Lil Yachty more hype than substance, avant-gardists Ava Mendoza and Jessica Pavone collide, Monolord’s first U.S. headlining tour conquers 

click to enlarge Ava Mendoza

Photo by Liv Jonse

Ava Mendoza

It's usually the party, not the fallout, for our Best of Orlando issue that gets crazy. But, hoo boy, that was some shit show. Stay nuts, Orlando.

THE BEAT

Lil Yachty (Aug. 25, the Social) is surging up like an ATLien geyser right now. The thing is, there's definitely a generational aspect going on here.

For sure, the young Atlanta rapper presents some immediate intrigue. He's got a left-side vibe that radiates new-school flair and turnt-up weirdness like some Dirty South cousin of the Odd Future clan.

However, he's got a vocalization style that staggers on that dubious ground where personal style and technical deficiency blur together in a way that's highly debatable. Besides his slack flow, dude practically exhales Autotune, which sometimes works in his more out-there moments where he obscures the rap-sing line. But he holds onto that device like a security blanket.

Based on the size and fever of the capacity crowd in Orlando, my opinion on Yachty will be unpopular. Then again, judging from the YouTube comments on his videos, maybe not. Kids have never needed more than energy and attitude to rally around something, and Lil Yachty's current fire is undeniable. But a cultural phenomenon does not a fundamental artist make. And, right now, little else is manifest.

The Civic Minded Five's latest avant-garde bill of national caliber (Aug. 25, the Gallery at Avalon Island) collided the major forces of Ava Mendoza and Jessica Pavone. Brooklyn transplant Mendoza is the highly noted experimental guitarist currently making noise in Unnatural Ways. Despite that main gig's name, however, the things she did on guitar at this solo performance – from making a slide sound like whale songs to conjuring aboriginal spirits – were like the very forces of nature. At times, her noise-baked badlands blues plays like some epic, elemental cross of Sir Richard Bishop and Earth, but with a wild-child streak. Across sonic landscapes that are gorgeous, foreboding and sonically feral, it's a sound at once forward and ancient.

Proving her own notable avant-garde bona fides, NYC's Jessica Pavone takes a classical instrument (viola) and, through technique and effects, stretches it into far realms that span harrowing edges, dark atmosphere, eerie loneliness and noise-fried intensity. But this wasn't just some exercise in ingenuity or, worse, strangeness for its own sake. No, this riveting display was a thing of experimental power and expressive mastery.

The latest Endoxa Booking show (Aug. 22, Will's Pub) turned the stage into an altar to the almighty riff in a doom-dominated, next-wave bill. Headlining was Monolord, another canal dredger from Riding Easy Records, an undersung boutique label loaded with neo-vintage heavy-rock bands that got on our radar permanently last summer after they showcased quality acts like Slow Season, Electric Citizen and Mondo Drag on a label tour.

This was Monolord's first headlining tour of North America and they came with conquering intent, packing the most distilled and funneled grooves of the night. Live, their merger of heavy doom and fat-ass fuzz plays like a groaning mammoth set to meter, with an advance purposefully distilled for pure power and massive dynamics. This crush is for real.

Before them, Fresno's Beastmaker laid down retro doom dripping in macabre '70s imagery and bearing enough occult references to sate a legion of dark nerds. There was lots of pulpy drama but, luckily, enough heft and conviction to make it all legit.

Austin opener Sweat Lodge stood apart and impressed. They, too, are on another exceptional small label, Brutal Panda Records (one of the better-curated heavy music labels, home to beasts like Whores, Fight Amp, Cherubs, Helms Alee and Mantar). They're the only non-doom band on the tour, with a proto-metal sound and a name that perfectly signals their evocative ambition. Live, their psychotropic deep dive is a sensory warp of thick echoes, other-side howls and overdriven electricity. And if that nod to the Native American spirit of primordiality wasn't explicit enough for you, the image of bassist Austin Shockley (who's also in notable band Warm Soda) rocking the raven braids shirtless will no doubt send it home. It's the soundtrack to a hard rock vision quest conjured by skilled sonic shamans.

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