This Little Underground: Whores leads a diverse charge 

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Photo by Darin Black

So let me get this straight. The latest show booked by Non-Prophet Organization (Aug. 28, Will's Pub) was an obviously eclectic bill and you guys weren't confused, still turned out in significant numbers and were in full embrace of it? What the? Who are you? Nice to meet you. I've been looking a long time for people like you.

But if you're gonna go out on a limb, this was the one to do it for. Atlanta headliner Whores has been beating the sweet shit out of the heavy-music cognoscenti around here for a few years, but it's feeling like they've been building up to a new national cusp lately. With a mean eye on the throne, these noise-rock princes have been sharpening their machetes and getting into primetime shape with things like their big upcoming Revolver magazine-sponsored fall tour with Portland butchers Red Fang. And it looks like Orlando's on pace this time because this was by far the biggest, most physical reception I've seen for them.

Local opener the Ludes delivered possibly their drunkest performance yet. Luckily, singer-guitarist Jeff Nolan, one of the city's most skilled and venerated axemen, could probably shred under anesthesia, so it was still a decent slab of their unapologetically regressive and hot-licked rock & roll.

After some time off the circuit working on new material, DeLand's Junior Bruce is now back prowling stages with a little more velocity and some new shades in their gaping fury. What hasn't changed is that they're still bosses of tarry, boiling swamp-bottom sludge. This was a refresher that it's overdue for them to start flexing around here again.

Like DeLand first called to me back in the late 2000s and the Space Coast in more recent years, Lakeland is the most recent hotbed in the area that's buzzed my radar with impressive bands like Omri Loved Celadon and Poster. Add Pilgrimage to that list. They do well-pitched post-hardcore that carries both emotional range and math intelligence with enough compass to not get lost in either. While many mix styles to Frankenstein results, Pilgrimage is a smart gestalt that taps and unifies the power of all their edges without any fusion compromise. They're heartfelt but still forceful, technical but not nerdy, and much harder live than their recordings reveal.

The Beat

L.A. rockabilly icon Kim Lenz (Aug. 23, Will's Pub) drew the best-coiffed and most prêt-à-party crowd seen in a long time, complete with total drunken revelry and floor-scorching swing dancing. Powered by a good band, Lenz's brass and charisma had the dresses twirling.

But the act that first got 'em moving en masse was Little Sheba and the Shamans. Like the Detroit Cobras, this Tampa combo lights new flame into obscure early rock & roll and rhythm & blues songs. Unless you're a specialist aficionado, you wouldn't even know this was a cover band. Their material may be borrowed, but it's sourced deeply and played with original fire.

To that end, the unmistakable sun of their galaxy is the seriously tough voice of frontwoman Ari Little, which is a soul-forged wrecking ball that she's only wielding at partial potential. Enough of it manifested to slap me in the face, but it's evident she's pulling what is clearly a knockout punch. When you're lucky enough to own an engine with that much horsepower, the only wrong you can do is to not open it up and let her rip. And this girl is perching on a rocket.

Finally, Denver opener the Drunken Cuddle kickstarted the night with a nice little storm of spirited boxcar country punk. Although they're but a lean, mean trio, they kick up more dust and raise more dead than bands twice their size. They're more than just power, however. Besides their core arrangement of guitar, drums and harmonica, they color their palette further with folksy edges like spoons and tin cans without getting too campy. And through frontman Erik Arvoy's sonorous guitar work, they even ride high on some great, rolling Spaghetti Western lines. Tally it all up and you've got one high-performance stage machine.


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