THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND 


I was recently on holiday in France ('cause that's the way I roll, bitch). I have family over there, so my exposure to le Gallic way stretches back to childhood and, consequently, I hold much respect for the culture. In matters of taste, however, the French are certainly not infallible. The dark cloud of their pop-cultural eccentricity was the thing that discharged the thunderbolt of genius that struck me on this visit. And it has effectively written the closing chapter of my life.

Y'see, popular music over here is largely a young person's game. But being back in La Belle France, I was reminded of the remarkable chart longevity of geezers like Johnny Hallyday and Michel Sardou. Damn near everyone else on this ball of mud comes to Florida to wither, but not me, ma chérie. I ain't goin' out like that. The way I figure, once all of this virile glory that you see before you dries up, fuck it, I'm off to France to be a pop star. Pretty crafty, n'est-ce pas?

Though being bloated with wine and outrageously expensive cat food was a pretty sweet deal, it's good to be back home. It's even better being back on the beat, so let's get it on.

The doctor is in

NYC's The Hold Steady is the celebrated rock band that many people seem to think is the heir apparent to the Guided by Voices crown. Despite all the hoo-ha, they've yet to really win me over, and I was hoping that their live game would be a tipping point. After their performance at the Social last week, I'm maybe a toe closer to having some sort of feeling about them, but it's negligible. Sure, singer Craig Finn's got a gift for literate and evocative lyrics, but whatev, man. The music — always the chief issue here — leaves something to be desired. I'm all about the great American rock & roll tradition, so you'd think their Springsteen-esque sprawl would be an easy sell. But their sound was just a lot of fanfare unaccompanied by the requisite melodic precision. If only the tunes could be as poignant as the lyrics. The next Guided by Voices? Uh, no.

In fact, they were smoked by opener the Big Sleep from Brooklyn, who were nearly their polar opposite. This fledgling band's propulsive thrust was clearly sonic, not lyrical, and accordingly, the vocals were buried in the mix. With a driving, diving and narcotic sound that's cut from the same cloth as outstanding acts like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and Secret Machines, their influences are beyond reproach. The set they delivered was an accessible and sometimes totally rocking bit of post-rock.

Nothing kicks off a weekend like senselessly extravagant bloodshed, I always say, so mine began with comedy-metal gods GWAR at House of Blues. I've seen their spectacle a bunch of times and, somehow, it never seems to get old. Whatever you may think about their music — their handle is an acronym for "God What an Awful Racket," after all — it's immaterial; it's simply a tableau that you must dedicate yourself to seeing at least once before you die. Their outrageous onstage depictions can make even the most vulgar propositions (like, say, the ass-rape of a police officer) laugh-out-loud funny. Spectacularly ritualized sacrifices aside, the most amusing moment occurred before the larger-than-life rock monsters even walked on the stage. If GWAR fans could be categorized by one thing, it would be their enormous sense of humor. So when an unwitting Toby-Keith type wearing what was in essence an American flag, sans sleeves, was spotted in the loge, the congregation boomed forth with mocking chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" Priceless.

Later that night, I scooted to the Hate Bombs reunion show at Back Booth. This illustrious local act is like that beloved band you always wished would get back together, only better because they actually do from time to time. As always, they ignited a big garage-rock dance party with their exuberant performance (frontman Dave Ewing's got a high kick that would pass a Rockettes audition), one that ended with the band members being carried on the shoulders of fans.

The concert was a notable feather in the cap of eminent indie DJ Smilin' Dan. You may know him from his post at the helm of the city's busiest indie club night (Thursdays at Independent Bar) or his show on 91.5 WPRK-FM, but of late he's been orchestrating events (called "Substance") that combine live bands and DJs. Ever the music historian, this reanimation act may be the start of a new drift for him, as the producer of the Orlando equivalent of VH1's Bands Reunited. He told me of plans to rekindle some dormant or defunct bands highly esteemed in local underground lore. Though nothing is yet confirmed, the acts he's set his sights on would definitely set the scene abuzz. Should this evolve into a series, it'd be a great development that would not only better frame the canon of Orlando music but would also turn our rock & roll history into a living one.

music@orlandoweekly.com

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