This Little Underground 

A huge pour on the floor for American guitar master Jack Rose, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 5 at the far-too-young age of 38. The Philadelphia resident was one of the most important innovators of acoustic folk music and maintained a connection to our city, primarily because local art scenester Pat Greene is a huge champion of his transcendental work. Rose played here less than three months ago, and I'm ineffably glad I was there to soak in his live magic one last time. Thanks for the light of your music, Jack, and thanks for spreading his gospel to Orlando, Pat.

The beat

Meanwhile, Will's Pub ringleader Will Walker keeps on tickin' against hilariously high odds and celebrates yet another birthday — more proof that God is either not just, does not exist or simply has a dark sense of humor. But in typically selfless fashion, the man put together a big show at his own den of iniquity for everyone's enjoyment Dec. 5.

Smuggled across state lines for the occasion was Bigfoot, a band formed by members of defunct Atlanta heavy hitters Artimus Pyledriver and Gonzalez. Splitting the difference between those two acts, Bigfoot's sound is part metal, part hard rock and 100 percent Southern. And they sound every bit as badass live as they look on paper.

But making the night's biggest crater were local slayers Junior Bruce. Their recent addition of a second guitarist (Hope & Suicide's Bryan Raymond) isn't just for spectacle — it makes a discernible difference, and it's a deadly boost in horsepower and dynamism. It's beyond dispute now: Junior Bruce is the area's best metal band. These guys have the goods to be huge and the iron couldn't be any hotter for them to strike. They do everything right when it comes to metal, embodying pure heaviness with absolutely none of the silly stylings that sometimes surround the genre. Their nasty, 10-ton stoner grooves will pound you six feet into the ground. And what they rob from the lifespan of your ears, they replace with raging exhilaration.

Local shitkicker Dirt McCoy is back on the loose now, and his outfit, the Trailer Park Refugees, is back on the circuit (Dec. 3, the Social). They play a hard, freewheeling brand of outlaw country, and while their performance style features too many individual solos and their sound hangs a bit too much on schtick, it's fierce honky-tonk traditionalism that's served straight up, no chaser.

Headlining was Austin-via-Idaho band Micky & the Motorcars, who are led by two sons of country music veteran Muzzie Braun, Micky and Gary. Though the brothers Braun have a Western swing background from playing with their father since childhood, their own band deals in a mature, robust sort of alternative country that flows like fine bourbon and fits like your favorite pair of jeans. The best thing about their twang is that it's a natural, organic essence rather than a forced and obvious stylistic crutch. No flash, frills or fireworks, just an honest and heartfelt sound.

If the country music establishment were filled with soulfully earnest fare like this, Nashville would be a far better place. I lived there, so I know. When you hear their music, you hear the sound of the road, not the hollow glitz of Music Row. And that's no small wonder.

Despite a reputation for some controversy, the performance by Jay Reatard (Dec. 4, Back Booth) was a straightforward and — dare I say it — professional affair. As high in efficiency as it was in impact, this hit-and-run show certainly validated his well-earned live reputation, buttressed equally well by his recent band replacements from Danish band the Cola Freaks. In person, Reatard's synth edges were more muted and his punk leanings more heavily underscored, and that's a good thing.

I was excited to hear Omaha's Capgun Coup play (Dec. 5, the Social) because they're currently riding a really good album (Maudlin). Their unchained approach pushes the indie-rock kaleidoscope to the point of bursting and scuffs it all up in ragged garage tones. It's a varied and whimsical style that boasts some great organ sounds and quirky melodic turns, but somehow, many of its key virtues were dampened in person. Nothing that wasn't fixable, but still a missed opportunity.


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