This Little Underground

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Shit! This column only took about three times as long to write, all because I kept checking on the game's score. But it's your time, Orlando Magic. Go get it.

Oh, and R.I.P., Lena Horne.


The beat


Featuring members of notable acts like the Locust and Some Girls, California band All Leather (May 11, Back Booth) is responsible for some of the most unsympathetic dance music in years. Between the awesomely paranoid guitars and the chest-kicking machine beats, their noisy electro-punk is like some furious mash of the Death Set, the Rapture and the nerve-hammering frenzy of reggaeton. Pounding, feral and physical, this is hostile body music that provides a glimpse of what industrial dance music might've become if it hadn't lost its smarts and edge. 

Opening were local luminaries Yip-Yip, whose schtick I've kinda been over for some time now. Beyond the striking initial impact they make, their music is a thing that can only be enjoyed in short doses, making my relationship with their work more about appreciation than enjoyment.

However, this performance was far more interesting than it's been in a long time. For one, they're continuing with a revamped look featuring new costumes (face-baring jumpsuits), possibly because All Leather's Justin Pearson would've cried foul at the obvious likeness of their former outfits to those of his other band, the Locust.

But the real difference is in their sound. The experimental duo has backed off the annoyingly relentless mania that's become their hallmark in favor of a more vocal aspect and a heavier rhythmic bounce that even dares to flash some unexpected but slammin' Dirty South touches. It was a more locked-in performance that proved the boys have been working on expanding their dimensionality, something not typically part of the Yip-Yip schema. Because they've lost some traction and luster here in their hometown, I seriously hope this is a resurgence for them. 

Gainesville has a long, albeit narrow, tradition of punk rock. And besides being one of the most cohesive punk bands around, the Shaking Hands (May 13, Will's Pub) do this charging, melodic style far better than most. In fact, they're one of the best balances of melody and might I've heard in too long. 

Anthemic punk ain't original, but it is timelessly effective. But because of that, it's a style that attracts so many pretenders that it brings down the average. Sadly, few do it right. But the Shaking Hands are tight and hit all the right notes. Fuck, man, what more can you ask for with a punk-rock band? These guys capture that triumphant punk spirit better than anyone in recent memory.

Earlier was local musician Chopper Stepe (57 West), who, by the way, looks a lot like a pre-Christ Stephen Baldwin. With a rocking and rolling sound that's like country music for greasers, he and his band have been making the scene rounds of late. As an outfit, they're still loose and in-development. But they're a welcome infusion of blood to a scene that's been creatively fallow as of late.

Also on the bill was local act the Bloody Jug Band. They're a folk band, goddammit, and they've got all the signifiers to prove it: jug, washboard and washtub bass, alongside lap steel and harmonica. Thing is, there's something not quite kosher about the whole affair. For all the stylistic possibilities of their involved getup, they failed to squeeze much worth out of the more unusual instruments, relegating them instead to being sonically ineffectual at best and gimmicky at worst. Moreover, their actual songs emanate a college rock-band sensibility that would be more comfortable at a themed frat party than a real hoedown.

I've already been to several shows at the relatively new 57 West, the latest venture by the former owners of the criminally underutilized AKA Lounge. The new club looks like it's finally gaining some legs and showing some improved programming, however slight. It's a nice, spacious room with great sightlines and tons of potential. But currently, it's all hard surfaces (concrete floors, brick wall, steel beams) and is one of downtown's most sonically unfriendly spaces for live music. In order to even have a shot at becoming a contender as a live music venue, the room will need some serious and informed sound dampening

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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