This Little Underground 


Ever party so hard in the name of nationalism that it takes the entirety of your brain's resources just to shake off the shellshock and re-establish basic functionality? Well, now you know the reason for this sad-ass intro. So, yeah … buuurp … happy birthday, America.

The beat

Coming to a close in Orlando, the Citrus Circuit Tour (June 28, Will's Pub) featured an impressive platter of Florida talent so Southern that it had to involve a crawfish boil. The robust country-rock of Lake Worth's Truckstop Coffee is a well-trod highway, to be sure, but they did it right.

The most neck-snapping surprise of the event was the set by DeLand folkie Lauris Vidal. Expressive power is a consistent factor in all his performances, but his signature New Old-Timey quirks were given the night off and replaced by a blaze of pick-free rock-god guitar shredding. Vidal's always a rousing performer, but the big-time flash of this hitherto unknown blues-rock face triggered a double take worthy of cartoon sound effects. Dude threw out hot licks like a flamethrower! What next? Dish starts burning it up like Stevie Ray Vaughan?

However, the best total performance was delivered by Tampa band Have Gun, Will Travel, whose rustic music ain't no quaint sweet-tea affectation of the sort so many artists put on like period costume. This is some fire-in-the-belly shit here, draped heavily in swooning gypsy viola. Though proudly traditional in language, their expression throbs with an indie temper that distinguishes them as one of the region's most realized and evocative Americana acts.

From some of the early mixes I've heard of the upcoming album by local band Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England, I have some mild concerns about the possibility of their sound getting too slicked up. I was an early, very vocal champion of their debut EP, The Edge of America. It had minimum fat and maximum impact and was one of the most satisfying releases to come from these parts. Now, when you're dealing with melodies that come at you as straightforward as Dunn's, there is definitely a point where polished can become pussy (see: Jesse Malin). The rock raggedness of the EP grounded their sound perfectly with some brawn and scrap and prevented things from getting too sugary. We'll wait and see how the new record turns out, but their latest set (July 3, Redlight Redlight) still had the vigor and, for right now, one of Florida's top roots-rock acts keeps its crown.

Coaxing that '70s California AM vibe, the sunshine-kissed country-soul of Jenny Lewis does nothing in the way of innovation. But with Lewis it's all about execution. Her recent performance (June 29, Plaza Theatre) proved that she does one hell of a job of harnessing the intuitive power of classic pop and rock arrangements. The queen of the New American Vintage simply does it with prime-time verve. And her excellent band, which had as much nuance as it did wingspan, matched it pound for pound.

Despite her occasional lack of musical concision, Lewis is a radiant performer with an undeniable voice. Her real star power and big live presence always make it clear why she's so beloved. This particular performance incited fans to break the chains of decorum that a proper theater setup demands by getting up out of their seats and dancing freely at the foot of the stage. Not bad at all.

The odd-pop scene of Norman, Okla., came into our house to represent with a one-two punch (July 2, the Social). Actually, the Starlight Mints were more of a light, noncommittal slap. Their '60s pop abstraction is ambitious, often weird, but ultimately lacking in incisiveness and focus.

The dream-weaving psych-pop of Evangelicals, however, was the KO. I can't even tell you how much I fucking love this band. In terms of sheer sonic scale, the altitudes they hit are pure exhilaration. Despite their talent for rendering colorful cotton-candy clouds of sound that echo into infinity, they've got an inspired sense of sonic architecture, and they know when to pierce the ethereal with powerful dynamics and salient melodies.

To listen to the otherworldly music of Evangelicals is to be enveloped, levitated and swept. Without question, they are one of the best indie bands going right now.

baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

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