The beauty of living in Jacksonville, FL is that you don’t have to look very hard to find musical entertainment. Thursday, October 5, 2017, was a great night for the river city, with bands Emarosa, A Lot Like Birds, Jule Vera, and local band Puzzles to Pieces, sharing the stage at the cozy 1904 Music Hall; located at 19 N Ocean St.
Jacksonville band, Puzzles to Pieces, kick-started the show with their signature, aggressive metal sound; complete with vocal verses comprised of both melodic tonal notes, and brutal screams. Puzzles to Pieces opened with a newer song of theirs, titled “Dmgd” (damaged) to warm up the crowd, and quickly dove into a creative metal cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” I would not be surprised if this cover suddenly caught overnight fame; similar to I Prevail’s infamous cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” Puzzles to Pieces continued their set by playing a song off their initial EP, titled “Savings May Vary”; a song that singer Jesse Smarslok charmingly joked as being based on a Progressive commercial, because he could not think of a better title at the time. Much to their loyal fans’ surprise (and joy), they closed out their set by debuting a brand new song, titled “Separate,” in which Jesse called his girlfriend, Bryce Radcliffe, on stage to sing with him. It was a heartwarming spectacle.
Next on the line-up, Jule Vera; a nationally touring band, from Opelika, AL. Classified into the Alternative music genre, Jule Vera is signed under record label Weekday Records; a collaboration between Sony Music and Pure Noise founder Jake Round. I have to admit, as a fan of primarily hard rock and metal, I was blown away by how much I truly enjoyed and savored Jule Vera’s set. Lead vocalist Ansley Newman has a voice that is truly unique; sweet and sultry, yet powerful and demanding, at the flip of a figurative switch. Her vocal tenacity propelled several of their hits and singles into a room full of lucky listeners, such as “Show Me,” “Porch Swing,” a mostly-acoustic performance of “Scarlet Letter,” and a toe-tapping, dance-inspiring execution of one of their most popular songs, “Bad Company.” The band was awarded “Best Emerging Artist” at Summerfest 2014 (Milwaukee, WI), and made the list of “100 Bands You Need To Know in 2015” by Alternative Press. These awards would come as no surprise to anybody, after having witnessed their eclectic, yet warm and homey, performance. Jule Vera is certainly a band to keep an eye on; check out their latest album, Waiting On The Sun, released June 16, 2017.
Following Jule Vera was band A Lot Like Birds; another national touring band, out of Sacramento, CA. A Lot Like Birds is widely-considered to fall under multiple genres; most recognizably, post-hardcore and progressive rock. The band is currently signed to Equal Vision Records; a sizeable, independent record label, based out of Albany, NY. During a lengthy sound check, seemingly due to some equipment issues, the band showed their sense of humor and kept the crowd entertained by joking amongst themselves, and by sporadically slapping out recognizable riffs, such as the McDonald’s “I’m loving it” commercial melody. After doing some preliminary listening prior to the concert, I knew this band was right up my alley and were they ever! A Lot Like Birds opened with “Always Burning, Always Dark”; the opening track from their latest Album, DIVISI, released May 5, 2017. In an order I can’t remember because I was stunned at the display of talent on stage, the band played several of their popular songs such as “The Sound Of Us,” “Kuroi Ledge,” and “Vanity’s Fair,” in addition to others. A Lot Like Birds inspired both the first (and second, and third) crowd-surfing of the night, as well as one extremely brave fan to climb his way to the stage and take a leap of faith into the crowd. However, perhaps the most memorable facets of their performance were the ludicrously fast and intricate (but smoothly executed) song tempos, dual vocalists (Cory Lockwood and Matt Coate) with near-perfect harmonic ability and soaring vocal ranges (maybe that’s where the band name originated), as well as finessed, blood-curdling screams (courtesy of Cory Lockwood). Since the show, I cannot stop listening to A Lot Like Bird’s latest album, and I suggest you check it out as well! DIVISI!
Last but not least, the headliner of the night, Emarosa; a national touring, headlining band, originating from Lexington, KY. Emarosa is typically also categorized as a post-hardcore, alternative rock band. The band is currently signed to Hopeless Records; a large, independent rock label, located in Van Nuys, CA. Carrying the momentum of the night, Emarosa hit the ground running; unleashing several of their well-known tracks, such as “Sure,” “People Like Me, We Just Don’t Play,” “Helpless,” “Cloud 9,” among others. Again, not sure of the order, because it was a great show and I got lost a little bit in the lead singer’s (Bradley Walden) eyes. Hey, he’s a dreamy guy! I’m not afraid to admit it! He looks a lot like me! …If I were a few years older… and significantly more handsome. But on a serious note, Emarosa energized the crowd to dangerous levels; inspiring the same crazed fan from the previous set to, AGAIN, climb his way to the stage and stage dive! As if this wasn’t enough riling up, Bradley Walden descended to the pit at one point, mic stand in hand, and sang an entire song while being groped by a sea of fans. Still, most striking about the set was the smooth vocal delivery. As an amateur singer myself, I was blown away at the fluidity, control, and versatility of Bradley Walden’s vocals. Emarosa’s latest album is titled 131, and was released July 8, 2016. I highly encourage you give it a listen!
All-in-all, this was a great night of music, and surely an unforgettable experience, for a room full of adventurous, Thursday-night, Jacksonville concert-goers (say that five times, fast).
Photos and review by Garrett Stroup