ESTERO — Germain Arena will convert from ice rink to funhouse next Wednesday when rock powerhouse Shinedown returns as headliner of the “Carnival of Madness” tour. Also performing are four veteran bands who have rocked local stages; 10 Years, Puddle of Mudd, Sevendust and Chevelle.
Since forming in 2001, Shinedown has toured endlessly through three album releases and four No. 1 songs like “Save Me” and “Second Chance.” The band’s catchy rock grooves and intense, brutally honest lyrics have garnered it gobs of radio airplay and a rapidly expanding fan base.
Versatility is one of the band’s appeals. It can tenderly extend a hand (“If You Only Knew”) as capably as it can throw a ferocious roundhouse (“Devour”). Lead singer Brent Smith’s voice is the ideal conflict of strength and vulnerability.
Its first performance here was a last-minute decision. Fort Myers alt-rock station 99X was prepping for a multi-band concert in December 2004. They had planned and promoted exhaustively for over two months. Then, days before the show, the headlining band and main talent draw pulled out of the show because of a television commercial obligation. That band’s management suggested another band it represented, the aspiring Shinedown. As the group was completing a tour in support of their debut album, their flights home to Jacksonville were re-booked to Fort Myers.
“I remember that show very well,” “We had been on tour for eight or nine months when we got that call,” Smith recalled. “Everyone was like ‘What do you want to do?’ I said ‘Let’s play it. It’s right down the road!’ I just remember being able to go in and play a show. That’s still the way we are. We love to play shows.
“But that night, I remember everyone being really nice to us. It was last-minute, we did a quick sound check, they gave us a dressing room and we just went out there and did our thing,” he continued. “The crowd was nuts! Fort Myers is always a blast and 99X has been super awesome to us. I can’t wait to come back.”
Jeff Hickcox, promotions manager at 99X, recalls Smith thanking him for bringing them in to play: “Here he was saving our butts and he’s thanking me! I’ll never forget his kindness and humility. And what a show they put on.”
Shinedown recently finished a tour with another rock titan, Nickelback. After enjoying what Smith called his longest break in a decade, his band slides into the headliner role of a tour he helped conceive.
“We’re able to bring our best friends out with us, which we are ecstatic about,” Smith continued. “I grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., with the guys in 10 Years. Amazing band. I’m super-stoked about the new material they’ll be playing. We have the legendary Sevendust. Then there’s Puddle of Mudd and everything that Wes Scantlin can throw at everybody. The guy is one of the most charismatic frontmen out there. You never know what you’re going to get with Wes except maybe about 25 No. 1 songs! And probably the most outstanding trio in the world, in my opinion, from any genre of music, Chevelle. Unbelievable songs and an amazing stage presence.”
What can Carnival-goers expect from this production?
“It’ll be a very artistic show, not necessarily what you’d expect us to do. It’ll also be a very interactive experience. I can’t give away a lot because it’s for the concertgoer. But once the doors open and you walk into the arena, if you have any kind of phone that can download apps, have it ready because there’s going to be a lot of free stuff you’ll want to download. A lot of giveaways, too.
“And I’m not talking about a free Coke or a beer or a hot dog, I’m talking throughout the show, you’re going to have a chance to win guitars, drums, all kinds of music... even backstage passes, right then and there, to go meet one of the bands.”
Shinedown’s most recent studio album, “The Sound of Madness,” was released on June 24, 2008. Two years later, to the day, they filmed the video for the album’s fifth single “The Crow & the Butterfly,” which currently sits at No. 3 on the rock chart. While there is no music business manual that says so, having an album with heavy radio airplay and still touring two years after its release means you’re huge.
But for Smith, their new higher plateau is nothing more than a place to stand while reaching for what’s next.
“I can tell you 100 percent without a doubt — no B.S., no sugar-coating it — I am hungrier now than when I was 18 years old.” Sincerity and conviction fueled Smith’s light Southern drawl: “There’s not a bone in my body that’s ever satisfied. The whole band is like that. We’re always trying to outdo what we’ve already done.”
Four powerhouse friends
Here are the other four bands playing for the “Carnival of Madness” tour at Germain Arena, along with our take on their previous performances in this area:
■ 10 Years played the former Fort Myers nightclub Ricochet in May of 2008, opening with “Russian Roulette” which showcases the band’s intricate songwriting and vocalist Jesse Hasek’s dynamic range. Their new album, “Feeding The Wolves” will be out in August.
■ The multi-platinum Puddle of Mudd headlined the 99X “X-mas Ball” at Germain Arena this past December, days before releasing their latest album, “Volume 4: Songs in the Key of Love & Hate.” Singer and guitarist Wes Scantlin played that show in a protective walking boot after sustaining a fracture days earlier while hopping off a stool following a radio show interview. Asked recently about the injury he said, “The foot is good. The throat was a little munchy for about a week. Now we’re back in full force.”
His ostensibly easy-going style may have helped his band’s longevity during a decade of radical change in the industry.
“We keep it simple and kind of groovy and also be serious about different situations in the music,” he said. “But other than that, we’re just trying to have a good time. We’re happy the fans come out.”
Still, if there’s anyone brazen enough to throw down the gauntlet on this tour, it’s Wes.
“I have nothing but love for southwest Florida. Love you guys to death. This tour is going to be awesome. We’re going to bring 150 percent to the table down there. And we will smoke everybody.”
■ Chevelle, a Chicago-based trio, blew the crowd away at 99X’s “Live X” in April 2009, a few months before the release of its fifth studio album, “Sci-Fi Crimes.” Their distinct sound incorporates gripping guitar fluency, a hammering beat and grand lyrics. “Send The Pain Below,” “The Clincher” and the more recent “Letters from a Thief” are alt-rock radio staples.
■ Sevendust, for whom the welcome mat is always out, has performed at 99X events and Ricochet numerous times. Southwest Florida was one of the early markets to adopt the band when they broke out in the late 90’s with their own brand of heavy rock that overshadows conventional labels.
Sevendust recently released its eighth studio album, “Cold Day Memory,” which opened at No. 12 on the Billboard album chart, the highest entry of the band’s career. And their live performances? Two things you can count on; gravity and a killer Sevendust show.
-- Chris Bradshaw