22 Orlando bands you should keep an eye (and ear) out for in 2017

22 Orlando bands you should keep an eye (and ear) out for in 2017
Illustration by Schiani Ledo

It seems like only insiders truly know the quality, variety and depth of the Orlando music scene. And that's a shame because the city's spectrum has exploded in a million different and genuinely interesting directions over the last decade, resulting in an exponentially more colorful culture than ever before.

There are more homegrown artists worth talking about than we could physically include, but this is a list of acts that are making the moves, defining the sound or are just plain exceptional right now. Across punk, soul, rap, rock & roll, metal, electronic, experimental, folk, classical and pop, these are the current faces of Orlando music.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MATTHEW WELLER
Photo by Matthew Weller

Niko Is

This Brazilian rapper first started blowing through the Orlando underground a few years ago like a chill tropical breeze. Very early on, it was clear that his is a voice that's original, colorful and utterly new. Not long after he caught our ears, venerated hip-hop hero Talib Kweli went all in on the kid and signed him to his label, Javotti Media. Ever since, Niko has gone from the local grind to traveling the world and lighting up stages with Kweli. He even appeared on Kweli's 2015 album collaboration with 9th Wonder, Indie 500. Even so, when Niko's home, he can still be seen springing up on local stages in his own pop-up shows or making surprise cameos like the one he did with young soul singer Circa over the summer at Will's Pub. – BLH

The Sh-Booms

Since forming in 2011, this throwback soul act has diligently built a solid name for itself. Then, last year, they underwent a drastic overhaul that even involved the replacement of an iconic singer. Somehow, the band emerged like a phoenix, with a new singer (knock-down belter Brenda Radney) and a new attitude. It's a major-league reboot that's resulted in a leaner but definitely meaner band with real grease and grit. They're almost done recording their first full-length album – all analog, of course – with rising scene star Simon Palombi (of the Woolly Bushmen). And they've just signed on with Limited Fanfare (the credentialed Miami record label that's released artists like the Ettes, Lil Daggers, Heavy Drag, Denney & the Jets and MonstrO) for management and Rollo Grady Music (who've done high-profile TV and product placements for legit acts like Natural Child, Pujol and Futurebirds) in L.A. for licensing. Launch sequence initiated. – BLH

Tiger Fawn

Loop guru Tiger Fawn (née Dani Lacerda) has become a force to be reckoned with in the nebulous realms between pop and experimental music. Hers is a sound that shares sonic space with shoegaze, electronic and the weirder end of the FM radio dial. Though the project was once a band, Tiger Fawn and Lacerda are now one and the same ­– art melding with artist, emphasis on Art. Tiger Fawn created a "digital forest" for a concert that was livestreamed only, has collaborated with R&B iconoclast Fiona, and is finishing an "intergalactic" concept album called The Adventures of Space Tom. The focus of the year for Tiger Fawn, both artistically and personally, has been on growth and evolution. As for most of us, her year has been one full of challenges: "I spent the last year taking hits and slowly building a cocoon of numbing self-preservation. I was riding the wave of inertia Tiger Fawn had built, but couldn't do any more than just hold on." Lacerda cryptically promises that the best/weirdest is yet to come: "If you were already bespelled by the little creature known as Tiger Fawn, I can assure you what comes out of the chrysalis will be nothing short of 'What the fuck?'" – MM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PAMELA BENDEZU
Photo by Pamela Bendezu

Junior Bruce

For almost every metal connoisseur in the area, stoner-sludge band Junior Bruce is high on the list. Even if a big national breakout has mysteriously eluded them so far, their bloodthirsty sound and searing live shows have earned them perennial status as one of Florida's nastiest products. Since their 2012 debut LP (The Headless King), the band has soldiered on through a gutting series of personal tragedies. Now, the Southern diablos have finally returned with a full-length follow-up. Released on Halloween (naturally) and streamed exclusively on Metal Injection, the long-awaited and thrillingly noxious Endless Descent is the official document of a mighty band back up to speed and on the warpath again. – BLH

Chandler Strang

Chandler Strang is one of the city's most creatively restless and productive music figures right now. The fact that he sired and juggles at least three projects – indie-pop band Saskatchewan, indie-rock band Case Work and electronic act Dromes – is noteworthy enough. But the fact that all of them stand tall as paragons of Orlando music is testament to the quality and variety of his talent. His next focus will be the back-to-the-'80s neon dream of his first baby, Saskatchewan. In addition to the fresh material he's currently working on for the next album, the band will soon re-emerge with completely new blood, the latest addition being ace drummer Tyson Bodiford (Summerbirds in the Cellar, Acoqui, et al.). – BLH

Ad Nauseum

Discordant grind abusers Ad Nauseum are the hardest-working band in the local DIY metal/noise scene, constantly booking and playing shows with similarly bloodthirsty underground dwellers (from Hijokaidan to Yautja), maintaining multiple side projects, as well as releasing an ever-flowing stream of music, including: a recent cassette on Broken Limbs Recordings, a new album set to be released before the end of the year and an album's worth of songs written and ready to record. The band, however, clarifies, "Our music is meant to be experienced live, rather than on a recording." In many ways, Ad Nauseum's creative arc is building toward a peak at the end of this year with the Florida Is Loud festival, a weekend packed full of Floridian (and affiliated) metal/punk/noise/grind that members of the band are helping to organize. It's a powerful lesson: Unsatisfied with your chosen subgenre's scene? Make your own. – MM

click to enlarge PHOTO LIV JONSE
Photo Liv Jonse


Orlando party-starter and personality Harry Hillard Morall III has been keeping the landscape spiced and interesting for a few years by bridging the party and indie scenes under various guises and names (Mr. 3, Black Liz Lemon, etc.). All that has now culminated in Fiona, his latest fully conceived project. It's a current, multidimensional convergence of rap, R&B and funk that, live, is a full-band affair that includes some of the sturdiest players in the city's indie scene. But what makes the whole thing fly is Morall's larger-than-life charisma. Add it all up and it's a big, shiny ball of style, levity and sex. Fiona's debut full-length, GOLDBABY, just dropped this month and glimpses of it have already been making the blog rounds. – BLH

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DARIN BACK
Photo by Darin Back

Laney Jones & the Spirits

Between professional music licensing work in Nashville and touring and writing for her budding band, Mount Dora's pride Laney Jones has made the official jump to being a full-time working musician. Now, with the spring release of her latest self-titled album, she's made a powerful, more prismatic pivot that thrusts her out of the folk niche. Showing aptitude for pop, soul and indie, it's the document of a naturally gifted artist who's only now beginning to really speak up. And because it positions her for practically anything she wants to chase next, Laney Jones' trajectory will be one to watch. – BLH

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SIERRA REESE
Photo by Sierra Reese

Howling Midnight

This year, Howling Midnight has leapt from seemingly total obscurity to emerge as perhaps the most promising and sonically complete two-piece band in the area. Their burly, hard-driving blues-rock has a thrillingly raw economy that's the hallmark of all guitar-and-drum duos, but possesses a full live kick that few others have. They went from being an outlier to entering the cabal of the city's most prominent rock duos alongside acts like Copper Bones and Yogurt Smoothness, giving Orlando's two-piece scene a needed shot in the arm. Howling Midnight are currently in the process of recording some new songs and hoping to release an EP early next year. But since they're now popping up regularly on notable bills with some of the area's best rock bands, they'll be easier to notice. And notice you should. – BLH


As the verbal force in the double-barrel dream team of E-Turn & SPS, she exploded onto the Orlando hip-hop scene several years ago as one of the 407's most fire-breathing and original MCs. Now, sister's doing it for herself. In solo mode, she's ready to fully summon all the exponential powers of her loaded identity as a Middle Eastern woman in hip-hop. Consider how all those layers align with everything happening in the world today and it's clear that now is the time for a perspective like hers. Especially when it rides this much thunder. Though E-Turn's solo debut recording with local hip-hop godfather Swamburger isn't due out until spring, the Persian rapper has already secured a distribution deal with Fake Four, the respected and forward-thinking alt-rap label that's been home to exemplars like Ceschi, Astronautalis, Busdriver, Sadistik, Bleubird and Sole. Things are aligning for E-Turn and 2017 could be a breakout year. – BLH

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JIM LEATHERMAN
Photo by Jim Leatherman

Golden Pelicans

The true genius of Angus Young from AC/DC is that he looks like a soused wreck stumbling around and drooling in a schoolboy uniform, guitar by all appearances unplugged, yet in reality he's the disciplined guiding force of the band. It takes twice as much energy to appear this drunk and disorganized when in reality you're on target every. Single. Night. It's a lesson the Golden Pelicans have undoubtedly internalized. Every Pelicans show seems like it's going to collapse into chaos, and underneath the stagger and swagger is total focus. They're pushing it hard: touring, releasing new music, hosting fellow musical malcontents from all over. And they're getting attention far outside the confines of Orange County. Next up: a live 7-inch of their wildman punk roar released on Jack White's tastemaking Third Man label. They've wrapped their third LP, which should be out next spring, followed by another tour. – MM


With enough online hype and presence to move the national needle, Sales are currently the most buzzing indie band to come out of Orlando. But that status was always conditional. For a long time, their skeletal stage presentation was just a wan rendition of the intimate magic of their music. That's unfortunate for a band with such lovely songs, doubly so for one that has bet on building its name on the road in the way Sales has. For as much as you wanted to root for the hometown heroes, they just weren't ready. But that all changed with the recent and crucial addition of a live drummer. At a packed show at the Social in October, they finally became the band they should and need to be. And, now, Sales are suddenly looking equal to their bright future, which includes a recently signed publishing deal with indie powerhouse Sub Pop. – BLH

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JEN CRAY
Photo by Jen Cray


Standing defiantly as one of the best death-rock bands in Florida – and pretty much the only (goth) game in town locally – Autarx are a thing of feral, deathly glory. They channel early American gothic groups like 45 Grave and Christian Death while keeping pace with lords of the new goth-punk church like Arctic Flowers, Bellicose Minds and Belgrado. Live shows are utterly unhinged, with pure punk abandon and dark-side dramatics acting in perfect harmony; a lush and razor-sharp tangle of jagged guitar and synth, rumbling percussion and the Siouxsie-esque presence of their vocalist, Sarah Patricia. Autarx has shared various stages with Pawns, Gino and the Goons, and the Sh-Booms, inspiring fans beyond the usual black-clad legions and making them a unique musical force in our city. – MM

Christopher Belt

This enterprising young man is one of the most important and involved movers of culture in the city; there is probably no greater champion of Orlando's contemporary classical scene. As an impresario, he founded and directs the sui generis Accidental Music Festival. As an administrator, he's now the executive director of the essential Timucua Arts Foundation. As a player, he performs guitar in Belt & Ramirez and Ensemble AMF. And as an educator, he currently teaches "Works With Sounds," a free music composition course at the Orlando Public Library's Melrose Center that he founded through Timucua. But perhaps most definitive, Belt is the leading figure in keeping our classical music scene from being just a relic of a centuries-old European canon. His indefatigable advocacy of contemporary composers keeps the pulse here thoroughly modern, something that, really, only enlightened cities do. – BLH

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JAMES HAND
Photo by James Hand

Panther Camp

Pop-punk is big in these parts, and it doesn't get more traditional or victorious than Panther Camp. All credentialed veterans of the scene, these guys know what works, what doesn't and what's just wankery, and they crank out the anthems accordingly with big rock & roll octane. Over the summer, Panther Camp released their first mini-album (The Hated, the Loved, the Willing and the Wicked) and it's a straight rocket built for the open road. They'll be taking a break soon to write their next batch of material, but you can see them play on Dec. 7 at Will's Pub, their last local show until the spring of 2017. – BLH

The Pauses

The Pauses are one of the most established names in Orlando's indie-rock scene. Tierney Tough and Jason Kupfer, the band's creative core, have been individually busy – the latter with his film work and the former with touring in national acts like Matt Pond and War on Women. But together as the Pauses, unfortunately, they've been living up to their name with a collective output that's been on hold for years. However, they've recently rededicated themselves and just completed a new Pauses album. Like their previous LP, 2011's excellent A Cautionary Tale (released by leading Florida indie label New Granada), this still-untitled work was produced by indie royalty J. Robbins. Though the mixed and mastered record is currently being shopped around and won't see release until 2017, the band has started to play the new material in concert, making now a prime time to check back in on the Pauses. – BLH

Chakra Khan

Two members of venerable local hip-hop collective Solillaquists of Sound step out on their own in the smoldering trip-hop-meets-torch-song duo Chakra Khan. It's serendipitous that Chakra Khan came into being this year, releasing Love Is at the Core and providing healing and soulful future music for difficult times. Atop a bed of swaying and shuffling, slurred beats and washes of ambient synth provided by Divinci, vocalist Alexandra Love lets fly with a gorgeous, commanding voice that exhorts you to heal, to love, to transcend ... to the point where you believe it's still possible, no matter how dark the world seems. – MM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LIV JONES
Photo by Liv Jones

Wet Nurse

Incandescent products of the edgy Mills Avenue scene, this twin-fronted band have become the undisputed leading ladies of Orlando punk over the handful of years of their existence, and they've done it the old-fashioned way. Their joyously carefree collision of garage, punk and pop started out good and has consistently gotten more chiseled from frequent tours on the national circuit. Now their résumé boasts releases on national and international labels, regular appearances on bills next to vanguard bands of the punk and garage underground, and even a feature on Noisey. Their latest release is a recent 7-inch split single with Brooklyn punks the Meltaways that features a great '90s look for Wet Nurse ("Belly Hurts"). – BLH

Shania Pain

The postpunk duo of Andrea Knight and Jason Kimmins is one of the more surprising additions to Orlando's live scene. Knight is already known in underground circles for her no-wave noise project Bacon Grease, but Shania Pain (THAT name!) is very much its own entity. Though both say all existing recordings and shows to date have been based around improv jams, this is no joyless noodling. Knight (guitar, electronics) and Kimmins (vocals, loops) immediately stumbled upon a reverb-heavy haunting, droning sound that calls to mind Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire and early synth-punk leading lights, and they are hypnotic live. They play regular, though often last-minute, shows on all manner of bills – and you will not be disappointed, though perhaps confounded. – MM

Thad Anderson

Few classical artists in the metro are as active or progressive as this young UCF music professor. The avant-minded percussionist-composer is a go-to performer for the city's most leading-edge events, like the Accidental Music Festival and the In-Between Series at the Gallery at Avalon Island, which launched with an Anderson drum-corps performance. This year, he unveiled Northbound, a fascinating real-time urban soundtrack mapped and inspired by a full-length trip on SunRail that we named "Best City Soundtrack" in our 2016 Best of Orlando issue. In 2017, he plans to release two albums: the aforementioned Northbound (spring) and Lines: The Music of Thad Anderson (fall), a collection of solo and chamber works from his Lines series. – BLH


This crushing Orlando monolith has been inactive of late but they're in our mix here because their sound is as now as any heavy band in the city, especially since groups like Deafheaven have drawn a significant popular spotlight toward and expanded the conversation around heavy metal. A forward convergence of black metal rush, technical brutality and epic post-metal sweep, their gorgeously overwhelming music is the very essence of metal, yet something clearly more. And live, it's astonishing in its assault and beauty. Dzoavits tells us there have been talks lately between members and increasing eagerness to wake the beast. One word: please. – BLH

The Woolly Bushmen

Though these stylish lads are young, they know their history. And they've tapped some of its marrow to become the best pure rock & roll act in the city with wild, heat-seeking stage shows that have become the stuff of new legend. Of all the acts here, they have maybe the most recorded work on the horizon. First, they just finished recording a new album – produced by Southern Culture on the Skids' Rick Miller – that they'll be shopping around. Then, in early 2017, they plan to release an EP on Hidden Volume Records, the Baltimore label run by Scott Sugiuchi from Orlando garage gods the Hate Bombs. Also early next year, they'll be playing Field Trip South (Feb. 24-25, Will's Pub), a festival that will pair the cream of the area garage-rock crop with stars like the Woggles, Subsonics and a reunited Hate Bombs. Afterward, the Bushmen embark on a monthlong, first-ever European tour. – BLH

About The Authors

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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