This Little Underground 

It looks like last week's concert lull may be the worst of it, kids. From here on out things are heating back up, so hop on.

The beat

By now, my lust for two-piece bands is well-known. On so many levels, this setup just works. But Winter Haven's House of Lightning (Aug. 29, Will's Pub) is a case where it doesn't, and it's not because they're bad. Individually, the guitarist and drummer are high-level players who put on a clinic in flash and technicality. The problem is that constant tricking-out quickly degenerates into meaningless Babel without a groove to hang it on, a condition further magnified by their complete inattention to the stabilizing power of the low end. Two overzealous soloists do not equal a band.

On paper, Jacksonville two-piece Buff Clout (Aug. 25, Bar-BQ-Bar) seems even more susceptible to the disease. They too are built on a bare-bones guitar-and-drums platform, but pack signatures so dense with math-rock detail that there's simply no room for anything else. But they succeeded through a heightened sense of interplay: that basic thing that defines a band. As a sweaty, shirts-off kind of throwdown, this is math rock that actually rocks. A band that believes that complexity should always be matched by intensity has ethics I can get down with.

With balloons, confetti, silly string and their own light show, openers and fellow Jacksonville crop National Dairy sure bring the party. That is, if your idea of a party soundtrack is a paint-peeling vortex of art-punk abandon. They also featured some frenetic volleys between guitarist and drummer, only accompanied by the shrieking of an unnecessary singer.

Rounding out the bill was Alien Overmind, a local experimental electronic artist whose simplistic, almost purely tectonic compositions marry noise with dance music.

It's been a long while since I've checked in on the aptly named Lake Worth-but-sorta-local band Truckstop Coffee (Aug. 28, Orlando Brewing) and it looks like they've come a long way. Running the gamut from whiskey confessionals to interstate burners, their country-rock is by the numbers but done absolutely right. Now that they're a more cohesive unit, their songs breathe with greater vigor and definition. But the only way they're ever going to tap their maximum emotional potential is through more emphasis on Pete Stein's voice, which shines as a star graduate of the Ben Nichols school of rugged soul.

Did you know that besides being a veteran twee-rock band from St. Louis, Bunnygrunt is also a real natural phenomenon? Though I've known the band for many years, I've only recently come to know of the physical act via a very cranky rabbit. Point is: It's not just some fanciful band name; shit's for real. But enough with the science lesson. In their likable live performance (Aug. 27, Will's Pub), much of the pop adorability that frames the band's so-called "cuddlecore" was mitigated by an unexpected and very distinct rock & roll undercurrent, which is probably a good thing if we're talking prolonged exposure.

Even more surprising, however, was the evolution of "Machine Gun" Kristin Messina, the local organizer of the event and drummer of four (!!!!) of the other bands on the bill. Snapping back and forth between a wobbly kid-sister meter and jarring bouts of rumbling rolls, she's always had a most distinctive style. But she's a woman now. Showing huge advancement on two fronts, her playing is simultaneously tighter and wilder. Orlando's next great drummer? Very possible, at this rate.

As for the other nationals, NYC's White Rabbits (Aug. 23, the Social) took the blue ribbon with an outstandingly dynamic set. Quality indie rock is the core of this band, but the exhilaration comes from the involved delivery of their six-member setup, which allows enough shape-shifting to swell up to three guitarists or three percussionists at any given time. Their defining quality, however, is the powerful sense of movement that comes from their intensely rhythmic gait and manic calypso grooves.

The music of co-headliners Fiery Furnaces was executed with strength, technique and all that other good stuff. But whether it's due to their wildly chameleonic tendencies or off-kilter sensibility, there's just something that doesn't click for me.

As for the utterly amateur Ear PWR and Toro y Moi (Aug. 23, Back Booth), well, they collectively owe me an hour of my life back.


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