This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist discusses Buildings, El Ten Eleven and Lauris Vidal

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Hey, you. The big annual Florida Music Festival (April 17-20) takes over downtown this week.

The Beat

What’s that? I can’t hear you. It’s because the recent Orlandooom bill (April 7, Will’s Pub) murdered my ears. Seriously, that shit was severe. Headlining was South Carolina’s Burnt Books. From the high-caliber barrel of East Coast slaughterhouse At a Loss Recordings, this band blasts intense, intelligent hardcore at inadvisable volume.

But the stunner of the night – make that the week – was Buildings. They came highly recommended a while ago from trusted sources but good god, man. Only seconds into their first song, I heard it. No, not the explosion of sound from the speakers. Even louder was that click – the one that happens when you realize you’re witnessing an undeniable, single-minded force.

Almost everything about them – their Minneapolis provenance, hide-shaving noise rock – screams Amphetamine Reptile Records. First and foremost, they thrill. With a nerve-steeling onslaught, they’re a punch to the mug but also a serious pump of the nuts. But for all their danger, what distinguishes Buildings is an equally forceful sense of control. Even over all that noise, there is a smacking clarity about them. Their post-AmRep slash-and-burn is a fire of focus, which only pressurizes their already quickening heat. And their expansive, near-perfect formula stacks enough coiled tension for the hardcore, enough angles for the math heads and enough swashbuckling roughness for the noise-rock purists. Buildings isn’t just one of the finest noise-rock bands alive, they’re one of the most forceful, well-pitched bands I’ve seen in too long.

Local opener Ad Nauseum, however … not so much. Droning heaviness stabbed by power-violence outbursts might sound promising on paper, but as yet, they’re too green and unfocused.

What makes El Ten Eleven’s instrumental rock spectacle (April 11, the Social) an infinitely watchable thing is their unbridled sense of show and fun, something especially impressive given both their high skill and often self-serious genre. And now with their increasingly dazzling, live-mixed light and video rig to sight-track their music, damn, these guys are getting prime time.

Electronic musicians, please refer to opener Slow Magic on how to do it correctly live. Although (and perhaps because) much of his music is prerecorded, this one-man show at least sported a costume and live drumming – you know, something worthy of the eyes. And in his case, it was something worthy of the spirit, too. Besides the tribally psychedelic animal mask, his stand-up playing had the forceful verve of a taiko drummer. Add in his towering Purity Ring-esque jams and you’ve got one of the best live dance music sets you’re likely to see.

Slow Magic’s live performance succeeds through clarified and punctuated presentation, with just enough true live electricity to make his set pop with excitement and legitimacy. Final proof that this guy understands the show concept was when he descended into the middle of a crowd with a drum. See? All it takes to move us is some effort and flair.

Speaking of solo acts, alt-folkster Lauris Vidal has long been an effective one. But he’s now upped himself as an actual one-man band (April 9, Lil’ Indies), turning his formerly floor-stomping feet into a proper rhythm section on drums to channel his original Florida cracker sound in newly robust ways. Turns out, he’s pretty proficient at the art. In addition to his own songs, he liberally peppered the evening with tasteful covers of artists like Tom Waits, Hank Sr., Taj Mahal and the Smiths.

Didn’t make it, slacker? Well, there’s redemption this time because you still have one last chance to catch this next notable version of Vidal’s folksy orange blossom soul up close for free (April 22, Lil’ Indies).

The main reason to love Knoxville’s Black Lillies (April 13, Backbooth) is that they’re a true-hearted country band with exceptional melodic ability. With deluxe instrumentation including pedal steel, piano and upright bass, their music – which spans honky-tonk, gospel, blues, early rock & roll and Southern soul – is tune-smart, played with skill and thoroughly nourishing. Oh, you missed this? That’s probably because booking a little-known out-of-towner to play downtown early on a Saturday night alone, without local support, doesn’t lend itself to much discovery.

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