Three hundred and ninety. At first glance just another unassuming number, however, tonight its significance could not be ignored. That’s exactly how many days it had been since I covered my last live concert. An ominous streak came to an end, and what better place to celebrate than Ace Café in Orlando? Tonight, All Music Magazine was there to cover performances by Everclear, Fastball and Orlando’s own, Big 10-4.
I really can’t think of a better place to host live music. I fell in love with this place the very first time I covered a concert here. Ace Café sports a full two-story restaurant/bar and plays host to a variety of events. In addition to the awesome stage located on the backyard lawn, tonight’s event also included a special VIP area. As I set up my gear, I watched as the first arrivals grabbed their beverages and frequented the various vendors and merch booths. Ace Café puts an emphasis on safety and, as a result, this was a limited attendance event. All staff members were wearing masks and temperature checks were administered at the gate. This has become the new normal, but tonight the music was back!
O-Town boys, Big 10-4, were slated to commence the evening’s festivities and they proved to be up to the task. Self-described as “the most energetic modern rock band based out of Orlando,” Big 10-4 brought along a throng of loyal supporters who were evident throughout the venue. This band is no stranger when it comes to pleasing crowds. They formed right here in Central Florida back in 2004 and the video for their hit “Walking Disaster” was filmed right around the corner at The Social.
Big 10-4 delivered an inspired set of pure, unadulterated rock-n-roll that was enthusiastically devoured by the music-starved crowd. Frontman Dan Verduin alternated between guitar and keyboards and addressed the audience as if it was just a large gathering of close friends. These guys love playing together and it shows. Highlights of their awesome set were “Crazy,” “Deadman,” and of course “Walking Disaster.” How I’ve lived here so long and never seen Big 10-4 perform before is beyond me, but rest assured that I’ll be keeping an eye out for their future shows.
After a short break, Fastball made their way to the stage. Hailing from Austin, Texas, Fastball has been on the music scene for 26 years. Their list of accolades is lengthy and includes two Grammy nominations, several top ten hits and a platinum-selling album. It was great to see all three original members take the spotlight again. The striking of the first chord kicked off a trip down memory lane.
The first thing I noticed was how their sound has not changed at all. If you were to close your eyes, you could easily be convinced that you were listening to one of your old CDs instead of standing at a live show. That is not an easy thing to accomplish and is surely a result of working well together for so long and mastering their craft. The fans showed their appreciation by singing along to each and every song. Tony Scalzo and Miles Zuniga took turns on vocals while Scalzo also found time to hop on the keyboards. Joey Shuffield kept things moving throughout the set by laying down the beats on drums.
Fastball compiled an impressive set that included fan favorites “Out of My Head” and “The Way.” I also enjoyed their performances of “Sooner or Later” and “The Girl You Pretended to Be“. Before you knew it, the set came to a close and was met with an enormous ovation from the crowd. With the band’s most recent album, “The Help Machine,” being released only a year and a half ago, there appears to be no end in sight for Fastball’s success.
The night’s main event had finally arrived and the crowd clamored in anticipation. It’s been probably 20 or so years since I last saw Everclear perform, but the two things that still resonate in my mind are the adjectives fun and energetic. The band came out of Portland, Oregon, in 1991 and is the creation of singer, songwriter and guitarist Art Alexakis. Alexakis’ guitar has “Portland” scrawled across it in red letters in homage to where it all began.
Dave French has been with band for close to 18 years and entertained the crowd with his mastery on guitar. Freddy Herrera has been playing bass for more than 30 years and brings the type of energy that Everclear fans love and expect. Brian Nolan has 20+ years on drums under his belt and is also in the band American Hi-Fi. Although there have been lineup changes over the years, the stage presence is still there. This is definitely a band you have to see live.
After an introduction worthy of their acclaimed status, the band hit the stage and launched into “So Much for the Afterglow” from their 1997 album of the same name. The performance continued with hit after hit as the fans sang and danced. During “Everything to Everyone” I had to remind myself to quit singing and take pics. That’s the effect this band has on people. The set included older hits such as “Heroin Girl” and new songs like “The Man Who Broke His Own Heart.” Fans went crazy over songs that included “AM Radio,” Father of Mine, “Wonderful,” “Santa Monica” and many others. At the end of the night, one thing stuck out more than any other. The fans got what they wanted, what they deserved and what they desperately needed: live music. Thank you Everclear, Fastball, Big 10-4 and Ace Cafe for bringing the music back to O-Town.