A QUANTITY OF QUALITY - The 175 bands that aren't playing FMF

You'd think that with some 175 acts playing at the Florida Music Festival, there wouldn't be room left for any other worthwhile music during those three days. You'd be wrong. Sure, there are some good things happening at FMF - the bands profiled to the left, the metal showcase at Kate O'Brien's on Thursday, the IDM/electro-freakiness showcase at Knock Knock the same night, a handful of impressive bands like Harry Dash, Megaphone, The Julius Airwave and Inkwell scattered throughout the schedule - but by no means is FMF the end of the story.

The mere fact that the FMF can't contain all the eclectic and accomplished musicians in the area is proof enough of a thriving music scene. Although the organizers might have had more room for interesting (or at least promising) local talent if they hadn't expended money and energy booking has-beens like Everclear and Lit, a quick look at the schedule reveals that FMF leans decidedly toward mainstream radio rock. That's not to say that radio rock is all there is at FMF (see first paragraph), but that's what is mostly there. And that's fine. Central Florida definitely has a preponderance of bands like that, so to deny the role that kind of music plays in the area would be disingenuous. Plus, since those are the bands that tend to believe most fervently in the major-label fairy-godmother myth, those are the bands that are likely to find FMF a worthwhile endeavor.

But there are many other types of bands (and fans) in the area - far more, in fact, than the FMF lineup would indicate. Although downtown Orlando's pre-eminent rock club, The Social, pulled out of participating in FMF, they kept Socialburn on their Thursday schedule along with two bands that are emerging from the ashes of the recently disbanded Still Naive. The following two nights are less radio-rock-ready; the organic soul-rock of Gainesville's Fresh Progression and the eclectic funk of Bad Bear (ex-members from a disparate batch of local bands like One Drop, The Rules and, uh, Deroot) play Friday and The Raveonettes and Autolux (see story, page 29) play Saturday. Also of note - and happening nowhere near downtown - is the Orange Blossom Music Festival (www.ssa.cc/orangeblossommusicfestival.htm) on some farm near DeLand. Fishing, camping and lots of wide-open spaces make for a different rock & roll experience. Four stages and the mix of nearly 150 bands ranges from acoustic acts (Amy Steinberg) and shitkickers (Holidaysburg) to hard rock (Mesmer Machine) and lounge-pop (Marc Zouhar). It's a ton of regional music, and most of it's good.

However, the three nights booked at Will's Pub under the banner of "Fighting Orlando" are also quite intriguing. Operating under the simple slogan of "three days of music that doesn't suck," this show basically turns Will's into an unofficial FMF venue by booking a mix of local, regional and national bands over three nights. Although it's logistically understandable why Will's has never been an FMF venue in the past (the bar's location is a whole five-minute drive from the downtown-centric FMF), it's puzzling that this stalwart supporter of the Orlando music scene hasn't been at least an honorary part of the event.

Fighting Orlando is clearly a response to this situation, in more ways than just this weekend. As the website (www.fightingorlando.com) states: "Fighting is a group of friends who promote shows, manage bands, run a record label, put together tours, events and more. There's talk about a music festival and maybe a magazine." Of course, those shows are often at Will's (as well as Screamers, The Social and other local venues) and some of the bands they manage and/or release records by naturally will be featured over the course of the weekend. But the "talk about a music festival" is what clearly marks this weekend as a shot over the bow of FMF and portends an interesting future for Orlando's independent music scene. Could it be that there's a DIY music festival in the works that shuns the get-signed-to-a-major-label process that FMF hypes? A festival that focuses more on bands operating outside of the mainstream? Well, that's what the talk is. And as a test run, this weekend is quite promising.

Thursday is given over to rock & roll, with two local bands - indie power-trio Bloom and glam-rockers Zoa - setting the stage for South Florida's Big Machine. Since all of Big Machine's songs were written by AC/DC's Brian Johnson, you should have an idea of the kind of power they bring to the stage. (Rumors that the band often brings Sarasota resident Johnson to the stage are grounded in fact, by the way.) Friday is (mostly) hip-hop: The Chicarones (featuring Sleep and Josh Martinez), Grand Buffet's Lord Grunge and crazy-ass freestyler Astronautilus will deliver beats and rhymes, while Whole Wheat Bread will likely be inspired to set aside their standard punk rock set in favor of their hip-hop alter-egos. Saturday finds a strong punk/indie lineup, with locals History (ex-members of Sound the Alarm) and Tallahassee's The Syntax Error playing with two thoroughly awesome national bands, Liars Academy and Christopher Broach's post-Braid band, The Firebird Band.

So, regardless of whether you love the FMF lineup or hate it, any region that can host some 350 musical performances over a three-day period must be offering you something decent.

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