This Little Underground 

This year's Anti-Pop Music Festival had a distinctly different tenor than any of the previous ones.

The bad news for the fifth annual chapter is that it was the flattest yet in terms of national talent. However, the organizers get a bit of a recession pass on this, as do all the other local music festivals that persisted this year. They soldiered on and produced an event, which is something that some other, even bigger festivals couldn't muster.

But the sterling-silver lining is that the slack was picked up by the biggest spike in local involvement to date. Anti-Pop has gradually improved here in recent years, but the degree and depth this time was a huge, festival-defining shift.

Far beyond simply having more local bands play, this edition was the product of a broader grass-roots effort. Without the considerable booking help of their usual partner Foundation this year, organizers Fly South Music Group reached out to more of the community's significant but smaller promoters and movers, like Orange You Glad Festival's Tierney Tough, Parafora Music's Chris Anderson, Henry (no last name please) of attachedhands, Post Records' Chris Cucci, Gone and Records' Matt Kamm, Paul "Tooth" Kemp and Sarah Conness to fill slots, and they came correct. It's what gave this production a different, more region-specific feel.

Such serious community involvement may've been born of pragmatic necessity, but the net result was immensely positive. Much more than just a laudable improvement, this is a sustainable direction, and it's something that Fly South's John Youngman says they'll pursue even further next year.

In other notes, this Anti-Pop made the commendable, timely move of reducing the festival pass to a very attractive price of $25. But an area that needs improvement is the geographic sprawl of the participating venues, or at least the lack of dedicated transportation to shuttle festgoers quickly from one place to another. It's an issue that still prevents this from being a fluid, conveniently navigable festival.

All told, this year's Anti-Pop was a well-attended success. Most important, though, it may be the beginning of a significant shift in the complexion and outlook of the city's biggest indie music festival. We're watching.

Festival notes

Among the Anti-Pop underachievers, Yacht is totally overrated, Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg — despite name recognition — is undecorated for a reason, Pete Yorn is still hoping that tight execution will somehow make vanilla sexy, and J Biz was boringly typical.

Those who brought it include local battle MC AmIAm, who, despite rolling with a lot of conceptual backpackers surrounding the Second Subject crew, packs an old-school, on-point street swagger in his tough cadence. It sounds like Central Florida IDM artist alGARhythm has been listening to a lot of early Meat Beat Manifesto (always a good thing) because his pulse is thicker, rougher and slightly more psychotic. Cracker Jackson proved again why he's the area's top humorist with a performance of surgically smart lyrics and sweet dance moves that had everyone in stitches. With the art-punk of Telethon, the Musical, the ever-unpredictable and restless Matt Kamm has finally buckled down and channeled his energy effectively, which is tantamount to corralling a bunch of wild piglets. And Jacksonville's Sunbears have the best confetti in the biz.

Home-run hitters include the staggering catharsis of the Antlers and the gauzy massiveness of Twin Tigers. I know both bands were already touring with headliners Minus the Bear but, still, they were something special. Local MC D. Strange, who'd look more comfortable behind the handlebars of a fixed-gear than a mic, brought fire and edge to a performance that had him climbing all over the tables and chairs in the usually tame environs of Tanqueray's. And local odd-core trio Happy Valley reasserted itself as one of the city's pre-eminent performance bands with a balloon suit, huge tubular inflatables, enough toilet paper rolls to wipe an army of asses and a leaf-blower.

Taking the blue ribbon, however, is New York's Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, who brought the motherfucking show like no other. Obliterating the barrier between audience and performer, they danced among us and even recruited us as their cast members with elaborate props. The giddy insanity involved more ass-shaking than a Dan Deacon concert, at least from what I could see from inside that big walrus costume they stuffed me in.


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