This Little Underground

When a huge God-Fart of thunder woke me up on Sunday, I was already worried for the Indie Summer Fest (Aug. 8, Audubon Park). You people sure love courting weatherly disaster with your outdoor summer festivals. Memo to organizers: The only way you're not taking a crazy gamble with these ventures is if it involves a big-ass dome or a Slip 'n Slide. Luckily, this event was partially indoors so, despite a couple of rain delays, it was a success, with solid talent, good participation and active vibe. So far, it's the best large-scale embodiment of the music culture of the city's most artistically vibrant neighborhood.

The beat

The recent edition of Phat-N-Jazzy hosted Derrick "Abyss" Graham (Aug. 3, the Social), the spoken-word artist who's appeared on HBO's Def Poetry. I don't go much for spoken word. Never have. Same reason I never really got sold on poetry. It's simply a matter of gut-level personal taste, not objective appraisal. I see the craft and artistry in it, and appreciate the form and its better practitioners. I just can't get down with the format of it all. Too stilted and contrived for me. I'm a prose guy myself. Realism, yuh!

Thankfully, Abyss had the foresight to realize that his verses would soar higher on the wings of a dope live band. Working a seamless junction between soul, jazz, funk, rock and hip-hop, these virtuosic young guns let their passion and chops fly with the dazzling extemporaneousness of streetballers.

In a strange twist, the OPD took Abyss off the stage just as they were about to go on — dude was literally walking up to the mic — which naturally aroused a lot of flocking curiosity. It ended up being a case of mistaken identity, but calling a guy offstage seconds before he's about to perform in front of a public audience is just about the most attention-begging, non-ninja way of going about your business. You'd think the last thing a beat cop wants is a posse of intellectual black men asking questions and shooting video.

Although his band opened with a jazz format jam, local musician Abdias Ernesto Garcia and crew had much more natural flavor when they settled into groove-heavy Latin music. Probably because he's openly driven by passionate cultural roots, Garcia himself sounds most assured and distinctive when singing in a Latin style and should stick to it.

I finally saw Orlando two-piece Lagues (Aug. 5, Will's Pub) and am now in love with their awesomely ragged and skuzzy garage racket. They're comprised of a guitarist husband and bassist wife who divide the drum duties between not just themselves but their feet while they play. He works the kick, snare and cymbal while she does the high hat and tambourine. Together, they got that beautifully nasty blare-and-feedback action going on. Sure, there are some great, sometimes sweet melodies and all. But if I could bottle the sound from her bass guitar, I would, just to carry it around with me and bust it out whenever I needed a pick-me-up.

Down the block was the seemingly unpronounceable consonant nightmare that is Tonstartssbandht (Uncle Lou's). The duo is originally from Orlando, but they now divide their time between Montreal and New York. These spaced-out, lo-fi cats delivered the best song I've heard in a very long time. In possibly one of the most inspired acts of riff repurposing ever, their song "Black Country" basically takes the classic towering intro of "In a Big Country," makes it slower and more epic, and stretches it into the framework of an entire song. Gorgeous.

I'm sure New York's Outernational (Aug. 3, Back Booth) is just eating up all the Clash comparisons they're getting, what with their political edge and motley musical language and all. But that's a pretty gross overstatement since there's little of the Clash's cohesiveness or guts in what they do. You can dress it up in all sorts of euphemisms like "genre-defying" or "mélange" or, fuck, "potpourri." But the truth is that it was a horrible jumble of ill-fitting styles — New York-style rock & roll, punk, ska, world music, funk and even the occasional disco beat — all wanked out by the kind of "punk" band that wears a lot of hats. Uhhh, I'm outta here. Too many fedoras on one stage for me, man.

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