I’m sure it was a little surreal for The Expendables to follow notorious punk act The Queers and open for Reel Big Fish (arguably one of the biggest name in ska) but they brought a surprisingly dynamic set to the St. Augustine Amphitheater. Their sound is 420-friendly reggae meets alternative rock with touches of heavy rock, punk, jazz and jam band. They followed The Queers’ simple, all black, punk-as-hell setup with speakers covered in colorful, risquè comic book style graphic art. They are not afraid to get funky and make a little scene.
The Expendables have their own huge fan base, very similar to that of Dirty Heads and SOJA, who had just sold out the same venue two days earlier. This ended up being a drastically smaller show, likely because the original venue was rained out. In turn, fans were treated to a surprisingly intimate event. It was more chill than The Expendables’ beachfront appearance I attended last year at the Seawalk Pavillion in Jacksonville Beach. They had an enormous turn out at that show, but it was also a free beachfront event and the crowd was an intolerable, drunken mess.
The Expendables seem to have a bigger following on the West Coast and in parts of the northeast that are more 420-friendly than Florida, to say the least. They are a big fan of split crowd chants. At the last Expendables show I attended, the left side of the crowd had to chant “smoke weed” while the other responded with “get high.” This time during the group’s major hit, “Bowl for Two,” the crowd was split, half of them singing “I packed this bowl for two” and the other responding “And I wanna smoke it with you.” It is unfortunate at venues in Florida where people were literally getting arrested for lighting up, but on the West Coast, Colorado, and in other decriminalized cities, it is so much more accepted that bands might not realize gimmicks like that can be tricky in the south. Then again, I just don’t like gimmicks of any kind, but they certainly do work.
It is always fun to hear hits like “Bowl for Two” and “Down Down Down” live and The Expendables entertained us with all their hits that night. One thing is certain though: The stand out of the night was guitarist Raul Bianchi, who had me enthralled with inspired and impressive jazz, reggae, metal, funk and classic rock inspirations, his use of pedals and imploring solos. His luminescent riffs and extended jams were a highlight of The Expendables’ set as they wafted through the venue’s warm, humid acoustics. Raul Bianchi is clearly a well-practiced musician, not bound by his genre at all and highly creative live.
The Expendables were probably the most mellow act of night. They still had high energy, but they weren’t pissed off like The Queers’ punk rock set was. They ended up being a cool opener for Reel Big Fish: Not totally punk, not totally ska, and definitely not too obvious. They brought good vibes without exhausting the crowd who would later skank themselves sore for days.
The Expendables were gracious and interacted well with the crowd. Bassist Ryan Demars was kind enough to speak with me briefly after the show. He has a well-honed, funky style as an instrumentalist and a fun onstage presence so speaking with him was a pleasure. The music he plays is written a “little for the fans, a little for me,” he explained elaborating that he would never want to write music that he thinks “is rad and no one else likes.” Ryan later told me that Florida feels “like a second California” to him.
Photos by Liz Pena/AltWire
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