This Little Underground 

Bao Le-Huu checks in on heaviness at Sip, including Dissident Aggressor and They Eat Their Own God, and stumbles onto good news at Uncle Lou's

Musicians: Florida Music Festival is now accepting artist submissions for 2012 (florida- musicfestival.com).

The beat

The Sam Rivers tribute (the Social, Jan. 4) put on by members of his celebrated Rivbea Orchestra was met with an unsurprisingly and appropriately packed house to celebrate the jazz giant’s life and art. The man’s spirit was indeed alive with vibrant, heartfelt playing by as many as 14 players at one point. But considering the singularity of his daring musical spirit, there was a big, conspicuous, irreplaceable hole up there onstage. And, unfortunately, an entire army of inspired players with swollen hearts could never, ever fill the huge void left by the man himself. But last week’s paper was funereal enough, so on to more positive news.

When Hoops closed recently, the city’s DIY concert circuit was down one venue. But that number may be balanced again. Despite its polite and, well, dainty name, it looks like Sip is in the game with some new changes in its programming. Considering the bar’s original, more urbane intent, they’re some rather drastic alterations. With promoters like the hammer-dropping Orlandooom boys starting to come into the Sip fold, there’s been some live haps going on – some really heavy and aggressive action, actually. I’d never been to Sip before, but I’m sure it’s still as nice as it ever was on “normal” lounge nights or other tamer events. However, walking in from the cold this night (Jan. 4) and being met with body heat and the signature musk typically associated with crust punks, well, clearly this is not the same place as before.

Thrash ain’t exactly my thing – not heavy enough – but local band Dissident Aggressorkicked pretty hard. Playing as a tough, athletic twosome, their technical thrash metal was more than just aggro fireworks; with shades of black and death, it was actually pretty expressive without being weak. Most effectively, their polluted sound was dragged through just enough dirt to give it some menace.

A theremin and a strobe light will always make me stick around, and that’s exactly what South Carolina’s They Eat Their Own God featured. I couldn’t hear much of the theremin, but their crusty jumble of metal, screamo, post-hardcore and ambitious arty tendencies was already crowded enough.

Despite its hard concrete and glass surfaces, Sip’s sound quality is better and louder than you might expect, even better than some of the neighborhood DIY spots. Sip isn’t the first or only spot to try multipurposing around here, and this borough is a place where that can actually work. Both the location and time are right for it. And the bottom line is that having another open-minded venue in the Mills Ave. vicinity can only be a good addition. For the most part, the bar seemed to let the bands do their thing. It’s weird on paper, but people attended this show and they looked at home. No better sign than that. So stay on top of Sip’s calendar for more shows.

I popped into Substance on a recent night (Jan. 5) for a show, only way too early, apparently, since no one was yet inside or, even worse, behind the bar. So I hoofed it elsewhere on Mills for a beer in the meantime. As I approached Uncle Lou’s, I realized that it had been some time since I’d checked in. The beer’s cheap, Lou’s the man and, hell, you never know what you’re gonna find in there. And as soon as I stepped inside, I saw none other than Brian Maguire sitting behind a drum kit, jamming with friends. What the … ?!

Just to refresh, this was the guy who was rendered a virtual vegetable a few short years ago by a nasty motorcycle accident. One of his very first vigils was actually here at Lou’s with his then-band Big Jef Special.Seeing him from time to time at shows, I knew his recovery had been going miraculously well. But to see him actually play again, well, I didn’t know if I would ever see that. And, most importantly, he was hooting, hollering and just having a good ol’ time. The only one there happier than me was Brian himself. I can’t think of a more perfect note to close on.

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