THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND 


Zzzz … zzz … z … (snort) (slurp) Huh? What? Oh, is it over? Geez, finally. I know it happens every year but the summer concert drought always feels like it'll never end. But wake up, twinkle those eyes and bush that pretty little tail of yours, baby, 'cause we are back in action. Just check the upcoming concert calendars. Bye-bye, Snore-lando; hellooo, More-lando!

Waking a venue

On Aug. 31, I entered the old Plaza Theatre on Bumby for the first time in at least 15 years. Instead of the dollar flicks that used to play there in my early teen years, I was at the premiere of the decidedly more contempo RLAND, a movie made by Orlando filmmaker Bryan Soderlind featuring the very local phenomenon of wakeskating. Though this isn't a film column, it's worth noting that this is no third-rate, local-yokel craft project but an artfully shot and composed work. To intensify the balletic nature of the dope footage, the music was treated as one of the film's central pillars. And on that count, Soderlind passes with flying colors, not only because the selections were elegant and tasteful, but also for tapping notable Florida talents like S.K.I.P., Beef Wellington and Diplo alongside big names like Thievery Corporation and Mogwai. Props, son.

Also noteworthy are the changes the historic theater has undergone. The grande dame has had some work done and she's lookin' as hot as I always thought she deserved to be. And she serves beer and wine! Then again, loosening up on the Christian thing like the management's been doing over the past several years always makes you a little hotter. The good news for music fans like us is that the venue is beginning to open itself up to musical events that aren't, y'know, musicals. Real concerts are starting to appear on the Plaza calendar, including lesbo-twin popsters Tegan and Sara and femme-rappers Northern State this fall. Here's hoping that this trend blossoms. An actual theater near downtown with rooms of significant size (one holds 867 seats, one holds 272) could be an enormous asset to the scene if fully optimized.

The beat

Sorry, no notes from last weekend's Night of Joy or Rock the Universe. Your mind is blown, I know. But I do have some from the Rentals' show at House of Blues Sept. 4, where Christian band Copeland was also playing. Does that count?

Oh, what to say about these Central Florida lads? Having risen to the national stage and a major label deal, they've done well for themselves. Sugary, squeaky-clean and easy to swallow — I get why the kids like 'em. But their brand of pop, with its indecisively midpaced tempos and melodies perfectly equidistant between good and bad, is so innocuous that the only thing it conjures is mind-numbing mediocrity (or as Bret Michaels would say, "mediocracy"). If you happen to be a fan, mark my words, you will outgrow this band someday. Probably the day you graduate from high school. Oh yeah, stay in school, kids.

As for the headliners, yes, the Rentals are back. The cult faves from L.A. have been out of the scene for about eight years — long enough to qualify them for "throwback act" status, which they've always kinda been anyway. However, they were anything but rusty in a full-sounding rendition of their trademark sound, which is a more new wave—leaning, Moog-laced offshoot of the Poindexter power pop that frontman Matt Sharp's former band, Weezer, championed. As their recently released teaser, the Last Little Life EP, suggested, they've finessed their formula to aim for a higher degree of pop sophistication. They've moved past the clunky cuteness to a tack less precious but far prettier, with finer songcraft. This more developed sound was amply demonstrated live with a stage well-furnished with accomplished musicians, including Rachel Haden of that dog, who lent a lushness to their otherwise simple songs. This tour is a warm-up of sorts for their upcoming full-length, due sometime early next year. Judging from the tepid attendance, I'm not sure how many people will actually care.

Playing Back Booth Sept. 8 were Tallahassee's the Ums, who were, um, downright decent. This band takes a buttload of styles, injects them with geeky infectiousness and spins it all into indie pop with a brisk sense of fun. Though the sonic focus wasn't always clear, sometimes even a bit dizzying, it was far from the train wreck it could and probably should have been.

baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

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