This Little Underground 


D'you realize how rare second chances are? I do, and that's why I'm jubilant that Caffe da Vinci, a cornerstone of DeLand's scene, has finally reopened under the shortened name daVinci. Besides management, not much has changed about the place. And that's a good thing when you're talking about one of the region's most enchanting milieus to drink and enjoy music.

To set it off right, daVinci launched with a free four-day mini music fest. Headlining the opening night (Oct. 8) was Austin's Shotgun Party, a Carter Family—esque trio specializing in country, folk, bluegrass and Western swing. While many acts out there work the old-time into winking, insincere kitsch, these neo-traditionalists have the skill, enthusiasm and authenticity to separate themselves from the unsatisfying ironists.

But the big point is that daVinci is officially back in business, thereby putting DeLand back on the cultural map. So tune in and head out (www.wearedavinci.com).

The beat

To celebrate John Lennon's birthday, local band clique the Soundvine Collective held a showcase (Oct. 9, Plaza Theatre). Among the acts I saw were Tam Tam the Sandwich Man & the Magical Sugar Cookies, Wheels Above, Yogurt Smoothness, the Queues, Alias Punch, International Auxiliary and Sterling Schroeder & the Chosen Ones. Employing a shared backline, the show was organized as a rapid shuffle of bands, with places in the running order chosen from a hat. Once all acts had played a short set, the process was repeated. It's an inventive format.

The same, however, can't be said for the music. Though mildly quirky, the artistic vision demonstrated here is far from realized. At best, the experimentalism is embryonic, and that's assuming that it'll ever crystallize into anything concrete. There's an ocean of difference between left-of-center and missed-the-mark.

In all, the amateur spectacle played like a combination of an unchaperoned talent show gone off the rails and a freshman kegger, which doesn't exactly qualify as a significant event. You never know, the Soundvine Collective may eventually evolve into a scene contender. But not like this and not right now.

Want real local representation? Check out the Tenant, the new band headed by former Summerbirds in the Cellar frontman Brad Register. He's long been one of this city's premier songwriters, and in his new band he's brought pure melodic strength to the fore with the kind of crisp, '60s-influenced pop that the French adore for good reason. The band's clean guitars, warm organs and snappy rhythmic turns showed more power and texture live (Oct. 6, Back Booth) than you'd expect from their pristine recordings. If they can keep spinning out shining pop diamonds like "The Stranger," this band is going somewhere.

Headlining — no, melting minds — was South Africa's BLK JKS. You think dope indie label Secretly Canadian would put out innocuously cheery Afro-pop? No, this is a fiery, kinetic brew of African patterns and psychedelic rock with an indie-rock bent. Despite polyrhythms that will confuse your feet and cramp your brain, they turned rhythmic complexity into an effortlessly fluid thing.

Around the block and up the street was Baltimore's Wye Oak (the Social). Cloaking stirringly yearning melodies in a thick, fuzzy sonic coat of massive guitar effects and organ vibes, their performance was a triumph of tone and scale. For just a two-piece, that's unbelievable power and dimension.

Headlining was Portland's Blitzen Trapper. Though I don't quite understand the buzz, their easygoing front-porch jams are far more salient and sizable live.

It's hard not to approach Mayer Hawthorne (Oct. 7, the Social) with skepticism. On paper, the "young white guy with a penchant for neckties, specs and vintage soul" bit seems like a contrivance. But once you hear his voice live, you'll know immediately that this is no nudge-wink affair; this cat's the real Mac.

Having grown up within a stone's throw of Motown, Hawthorne's a disciple of real soul and it shows in his work. Sure, his classic take is the antithesis of invention, but he plies his craft with skill and love. Most importantly, his sweet, soulful voice is all velvet and verve. What's more, he's not overly academic about it, showing both humor and an old-school showmanship in his performance. Fleshed out with his outstanding band (the County), you've got one convincing slice of soul.

music@orlandoweekly.com

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