Suffice it to say, I don't often make it out to Matrix, one of the dance clubs out at Pointe Orlando. One, it's on International Drive, an area worth avoiding in the best of times, much less on a Friday night. Two, it's a dance club. Not my native environment. Yet there I was, on Aug. 5. Not only a Friday night, but a Friday night that began with a surprise birthday party for yours truly. Why on earth would I leave my own birthday party early and alone to drive out to a dance club on International Drive? To see Juggy D, of course. If you can get past his horrible stage name, and know anything about my taste in music, you'd understand.
You see, Juggy D is a bhangra MC, a proponent of that most geographically confused sort of South Asian music. Begun in the fields of Punjab, and based around the thunderous propulsion of the dhol, it's long been the populist sound of North India. Taken up by desi performers in England (particularly in Birmingham), the rhythms and high-energy chants were fused with hip-hop flash, resulting in a form of music British bhangra created by producers like Rishi Rich and artists like Apache Indian and Juggy D, whose debut solo album was the first all-Panjabi album to crack the U.K. charts. British bhangra is now being reimported to India (mostly via bootlegs), challenging the dominance of homegrown bhangra artists.
Juggy D, in other words, is a freakin' superstar in bhangra circles; granted, those circles are larger and more pronounced in England and India, but given Orlando's growing South Asian (and West Indian) population, I figured a large and enthusiastic crowd would be packed into Matrix for the show. Though the club wasn't completely filled, a respectable and ready-to-dance contingent of desi hipsters was definitely out in force, doing things that would probably send their parents into paroxysms of rage. When Juggy D finally took over the mike after 1 a.m., the dance floor exploded. Innumerable shout-outs slowed the proceedings down (although a brief appearance by Rishi Rich was cool), but with the bhangra beats booming and the crowd flipping out, Juggy could have prowled the stage with a dead mike and it probably wouldn't have mattered. It was worth leaving my own birthday party for.
I got a lot of response after I floated the (apparently controversial) idea in last week's column that band-battles are stupid. Whatever. Let's just see how quickly the careers of two Orlando bands Fireflight and Plain Jane Automobile accelerate after their appearances Aug. 18 as Southeast finalists in the Independent Music World Series in Atlanta. Sponsored by Billboard magazine, the event boasts a $35,000 prize package of gear, recording software, CD manufacturing and "post-production sweetening." Honestly, good luck to both bands, but one would hope their expectations are realistic about what winning such a contest means.
When I first started working at Orlando Weekly, it seemed like every time I wrote something nice about a band (or, God forbid, profiled them in the paper), it was only a matter of weeks before they broke up. One such victim was the pop-punk confection called Alias Clark. Their shows were a full-on hoot, full of energy, self-effacing humor and absurdly catchy songs. Well, at the risk of prematurely stillbirthing them, I feel the need to announce that the group has re-formed and will be playing a reunion show Saturday, Aug. 20, at Odin's Den. Unless, of course, they break up again beforehand.
Local alt-twangers Holidaysburg have wrapped up work on their debut CD (A Better November) and are now sitting on boxes of product … I mean expressions of art. (I kid; these guys are a great band. Give them your money.) The discs are available directly from www.holidaysburg.com and, as of the end of July, from Park Ave CDs. The "official" release date is Aug. 30, but I have a feeling the boys won't be penalizing retailers who sell it early.
A dirty and poorly-kept secret of mine is that the Russian music-download site www.allofmp3.com is one of the cheapest ways to stock up on tunes. They charge 2 cents per megabyte, rather than by the song, so your price varies depending on the length of the song and the bit rate you choose. The site says it's legal, and it recently fended off investigations by the Russian cops, but there's something about downloading a nine-CD box set for 8 bucks that feels a little icky. Not content with being a secret anymore, www.allofmp3.cz (a mirror site) was recently launched with a press announcement and everything. Which must mean it's aboveboard, yes?
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