Live: The Expendables (2-26-11)

Live: The Expendables (2-26-11)

Date: Saturday, Feb 26th, 2011
Line up: The Expendables, Big B & ILa Mawana
Location: The Social. Orlando, FL
What: Winter Blackout Tour. All Ages, $17 Cover

Welcoming the Cali-based band that mixes laid back reggae with heavy metal guitar riffs, along with hooligan hip-hopper Big B and dub-rockers ILa Mawana, The Social in Orlando, FL got weird this weekend with a two night stop from The Expendables’ 2011 Winter Blackout Tour.

I arrived at the Orange Avenue venue, which is tucked into a crowded block of bustling hipster bars around the corner from the home of the Orlando Magic, to find a pack of ticket-less fans milling outside with slumped shoulders and downtrodden faces – the tell-tale sign that Saturday night’s performance was officially sold out.

I slipped into the red-hued, dive theater just in time to catch ILa Mawana performing the last few songs of their set. With a groovin’ horn section helping create bluesy-infused-dubs, the troop of Massachusetts-based musicians got the crowd swaying with tunes off their album Soldiers of Sound. However, it was a roots-reggae rendition of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’s Pure Imagination, with its whimsical lyricism’s and trippy melodies, which was stellar for setting a wonkishly-weird tone primo for an Expendables show.

Las Vegas rebel rapper, Big B, hit the stage solo around 9:30 with a half-hour set, delivering urban melodic-flows that reflect on his love for low-life livin’. Pumping up the audience with shout-outs to the city and those who participate in its debauchery, Big B gave a solid performance busting out his catchy rhymes about good times living the street life, including Sinner, White Trash Life, Criminals and Out Here in Cali.

The Expendables shuffled onto stage not long after 10 p.m. to a heard of screaming and howling fans, with many raising their Pabst Blue Ribbons and others waving the rock on hand symbol, showing off big black ex’s, which drummer Adam Patterson explained as, Oh, that means you’re jail bait.

As the 400-500 people in attendance smashed together in a jamming frenzy to soak up the beach-party sonics of the Santa Cruz boys, it definitely made the place feel like a 100 degrees; therefore, Burning Up, was a definitive way to ignite the set.

From Patterson’s blasting, hyper-fast metal drum rhythms, to the heavy basslines of Ryan DeMars and the guitar duels of front man Geoff Weers and axman Raul Bianchi, the strength of The Expendables’ sound, instrumentally, was unshakable Saturday night. With the confident and rockin’ stage presence as well as the intimate size of the venue, the four-member outfit was able to easily create a genuine connection with the audience as they quipped about Orlando’s hot chicks and ripped through a raging set, which included Drift Away, One More Night, Take-A-Ticket, Come Get High, Ganja Smuggling, One Drop, Down, Down, Down, War Cry, Paper Chains, Sacrifice and Fire Starter.

One notable moment came when The Expendables introduced a new song they’re calling Zombie, which is a distorted-guitar wail that confronts the conformed and confused psyche of America. I enjoyed what I was able to grasp about the song from this one listen because it is more than just a party tune and addresses underlying currents of thought people can relate to, something The Expendables often do in their lyrics. (I was hoping to talk about new music and lyrical themes in an interview with the band; however, no one ever showed up for our scheduled meeting time. Sorry fans.)

As someone who has seen the reggae-metal heads a handful of times, I have to say, I was a bit underwhelmed by the overall quality of the vocals of Saturday’s performance. I just wasn’t feelin’ the usual energy I do, especially from the mustachioed Weers. While he was upbeat when bantering with the crowd, the passionate and amorous voice I adore really only showed up in the encore, particularly with Wells, but otherwise it sounded like he was – well – kind of bushed. Or maybe the mics just sucked? I can’t be sure, but something was off for this girl.

The best moment of the night was definitely the encore-ender, Bowl For Two, in which Weers got each half of the venue singing a part of the chorus, with one side belting out Oh I, I packed this bowl for two, and the other side, And I, I’m gonna wanna smoke it with you. As the whole crowd loudly participated, shouting the chorus together under the dancing disco ball on the ceiling, it was the bromance directly in front of me – the three huge dudes putting their arms on each other’s shoulders and swaying in a drunken haze to the harmonies – that provided a classic, yet humorous, scene to end a night of great music.

– Article & Photos by: Amber McDonald