This Little Underground

Despair is not too strong a word to describe my feelings about the Orlando Magic's season coming to a premature end. That's because I love our team. However, unlike blind romantics would have you believe, love is not unconditional. It's a big personal investment, which means it also involves some expectation.

I've been a pretty huge Magic fan for many years. But as a fan of the game of basketball and the very art of competition, I have expectations of performance, especially of my beloved home team. Because I believe, I want to see them actualize their full potential. To see them fail in any way fills me with hurt and disappointment. Such is the nature of emotional attachment. The reason I outline this is because it's the exact same relationship I have with our local music scene. If a more cold-blooded and dispassionate perspective is what you want, look somewhere else.

But in spite of the agony any shortcoming in either the season or the scene can cause, the glory comes from being involved, being deep in the guts of the action instead of above or otherwise apart from it. That closeness is what will define your experience of it all. It's there, you just have to go out and be a part of it.

The beat

They're totally legendary and they've been prowling the underground longer than I've been alive, but this was finally my first time seeing Pentagram in person (May 23, Back Booth). To the uninitiated like me, the image frontman Bobby Liebling presents is more than a little ridiculous. Besides resembling a creepy porn peddler, his theatrical onstage persona is more Vincent Price than rock god. What's undeniable, though, is what came out of the speakers. That bluesy Sabbath murk is one dark and heavy slab of rock.

But opener Black Tusk was a little bit more up my alley. Rising up from the fertile heavy metal bog of Georgia — specifically, from the rapidly emerging Savannah crop — this walking tattoo gallery kicks out a red-lining brand of thrashy stoner sludge, the kind of pummeling rock that comes at your face good and hard. And you gotta know that any band that features a face-to-face headbanging routine between guitarist and bassist like this one does has a pretty healthy sense of triumphant revelry, even if it had me on pins and needles waiting for the misstep that would find them headbutting each other into unconsciousness (man, I watch too much America's Funniest Home Videos). At any rate, Black Tusk is charging hard to become one of the brighter points in this already shining class of heavy metal.

Headlining a diverse bill was local trio the Windham Group (May 28, Will's Pub). For obvious reasons, the term "smooth jazz" gives me the shivers. Although their merge of jazz and funk could fall under the umbrella of that category, the Windham Group's live presence is much more vibrant than that, especially when they introduce more soul into the equation and take maximum advantage of frontman Errol Windham's quality voice.

The star of the night, however, was Kissimmee-based Congolese percussion troupe Tam-Tam Congo. Although they're musicians who make their living playing for tourists at the theme parks, these guys are the real deal and not some bullshit soft-core exotica. Their hypnotic fluidity belies the complex polyrhythms at work in their sound, which can seriously cramp the mind when you actually break it down.

Although it's not really all that disputed that the world's most sophisticated studies of rhythm come out of Africa, it is a pretty special thing to be in the actual presence of expert practitioners of the art.

Featuring members of esteemed Orlando bands like Summerbirds, Viernes and Attached Hands, Father Figure (May 29, Will's Pub) is the city's next "it" band. Although just out of the gate, they've been kicking up some excitement and now I know why. Their crafted sound rides the exciting sonic chaos of shoegaze and garage but executes it with the discipline and skill that only highly accomplished players can bring, which makes all the difference in the world. With acres of melodic beauty coming through the infinite folds of their sound, their textures are hazy but their concept is crystal clear. Orlando's next great band? Possibly.

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