union Performing Arts Center, Jan. 14-17, to take this tired comedic formula a step further and bring something fresh to the relationship monologue — solutions.

Story takes the audience along on a recent date, a botched evening at the opera house ending in disdain from his wife because of his preoccupation with sports.

It’s a familiar scenario for many, and knowing glances between couples and nods of affirmation from Martians and Venusians alike show that Story’s quips and jabs are landing close to home.

While Story was mid-joke on Tuesday, Jan. 14, a woman who at first appeared to be part of the show approached the stage and set flowers at his feet. The resulting nonsensical exchange between her and the comedian revealed she was a heckler with too much liquid confidence.

Story appeared ready for anything on opening night for the four-show run, Jan. 14-17 at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Jacksonville.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening came from a 30-year veteran of marriage in the audience who, when asked what date he and his wife’s anniversary falls on, answered “Memorial Day.”

Further into the show, Story receives a phone call from his wife, which he takes. He plays it off as a surprise, but the resulting conversation segues seamlessly into his next bit about communication in a …   More

PLAYING AROUND

An audience arriving for opening night of "Flashdance —The Musical" is bound to expect amazing moves.

Jacksonville native Ryan Carlson, playing a break dancer, and the rest of the cast exceeded all those expectations as the eight-show run kicked off Tuesday night. The Douglas Anderson graduate, possibly energized by his hometown crowd, showed some smooth steps and an aerial move that appeared to unwind in slow motion.

The dancing delivered, but the surprise that got the Moran Theater rocking was that star Jillian Mueller had a show-stopping voice to match her grace.

Mueller's Alex Owens and Corey Mach's Nick Hurley sparred well in a story as old as time, if time began in the '80s. The plot of rich guy woos tough girl probably extends even earlier, but this is the 30th anniversary tour of "Flashdance" — the movie. Fans might feel nostalgic for Jennifer Beals in the 1983 film, but they're unlikely to forget Mueller.

Alex welds by day, flash dances by night and dreams of making it into Pittsburgh's top dance academy. Nick — Alex's boss at the steel mill — chases Alex while also trying to fend off his family's attempts to lay off workers.

The main shortcomings of "Flashdance" are in the story. Supporting characters are given time on stage, but they deserve more plot with which to work. They have the talent but only some of the tools.

Alex's friend Gloria (Ginna Claire Mason) imagines herself as a dancer on MTV, then decides to join a strip club. Her boyfriend Jimmy (David R. Gordon) leaves for New York, chasing his own dream of standup comedy, then comes home before anyone can miss him.

While trying to offer comic relief, his "timing" is on, but his writers have offered him hits as well as misses.

Those writers fare better in scenes involving seasoned dancers Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (Alison Ewing). Moore nearly steals the show with her vigorous voice and intense acting.

Though not perfect, "Flashdance The …   More

PLAYING AROUND

The 12th annual Art Basel in Miami Beach was met with more enthusiasm and communal excitement than ever before. Outside of the main event at the convention center was an endless landscape of street art, galleries, pop up shows and other major fairs.

The Moksha family art fair, which takes place at 7th Circuit Studio in little Haiti, is a high point every year. A heady tribute to Terrance McKenna, "Return To The Dreamtime," featured a live reading by Dennis McKenna and a film made by Ken Adams with wildly psychedelic computer graphics and a cosmic, earthy soundtrack woven into video-taped interviews with Terrance dating back to 1989.

Alex Grey presented an original spoken word piece accompanied by didgeridoo, percussion and electronic loops. North Florida's own electronic jam outfit Greenhouse Lounge played the main Moksha event on Saturday night, which included live painting by Alex and Allyson Grey, Mark Henson and others.

Florida Mining Gallery owner and artist Steve Williams succeeded in unifying dozens of ambitious North Florida artists to a produce a multi-building, multi-media art experience called "North of Modern." Partnering with Global Investments and Majestic Properties, Florida Mining Gallery was able to transform six unused and abandoned retail spaces and curate a high quality pop-up art shop.

A theme of re-purposing unused space into social centers seemed to prevail and was perhaps best expressed in Kedgar Volta's installation "Urban Impositions" and Quintron & Miss Pussycat's wild set, which took place in deep in recesses of the abandoned building.

The "North of Modern" presentation and Moksha's Return to the Dreamtime prove that grassroots efforts and teamwork involved in more intimate art fairs are a refreshing oasis in an untamed wilderness of hype and hysteria that often abound in the art world.   More

THE FLOG

Since October 1964, Jones College Radio has transmitted the increasingly surreal genre known as "beautiful music" throughout the Jacksonville area. This category is diverse to the point of seeming inchoate to those who are not aficionados. "Beautiful music" can be anything from the lush sounds of the Jackie Gleason and Mystic Moods Orchestras to the American classic sounds of the Ray Conniff Singers and 101 Strings. If you listen to Jones College Radio for long enough, you may even hear music from the benighted 21st century -- "Don't Know Why," the slice of heaven from the coquettish chanteuse Norah Jones, was on there one recent evening.

Those who have lived in Jacksonville for decades likely have found themselves scanning past the station on their way to the nihilist nothingness offered by the corporate rock and rap stations. But if you've ever found yourself needing more than the amorphous rebellion clear channel has to offer, true anarchy and rebellion can be found on Jones College Radio, where forgotten groups like the Anita Kerr Singers perform willfully anodyne covers of harder rocking songs … like "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tenneille. 

Despite the station's willful ignorance -- and thank God for it -- of the twerking and blinging of the modern era, the station has done well in the ratings. The station's website at wktz.jones.edu/ claims that the station is in the top 5 with the 35+ set. Despite this consistent ratings success, however, problems have been looming with the station's finances this fall.

A recent spot on the station, played maybe once an hour or so, laid the case out plainly in Jones College Radio's first attempt at a pledge drive in recent memory. The station is still popular, yet many of those who listen to it do not support it financially. If Jones College Radio does not raise $200k in the next couple of months, the future of beautiful music in Jacksonville -- and most of the rest of the …   More

PLAYING AROUND

Have you seen this video Northeast Florida creative house Dripsblack created for TEDxJacksonville? Look for recognizable scenes of the Jacksonville area while you're inspired by its big message. The slick video received a lot of buzz at the Oct. 26 event.

TedX Jacksonville "Connecting Currents" from dripsblack on Vimeo.   More

 
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