This Little Underground 

Summers in Central Florida suck. But this year — just maybe — it could suck much less, mainly because local label Post Records will debut the impressive-looking 4th Fest (July 4, Gaston Edwards Park).

Now, don't confuse this with the annual I-4 Fest that Post has been organizing with Austin's Coffee for years. Austin's has now taken over the reins of that festival itself, and it will remain a viable July 4 option for those seeking an Indie-pendence Day. Full details are to be announced soon.

But, in partnership with Ivanhoe Village Main Street, the community builders at Post have put together a new all-day holiday music festival that's big and smart enough to be an instant player in the field of prominent annual independent-minded music events. Besides beer and food vendors, 25 bands will play on two stages, including notable acts like Howlies, Mumpsy, the Pauses, Emily Reo, 1991, Great Deceivers, Attachedhands, Watch Me Disappear and a very special grand finale by the spectacle-savvy Happy Valley. Keep an eye on for full details.

Enjoying July 4 lakeside is a longtime Orlando tradition. But this year may be the beginning of a dedicated alternative for the city's artier side.

The beat

"World music" has been represented by so many soft-core eggheads that its prospect makes me vomit in my mouth a little. Despite being so broad a term as to be nearly non-descriptive, the genre offers enough empirical reasons for me to approach anything that falls under that tag with heightened skepticism. And despite my staunch belief in the power of local showman Eugene Snowden as a performer, I'll admit I approached his new project, Liberation 44 (May 7, Back Booth), with gag reflex on high alert. Luckily, my instinct proved wrong.

Although still in early development, there's much to like already about this act. A key quality is that they explore other parts of African music that American audiences are generally less exposed to. It's an edgier, more distinctive sound that actually has more promise than Umoja, Snowden's earlier Afrobeat band. Liberation 44 simply has more depth and guts than most of their peers.

Because of their slapdash punk execution, local band Slaves (May 3, the Social) sometimes sound like they're on the verge of unraveling. But when they slow things down, they're a fantastic band with melody work that's often strong and occasionally inspired. If I can hear this much song through the slop, you're doing something right.

In case you haven't noticed their ascent, the psychedelic flamboyance of Telethon is getting better by the day. It's immeasurably difficult to make something this patently weird be so cogent, but somehow they've figured it out. What's more, with tons of stage presence and much-improved wardrobe featuring amazing animal headdresses, this is a band that has a big a sense of show. All you young art-scene bucks starting out can shorten your learning curve considerably by seeing one of their shows. Then you can thank me later for all the time I saved you.

Speaking of weird, the shows at Hoops Tavern continue to be by far the oddest social intersection in all of downtown. A recent one featured Umatilla's Gnarly Whales (May 6), whose campy bumpkin punk is definitely high on the hokum. With elements like mandolin, washboard and washtub bass, there was lots of potential instrumental detail. However, their careless play left much of it unfulfilled. But at least they embraced the comedy of the drunken situation with spirit.

Apart from them, it was a mostly acoustic punk night featuring the likes of Erik Petersen of Philadelphia folk-punk band Mischief Brew and Orlando's Marcos Obesity. It was mostly well meaning-but-standard punk simplism that perceives injustice in the most rudimentary terms, none of which I can proudly endorse.

But for all the lack of sophistication in the music, there was a definite sense of youthful camaraderie here. Burning underneath all those piercings and tats was a lot of idealism and innocence. However unrealistically reductionist, it's a valuable thing for a young person to get your fire stoked, to give some focus to your boiling-over pot of emotions. It's a rite of passage. Enjoy it while you can, kids. And I'm not just saying that 'cause the rest of the world is always right around life's corner, giggling and crouched like a gang ready to drop reality on you like a grand piano. I swear.


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