This Little Underground 

Attention! Next month, three (!!!) notable music fests — Florida Music Festival (May 13-16), Orange You Glad Fest (May 14-17) and World's Gone Wiggly (May 15-17) — will occur at the same damned time, a circumstance that's as glorious as it is maddening. More expansive coverage on 'em later, but I'm serving official advance notice because, unlike these organizers, I understand the limitations of your calendar.

Here's a pill-sized breakdown of each to help you decide:

  • FMF ( — Orlando's largest, longest-running mainstream annual music festival and conference takes over downtown with an emphasis on industry and partying.
  • OYG ( — Though this is its debut, this upstart fest has swelled significantly since the planning stages. Spanning the Mills Avenue, Corrine Drive and Bennett Road corridors, its focus is local and indie.
  • WGW ( — Also a new entrant, this niche event revolves around the garage-minded Floridas Dying micro-scene. The fest occurs at Crooked Bayou (who are also handling catering duties) and in the Milk District.

The beat

How 'bout that New Roman Times homecoming (April 17, Back Booth)? Beyond the tireless community-building done by bassist-singer Josie Fluri, there was an artistic reason that the formerly local — now Austin — group was so respected when they were here. They're just a really good band, period. Their aesthetic was always definitive, fully formed and salient. That much hasn't changed, though their sound has in some ways. Their nocturnal, romantic tension still throbs with style and taste, but their palette is more expansive now. Most notably, it has greater depth of atmosphere and grain via second guitarist Harris Thurmond, who spent much of the time providing more texture than notes with an arsenal of effects. The good news is that these developments are reflected on their outstanding new album, On the Sleeve, released on esteemed Tampa indie New Granada Records.

I am not a Dark Romantics fan. I've been a fan of some previous projects by frontman Eric Collins — just not this one. That's what made their opening set that much more incredible. It remains to be seen whether it was them or me or some combination of both, but something just clicked this time. There was a sonorousness that finally gave his emotionalism some teeth, thanks in no small part to that hollow-body guitar. Redemption for Christian rockers — eerie, innit?

The Dish CD release party (April 15, the Social) was the final performance by the original fraternal duo, and they went out with the bang (and clash) that anyone who's seen them at their peak would expect. In an expanded version of the band, the Aguilar brothers were flanked by fellow DeLander Lauris Vidal and a two-piece horn section, the tuba in particular giving their sound added substance and weight. It was a bittersweet affair that featured a commanding performance by exiting drummer-brother Nathaniel. My solemnity's mitigated only by high expectations for where Roberto will take Dish next. Now that the project has finally sprouted some real legs with a winner of an album gaining national attention, it would be a supreme disappointment not to push the project to its potential. Stay tuned.

Red Mouth (April 18, Will's Pub) was absolutely transfixing. Born Eric Gebhardt, this Biloxi one-man act infuses American roots music, particularly the blues, with a punk soul. With a dark austerity rendered through slide guitar and foot-stomps, his sound is distilled but definitely not clean. Despite the stand-up job Hex Tremors drummer Benny Lewis did accompanying him, the most riveting moments of an already excellent performance were when Gebhardt's tortured gospel wail was paired with just his stomping (which was done on a mic'd wood platform). His is truly an arresting and powerfully evocative voice in American music.

Dangerous Animals (April 12, Will's Pub) are interesting, as experimental music often is. But their cerebral folkisms often teeter on the freak fringe, so getting hip to 'em, if it happens at all, will take time. At least their weird pastoral placidity occasionally swells. Specializing in that very area was Baltimore headliner Arbouretum, whose abstract Americana was huge enough in heft and scale to be impressive and occasionally stunning.

Finally, go Magic! But, seriously, can we please replace that born-lame 2 Unlimited atrocity with a more self-respecting theme song?


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