This Little Underground: Backbooth’s comeback 

The Falcon ready for shows, The Welzeins, Kelly Craven, Slim Walker & His Orchestra, Stephen Rock, Wheeler Newman & the Cosmic Roots Collective

click to enlarge KELLY CRAVEN - PHOTO BY JAMES DECHERT
  • Photo BY JAMES DECHERT
  • KELLY CRAVEN

Expect to see the Falcon pop up in show announcements more frequently soon. Their musician-led, donation-based Soundraiser series just wrapped and will result in a permanent PA that’ll make live shows there a more regular occurrence. That’s good news because this bar knows music and never charges a cover. Audiotourism’s Stephen Howard, the man behind the initiative, tells me the sound system should be purchased and installed by the end of April, so look out.

The Booth is Back?

Live music never stopped at Backbooth, though you wouldn’t be the only one who thought so. It’s just that, for the past couple of years, the stage offerings there became less and less worth talking about – some bullshit scene drama perhaps, but little to chew on in the way of quality music.

Backbooth attained cachet under the work of Chris Anderson, the venue’s bright in-house booker and Parafora Presents mastermind. But when he relocated out of state, the club was unable to sustain his direction and caliber, so it mostly dropped off the orbit of the city’s prime movers of music culture. However, there’s legitimate reason to believe that the downtown institution could be back on track to contend.

In my musing on local booking group Norse Korea Presents after its big third anniversary mini-festival in January, I likened NK boss Kyle Raker to Parafora’s Anderson in terms of consistency and prestige. Well, Backbooth is trying to right the ship by bringing Raker on in Anderson’s former post. And this move is the most credentialed reason since Backbooth’s heyday to put it back on your live-music radar like I have.

The Beat

Speaking of Norse Korea, I just got hip to hot-fuzzing local garage two-piece the Welzeins early this year at NK’s aforementioned mini-fest. So don’t it just figure that my next revelation regarding them is that they’re playing their “final show” (March 27, Will’s Pub)? But that very conclusive billing should’ve been asterisked because it’s really only the swan song for the original lineup. Still, one member departing a duo is pretty significant. But according to a statement on the band’s Facebook profile, the project will continue because they feel there’s still untapped potential. I agree. So the band plans to return after a productive hiatus that promises the completion of their debut album – a record I’m anxious to hear.


Zhark Attack! Photos from the Welzeins at Will’s Pub

Of the show’s couple other standout moments, it was nice to be reminded again of local Kelly Craven, who’s still one of the most engaging and believable acoustic performers around. Unlike the sea of bathos and hacks that’s washed out the form, his rich, fiery folk honors the singer-songwriter tradition.

With him, there’s no affectation or bloated nothingness, just pure power of expression.

The other point of interest was Orlando group Slim Walker and His Orchestra, an outlandish but fun collision of Southernisms like country and boogie rock with ’60s frat rock.

Celebrating the release of their debut album was Wheeler Newman and the Cosmic Roots Collective (March 29, The Venue). Despite the suspiciously jammy name, this local band is solidly on the Southern rock tip. The relatively new act is decent, though a little loose and by-the-numbers. Even though they still need some executional focus, Newman has some solid songs on which to build. Considering his earnest desire and enthusiasm for the Orlando music scene, he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Cutting deep was local opener Stephen Rock. Rock, who doesn’t play out nearly enough, came backed by star guitarist Brian Chodorcoff, who’s skilled, versatile and unquenchable enough to play out all the time.

Musically, Rock interprets American folk roots with real depth and atmosphere. Vocally, he dispatches his rich, robust voice with exceptional taste. This rare performance was a powerful reminder of a smart musician who’d be a defining force if only he were more active on the scene. But even barely part-time, Rock’s cultivated Southern aesthetic is one of the city’s sharpest, most literate sounds. And after this accomplished set, his enormous potential just won’t suffice anymore. Nothing short of him stepping up to full, shining actualization will.

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