Festival express

Florida Music Festival
more than 250 performances
May 13-16 at various venues
single-night pass $10-$15;
4-day pass $25

Orange You Glad Fest
more than 50 performances
May 14-17 at various venues
single-night pass $7-$8;
4-day pass $25

World's Gone Wiggly
more than 15 performances, May 15-17
at Crooked Bayou, Vinyl Richie's
Wiggly World of Records
single-night pass $5-$7;
free on May 17

free on May 17

In the May 11 issue of The New Yorker, statistics nerd Malcolm Gladwell notes that underdogs — specifically in war — actually win their battles against much bigger opponents about a third of the time. They can increase their winning percentage by using not to "play by Goliath's rules" and choosing "an unconventional strategy." For the purposes of the Orlando music scene this week, Gladwell's essay couldn't be more apt.

For all intents and purposes, Axis magazine's Florida Music Festival & Conference (Wednesday through Saturday) is the Goliath of area music celebrations. With their focus on mainstream radio rock from bands intent on garnering record deals — a disappearing notion if there ever was one — and increasing prevalence of "networking" events (this year's edition features guest speakers from MySpace Records, as well as three reps from Universal Music Group and keynote speaker Steve Robertson, vice president of A&R for Atlantic Records), the festival and conference is unabashedly the place to be for MTV hopefuls.

FMF is Orlando's largest and longest-running music festival, and this year it has given over the main stages (namely Wall Street Plaza) to acts that have seen — now and long ago — the mountaintop of the industry: acts like hip-hop artist Asher Roth, a charismatic post-Eminem rapper who recently stumbled into a national hit with his college-party love letter, "I Love College"; former rock "it" boys like Filter, whose song "Hey Man, Nice Shot" was a chart-topper in 1995; and reggae legend Yellowman, whose innovative sounds have been sampled by Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

Featuring four nights of nonstop music in nearly every downtown venue within walking distance of each other, FMF has never been more commercially ambitious. The festival — to which any band can submit an application to play, for a minimal fee — is this year handing over the reins in many cases to record labels as showcases for their artists or those they selected from a pool of applicants, such as BMI licensing and local labels Bonded, Fuel and Rymo. Whereas Goliath was a champion via his armor and his size, FMF rules with money and scope.

It's become traditional, then, for smaller, scrappier challengers to emerge over the summer to compete using what Gladwell would call "unconventional methods": party-and-friendship atmospheres with a keen taste for underrepresented music, as seen last year with local tastemaker Chris Cucci's house party known as FFMFF (Fuck Florida Music Festival Festival). This year is no different. Although no sequel to FFMFF will be held, two other local music scenesters — Tierney Tough of the bands the Pauses and Great Deceivers, and Floridas Dying owner Rich Evans — are playing the David role.

Tough's inaugural Orange You Glad Fest (Thursday through Sunday) focuses on local (and some national) indie rock, organized and personally curated by Tough herself. From California folkster Tim Easton to Seattle hip-hop artist Astronautalis (see story, page 28) to local treasures Kingsbury, Tele V. Cheeseburger and Khann, OYG's lineup is sprawling yet intimate, a catchall for Orlando's best indie bands of the moment that utilizes non-FMF venues like Will's Pub, Redlight Redlight and Stardust Video & Coffee.

For her part, Tough doesn't see herself as a David: "Honestly, there is no real concept or motive behind the fest besides a love for wanting to do something positive for the music community," she says. "I have always had admiration and respect for the people behind the scenes putting on the shows, so it makes me really happy to be able to contribute."

In keeping with the FFMFF-style counter-programming history, local label Floridas Dying are putting on a raucous party. The proud new owners of Vinyl Richie's Wiggly World of Records (2436 E. Robinson St.), an underground record store featuring FD artists and whoever else Evans and crew are into — "We only sell what we like" is their motto — will be hosting World's Gone Wiggly (Friday through Sunday) in their parking lot during the day and at Crooked Bayou at night. WGW will showcase obscure talents like the Runaways pop of Milwaukee's Plexi 3, the raw '70s garage rock of Alabama's Church of My Love and the Nanker Phelge-esque haunt of Wisconsin's Dead Luke, who recently announced his retirement from the project.

"His last show was supposed to be at SXSW, but I convinced him to come down and play this show," says Evans regarding Dead Luke. "It will be his last ever and he will have a posthumous LP coming out on Floridas Dying this year."

Evans has plenty more surprises in store. "Friday night is going to be a big drunken dance party," he says. "Saturday `during the` day we're going to have a bar in my parking lot, beer brats, a dunk tank. … Seeing `local musician` Robbie Collins in a dunk tank makes me laugh every time I think of it."

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