This Little Underground 

Bao Le-Huu takes on Localcopia, Christopher Paul Stelling, Mastodon and the Wholetones

click to enlarge BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu

As the debut for both a new festival and a new venue, Localcopia (Dec. 3, the Acre) was quite an adventure. Located just north of Fairbanks Avenue on Edgewater Drive, the wayfinding was a little tricky at night with not enough clear signage and lighting to lead you smoothly to the backside entry to the property. But once that was navigated, I came upon a rather enchanted setup.The sizeable, multi-building compound was turned into a welcoming art village with booths and food and beer trucks. The nicely wooded central lawn was anchored by a large outdoor stage set up under an oak and a palm. (Gotta love Florida!) The stage was impressively pro with good sound and even a dynamic lighting rig. And overall, Localcopia was a well-executed debut and a worthy event in both mission and quality. On its hopeful follow-up, a $10 cover might entice more goers than $15 for an all-local lineup, even if they have to scale back the production a bit to make it sustainable long-term.

As for the Acre itself, this multi-faceted place is pregnant with potential. Besides the pleasing open space, one of the interesting interior spaces was thankfully unveiled because things ran late and Telethon’s set had to be moved indoors last-minute. (Nothing says par-tay like a barn-like speakeasy with a coffin inside!) It’s truly an asset to have an events commune like the Acre without having to drive out to bumfuck. The venue is supposedly working toward more public events, which would make a great and distinctive impact in our scene. In terms of outdoor events, we’ll see how all that sits with the surrounding residences. You know how neighbors can be. But if this event is any indication, these guys are developing something very promising. If done right, both the Acre and Localcopia can become significant.

The beat

To showcase him while he was home for Thanksgiving, the Monday Sessions series did a special Sunday night engagement with Brooklyn-based but Central Florida-raised Christopher Paul Stelling (Blank Space, Nov. 27). In the years since I last saw him play, his music has traveled far. Back then, his florid guitar playing was the centerpiece. Now, he’s a three-dimensional artist with far more depth and guts.

His abstracted folk is simultaneously alternative and traditional. Along with echoes of John Fahey, the spirit of old frontier ghosts can be heard in all their strife and nobility. Moreover, he’s not just some elementary strummer. He plays guitar with a finger-picking style technical and expressive enough for even banjo or harp. His presence as an impassioned, often powerfully anguished singer has caught up to his other skills. No coffeehouse stool here, man. This guy played standing up, channeling each note of his music with his entire body. He’s the full package now, and his album will be released in February, so look for him to return soon.

Mastodon returned to town (Dec. 1, House of Blues) fresh off the announcement of a Grammy nom (Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance). First, I am not a fan of the new record. Second, it’s been lifetimes since there was any reason to give a shit about the Grammys. Still, Mastodon kicks major-league ass live. And whatever prayers I have that their new album is but a momentary lapse, they’ve done a heroic job of changing the face of metal from the ground up through good work. But with so many ravenous sprouts shooting up through their once-native underground, now’s not the time to take your eye off the ball if you want to maintain the crown. Besides killer Portland bill-mates Red Fang,they need look no further than their own Georgian soil (e.g., Kylesa, Baroness and Black Tusk, who’ll be playing Back Booth Dec. 15) to realize they’re surrounded by bloodthirsty wolves whose claws and fangs are growing longer and sharper by the minute.

No one in human history has ever thought they’d leave a Mastodon show to find even better technique in a folk band. But that’s exactly what happened when I got back downtown and encountered South Florida’s the Wholetones (Will’s Pub). When’s the last time you saw a folkie do fretboard finger taps? Yeah. It’s a little neo-classical dazzle and a whole lotta acoustic ass-kickery.

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