THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND 


Goddammit … RIP Bo Diddley. Enough said.

The Beat

When it comes to long weekends, all lights are green downtown to go ape. It’s compulsory. It’s American. So that’s why I capped off the patriotic bender known as Memorial Day weekend with a good old-fashioned hardcore bash at Sick of It Sundays, the weekly late-night punk rock party at Back Booth. Typically, the event features DJ sets by its two hosts, Bubba Smith and Chris Harris. Occasionally, it involves themed nights with a live band covering the work of a single legacy act. May 25 happened to be a tribute to the one, the only Minor Threat so naturally it was a night marked by flying bodies and cathartic insanity.

Though there was a full band, all vocals were handled democratically. Basically anyone who wanted to grab the mic could, talent not required, just as punk rock was intended to be. The two hosts anchored the singing duties, but they openly encouraged participation. It was like karaoke, only more free-flowing and more spontaneous, with people going in and out of songs whenever the feeling struck them. Cool though it was in concept, it was nice on the ears to hear a pro like the Attack’s Charlie Bender step up and do it right for one song.

Of course there had to be one jagoff in the crowd who couldn’t handle the physicality of the situation and tried to start shit. In true Minor Threat form, the music stopped and the hosts offered him a refund to leave. Word.

Sick of It Sundays is the most punk rock thing going in town right now. Credit to Back Booth for having the balls to allow the heroic mayhem. Not everyone would, that’s for sure.

Taking over the same stage on May 29 was local outfit Max Green & the Great Deceivers. Max Green, a young musician currently enjoying much buzz and support in reputable circles, is the latest signing by new, not-fuckin’-around imprint Sleepy Bird Orphanage. Their upcoming album will be the local label’s third release since launching in February.

The new band was playing in public for the first time, so due slack was given. Their melodic and memorable indie folk was unassumingly pretty without being cute. No question, the expanded combo lent the songs sweet fullness, but the ensemble also occasionally obscured the expressional gravity of Green’s voice. Though not yet equal to the mighty wind kicked up by wagging scenester tongues, Max Green & the Great Deceivers is definitely a promising development worth watching.

Also on the bill was X.O.X.O., a local band that has dug itself into the deepest of holes in terms of credibility just by virtue of that stupid-ass name. Interestingly enough, when that moniker was pitched to Tilly & the Wall, even they responded with, “No way, dude. Too gay for us.” OK, so maybe that’s just a rumor. But still, hugs and kisses??? C’mon.

Anyway, the good news – and there is some – is that they’re significantly better than their mawkish handle. Fueled with a pop-punk jump, their jaunty melodies weren’t at all bad. Yes, the cuteness was there, but not in quantities that come close to rivaling their gushy name.

The performance of the week, however, was given by Portland duo the Helio Sequence on May 31 at the Social. Though they’ve slowly been building a respectable indie reputation, their music made a jarring shift on their latest album Keep Your Eyes Ahead. Instead of the gauzy washes and clunky angles that marked their previous work, they now evoke a lush manner of pop that reaches for the heavens in silver, balletic lines. Turns out, it was a definitive decision that finally crystallized their sound.

Even though they still played in the fiercely stripped framework of a two-piece live, sheer economy and verve allowed their newfound sophistication to translate faithfully. The dynamic signatures pounded out with abandon by drummer Benjamin Weikel propelled the set, while the ringing guitars and much-matured voice of singer Brandon Summers kept it airborne.

Major points were earned for their onstage sincerity and gratitude. There is something chest-filling about a genuinely gracious band and an appreciative audience gathered in one room. The musicians were openly thankful, nearly to the point of surprise, for the support they were feeling that night. And that’s what’ll always make them welcome in this city.

baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

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