This Little Underground 

This week, Bao Le-Huu covers Dan Deacon, Iris DeMent, Bog Prophet and more

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Usually, it's larger, coordinated events like music festivals that underscore the welling critical mass of Mills Avenue. But the night of Dec. 6 showed how close the strip's usual offering of colorful natives doing their own thing is to being of national caliber.

First, Will's Pub featured a two-piece band blowout headlined by dazzling Cleveland virtuosos Mr. Gnome and supported by premium Orlando duos Bob on Blonde and Yogurt Smoothness. Second, Uncle Lou's hosted – get this – a double-feature appearance of what's likely to be the final tour of Bomb the Music Industry (the early show was supported by exceptional locals Jr. Meowzer, and the late show by also-local You Blew It!). Finally, Peacock Room was the scene of the momentous return of heavy-music booking mafia Orlandooom, who cannonballed back into the local pool with a big, expansive lineup of heavies including Neurot Recordings band Across Tundras, Tennessee stoners Hellbender, local ax-murderers Junior Bruce and the debut of Orlando sludge band Bog Prophet. So, yeah, wow. Thassa lotta high-profile action in one night for a five-block stretch. I simply couldn't make it all, but that's a dilemma I'll take any day.

According to promoter Bradley Ryan, both Bomb the Music Industry shows sold out. And from what I saw of Mr. Gnome, they're still the highest functioning duo around. But my eye was on the resuscitation of Orlandooom, who came back hard with an interesting, signed band in Tennessee's Across Tundras. Even more psychedelic live, with references beyond typical metal terrain, their doomed twang is what Dead Meadow might sound like if they headed into the green hills and traded their mushrooms for 'shine.

And look out, guys. There's a hairy new monster on the prowl in Orlando. It debuted here and its name is Bog Prophet. It's a scraping, heaving beast that you'll know by the roars that scorch your face and the riffs built for blunt-force trauma. Dirty, crushing and no fucking around – this is how I like my metal.

Welcome back, Orlandooom. And good going in general by all who either produced or attended any of these shows. If we all keep working hard like this, could this be what Mills Avenue always looks like within a year?

The Beat

It's good to see Dan Deacon's still doing his thing (Dec. 5, the Social). Even though the Wham City poster boy returns years later with a significantly higher profile, he's still upholding his DIY warehouse ethos and conducting his shows as up-close congregations, performing on the floor among the audience members.

I dig the forward-thinking, wonder-filled quality of his breathless electronic music. But his shows are the real marvel. You can't fully appreciate what he does unless you've seen him live. Like a garage rave with the devotional zeal of a hardcore, rural Pentecostal service, he doesn't give you a performance, he gives you something to be involved in, a genuine communal happening.

Proof that his ability to create an interactive, all-in social situation has magnified is the club-exiting parade he incited. Like some combination of limbo and leap frog, the progressive procession was the longest tunnel of human bodies I've ever seen (or gone through), expanding as each pair of people passed through until every non-staff soul was outside on Orange Avenue and then suddenly collapsing in on itself in just as orderly a manner as it materialized. Participatory performance like this proves that Deacon's far beyond even dance party spectacles like Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. He's now one of the greatest Pied Pipers alive.

Holy shit, Iris DeMent is back (Dec. 8, Plaza Live)! The recent release of her first original album in 16 years brought her to town. Live, she reaffirms everything that's unique about her outlook in ways that can only happen when you're in the same room. Foremost is the experience of her voice, the soul-baringly melodic tremble of which could pass for a lost Carter daughter. There's nothing like being in the presence of such raw, unvarnished and staggering truth. But utterly refreshing – no, validating – is the reminder that country authenticity isn't exclusive to intellect and poetry. Rather than canned hick stereotypes or aw-shucks affectation, real folk and country music in her hands is the vessel of candor, humanity and wisdom.

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