This Little Underground 

Bao Le-Huu takes on CSS, Ghostland Observatory, Anamanaguchi and more

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER GARCIA
  • Christopher Garcia

So you mean it was a small, silent and surgical operation based on solid intel that finally took out Osama bin Laden and not some big, clumsy parade of firepower? Oh.

The beat

Let's start with one particularly whirlwind night last week (April 28). Minutes after watching the Magic's playoff hopes implode at Will's Pub (man, this off-season's gonna be dizzying - or at least it should be), I dashed over to catch Brazil's CSS (Firestone Live). Befitting a party band, Lovefoxxx is a frontwoman who believes in performing. Like the '80s female pop stars in their prime, her dance-happy showmanship channels their musical spirit with scrappy, enthusiastic awesomeness.

Immediately afterward, I ran down the street for Austin's Ghostland Observatory (the Beacham), an act I was fully prepared to be bored or irritated by. But holy hell, what a show. Little of their simplistic electro rock was actually done live, but their fully intelligent light show was an apotheosis of immersion and transformation. Just goes to show how far kick-ass lasers and big sound can go when done properly. On record, these guys leave me cold. But live, I'm all in. A dazzling orgy for the eyes, it's not a show for the brain, but it will blow your mind.

Regarding the sonic environment, the venue has tweaked the P.A. system to notable improvement. Those drink prices though? Still painful.

Closing out the marathon, I rolled over to the purportedly reconstituted Vocalization (Back Booth). Usually, open mics equal amateur hour, but not this one. Anchored by the city's smartest hip-hop fam (Solillaquists of Sound's DiViNCi and Swamburger backed by a live band), this gathering is not only a smoothly helmed open mic and jam session, it's a vibrant embodiment of the new jazz. As the host vocalist, Swamburger is masterful with a never-ending well of rhymes, neatly cueing up the pocket for any spitters willing to take the mic and keeping the hip-hop nonstop when they finish or even flub. And when there's a good one up there, you'll see 'em trade off beautifully. The importance of Vocalization and why it needs to resume regularity is that it gives the city's legit freestyle scene - something many people don't even realize exists - a prime-time stage.

Local video game-inspired band Random Encounter (April 25, Will's Pub) proves one thing about geek culture: That it's staunchly supportive of its own, or is very easily impressed, because this crowd cheered the band's every little gimmick. Whatever, cool. I wish other ostensibly hip scenes could be at least half that demonstrably appreciative of their bands. But for an act with a lot going on stylistically, Random Encounter was strangely nondescript.

Far worthier of shit-losing exuberance was Brooklyn headliner Anamanaguchi, the chiptune bounce-punk band that soundtracked the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World video game. But despite their 8-bit heart, they're a full-band, rock-driven machine and not some rinky-dink synth act. Live, their all-out, blissful sound was surprisingly tall, energetic and contagious for a band based on such a basic novelty premise.

Geek culture is a sizeable demographic in this town, and the place was butts-to-nuts with 'em - which, yes, meant an inordinate amount of dudes knocking back the cider like it's Mountain Dew Code Red. But they spend enough time cooped up indoors in alternate realities, so I figured they deserve a rowdy night out and run of the place every so often to interact face-to-face rather than avatar-to-avatar. All jabs aside, their enthusiasm and lack of self-consciousness is something other scenes could learn from. Still, there may be nothing more annoying than a 
drunk dork.

Orlando sells out virtually every show that either Memphis' Lucero or their frontman, Ben Nichols (April 27, Will's Pub), plays here. In between full-band appearances, we've become pretty accustomed to Nichols swinging through town to do generous solo performances to tide us over. But consider yourselves uniquely lucky. Apart from his current Southeast motorcycle tour, he had this to say to me about these fairly frequent intimate solo gigs: "That's an Orlando thing." This is what happens when a musician feels welcome in a place. And this devout audience is a model for all others who complain that their favorite bands don't come here enough. Do you give them a reason to?

And a huge congratulations to Yip-Yip for a decade of arty nuttiness.

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