November 12, 2011
Orlando, FL USA
Review by Brittany Fornof
Photos by Nick Masuda
Orlando Calling Festival
The Roots • The Sound Express • Andy Velo • Elizabeth Cook • Buddy Guy • Hindu Cowboys • Blake Shelton • The Ettes • Kid Rock • Bob Seger
Orlando Calls and the Music World Answers
Chicago is known for its rich history of blues artists and renowned for its crooks. New Orleans is famous for its holidays of excessive purple, green and gold alcoholism, and Orlando, Florida is associated with its family-friendly Mickey Mouse ears and gridlock five o'clock traffic, but not its music scene.
That is, until this year, when the inaugural Orlando Calling festival took place at the Citrus Bowl in the heart of the city Nov. 12 & 13. The festival featured some of the music world's most legendary artists, rising stars, and even local hopefuls. The weather, at its prime during the breezy Florida winter months, hovered around 70 degrees for the majority of the weekend, making it the perfect temperature for all festival-goers to enjoy.
With sets starting around noon on both days, the festival featured artists from Gavin DeGraw to Blake Shelton. Bands were divided into five stages: the Main Stage, the Authentic Stage, freecreditscore.com Stage, Festival Republic Stage, and the Art House. The Ettes and the Doobie Brothers graced the Main Stage during the early afternoon while crowd-favorite The Roots and blues legend Buddy Guy rejuvenated the weary crowd on the Authentic Stage later in the day. Saturday's set schedule featured many punk, alternative rock, and rock favorites, including: Los Lonely Boys, The Raconteurs, and Iron & Wine. Sunday's lineup catered to a different crowd. It featured performances by country artists like the Hindu Cowboys and Elizabeth Cook. Indie rock/alternative rock band The Killers headlined Saturday's show while heartland rock legend Bob Seger headlined Sunday's show and closed out the festival.
The two-day long event offered entertainment in-between the acts with local vendors selling albums, band t-shirts, light-up paraphernalia and an assortment of overpriced goods that only a tired and tipsy festival hippie would enjoy. While meandering through the grounds, concertgoers were treated to mini- performances by musicians such as rising country artist Andy Velo. They were provided with a variety of delectable meal options, created by vendors such as the local Orlando food truck sensation Big Wheel Provisions.
Orlando Calling proved to be a worthwhile experience for all who attended. However, the return of the festival is yet to be determined as rumors circulate regarding whether or not the event raked in enough money to justify a repetition. Perhaps, next time the festival's organizers should consider taking a more proactive stance in advertising the festival. Save for the few radio broadcasts that mentioned the inaugural Orlando event, few true promotional marketing tools were really employed to draw in a crowd. Instead, the concert relied heavily upon the individual promotional efforts of the bands featured at the festival.
For a city starving for a musical cultural experience, let's hope Orlando Calling returns next year. Otherwise, this year's concertgoers may have experienced a true once-in-a-lifetime event. You had better save your concert T's kids. They could be worth a thousand bucks one day.
The Roots Review:
Decked out in a combination of brightly colored shirts, black tops, leather jackets, and sunglasses in the middle of the night, The Roots gave their loyal fans exactly what they wanted: a memorable experience.
"Orlando! How y'all feeling out there?" shouted lead singer Black Thought. "Clap your hands to what we got going."
The band broke into the first verse of "The Fire."
"There's something in your eyes," rapped Black Thought as Captain Kirk Douglas and Owen Biddle raced their fingers across the strings of their instruments. The percussion provided by ?uestlove and F. Knuckles created the perfect backdrop to Black Thought's passionate performance.
Throughout their late night set, the band delivered an engaging performance to their enthusiastic fans, playing some of their biggest hits, including "Thought at Work," "How I Got Over," and "Here I Come."
The Sound Express:
One of the best surprise performances came from Orlando-based group The Sound Express. Lead singer Henry Black looks like he's barely old enough to pass as Justin Bieber, much less act as the front man for a big-city band. But this kid's got a voice that you just can't help but notice.
With a deep, heavy tone, Black sang the opening verse of "Tied," holding the neck of his bright orange guitar with a familiarity that couldn't be feigned. Bassist James Killgallon and drummer Anthony Manzo, in their matching fedoras, played with the skill of veteran musicians. Mellow guitarist Chris Robinson provided the perfect balance to the band's eccentricity as he silently strummed to the side, letting his guitar do the talking. The band's comfort level with their instruments, their music, and each other exuded across the stage and into the audience.
Heads up Orlando, this is the band you should be keeping your eye on.
Andy Velo Review:
Based out of Atlanta and originating from a small town called Suwanee, Andy Velo is every country girl's dream, every parent's nightmare, and the MVP musician under the Jim Beam Brand.
Performing since he was sixteen, this smooth-talking Southern boy is an artist to keep on the radar. In a matter of years, he could be the new Blake Shelton, and every girl in the South will hope to be his Miranda Lambert.
"We are most definitely a rock-drive band," said Velo. "We get compared a lot to the Jason Aldean band, but I want to take what Aldean has done and push it a little bit further."
Fans of his radio hit single "Southern Thing" can purchase Velo's new album next March. Although the band wrapped up their Florida tour with a final stop at the festival, fans can expect Velo to return to the Sunshine State once more for a New Year's show in Destin, Florida.
"Yes we love what we do, and it's an honor to be able to have this as a job. But without fans, it's pointless."
Elizabeth Cook review:
"Hey y'all," Elizabeth Cook spoke into the microphone with a thick country accent. "Wazzup? We are going to kick it here for you a little."
Dressed in a puffy white shirt and a pair of aviators, Cook was too pretty for her own good. She looked like an angel and sang like the devil with her petite voice contradicting nicely with her thick Southern drawl, which permeated every song. With her perfectly teased blonde hair and dolled-up face, she made blue grass look high class, but swore by her simple roots.
"I grew up in Florida...Sumter County - Hog county," she explained. "And I don't get a lot of opportunities to come back here."
Performing "El Camino" from her latest Welder record and "Times are Tough in Rock N' Roll" from her pleasantly-named Balls album, Cook showcased some of her older as well as several of her latest hits, including "Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman."
When an unexpected technical difficulty left Cook's guitar without an amp, the feisty artist had mouthful for the sound crew.
"Sorry, we were totally jamming," she teased the crew. "Bones is still going. Give it up for Bones."
When the problem persisted for a few minutes, Cook glanced to the side of the stage. "Do you technical people that are being employed here...do you have a plan?"
The sound crew began fiddling with her cords in response.
"Hey Bryan, can you bring me the champagne if I'm going to be here for awhile?" she said, rocking her empty cup to the side. "Because I'm empty!"
Buddy Guy Review:
Arguably the best musician to play on the Authentic Stage, six-time Grammy winner Buddy Guy performed for his loyal fans on Sunday afternoon.
With a no-words-necessary introduction, Buddy Guy reach out to the audience with both hands twisted in peace signs. Then, without uttering one single word, begins shredding on his guitar.
He was fantastic. With an animated look on his face, he jammed on his guitar, glancing around the stage with a look of wonder.
The man doesn't age. He's a legend. He's just as quick-witted and talented as he was twenty years ago.
"Nobody, nobody," Guy screeched, twitching his face in animation, "understands me but my guitar."
"Wait a minute," he said with a look of shock on his face. "Ya'll called me down here to play blues. Excuse me. Hold it one f**king minute."
With that, he faced the camera at the side of the stage and tore up his guitar as his supporting guitarist joined Guy in a duet. Facing each other, they had a conversation with their guitars. One wailed while the other moaned. Buddy Guy wobbled his knees in emphasis.
Walking back towards the center stage, Buddy Guy said, "Next time you call me, let me come in about twelve so that I can play all day."
For any concertgoer that may have doubted the 80-year old legend's ability to play heart-felt true blues, Buddy Guy dismissed their doubts with one simple comment, "I can play something so funky you can smell it."
Grinning he thrust his right hand in the air and shouted, "One leg was in the easy. One leg was in the west. And I was in the middle and I swear it was the best."
Hindu Cowboys Review:
Wearing an olive green velour cowboy hat, a pair of sunglass, and a red paisley shirt, lead singer of the Hindu Cowboys Joseph Martens looked as eccentric as his band's title was odd. Surveying the slightly sparse afternoon crowd, Martens said, "I want these 54 people to sound like 58. Okay, maybe 59."
"This is a true story about something that never happened," prefaced Martens as he began to croon, "When I went down to the Tennessee River..."
As the song ended, Martens looked out into the crowd.
"Who's got a cold beer?" Martens asked. "Just send it up here."
"We've got 62 people," one tipsy audience member yelled out.
"Great, we've got like 5 more people here," Martens responded with a laugh. "I'm sure this place will be full by midnight."
"This next song is kind of our first and last stab at doing country music," explained Martens. "Then we decided screw it. We are just going to do whatever the Hindu Cowboys do."
In a quick second, the band broke into "Southbound Train" before performing covers of "Sweet Emotion" and "Hey Now."
Although the band many only initially appeal to a niche market due to their eccentric country/rock musical style, the quality of their sound as a whole and their ability to perform cohesively in both large and small venues make them a group that shouldn't be overlooked by music scene novices.
Most of their songs sound like the intro to a Western film, but they are the best Western soundtrack groups east of the Mississippi River and south of the Georgia border.
Originating from the festival's very own Orlando, Florida, this group traveled all the way to their backyard to play on the Main Stage at the inaugural Orlando Calling.
"The first time I was ever in this stadium was to see the Rolling Stones," said Martens. "This was just an excuse to see Bob Seger. They had to get us to play in order to give us tickets."
Blake Shelton review:
As the most notable country artist performing at Orlando Calling, Blake Shelton delivered quite the homegrown performance to the country-hungry Central Florida audience, opening his set with his 2010 hit "All About Tonight."
"I'll tell you what," said Shelton. "I love Orlando because it's just close enough to the water that if we feel like hanging out we can take our chairs to some beach somewhere."
With his band behind him, Shelton broke into his third No. 1 hit "Some Beach" from the 2004 Blake Shelton's Barn & Grill album.
"I still think I fit in because y'all are freaking rednecks," he said laughing.
Breaking from his usual set, Shelton told the audience a story.
"I used to hang out by my dad and mom's room...when it was locked," Shelton admitted. "I don't want to know what they were doing in there, but all I could here was..."
"Play that funky music white boy," Shelton crooned, performing a short bit of the song before continuing with his story.
"I also used to hang outside my brother's door," reminisced Shelton. "I could tell by the music that he listened to that he really liked women."
"My blood runs cold," sang Shelton while strumming rapidly on his guitar. "My memory has just been sold. My angel is the centerfold,"
Shelton covered several verses of "Centerfold" before approaching the microphone once more, but this time, with a solemn expression.
"I'll be honest with y'all," Shelton said coldly. "When we were growing up, my sister and I never got along. One day, she was playing this one song: 'My Prerogrative.' So I knocked on her door and said, 'Can you turn that down? And what does that even mean?' She responded, 'It's none of your business and slammed the door.' So I yelled back, 'Hey, why don't you just kiss my country ass?'"
As his crowd of loyal fans cheered, Shelton and his band wrapped up their set with crowd-favorites "Kiss My Country Ass" and "Ol' Red."
"Now there is red-haired blue ticks all over the South," crooned Shelton. "Love got me in here and love got me out."
The Ettes review:
Wearing an all-black ensemble that perfectly complimented her black-haired bob, lead singer of The Ettes Coco Hames approached the microphone coyly. "Hello, hello. Check Mic 1-2." Tilting her head, she squinted into the audience and smiled before.
"Thank you guys very much," Coco Hames, facing the audience with her bright green band-access sticker slapped across her thigh. "We live in Nashville, Tennessee so we aren't from here. Thanks for coming out."
As the first band to open the Main Stage at the festival on Saturday, The Ettes warmed up the early afternoon crowd with some of their most well-known hits, including: "Dead and Gone" and "Take It with You."
"You think that you know what you know now...You say that you know what you got now...You know what you want but it's gone now," sang Hames.
Drummer Poni Silver drove the drum-heavy song "Red in Tooth and Claw" with her arms pounding down across her drum set as her body rocked into the motion of her foot hitting the pedal compulsively, while bassist Jem Cohen laid the foundation in "Excuse."
Before exiting the stage, Hames shared a story with the audience.
"You know the last time I was at the Citrus Bowl," said Hames with a knowing look into the crowd, " I chickened out from singing the national anthem. Right, Mom? I refused to pre-record it. Because that's how punk rock I am...with my acoustic guitar when I was 16."
Kid Rock Review:
The definition of Southern Rock with a definite Northern twist, Kid Rock has indeed created a style all his own. He is crude enough to qualify as a hip-hop artist, talented enough to be considered a mainstream musician, and just Detroit enough to be a rock-and-roll star. And for good measure, there's a bit of country swagger in him as well.
As the act preceding Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artist Bob Seger, Kid Rock put on a show that deserved headlining status. His set started with the playing of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." With the stage lights flashing red, the song played slowly on until the lyrics hit "Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit," and Kid Rock stomped onto the stage.
Kid Rock and his band played some of their most crude, crowd-riveting songs, such as "Devil Without a Cause," "Rock Bottom Blues," and the ever-so-raunchy "So Hott." However, the crowd-favorite of the night was the band's performance of "Forever."
"I make punk rock," shouted Kid Rock.
"And I mix it with the hip hop," chimed in DJ Paradime.
"I get you higher than a tree top," the crowd shouted. "You wanna roll with the Kid Rock!"
"I say we keep it old school for one more song," shouted Kid Rock before breaking into "Wasting Time" and the classic "Purple Sky."
Kid Rock's full set was supported by his vast band, featuring David McMurray on the saxophone, Larry Frantangelo on percussion, DJ Paradime on the timetables, Jason Krause on rhythm guitar, Marlon Young on lead guitar, Jimmy "Bones" Trombley on the keyboard, Aaron Julison on bass guitar, and Stefanie Eulinberg on the drums; and his vocal performance was complimented by Jessica Wagner and Shannon Curfman as back-up vocalists.
"People, thank you so much for coming tonight," Kid Rock said, waving his arm towards the audience and rushing off the stage. The lights went dim, and people and instruments shuffled offstage as the crowd began to disperse towards the exits.
Two minutes later, however, Kid Rock and his band returned to the stage for a performance of "Cowboy" and the ultimate weekend concert rock sing-a-long "God Bless Saturday."
As the lights dimmed, Kid Rock grabbed his guitar and began singing the first verse and melody of "I Put Your Picture Away" before being interrupted by a Beavis and Butthead clip. On the screen, the AC/DC and Metallica-shirt-wearing teenagers criticized Kid Rock's mellow song choice.
So in an effort to quiet his cartoon critics and appease the cheering crowd, Kid Rock and his band switched gears to play the quicker-paced "When You Love Someone," which was followed by the crowd-invigorating songs "Badwitdaba" and "Outstanding." The stage lights flickered around him in sync with the music as Kid Rock raced across the stage from side to side, interacting with the crowd.
As the song came to an end, the lights dimmed across the stage once more, and this time, a long curtain fell between the audience and the band.
A few minutes later, Kid Rock races back onto the stage with a big Michigan grin on his face. Dressed solely in white, a gospel-style choir lined up behind him on a set of risers.
"We aren't going yet Orlando," said Kid Rock. "You want to rock and roll, and we want to do one new one. We are going to have a revival."
Kid Rock led the band into the first verse of "Only God Knows Why."
"I get behind myself. I need to rewind myself," he cried out. "Looking for the payback listening for the playback."
"Only God knows why, why, why, why," the choir sang. "Only God...knows...why, why, why."
"People, thank you for spending your hard earned money to come see us perform here tonight," shouted Kid Rock. "Before I go, I want to know, no matter how much s*t they feed you in the news and all the things you read in the paper: Do you still believe in the greatest country in the world?
With that inquiry, Kid Rock sat at the piano as the stars and stripes lit up the screen behind him and began singing, "Born Free."
"Waitin' patiently for the sun to set," sang Kid Rock. "And when it's done believe that I will yell it from that mountain high. I was born free! I was booooooorn free. I was born free, born free. I will bow to shining seas. And celebrate God's grace on me!"
Bob Seger review:
When the organizers of Orlando Calling sat down to discuss who should headline the last night of the inaugural music festival, they must have created a list of one hundred names and then carefully narrowed it down to the best of the best. They didn't need someone controversial or someone with limited experience. They needed an artist with a broad fan base, with a rich history in the music industry. They needed someone who would appeal to a large audience-the young and old, poor and rich, sober and drunk alike. They needed a living legend. Luckily, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band were available.
Utilizing the full set stage, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet band spread their piano, trumpets and saxophones across the wide stage.
"Let's do a funky song," suggested Seger before breaking into "Roll Me Away" and a cover of "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You."
For many young Bob Seger fans, watching him perform his heartland rock ballad "Mainstreet," with the blue and purple lights flashing around his silhouette and into the crowdm was a once-in-a-life-time moment of blissful fulfillment.
However, the song that made the entire show worth seeing for most fans was "We've Got Tonight," a chart-topping hit single from the 1978 album, Stranger in Town. Sitting at the piano with supporting vocals by Shaun Murphy, Laura Creamer and Barbara Payton, Seger sang, "We've got tonight...who needs tomorrow? We've got tonight babe...Why don't you stay?" He also made sure to include the other classic cuts from the album, "Hollywood Nights" and "Old Time Rock & Roll."
Performing a mixture of original songs and classic Seger-style renditions throughout the set, Seger played several favorites from hisr 1976 album Live Bullet, such as their Side B hit "Travelin' Man" and a rendition of Ike & Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits." Seger also included his rendition of Little Richard's "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey (Going Back to Birmingham)," leaving this music-hungry Orlando audience utterly pleased but barely satisfied.
After all, who could ever have enough Bob Seger in their life?