This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist discusses Father/Daughter Records, Me Chinese and the Chewies, and Roadkill Ghost Choir

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Congratulations to indie-pop band Saskatchewan. With the unveiling of their debut album (Occasion), they’re positioned to be Orlando’s next breakout.

Everything begins and ends with the music, and Saskatchewan has crafted a fine slice of ’80s synth seduction. But between the artist’s hand and our ears are countless little things that have to align. A lot of that is dumb, intangible luck. Often, however, there are actual people who work to make that happen. And Saskatchewan’s auspicious debut is a prime opportunity to cast much-deserved light on an unheralded star from afar who’s helped boost our scene in quantifiable, but often silent, ways.

Though San Francisco-based, Jessi Frick has in recent years been a key figure behind nurturing and elevating worthy Florida indie acts to national prominence. Father/Daughter, the bi-coastal record label she runs with her dad, released Saskatchewan’s album. But through Goldest Egg, her PR and artist management firm, she’s also shepherding Florida’s Levek, Daytona son Christopher Paul Stelling and Elestial Sounds Records, an art-minded Gainesville label co-owned by Lighthouse Music’s Davis Hart that just released a debut comp featuring notables like Emily Reo, MSNRA and Jane Jane Pollock. In fact, when I interviewed him, David Levesque (Levek) solely credited Frick for making it happen for his band, getting their deal with Lefse Records and even bailing their asses out of a van breakdown in Jersey before she was their manager. In short, she’s a total mensch. So how is it that she’s able to cherry-pick bands with the insight of a local insider? It’s because, like Kanine Records boss Lio Cerezo, she’s a Floridian herself (from Miami but also lived in Orlando for a while). Frick has become an essential springboard for some of our recent success stories. Were it not for people like her, Florida’s deep well of talent could all too easily go unnoticed. For that, this hero goes unsung no more.

THE BEAT

The opening cast at Saskatchewan’s release party (April 30, Will’s Pub) was still-developing Orlando talent, including dream-weavers Tideup and Your Favorite Color. The most complete was Mojave Wilde. Their dreamy, folk-flecked indie-pop needs more refinement to really take off, but it’s got tons of spirit and is definitely worth following.

Earlier downtown, Montreal’s Majical Cloudz opened for Youth Lagoon (the Social). I mean, c’mon: Magic! Clouds! Whimsical license with the English language! Sounds like some Technicolor explosion of fun, no? Errr, not exactly. Listen to their music, particularly their upcoming debut LP on Matador Records (Impersonator, May 21), and “fun” will be neither the first nor the thousandth word that’ll occur to you. However, what Devon Welsh’s new electronic project manages, despite its sedate minimalism, is a strange, beautiful honesty. And it’s almost entirely because of his emoting, both vocal and physical. After seeing him live, it’s clear he’s committed to his singing as a serious tool of emotional conveyance. And watching him, all I could think is that I was seeing the tip of what could be a very deep iceberg.

Area video artist Broken Machine Films recently presented Miami experimental legend Dino Felipe (May 4, Uncle Lou’s). Though his reputation is legitimately freaky, his band, This Heart Electric, delivered a pretty legible punk set with garage and psych leanings.

But the bigger deal, really, was Me Chinese and the Chewies, a bit of an all-star Orlando trio featuring members of Telethon, Thee Wilt Chamberlain and Billy. Soaked in reverb, pumping organs and acid-kissed sunshine, their psychedelic rock, though rough, featured some bright songwriting. Good enough, in fact, for me to want to see more of them.

Speaking of quality local talent, I couldn’t be prouder to see the groundswell of support for Roadkill Ghost Choir. They’ve been rocking the major festival circuit and doing serious touring with way-legit bands like Band of Horses and Dead Confederate, with whom they recently played here before a packed house (May 2, Will’s Pub). And I’m not at all surprised. I’m pretty sure I was the first to write about them only weeks into their life as a band. Even then, the magic was already evident, and I said so. But countless things can thwart even the seemingly inevitable, so I’m especially excited that it’s really happening for them because they are the real damn deal.

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