This Little Underground: The two faces of Orlando’s Kristen Warren 

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Photo by Tipso Photos

One would've been enough to seal the deal, but this week I got two good looks at young local singer Kristen Warren in different projects. The first was at the latest edition of my favorite multi-genre serial, the Grand Collab (May 31, Will's Pub), where she was easily the diamond. The other was at the indie-rap show headlined by Blueprint (June 4, the Social) as Project Eden, her joint with Orlando MC Jorok.

If she's already teamed up with the notable Jorok then she didn't just come from nowhere, but she was new to me. I may not have seen her coming up in the rearview but, now that our show paths have crossed, that voice is etched into me. With a warm, golden wind that channels the pristine side of Erykah Badu, she's the archetype of the classic neo-soul voice – a little jazz, a little hip-hop, all clarified butter. In fact, this nightingale is one of the purest singing voices to emerge from here in a while. And once she nailed "Summertime" at the Grand Collab, it was pretty clear that she's romancing the same rich soil as Solillaquists of Sound leading lady Alexandra Sarton. Not to get too carried away with the Solillaquists comparison or anything but, between Jorok's tight rap coils and Warren's supple steeze, Project Eden works a similar hard/soft dynamic as Swamburger and Sarton, and we know what kind of magic that's capable of.

But the Blueprint show leveled up once North Carolina's Supastition seized the stage with a dense, tense style that pumps the blood and makes veins pop a little. Even if you haven't heard of him, you've likely heard him alongside notables like KRS-One, Jedi Mind Tricks, Little Brother and Souls of Mischief. But his combination of conviction, nerve and classic boom-bap fire deserves its own spotlight.

Ohio headliner Blueprint has got to be one of the most underrated MCs around right now, even in his native indie-rap scene. Like any self-respecting Midwesterner, he's refreshingly free of pomp. But he's loaded with marrow that's delivered in a cocked, literate style. He's a well-calibrated union of edge and intelligence that owns the stage with nothing but pure legitimacy. What's more, the guy's got a real left-field streak that occasionally swerved the performance to a freaky late-night odyssey via a keytar.

The Beat

Mysteriously, they've yet to receive their full due here, so it's a real blessing each time Nashville's Turbo Fruits (June 5, Will's Pub) come to town. They've always tried to groom their garage and punk hairs with some real craft and focus, tuning their sound into an increasingly honed thing. This time, they returned with a decidedly pop-forward pivot that's a deadly-effective collision of precision, concision and snap that's surprisingly flattering to their melodic ability.

Nashville brethren Sol Cat are a tangle of misdirection. In terms of first impressions, the singer comes on strong with an eye-blistering Grateful Dead tie-dye. If that doesn't make you walk right out the room, then you'd notice that they really more closely resemble a bunch of '70s skate heshers. But practically none of that conveniently signifies their music, which is a very layered, textured sound blending 21st-century indie rock and '70s grandeur. Between their nice vintage keyboard sounds and epic pop sense, it's a sleek, lush and romantic ride.

Orlando opener the Plush Monsters are also the product of some bold style-mixing with a sound that's an earthy, joyous, dimensional take on theatrical late-'00s indie rock. Some of their stripes are a little dorky, but they're an unfailingly effervescent band.

An interesting local debut was Dumber Bunnies, the brand-new band studded with Phil Longo and the Woolly Bushmen's Palombi brothers. Though that already looks great on paper, it's a very new, still-rough ensemble and this performance was often more of a live practice. But these are all proven players, so a little time is all it should take for that click to happen. Once it does, this could be fun, because they're a very '60s rock & roll act that stomps with some nice dirt and sneer.


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