While all those poor, deluded souls at the Republican National Convention were swooning over GOP veep candidate Sarah Palin last week, one fellow Alaskan, John Gourley, wasn't so bowled over. Co-founder of ambitious indie rock band Portugal the Man, whose new album, Censored Colors (out Sept. 16), is one sweet soul trip, Gourley posted a candid blog about Palin vis-à-vis the Alaskan spirit Sept. 4 on the band's website ( Coming from one of her constituents, it pokes a few holes in that public image the Republican Party is trying to sell.

The beat

Vanda, the new local band fronted by Ryland Bojack, showed promise in their debut performance (Sept. 6, Orlando Brewing). Rather than a world-weary brand of country, their down-home twang is leavened by the kind of indie pop that would be at home in Athens. They're just out of the gate, so due lenience was given, but the energy, optimism and melody they displayed earns them a spot on the radar.

There have been some concert- minded evolutions going on over at Orlando Brewing, and this was the first show I've seen on their wide outdoor stage. Because it's situated in an industrial area, noise ordinances aren't an issue, so full-band racket isn't a problem. Snugly framed by the brewery building and an old schoolbus, the spacious but intimate music area is an inviting space for an al fresco concert or even music festival. Moreover, the owners are in the permitting process of building a canopy to make it friendly even in inclement weather.

The other significant development is that their show calendar reflects a broader, more relevant array of bands lately, not just token background music like generic cover acts or acoustic wallpaper. Bands should be excited because the booking is now more receptive and it's another viable stage to play on. The rest of you should be excited because of the absence of a cover charge, the locally produced organic brew and the convenience of a downtown location without the crowds and pretense. It's a grocery list that answers a lot of the night-life complaints I hear.

Because I happened to run into him there, here's a quick update on Brian Maguire, the beloved drummer of Big Jef Special who was in a coma after a motorcycle accident last December. The guy looks great. And by great I mean he's walking and talking, an absolute miracle considering the prognosis only 10 short months ago.

In other concert haps, I stepped in while St. Augustine's Dark Castle was playing and was virtually blown against the back wall by their sonic blast (Aug. 31, Back Booth). The parallels between this two-ton duo and Jucifer are many; he plays the drums and she rocks the guitar and growls. Together, they drop bombs of sludge and doom that sound like Hiroshima in slow motion. Way sick.

Drifting around the periphery of the local scene for years, Swansinger has undergone some drastic makeovers in terms of sound, none particularly good. Their overhauls have been frequent enough that they probably should've changed their name several times, since the musical arc under that moniker has been anything but logical. Knowing this, I was braced for whatever new confusion they had in store for their latest show (Sept. 5, Back Booth). The resulting performance was pretty cut-and-dried, just a set of stale, overwrought alt-rock. Oh wait, I did scratch my head over the fact that a band like this actually sported an entourage that included a manager and personal photographer.

Speaking of all over the place, Anthony Green played in town (Sept. 4, the Social). Though dude's an alum of a motley portfolio of bands, like Saosin, The Sound of Animals Fighting and Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer, his solo stuff has managed to land in the unadventurous territory of emo-pop. Wimpy, perpetually pipsqueaky and spirited in a way that annoys, this is just music for teenage girls.

Far better in every way that counts was Philadelphia's Good Old War, a project involving a couple fellers from Days Away. They too chase pop sweetness, but they have an Arcadian bent that's more winsome, more melodic and less taxing on the gag reflex. In fact, with a remarkable vocal resemblance to Jeff Ilgenfritz both in concert and on record, Good Old War sounds a lot like Mumpsy on a hayride in the country.

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