This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist promotes music-minded cultural happenings and talks Zenas Fisk, Babysitter and Rot Guts

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See this week’s Selections (p. 32) for full details on the upcoming Peter Brötzmann/Joe McPhee concert (June 3, Timucua White House). But besides the mind-frying talent, this show is particularly worth patronage because it’s also a fundraiser for the Civic Minded 5 to extend their concert season. These way-smarter-than-me local guys are the vanguard in presenting high-culture music in our city. Your attendance will fund their heroic volunteer efforts. Go online (thecm5.com) for advance tickets and other support opportunities.

By now, you may’ve heard the recent confirmation that all the rumors about the Orlando Philharmonic purchasing the Plaza Live are true. Back in 2007, I was one of the first in the city to write about the exciting, newfound relevance of the venue. Having spent part of my youth watching dollar movies there, I’ve always adored the grande dame theater, and seeing it reawaken in recent years as a proper live venue has been a glorious thing. I’ve since seen some magical shows there, the magic of which had as much to do with the space itself as it did the actual performers. The official press release says this shift won’t change the pop-music concert aspect of the theater. For the everyday vibrancy of the city, I sure hope that’s the truth.

The Beat

Guitars, bass, drums – blah, blah, blaaah. It’s all you ever hear, right? Well, from the most art-minded and restless recesses of the local underground comes, yes, a cell phone band. I recognize that WTF look on your face because I had it too when I first heard about what Orlando concept band Zenas Fisk (May 21, Peacock Room) was up to.

 

It goes something like this: The members rock their personal cellies via various apps – some musical, some not. And it’s all fed through an array of sound modulators (e.g. pedals, etc.). The project is the baby of local left-fielder Timothy Murray (of course it is) and it all sounds a little nutty, don’t it? But, really, it’s utterly modern in concept. And in reality and execution, the music of this set was neither lark nor gimmick. The experiment produced electronic soundscapes that were much more earnest and beautiful than you (or I) would expect. With slow blossoms of ambient artistry, the three-man crew was like a pocket planetarium symphony. And what they lacked in the typical rock-band physicality was compensated for by the visuals of Broken Machine Films. Perhaps now, I’ve seen it all.

 

On the side, it’s worth noting that the Peacock’s music room overhaul is really, finally getting more properly suited to all the good stuff that happens there.

Later down the street (Uncle Lou’s), it was back to punk-rock basics. Drawing first blood was new Orlando band the Rot Guts. Their meaty, smeared rock was the embodiment of American underground rawness with a slight outsider edge. They were rough, sometimes bringing me to the point of wondering what exactly was going on. But for all its lack of discipline, their performance at least careened with some real wildness.

Closing the night was local trio Tit Sweat. In case you couldn’t divine it from their name, they’re an all-female punk band. And though two-thirds of their ranks come from another Orlando all-female punk act, the game-topping Wet Nurse, this band is less hook-happy, more riot grrrl and entirely kick-ass.

But, holy hell, the big, fat, juicy burger in the middle was touring band Babysitter. This was one of those surprise moments of slapping truth and clarity that we’re lucky enough to have happen at Uncle Lou’s from time to time. From the first note, their set was an instant bonfire that didn’t let up until they unplugged. The first thing that hits you about these Canadian longhairs is their searing energy. It’s a party on live wires. But don’t let the full-tilt, bash-it-out mien fool you; these cats are marksmen of the first order. Under all those hot, flying sparks is great melodic range and ability – some slack ’90s loudness, some good ’70s snot, lots of rock & roll, all packed into a tight, high-efficiency, punk-rock pill. In short, they kick out great songs with hit-and-run intent. And that frontman is just feral.

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