People look at you weird when you’re running down South Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando during the evening rush hour commute. They also freak out when you jump in your brother’s car while he’s stuck in traffic as he Snapchats your awkward run in leather shoes and casual work attire as your roll-top backpack bounces all over the place. Granted, they don’t know it’s your brother’s car you’re jumping into, but at least they’ll have something to tell to their family at dinner that night.
St. Pete’s about an hour and a half drive from downtown, without traffic. Battling the rush hour traffic, I look at my brother and say “Driving in Orlando will make you the best driver, ever.” And it’s true, Orlando traffic is terrible with drivers weaving all over the place and if you can gain the driving approval of an out-of-towner, you’ll be just fine driving anywhere else in the country.
That rush hour traffic puts us at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg a little behind schedule. As we get our tickets and Adam grabs his photo pass, we listen to Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors serenading the crowd on his birthday. I’ll admit that I was bummed to have missed part of his set, but “Fire and Dynamite” lit me up and put a smile on my face. That song will always be one of my all time favorites.
Florida gets hot and muggy starting at the end of March. As Ben Rector’s walking on stage, in a full suit, with his band, I just start thinking, this is one classy dude. Ben Rector’s one of those artists where I don’t click on his music very often, but when I do or when I hear him live, I’m always thrilled.
When he takes his seat behind the piano and starts tapping the keys to “White Dress,” I see the crowd getting swept off their feet. The sun starts to set and the notorious Florida rain clouds start rolling towards the, outdoor, Jannus Live venue. Small water droplets start landing on people’s heads and they start falling even faster. No one really moves to the limited covered area. Everyone seems to be pretty enthralled with Ben’s music and decides to stick it out.
Underneath some covering, Adam and I are planning out how he’s going to get the shots of NEEDTOBREATHE that he needs to get, without ruining his camera equipment. We stop a staff member, that’s headed toward the kitchen, and he comes back a minute later with a big black trash bag. For the next couple minutes, we get Adam’s camera poncho ready to go for NEEDTOBREATHE.
I can’t see a darn thing from where I am, I take a step into the rain and find an industrial fan roaring, pointing diagonal to the ground. It starts deflecting the rain, keeping me dry and sending the raindrops over my head. Within a few minutes, the rain clears just in time for NEEDTOBREATHE to take the stage.
The stage is dark, but I can still make out the silhouettes of Bear, Beau, and Seth as they take the stage with the rest of their band. The lights illuminate the stage and I see not just one, but two drum sets with a drummer sitting behind each one. Everything kicks in as they play State I’m In with both drummers keeping the same beat, on point.
I’m enamored because I think by the time we’re about 12, we’ve all seen, or at least have heard of, a drum off. In my short music stint, one of the things I learned was that there’s only one drummer in a band. Two drummers just mess everything up, they said. Whoever believes that is dead wrong.
“Girl Named Tennessee” and “The Outsiders” came up on their set list, and neither drummer showed any signs of quitting. Never have I seen two drummers play an entire set, together, in unison, and sound flawless, until this show. It’s one of those things that happen once in a blue moon that you’ll never forget, and I’m so stoked I got to witness it.
Halfway through their set I get a text from my brother, who’s now on the balcony getting shots, saying “Did you catch the Flo-rida they threw in there?” Instead of saying “Oh, Carolina,” they threw in some “Oh, Flo-rida” ‘s to appease the Florida crowd.
Bear brings down “Oh, Carolina” a little bit to give some personal talk about what it’s like for them to go home to South Carolina after spending months on the road. He’s asking everyone to reminisce on what it’s like to be gone for a while, see familiar signs and landmarks, and get that feeling of what it’s like knowing that home is right around the corner. I think about what he says and even though I was 100 miles from where I park my car at night, sleep, and eat, I kind of felt at home. It might be the naïve 25 year old in me feeling this, but for me, whenever I’m around people I love and care about, or I’m doing something I love, I am home, no matter my location.
Their whole set’s filled with southern rock from the guitar solos, bass riffs, sounds of the mandolin and banjo, and overall flare that the guys throw into their set. One of the things I can’t overlook is the sheer passion they put into their music from lyrical content, to the instrumentals and show they put on. They’re truly real dudes speaking from The Heart, and are always a joy to listen to and see.
Running out of work, literally. Jumping into my brother’s car, literally. Sitting shotgun while weaving through I-4 traffic. Heading back to Orlando late, knowing I have to get up in four hours to go to work. It’ll all be worth it when I think back to the show tomorrow and reflect on the message this band and these artists all convey every night they’re on stage: Do what you love, prove everyone wrong, remember where you came from, and give thanks and praise.
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- The Commission Beer Chamber
- Nora's Sugar Shack!
- Park Ave CDs
- Montgomery Drive Presents
- RT-Art Printing
- El Camino School of Music
- The Mary Jane 'High-Quality' Art Gallery
- Tamale Co (Best Tamales in ORL) (Orlando)
- The Owl's Attic Vintage Shop
- Broken Strings Brewery
- American Combat Club
- Lazy Moon Pizza
- Ten10 Brewing
- Conrad's Beer Shanty
- AKT Shirt Printing
- Smartpunk Records & Shop
- No Clubs Presents
- DaddyKool Records
- Galactic G Skateshop
- Lizzy McCormack's Irish Pub