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The Top 25 Bands that Rock Florida

Top 25 Bands that Rock Florida

Barry Nadler

Two and a half years ago (2015), I was looking for bands to perform at an annual event for which I book live entertainment. I languished in the smaller bars looking for acts that could draw a crowd, as well as put on an entertaining show. There weren’t many. About mid-way through the year I went to a free CD Release show at House of Blues with no idea what I was about to stumble upon. It was a packed house with four bands playing (all of which are on this list). Each band was better than the next. I found myself being taken back to my youth, when it was exciting to discover that new band. The hair on my arms stood up and I found myself singing along to songs I had never heard. I was captivated by performers that owned the larger stage. This was the music scene I had been looking for and I have been a part of it ever since. As I dug deeper, I found more and more artists who were actually able to stand alongside national acts and provide equal or better entertainment.

This Florida music scene, specifically the Central Florida music scene, is bristling with amazing talent, bands that put on extremely fun shows, and is ready to burst onto the national scene. There are a good handful of these local artists that have toured nationally in support of well-known acts and have played to huge audiences at national level music festivals. This level of unsigned talent completely caught me off guard. 

I am proud to say that I can call many of the artists on this list friends. I have been lucky enough to see most of them perform live multiple times. I have hung out with them socially and gotten to know them as people. As a concert photographer, I have been honored to shoot many of these acts in some of the largest venues in Orlando, as well as produce music videos for several of them.
I offer no hesitation in recommending these 25 bands as ones that you should give your time and energy to support. I imagine this list could have been 35 bands strong (or more) if I felt it needed to be that. 

To avoid any appearances of bias or favoritism, I present the best of the best, from the Florida music scene in ALPHABETICAL ORDER. This order of appearance in no way references quality or genre.
Also, unless otherwise specified, the photo credit on the photos in this article is Barry Nadler.


Auditory Armory

Genre: Rock
In the Orlando scene, there are a few female-fronted rock bands. However, if you ask around, there is always one woman’s name that usually comes to everyone’s mind very quickly – April. She plays guitar and is the lead vocalist for her band. Auditory Armory has crunchy rock tunes, as well as sweeping, epic, metal tunes. You can also find April around the scene doing joint songs with various bands. I am aware of her doing duets with at least three bands on this list. Many times, they reciprocate and you will find other bands doing duets with Auditory Armory. April also performs solo, acoustic sets at smaller, local venues. At the time I created this list, April is slated to play an acoustic show with national act, Saliva. Something else they are known for are two of their cover tunes – “Cry Little Sister” from The Lost Boys and “Hungry Like the Wolf” from Duran Duran. 

Vocals/Guitar: April Montallana
Guitar: Dennis Burns
Bass: Justice Maynard
Drums: Oscar Garcia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/auditoryarmory/?fref=ts


Genre: Pop/Soul
Photo Credit: ? From Beebs Facebook Page

Beebs is unique to the Orlando music scene. She has two bands she performs with. Her solo outing is simply called Beebs, with which she has recently released her first album, as well as a clothing line. Her other, longer running entity is Beebs and her Money Makers. They offer high-energy performances and comical media content. They are a refreshing blend of psychedelic ska, funk, and soul. She tours nationally and twice has been a part of the Vans Warped Tour. They have shared the stage with many national acts, including Reel Big Fish and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Vocals: Beebs

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeebsMusic/

Blaine the Mono

Genre: Alternative Rock
Photo Credit: ? From Blaine the Mono Facebook page

This female-fronted band draws their inspiration from artists such as Arctic Monkeys, Yeah Yeahs, Foo Fighters, and Halestorm. After an EP in late 2013, they released their debut album in early 2015. I have not had the pleasure yet of seeing this band live. However, they have been involved in many music festivals, including WJRR 101.1 Earth Day Birthday, Florida Music Festival, and SXSW. They have supported national acts, including Non Point, Papa Roach, The Offspring, and Stone Sour.

Vocals: Randi Stickles
Guitar: Eric Joseph
Bass: Chris Culverwell
Drums: Clifton Garner

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlaineIsAPain/?fref=ts


Genre: Rock

Blonk is hard to categorize. They are certainly a rock band. But they are not a typical rock band, like the others on this list. They are a three member band that merges different styles, including blues, 80’s retro, rock, and ethereal rock – and that doesn’t even really define it well. One thing you can be sure of – a Blonk show is fun and silly. They always bring their light show, which is a lite-brite toy with “Blonk” written on it using the little, clear pegs. Tim looks like a rocker – with long hair and usually in a rock T-shirt (The first time I met him, it was Iron Maiden).  Vladimir looks like he should have been part of Devo, but then he rip his pants off to show off shiny shorts underneath. You have to experience it to understand. They have a song about Robot Overlords (where they march around), the Tardis (from Dr. Who), a girlfriend that visits once a month (and is someone else’s girlfriend also), and a song about hitting you with a bat (Heart Attack!). Recently, Blonk played House of Blues for their first time. Outside the typical rock/metal scene, if you ask about upcoming bands, Blonk is a name that usually comes up.

Vocals/Guitar: Vladimir Dragonheart Rachmoninov

Bass: Tim
Drums: Bobby Z

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blonkband/?fref=ts

Bothering Dennis

Genre: Rock/Pop Punk

These guys were the first band I ever worked with. When I did, they were still in high school. They were a punk band that was heavily influenced by Fall Out Boy, Green Day, The Clash, Johnny Cash, and bands of that nature. I was extremely surprised at the size of their following – with an average age of about 16 or so. They held a CD release party in their guitarist’s garage and sold out of their 100 CDs they had in stock that night. I have seen very few front-men with the energy and dedication that Austin brings to his shows – he is like the Energizer Bunny when he hits the stage. Songs like “Let’s Go to the Moon” are extremely hooky and will have you singing along and the song will be in your head for a good while.  They won a contest at House of Blues that allowed them to work directly with another artist on this list, Beebs. A few years back, they won a spot in the local festival, The Big “O”. According to Matt and Austin, they spent an hour and a half after their set meeting fans. They also have played the Florida Music Festival. Now, they regularly play events in both Orlando and Gainesville, FL. They recently released their second album. Since I have known them, they have kept two core members – Matt and Austin. But, the addition of Sean, Tristan, and Mekenzie have proven that this is a pop/punk band with strong, rock and punk ties that has matured beyond angst-ridden high school bands and into something that can rival other bands on the local scene.

Vocals: Austin Taylor
Guitar: Matt Fowler
Guitar/Vocals: Makenzie Kamal
Bass: Tristan Smith
Drums: Sean Froelich

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dennisisaprick/?fref=ts

Breathing Theory

Genre: Rock/Metal

On the fateful day I learned about the strength and power of the local rock/metal scene in Central Florida, I think Breathing Theory was the very first band I saw. It was at The House of Blues. I had no idea what I was really seeing at the time. I just know that it caught my attention. They started out as a three-piece band, under a different name, in 2008. They eventually grew into a five-piece band and released their first EP under the Breathing Theory name in 2011. Their single “Fireflies” saw national airplay, along with XM Radio airplay. The band went through some shakeups in 2013, embarked on four eastern US tours, brought their sound back to the local scene. Their influences include Bullet for My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin, Sevendust, Killswitch Engage, and Avenged Sevenfold. With these influences, they are definitely a metal band, but very approachable sounding. Recently, they were one of the bands chosen to play at Kink Music Festival. They are in the process of recording new material and we are all awaiting what they plan to bring to the table with their follow-up to their albums Uprise Part 1 and Uprise Part 2. 

Vocals: Cory Britt
Guitar/Vocals: Collin Morrison
Guitar/Vocals: Rob Mahoney
Bass: David Marfitt
Drums: Keagan King

Vocals: Cory Britt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialbreathingtheory/?fref=ts

Burning Fair Varona

Genre: Metal

Established in 2009, this five-piece band is a Tampa-based metal powerhouse. Their influences include artists such as Born of Osiris, Whitechapel, Mudvayne, and After the Burial. When you these guys, you are getting quite a rambunctious show from lead singer, Anthony Marra. He is very active in the local scene – between fixing guitars, promoting shows for other bands, and working at local venues, everyone in the scene is very familiar with him. Anthony is not afraid to get up and scream, jump into the crowd, or just get crazy with the audience. If you like melodic metal and an active, unpredictable show, you have to see these guys in action. 

Vocals: Anthony Marra
Guitar: Evan Ursitti
Guitar: Derek Tsuboi
Bass - Robb Gates
Drums - Nicholas Colvin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/burningfairverona/?fref=ts


Dark Summer

Genre: Metal

Dark Summer is another band that hails from Lakeland, FL. They were formed in 2012. Over the last year, this modern metal band has had some exciting growth and have really made a name for themselves in the local Central Florida scene. I caught them live in February of 2015. I have wanted to see this band live again and I consistently seem to miss their shows. I have been at shows they were a part of, but either arrive late or am doing something that causes me to miss them. Not long ago, I picked up their EP, “Rise” and it has been in steady rotation. They just release a new video for their song “Devil With an Angel’s Grin” and it just 300,000 views. Also, they just won a contest, Rock 107.1's 4 O' Clock Fight. This has them being played in regular rotation on this Missouri radio station. They also recently opened for national act, Head PE. 

Vocals: Troii Peak
Guitar: Zakk Summer
Bass: Wilson Bembry
Drums: Eric Justice



Genre: Pop Punk

When I look at the local pop/punk scene, I see two ends of the spectrum – Bothering Dennis as the angst-punk side and the very radio-friendly side. Elevators clearly owns the radio-friendly side. Interestingly, this band is a family affair. Niki and Matt are married and Ryan is Matt’s brother. I was recently introduced to this band because Ryan works with a member from another band on this list. I had missed seeing them at a show I was attending – they opened for The Adolescent Theory and Felicity at House of Blues. I got ahold of their music and was instantly a fan. Along with rock and metal, I also like bands I can bop and sing along to in my car. This was exactly that and I was very pleased. The dual vocals of Niki and Ryan work very well together. If you enjoy fun, pop/punk music, I highly recommend this band.

Vocals/Guitar: Niki McIntire
Vocals/Guitar: Ryan McIntire
Bass: Andy Wabb
Drums: Matt McIntire

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elevatorsrock/?fref=ts


Genre: Pop Punk

The pop punk scene seems to be alive and strong in Central Florida. There are three bands in this list that qualify as part of that genre. And, all of them seem to be full of boundless energy. These guys land closer to the hooks of the punk style, in a similar vein as Bothering Dennis. Felicity recently released their EP, Brace Yourself, and it has done extremely well for them, with their mix of hard rock and pop punk. They are part of the local group of bands that has successfully toured nationally. They were also part of the Orlando winner to play the Vans Warped Tour. As part of that, they opened for Fall Out Boy. When you see Felicity play live, you better expect to jump and bounce, as well as sing along. Interestingly, Mike Alosa, on bass guitar, is impossible to take your eyes off of. He jumps and contorts himself to be a show unto himself. Each member seems to work very hard at giving you a full set of entertainment when you shift your glances around the stage during the show. They also shared a stage with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, This is another band that got to play the Kink Music Festival in 2015, as well as the Florida Music Festival, The Big-O, and SunFest. 

Vocals: Damian -Fagiolino
Guitar: Andrew Rapier
Guitar: Cory Comly
Bass: Mike Alosa
Drums: Tyler Dennett

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wearefelicity/?fref=ts

Gary Lazer Eyes

Genre: Rock

When Blonk first introduced me to Gary Lazer Eyes, my first thought was “That’s an odd name.” However, their style caught my ear. If you mix beach rock and grunge rock, with a strong groove, you start to get a feel for this band. This band has recently been making a name for themselves among the local rock scene. They were recently voted “Best Rock Band” by the local entertainment newspaper, The Orlando Weekly. They also won the coveted spot of being the Orlando band that goes to the Okeechobee Music Festival, which they will join Yardij (another band on this list) at. They also just recently released their current CD. Along with all these honors, they also played Orlando House of Blues for their first time. Their music is very radio friendly. Austin has a unique, gruff, but enjoyable bluesy style of singing. If you like unique rock music, this rising star of a band is worth your time. 

Vocals/Guitar: Austin Young
Vocals/Guitar: Sean Gray
Bass: Stephan Gillen
Drums: Michael Otero

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GaryLazerEyesFL/?fref=ts

Kill the Sound

Genre: Rock/Metal

I can’t say enough about Kill the Sound and their impact on the local music scene. Their lead singer, Kim Acoustic, seems to be connected to everyone. They are a six-piece band that does not disappoint when they hit the stage. They always seem to over shadow all the other bands that come before and after them. Kim has been known to jump into the crowd and sing with the fans. They are just the right mix of dirty vocals and singable melodies. When I first heard songs like “Losing Control” I found myself singing along to them and but never having heard the songs before. I immediately compared them to a local version of Motley Crue, back when they were still tearing up the Sunset Strip. If you are looking for the party band of the Orlando rock scene, look no further than Kill the Sound. They performed at the Kink Music Festival in 2015, as well as released their first full album that year. In 2016, several members took breaks for personal reasons. However, all the original members of Kill the Sound are back with a vengeance in 2017, along with new music and they are developing their next album. They have also enlisted Madison Mako as their bassist and she is also part of another band on this list – Leaving Haven. 

Vocal: Kim Acoustic
Dirty Vocals: Ally Sosa
Guitar: David Duncan
Guitar: Cory Franks
Bass: Madison Mako
Drums: Senior Darq

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KillTheSound/?fref=ts


Lawless Hearts

Genre: Rock
Photo Credit: ? From Lawless Hearts Facebook page

I found this band, out of Jacksonville, when I was going to a show they were playing at. I was excited to see them because I looked them up and really liked their sound. It had a real 80’s Hard Rock-type vibe to it. The show ended up being cancelled, but they quickly booked another free show at a small bar, not too far from the cancelled show. They were in town to do a show, so why not? There were maybe 20 people at this show, but they rocked this little bar along with another band that was up from Miami to play the same show. Unfortunately, I have not seen them again. Not long after that show, they signed up with a booking agent and may be signed at this point – I am not sure. But, they had just completed their music video and there was something in that video that sealed the deal for me – a flame-throwing guitar! What local band has a flame-throwing guitar? If you dig the hard rock/hair metal vibe of the 80’s, this female-fronted band is one you should check out.

Vocals/Guitar/Piano: Alex Marie
Guitar/Backing Vocals: Mike Thomas
Guitar: Justus Sutherland
Bass/Backing Vox: Axel K Gessner
Drums: Corey Ahlquist



Leaving Haven

Genre: Rock

Leaving Haven has been around the local scene for a while, but was on hiatus for about 18 months. I was only recently introduced to this band. But, I am very glad I was. These guys are straight-up rock that is meant for a big stage. If you mash up Panic at the Disco, Maroon 5, Daughtry, and Def Leppard, you get a feel for the style of sound you will find with this band. They just did their “We are back” show and there were at least 300 people at the venue. Madison recently joined another band on this list – she plays bass for Kill the Sound also. My understanding is that these guys were a big deal on the local scene several years back and are preparing to make a comeback. Keep an eye on Leaving Haven! 

Vocals: Kent Lefebvre
Guitar: Michael Strippoli
Guitar: Luke Melsenti
Bass: Madison Macko
Drums: Benjamin Melsenti

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leavinghaven/?fref=ts

Martyrs Asylum

Genre: Rock

For fans of California-based rock, look no further than Martyrs Asylum. They are a band that takes influences from the likes of Guns-N-Roses, Metallica, and Motley Crue. They have heavy riffs and singable lyrics. Much like Soulswitch, they provide hooks and riffs that will have you throwing your fist in the air and headbanging. They are not afraid to jump off the stage, while playing, and jam on the bar or mosh in the pit with the crowd. They have opened for various national acts, such as Doro Pesch, Jeff Scott, Soto (Journey and Tran Siberian Orchestra), Seven Kingdoms, Madame Mayhem, and Udo Dirkschnieder (Accept). They are also one of the few local bands that have toured nationally. 

Vocals/Bass: Sid Stratton
Guitar: Alex Rodriguez
Guitar: Zack Meeks
Drums: Evan Munger

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MartyrsAsylum/?fref=ts

Meka Nism

Genre: Rock/Metal

Meka Nism is the undisputed rising star of the local music scene. They were voted “2016 Best Metal Band” by local entertainment newspaper, The Orlando Weekly. They also just came off a national tour opening for Avatar. They have also toured nationally supporting Otep and Trapt. Meka Kyoto’s voice is extremely unique and powerful. Her vocals can start with the dirty, gravelly metal growl and go all the way to the operatic levels of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Queen all in one breath. All members of this band have been heavily influenced by Pantera and Metallica. They are a very talented and enjoyable group of people to be around, as well as very humbled by their fans – the “tribe.” If you get an opportunity to see Meka Nism live, you will be hooked due to their memorable performances. They opened for Evanescence at the 2016 Kink Music Festival and have also been a part of the SXSW Music Festival. Their most recent album was even picked by UnRated Magazine as one of their top albums of the year for 2016. Bobby Keller was also recently the lead guitarist in the local premiere of the 80’s rock spectacle of a play, Rock of Ages. 

Vocals: Meka Kyoto
Guitar: Bobby Keller
Bass: Jarret Robinson
Drums: Jeremy Mansfield
Keyboards: Jay Adkisson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MekaNismBand/?fref=ts


Genre: Metal

Murderfly is a staple of the Orlando’s big stages. They are extremely energetic and always give you a show when you see them. Bo Dinkins is very recognizable due to his head of long dreadlocks. This band is heavily influenced by artists like Slipknot, Lamb of God, Pantera, and Devil Driver. They have played many local festivals, such as 101.1 WJRR’s Earth Day Birthday and opened the main stage for Kink Music Festival. They currently have two CD’s available and the have a rabid base of fans that call themselves “BMF’s” or “Bad Mother F’ers.” This is another local band that has been together for over a decade.

Vocals: Bo Dinkins
Guitar: Beyond
Guitar: John Stafford
Bass: Tim Greer
Drums: Kevin Ruffo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FLORIDAHEAVYMETAL/?fref=ts

Run Raquel

Genre: Pop/Rock

I have watched this band change its lineup a few times over the past year and a half, as they found their way. However, Marilyn Friedland, is a shining star locally, when it comes to individual drive in relation to getting a band together and keeping it going. She has created a band that is fun to watch and dance to, as well as hang in a bar and have a few drinks with. They recently were part of a Battle of the Bands that pitted them against other Florida artists, such as Gary Lazer Eyes and Yardij. Locally, they earned a very respectable second place in an attempt to earn a spot playing at the Okeechobee Music Festival.  This is an up-and-coming Florida band to keep an eye on over the next few years.

Vocals: Marilyn Friedland
Guitar: Daniel Kelley Howard
Guitar: Luis Guerrero
Bass: John Reed
Drums: Kevin Greene

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RunRaquel/?fref=ts


Genre: Rock

Soulswitch is probably Orlando’s most popular and radio-friendly rock band. They are full of energy and their music is easy to sing along to. Tom Huestis has a great rock voice that is comparable to most of what you hear on national radio today. This band can fill a venue the size of House of Blues. They have three albums out and have been performing together for about a decade. They have even played large festivals, such as 101.1 WJRR’s Earth Day Birthday, Kink Music Festival, and Welcome to Rockville. Recently, the band took a needed break to follow other personal interests, but as of January 2017, when they opened for Red Sun Rising and Sevendust, they are back to tear up the music scene again. 

Vocals: Tom Huestis
Guitar: Jimmy Kwong
Guitar: Nic Allen
Bass: Matt Larson
Drums: Chris Esquivesal

Sunshine & Bullets

Genre: Rock

If you are a fan of haunting and ethereal rock, much like Evanescence, Linkin Park, and Chevelle, you deserve to check out this Tampa, FL rock trio. They are both a male and female-fronted band. Their music is very atmospheric. When you see them live, you will be treated to a guitar that gets played with a bow and as a piano. Sunshine& Bullets has been featured on National DJ, Bubba The Love Sponge’s show, as well as had one of their songs chosen as “Song of the Year” on another music show. They have even shared a stage with Brett Michaels, of Poison. 

Vocals/Bass: Amanda Hammers
Vocals Guitar: Rich Keane Jr.
Drums: Kyle Wolfram


The Adolescent Theory

Genre: Rock/Pop Punk

You never know what you are going to get with this band. I have seen them in a smaller bar, and Johnny started the show in the back of the venue, while the band was on stage. I have seen them outside on a stage with blow-up sex dolls bouncing around. I have also seen them with a packed house at House of Blues for their CD Release party. The one thing that is consistent with them is attitude and showmanship. They know how to get a crowd involved with their catchy songs. Recently, this band opened for national act, Puddle of Mudd.

Vocals: Johnny Rayanete:

Guitar: Chris Rayanete

Guitar: Shane Cambell


Drums: Justin Mekenzie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheAdolescentTheory/?fref=ts


The GetBye

Genre: Gypsy Rock
This is an interesting band on this list of really good Florida bands. They don’t really fit into the rock or pop mold. They are more along the lines of The Grateful Dead and other jam or folk bands. This gem of band was a surprising find. When you see them live, you realize how talented this group of four guys really is. Davy, their drummer, will steal the show. He is typically decked out in purple pants, purple vest,  and his dreadlocks. Through the course of a show, he plays the drums, a trumpet, an accordion, a stand-up bass, and sings on many of the songs. If you think of a hippie music festival, you have a vision in your head of the style and attitude of The GetBye.

Vocal/Guitar: Koal

Bass: Tucker

Percussion: Skitch

Drums/Horn/Accordian/Chello/Vocals: Davy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheGetbye/?fref=ts


Genre: Rock
Traverser is Orlando’s thinking man’s rock band. They have been around for over a decade. They are known for challenging their audiences with intelligent lyrics, as well as a captivating live performance. They have shared the stage with bands such as Pop Evil, My Darkest Days, and Taproot. They released their 9-song album, Red Shift, in 2012. They are currently in the process of developing their follow-up album.

Vocals/Guitar: David Medairos
Vocals/Guitar: Jon Shaffer 
Bass: Rick Garitta
Drums: David Shaw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Traverserband/?fref=ts


Genre: Rock

If you like hard driving, 80’s style rock (think Judas Priest/Ozzy/Kiss) you will probably enjoy what this Melbourne, FL based band has to offer. This is a newer band on the scene that is still making headway, but their first, self-titled EP proves that their sound will stick with you. They are full of powerful, melodic energy. One of my personal favorites of theirs is “New Sickness.” Currently, they are in the studio working on their follow-up album. Vertebreaker has shared the stage with bands such as Saving Abel and Blacklight District. In the near future, they will be opening for national act, Saliva.

Vocals: Jack Connor
Guitar: Ryan Cowell 
Guitar: Greg Summers
Bass: Rod Bobo
Drums: Jarret Lange

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vertebreakerband/?fref=ts


Genre: Blues/Rock

Yardij is a rock band out of the Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida. Their music is heavily influenced by classic rock, as well as rock styles from the 90’s. They have recently released their second EP. Yardij has also received various accolades from the music industry – including winning an opening act spot on Bon Jovi’s 2017 Tour and being cited as one of the acts to watch at the Okeechobee Music Fest. They have also played the Florida Music Festival two years running. This is a band that is always enjoyable to see live. Deja is enchanting and even the local rock/metal bands are impressed with her vocals. This is a band that is on its way up and is headed for very good things. Recently, they also did a tour in Texas, which included shows at the SXSW Festival.
Vocals: Deja Elyze
Guitar: Nick Fernandez
Bass: Alex Athanasaw
Drums: Jordan Soloman
Keyboard: Donny P.


- More at UnRatedMagazine.com

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