Best Of 2019

Best Let's Get Lost
Photo by Jen Cray

Interpol at Hard Rock Live

May 11, 2019

As post-punk stars Interpol prepared to take the stage at the Hard Rock Live for a long-awaited Orlando return, the anticipation in the packed house was palpable. Here was a band that had soundtracked a good portion of the audience's highest highs and lowest lows for nearly two decades, from the middle-aged white guy in the tour T-shirt to the 20-something daughter of immigrants with the dangerously large hoop earrings. Watching the legendary band on the Hard Rock's stage was an out-of-body experience for us; they were as exact as they were hypnotic, carrying us away to places deeply familiar and completely unknown. The audience, as one, got lost and then found in the band's alluringly dark sound.

Best Local Cassette

It's a tie! The Nightmare, Nightmare World, and Faust, Fila

Invisible Audio,; Illuminated Paths,

We couldn't settle on just one! On the one hand, there's the debut solo outing from Faust (of young, mod-experimental hip-hop duo OhTwo). Very distinct from the eclectic and kinetic anthems that OhTwo effortlessly deal in, Fila is an EP of downtempo meditations and after-party comedowns. The pacing is languid and unhurried, and Faust's delivery is intricate as always. On the other hand, there's the unhinged d-beat chaos of the Nightmare's Nightmare World. This five-song whirlwind of a mini-album clocks in at around seven minutes, but trust us, this group more than gets their point across. It's the blown-out, angry, anguished punk that your parents and assorted clergy warned you about.

Best Losing My Religion
Photo by Maisie Haney

Church of United Ministry closes

June 28, 2019

The second-floor space at the corner of Mills and Colonial was a bastion of Orlando DIY weirdness and excellence for several years (former incarnations included Anime Fun Shop and A-Space). But late June saw the final event, an all-star local showcase and dance party that included TV Dinner and Bacon Grease. Under musician and arch-conceptualist Jason Kimmins' quasi-religious branding, C.U.M. Worship repped the Good Word and hosted fashion shows, karaoke nights, touring bands, local music, DJ nights and more. The closing of this DIY bastion was very much the end of an era for Mills 50.

Best Midlife Crisis
Photo by Jim Leatherman

Rich Evans creating Mind Meld and Mayhem on Mills

In most cases, the gradual encroachment of middle age causes a man to do foolish things (sports car, motorcycle, ever-present backwards baseball cap), but luckily for Orlando, Total Punk headman/Golden Pelicans drummer Rich Evans, channeled his existential ennui into two honest-to-god exciting new ventures. First, the personal Mind Meld label, where Evans invites artists he loves to record whatever they want and he releases it on vinyl, no questions asked. The second and more bombastic: Mayhem on Mills, a punk-influenced wrestling fed that embraces all the gonzo and wigged-out elements of pro wrestling, with a solid core of area grapplers giving it their all. And the crowds get bigger with every event.

Best Local Album
Photo courtesy of The Sh-Booms / Bandcamp

The Sh-Booms, The Blurred Odyssey

Spanning most of this decade, the ascent of these Orlando garage-soul saviors has been long and winding. But with the spring release of this sweltering opus on hot Miami label Limited Fanfare, it seems their career has finally achieved a certified breakthrough. A model of strut, gut and soul, the album – by far their most crystallized and whopping work yet – has drawn tons of glowing press and even garnered a "Coolest Song in the World" shout on Little Steven's Underground Garage. It's been a welcome national splash that's validated something we've known around here for years: The Sh-Booms are ready for the world.

Best Goodbye/Hello/Goodbye
Photo by Jim Leatherman

Obliterati's "final" show

May 17, 2019

Are they? Aren't they? Orlando underground stalwarts and freak-rock heroes Obliterati, a band that included celebrated Orlando oddballs Nadeem Khan, Tony Christy, Lisa Bugayong, Sarah Morrison, Steven Garnett and Jim Ivy, decided to finally call it quits. This put an end to a project that was a through-line of several decades of underground music activity in the City Beautiful, and they said goodbye in style, in front of a packed house of scene lifers at Will's Pub – the band ran through everything they had AND an ad hoc set of Bad Afro Experience covers. It was a celebration shorn of sappy sentimentality and a fitting endpoint for the greatest non-career act in Orlando music.

Best Sunroom Where You Can't See the Sun
Photo by James Hand

The Sunroom

1319 N. Mills Ave.,

The new sister bar to the Guesthouse, right next door and masterminded by the same groovy team, looks on Instagram like an ideal spot to while away a sunny afternoon sipping session cocktails: all pale terrazzo and light woodwork flooded with rays and stuffed with houseplants. Ironically, though, the bar's hours are 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, meaning the only time we'll get to lounge in that sunbeam is in our dreams – until and unless they extend their hours. Pretty please? (Note: Magically, the day after this issue went to the press, the Sunroom announced they were opening at 6 p.m. that Saturday, meaning: hello, sunset vibes! Dreams do come true.)

Best Local Lazarus
Photo by Caroline St. Clair

Michael Donaldson

As an artist under the name Q-Burns Abstract Message, a music biz figure and a label boss, Michael Donaldson is an all-around Orlando music legend. Unfortunately, that last hat has been gathering mad dust since he discontinued releases on the long-running Eighth Dimension Records in 2012. Then, all of a sudden, Donaldson got back into the label business and launched 8D Industries last October. Since then, the cerebral imprint has released a handful of records by acts like Kansas City electro-psych band Monta at Odds, Terry Grant's cinematic ambient act More Ghost Than Man, electronic soundscaper San Mateo and, happily for us, Q-Burns himself. With more releases already slated for fall, Donaldson's needle has found its groove again. It's a welcome return.

Best Reclamation of Local Music History
Image via Ace Cafe Orlando / Facebook


Feb. 16, 2109

At first glance, throwing a big house-music party at the glossy, moto-centric Ace Cafe might seem odd. But old bass-heads and ravers will spot the sly nod to local music history because the Ace is sited in the historic building that was the original site of the Edge, the era-defining dance club that was ground zero for the legendary 1990s EDM scene that gave Orlando international cachet. With a prime throwback lineup that included the Crystal Method, K5, Kelly Reverb, DJ Who, Magic Mike, AK1200, Andy Hughes, Stylus and the late, great D-Xtreme, bass promoter Future Sound of Breaks essentially pulled off an Edge reunion. And now that FSOB honcho Glyn S. Morgan is an official event consultant with Ace, expect more ass-shaking parties there.

Best Did a Shoe Just Fly by My Head?
Photo by Matthew Moyer

Le Trash Can's meltdown at Grumpy's Underground Lounge

April 19, 2019

It had been an intense tour that included a triumphant set at New York's Ende Tymes but also the disappearance of his tourmate, so by the time Le Trash Can's Manu Armida arrived in the City Beautiful, the Mexican noise ambassador was all raw nerves. In an intense and brief set, Armida rampaged all over Grumpy's, front to back. The final glorious flame-out saw Armida throwing his shoes, socks and cap into the audience, then climbing the support beam holding the PA where he suspended himself, dangling like a rag doll in midair, as the distortion and screech slowly and elegantly subsided. It was one of the most eye-popping things we've seen this year.