As a child raised on oldies radio, I'm calling a moment of silence for Bill Pinkney. On July 5, I heard on AM 810, the only oldies station in the area, that the last surviving original member of the Drifters died the previous day hours before a scheduled Independence Day performance in Daytona Beach. Not only was the silken vocal group responsible for enduring American classics like "Under the Boardwalk" and "Up on the Roof" but their ranks also included talents like Ben E. King. Meanwhile, the pestilence of contemporary R&B trudges on.
Last week, I caught local cowpunk act Big Jef Special at Uncle Lou's Bar on Mills, where they play as the house band every Thursday. On their own and without the constraints of a normal set, they proved more prismatic than I've seen in shows past, with notes of country, blues, rockabilly, Western swing and rock. Though seemingly suitable for only punk rock, the shitty sound system actually intensified their rough-hewn spirit. Usually, the notion of any bar's house band rightfully draws both snickers and groans from the cognoscenti. But not this band and not this bar.
Now, I dig Bar-BQ-Bar as much as any downtown regular does. Hell, I'm there all the time. But — cover your ears, young hipsters — Bar-BQ's dive-bar ambience was fabricated with tongue firmly in cheek. Uncle Lou's, however, is the real McCoy. Instead of ironic stickers, the storefront windows are covered with insulation and the walls with a puzzling collection of posters. Bar service last Thursday was held up because Uncle Lou and a patron were arguing loudly over a card game. That's why I love this place. Though a freshman compared to the venerable Wally's across the street, Uncle Lou's has rapidly distinguished itself as a spot of authentic local color.
Late that night, I rolled into Club Firestone to see Tampa femme-rap act Yo Majesty. Inside, the trio walked past me, tickling my nose with the faint tendrils of reefer smoke on their way to the stage, where they commenced to get the spot jumpin' with a celebratory bounce that was more club than street. But despite their undeniable spunk and swagger, they too suffered from the persistent rap-show syndrome of dog- piling, leaving me to continue wondering why so few rappers bother to master the dynamics of live performance.
Still, this one issue doesn't dampen what Firestone has accomplished with their Thursday nights. Not only were they the first to embrace the genre-mashing indie-dance scene on a large scale, but they're expanding the club experience by fusing it with the live concert experience. In so doing, they're opening the allure of the club to a young generation of indie kids. Not to knock the small, dirty rock clubs that I clearly prefer now, but, having cut my own teeth in dance clubs, I can't help but appreciate that.
The Jesse Malin bill at the Social on July 2 was a mixed bag. The New York bard himself wasn't the disappointment I sort of feared he was going to be. Sure, there were some marshmallow moments, but I'm finally convinced that he really can't help it. Dude's a sensitive guy. What this full-sounding performance solidified, though, is that he's a fine songwriter when he wants to be. His instinct for melody is uncanny, resulting in an impressive ratio of memorable songs in his catalog. Sure wish he'd share that little secret with his buddy Ryan Adams.
Opener Acute achieved perfect anticlimax by eschewing their thick, motoring side for slower fare, which is sorta like watching Michael Jordan play baseball. Wisconsin's the Wildbirds, however, brought the dirt with stomping rock & roll steeped in hard boogie. Juiced with young men's vim and a gutsy attack, these newjacks could legitimately challenge the Kings of Leon for their crown.
Speaking of roots-rock, Thomas Wynn & the Believers played the club July 6. The direction of this new project isn't too far from the homespun sweetness of his former group, the sibling-driven Wynn Brothers Band. For example, Thomas brought over the vocal talents of sister Olivia to help out. But he also recruited Justin Beckler, a considerable talent as a solo artist, to kick up the bluesy octane. The result is less amble and more muscle, a bracing new formula.
Sharing the bill was Tampa blues-rock band Nervous Turkey. Their lean three-piece setup was effective, allowing magnetic frontman and impressive mouth harpist Ernie Lock to truly shine, accompanied only by drums and organ. Sure, their music's got dirt under its nails but, really, the vibe's more in line with a college band than the Black Diamond Heavies.[email protected]