This Little Underground

If you're interested in getting an inside, articulate and humorous glimpse into the journey of a young, smart band living the dream of recording with one of their idols (specifically, J. Robbins), check out the Pauses' recording blog (


Oil ain't the only nasty stuff currently ripping forth from the gulf area. Legendary New Orleans metal band Eyehategod (June 3, Back Booth) kicked off their tour here and, man, was everyone amped to see them. With an impressively rough roar and depth-diving, thousand-ton riffage, their wasted sludge had every hard surface in the joint shivering, mostly from sound waves but some from fear. The shaking of my pant leg alone made me check my phone about 20 goddamn times. More than just a ravaging set, it was testament that they're still one of the most sonically commanding bands alive.

Over on Mills, local band Andy Matchett & the Minks (Will's Pub) delivered likeably straightforward melodic rock with occasional flashes of power-pop. Now, I know how mainstream Orlando loves its melodic rock, but these guys seem to be the only ones doing it right. It's pure, punchy and, most importantly, not douchey. The band is good enough to work reasonably well right now, but who knows how big the songs could be if they equaled Matchett's natural and bright voice?

Also kicking off a national tour was headliner Austin Lucas, the nomadic Americana singer who thankfully spends a lot of time in Florida. The enormously soulful, stylistically pure music that's made him a star in the folk-punk scene was more fully rendered live with the addition of fiddle and banjo accompaniment. But his most inspired move was adding eminent Jacksonville singer Christina Wagner into the vocal mix.

Although the result is magic when done right, the male-female singing dynamic can be tricky. Because of its pitch and clarity, the female voice can often dominate, a particularly legitimate concern when dealing with a voice as distinctive as Wagner's. But if there's one man who can hang with even the most acrobatic singers — female or male — it's Lucas, whose own bluegrass-kissed voice is simply angelic. Shit, he practically upstaged everyone when he was on Chuck Ragan's Revival Tour in 2008. Alone, each singer is outstanding. But together, they're sublime.

Speaking of good pairings, vocal powerhouse Kaleigh Baker and guitar gunner Brian Chodorcoff teamed to do a powerfully raw rendition of "Don't Talk to Strangers" and provided the Jeff Nolan-helmed Dio tribute (June 5, Will's Pub) its most transcendental moment.

That weekend, both Nolan and OW music guru Jason Ferguson did double duty, with Ferguson spinning at Nolan's Dio tribute and Nolan and his band the Ludes playing Ferguson's Alex Chilton tribute the night before. Both were thorough and loving tributes, but the Dio night was a much bigger production. And it was no shocker that the hard-rocking Ludes were far more in their element at the Dio gig, meaning that Nolan can jack off on guitar all he wants without seeming excessive. Their passionate set even made me dig Dio — almost.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band show (June 1, Plaza Theatre) was an outstandingly immersive occasion. Being in a classic setting pregnant with history while listening to music with even deeper roots makes for a uniquely transporting experience. The live personification of the French Quarter record label and venue (a tradition dating back to the ‘60s), the PHJB are torchbearers of New Orleans jazz. But rather than relics or campy knockoffs, the band plays in a way that captures the fire of youth from which that music was originally forged. All of it culminated in a finale where the band left the stage and led a dance line up and down the theater aisles. And lemme tell you, those blue hairs got up outta their seats and got down faster than you kids normally do.

Well, perhaps with the exception this week of the modest but very enthusiastic crowd at the Plants and Animals show (June 4, Back Booth). Although the bucolic music of these ascendant Canadians is sonically broad, the energy and economy of the live situation actually suits them quite well. Instead of the conventional guitar and bass arrangement, they go with a two-guitar setup for maximum expressional range, and they know how to milk it for all its worth.

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