This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist checks out the Joy Formidable, ETurn, Orgone and more this week

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You know how I’ve been gushing over Titusville’s Flashlights for, like, the past two years? Former Norse Korea partner Bradley Ryan – the man who put them on the area map and co-released their first LP (I’m Not Alone) – first turned me on to them. Once I heard their blissed-out fuzz bomb, I fell hard, expended my most glowing vocabulary on them (naming their debut album one of 2011’s top records) and even asked them to play my Indie Fall Fest stage in 2011.

It turns out I’m not a total loon (this time) because some big, well-deserved things are finally happening for this superlative band. They’re the latest signing for Hard Rock Records, a new label with a powerhouse name and local ties. The label just released their new digital EP (Don’t Take Me Seriously), which was recorded with the heavyweight likes of Scott Hutchison and Andy Monaghan of Frightened Rabbit, with an LP to follow later this summer. To celebrate the momentous development, they’re playing a free show this weekend (May 18, the Social) to kick off an Eastern U.S. tour.

Looks like they’re cleared for takeoff, so let’s cheer ’em on.

The Beat

Motivated by some hot word of mouth and a viral video of her tearing up the mic on a cypher that KRS-One started at his recent in-town show, I attended the album release party of young Orlando MC ETurn (May 9, Backbooth). And she delivered – confidently and brightly – with a gunning, snap-tight cadence that swears proud allegiance to the purest roots of rap.

Emerging from the Second Subject Recordings family with major-league turntablist DJ SPS as her wingman, she’s a product of the city’s hip-hop intelligentsia. Moreover, a packed house turned out for her. So, according to my math, she’s got the goods, added to the pedigree, plus the support. What that equals is a potential star.

The Joy Formidable is as fitting a name as any for the Welsh trio (May 6, the Social) because they are rock exultation, unchained and towering. With a meaty rock sound with big pop hooks and noise adrenaline, they effectively straddle indie leanings and open accessibility. It’s what the mainstream should sound like. And though professional-sounding, their guileless exuberance is spontaneous, completely endearing and can light up a room.

As for L.A. opener Io Echo, I’m way into their synth-gaze sound. And though it’s appreciated, it has nothing to do with their mad case of yellow fever (hellooo, kimono!). But live, they were much more full-on rock and much more shoegaze even. The result was one tall wall of sound.

Like reggae, funk is a genre that’s suffered from the lowest common denominator element that’s flooded it. It’s so institutional now that every city has that local-yokel funk contingent that mines the style’s same trite edges. It’s so endemic, with so little counterbalance, that it’s enough to make you give up the genre altogether. But then a band like Orgone (May 7, the Social) comes along and redeems the form.

On paper, they seem virtually identical to the usual suspects, with a blend of funk, rock, soul and blues. There’s even a fair bit of jam in this band. But besides other added flavors like Afrobeat and Latin, what puts a million miles between them and others are Orgone’s deep authenticity, forward thinking and basic taste. It’s also why they’re a Ubiquity Records band.

After seeing them live, even more questions occur to me. First: Why do all you party people even bother with those tired and corny funk bar bands when bands like Orgone pack all that immediate appeal, only more (e.g. substance, legitimacy)? Who wouldn’t want more? This is still America, right? Easy sipping isn’t mutually exclusive with depth.

Second, why does it take some L.A. cats to come in and show us how to do it right? It’s a head-scratcher. Considering that our pocket of the globe is steeped in many of the spices they pull from, shouldn’t we be the ones showing them?

Local country-rockers Six Time Losers also had an album release party (May 10, Will’s Pub). I like this band, but their instincts aren’t always the most fine-tuned. When they cut out the obvious hayseed prosaism and just keep it restrained and honest, however, they can surprise you.

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