THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
With each successive time seeing them on stage, I just root harder and harder for Heartless Bastards
(Feb. 24, the Social). They started out true, with pure gut,
but have been able to expand and evolve without losing any of that. Although deeply ancestral to great American music heritage, this mighty, enduring horse for frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom has proven to be slave to neither genre nor time. Game to mine garage, rock, blues and roots with equal comfort, they’re anything but purists. Their touchstones are classic but their pulse is raw and evergreen. And while others of their ilk have chosen a side – between toughness or heart, viscera or soul – Wennerstrom has transcended niche by threading the needle with a well-calibrated blend of beauty, earth and power.
For all these reasons, it’s been great to see Heartless Bastards’ steady climb from the word-of-mouth phenomenon of being your favorite band’s favorite band
(they were first widely championed by the Black Keys
) to establishing a solid fan base of their very own. Although this wasn’t the largest Orlando audience they’ve played to (they’ve opened for others like Lucinda Williams
at larger venues), it was one of true devotion
that was unquestionably and entirely for them.
Hopefully, a similar path will happen soon for opener Susto
from Charleston, South Carolina. Although still quite young, they’ve been keeping very good company with modern Southern-rock royalty including native contemporaries like Band of Horses
and Shovels and Rope.
Staking some gorgeous ground between Futurebirds
and Deer Tick,
their brand of country-rock is more taste and clarity than diesel and beer. Their exceptional melodies come in long, lean, curling lines set against sonic atmosphere that’s rich and bright.
Susto may have less name recognition than some of their peers but they’re actually packing more intrinsic goods
than many of the marquee names already. Elegant and indie but with a clear, beautiful twang, they’re easily one of the most melodically perfect
of an already deep class. Stuff this clearly good seldom stays buried forever. And they received more genuine crowd reaction with the immediate persuasion of their music in this Orlando debut
than other touring bands that have put in years of street-level work. Keep an eye on these guys.
This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly's music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city's music scene.
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