This Little Underground 

From all the torrid online commenting on last week's column, one thing's crystal clear: For guys who like to play rough, some of you sure are sensitive little fuckers. Heh heh, wow.

Anyway, so yeah, cheers to the underdog New Orleans Saints for being big-balled gamers and all, but damned if that Puppy Bowl ain't some cute shit!

The beat

A local band that's been making some inroads into the scene is Americana act the Darling Cavaliers (Jan. 31, Will's Pub). Their blend of sweet-tea country spirit and honky-tonk sass features nice detailing and a lively gang approach. Fueled by three singers — two female, one male — and steel guitar, they have the package and dynamics to make them one of the more distinctive alternative country acts in the area. The youthful enthusiasm of their delivery occasionally teeters on the shambolic, but it's functional enough and certainly fun. And a Loretta Lynn cover is always good for big points, especially if it's off Van Lear Rose. I'm not yet willing to say that the city's once-promising country scene is on its way up again, but the Darling Cavaliers are a welcome infusion that may just help.

Relatively new local label Swamp Cabbage Records held a showcase (Feb. 5, the Social) featuring some diverse, if still somewhat unremarkable, bands. One particularly confusing case was Deltona band Cerephesis, who were just all over the stylistic landscape, seemingly without a map. From a launch pad of punk rock, they sent up wayward duds that flew off into dated versions of douchey, arena-loving rock, screamo and even ska. However, when they zeroed in on technical and soaringly melodic punk, like they did during the last part of their set, they were actually not bad. But unless they focus their vision, they'll continue to sound noncommittal. Trying to be everywhere most often just leaves you nowhere. Learn it, live it.

Jonathan Richman (Feb. 2, the Social) has rightfully earned cult figure status with his arty eccentricity. And, yes, he is indeed eccentric, but this is really the seasoned routine of a clever man with a very keen sense of humor. His performance had all the machinations of a honed comedy act, down to the well-rehearsed look of naiveté on his face and his disarmingly sharp delivery. It's evident that he's still, even after several decades at it, one of the pre-eminent underground humorists. The last time he came through town, he was received with a shockingly dismal turnout. This time, thankfully, the attendance was healthy and positively eating out of his hand.

Also returning to town were perpetual road dogs Jucifer (Feb. 4, Will's Pub) and their Wall of Destruction. What's great about this demolition duo is that they don't come so much to play for you as they do to inflict pain on you. What makes them eternally watchable are the enormous theatrics of Ed Livengood pounding with two drumsticks in each hand, Amber Valentine's possessed guitar-wielding, and the crude but effectively transformative homemade lighting. But their pure sonic exhilaration is really where it's at. With an atom-bomb sound that will rattle your brain-box until gray jelly drips from your ears, their live performance is the most tactile sonic experience you're ever likely to have. There's a damned good reason why their wall of amplifiers sets off power concerns for every single joint they play in. If the electrical costs that their rig must surely demand were subtracted from their pay, these guys would never make any money on the road. Though Jucifer has managed to remain subterranean after all these years, they are unquestionably titanic.

Considering the fact that Cee-Lo is now a bona fide star, it's a good thing that trailblazing Atlanta rap group Goodie Mob is back together. When the reunion tour (Feb. 4, Firestone Live) rolled through town, despite the sound issues that typically plague rap shows (particularly group acts), it was a spirited Dirty South affair. But it was a party marked more by the excitement over seeing them back onstage together again than it was a rock-solid performance.

As for twang-folkie Todd Snider (Feb. 6, the Social), well, I still don't get the appeal.


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