This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist checks out Areolas, Shehehe, a Fucking Elephant and more

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For a red-blooded hetero guy, a band named the Areolas automatically starts off in the plus column. Comprised of three girls (duh) and one guy (shit, are the male breast counterpart called areolas, too?), this local group has been working the scene for a little while now, keeping decent company and appearing on some notable bills. They're the kind of band that plays straightforward Cali-kissed pop-punk at exactly one pace – fast. And the good news, as their latest gig (Jan. 7, Will's Pub) affirmed, is they're equally consistent in their hooks and intent. Melodic, bouncy and worth losing some of your beer over in a jubilant pit, this is the kind of stuff that blasted from practically every boombox at every ramp I skated as a kid. It's fun, blitzkrieging punk rock that, when done this solidly, is evergreen. And the Areolas are some of the better practitioners in town.

Speaking of girls, headliner Shehehe has a band name I feel especially ridiculous saying aloud because it makes me feel like one. As their self-described style of "new American jet rock" implies, this Athens, Ga., crew is a glam-punk bomb that's more than a little fueled by Johnny Thunders. Their punk and roll bag is schticky and sometimes thin, but when the whole gang sings, they shake the goddamned walls. What's more, they seem to have some righteous influences, even throwing in a Wreckless Eric cover. Besides, any band that can make a perfect rock & roll song like "Rollin'," the sole track on their Facebook page, is always dangerous.

Also playing was local band It Runs in Our Blood, whose raw swirl of American punk, post-punk and early indie rock sounded more impressively urgent and confident this time.

Recently, I've been spinning the upcoming debut LP by Tampa band Permanent Makeup (The Void … It Creeps, out Feb. 26 on top Tampa indie house New Granada). But after being smacked in the face by them live (Jan. 8, the Social), it's pretty clear that NG has a powerhouse in its stable. Their arty, roiling post-punk veers on the dissonant, gale-swept precipice where noise kites like Sonic Youth fly.

Headlining was Forgetters, fronted by indie hero Blake Schwarzenbach. Considering his musical bookends of Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil, this is a very effectively calibrated band for him, one that allows his maturity and depth to shine. It's a soulful intersection of chewy rock brawn and heart-carving melody that knows perfectly how to be both emotionally riveting and sonically substantial.

Later, I scooted into a special edition of weekly metal night Juggernaut (Backbooth) in time to see A Fucking Elephant. Belying their heavy, lumbering moniker, this Jersey duo is an agile, slashing mathcore band that's a wonder of muscle, angles and neck-breaking technicality.

Remember when the Darkness exploded onto the scene a decade ago like a big, ridiculous glitter balloon? For me, it was kinda like Bac-Os. I knew this wasn't good in any sort of unconditional way. But regardless of anything my intellectual fiber told me about its complete (and even celebratory) lack of substance, it was deliciously irresistible.

Now, the rock cocks are in the midst of their comeback (Jan. 11, Hard Rock Live). But after venturing into the abyss of some true personal darkness (addiction, band implosion, etc.), would they still be as liberatingly absurd as when their tights first marched on the world? And does it matter anymore? After this much time, are there any kicks left to be had in what was always just a giddy, immediate and irrational infatuation? Turns out, yes – some sweet-ass scissor kicks, actually. And high steps, and headstands, too! Oh, boy.

From Justin Hawkins' outrageous outfit – a dick-bound plunge of a second skin that would make even ol' Diamond Dave blush – it was clear that subtlety was still an utterly incomprehensible principle to this band. It ain't deep or lasting, but like cotton candy – or better, nitrous oxide – it's sweet, dazzling ephemera that at least takes you on one hell of a ride. They're a fun bit of escapist glory that's still a thousand times more tolerable than Foxy Shazam. At its best, it can knock the snobbery right out of you – at least until you come down.

Side note: Um, what happened to the weather?


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