This Little Underground

Of all the covers that local punk classicists the Attack bang out, "Bad Moon Rising" is a perennial crowd favorite. That's why it thrills me to know that they're going to do an entire set of CCR covers at the Lebowski Fest (May 21, House of Blues).


The beat


From seemingly nowhere, local act Silver Fleece (April 26, Peacock Room) have arrived fully formed: This credible combo play pristine, gospel-distilled folk music with an astounding degree of conviction and purity. Lifting pages from a preserved songbook untainted by time, they glow with an exceptionally virginal quality without falling prey to preciousness. Studious but not stiff, their relatively low profile belies their natural, radiant skill. You may not have heard of 'em yet, but they're quite possibly the area's new folk standard.

Earlier were Dead Weather (House of Blues). Far more dope than the Raconteurs, this other Jack White-helmed supergroup (featuring members of the Kills, Queens of the Stone Age and the Raconteurs) revels in the eternal glamour of sleaze-smeared, boozed-up rock & roll. Despite all the hype that necessarily surrounds them, they're an extraordinarily effective rock machine, throbbing like an American Zeppelin with a Boss Hog dynamic.

Although White's primarily a drummer in this outfit, the fireworks naturally come when he picks up the axe. Like the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, studs like White are why the electric guitar will never die. As long as cats can spin sex with it like White does, it will always be the king of rock.

But besides being this generation's Jimmy Page, White pumps more lust and blood into the great rock tradition than anyone else on Earth. When some random dinosaur is gushing in my ear about the "return of rock & roll" while young girls are screaming all around me, something pretty universal is going on.

Continuing the recent hot streak of today's most definitive bands playing Orlando was Band of Horses (April 29, House of Blues). Although slightly muted, they were effective as usual. However, Ben Bridwell's voice wasn't as loud in the mix as it really should be. Their neo-Southern rock is undeniably pretty but – let's be clear – Bridwell's gorgeously transcendental singing is Band of Horses. As one of the absolute best to emerge from this decade, his voice is unmistakable, irreplaceable and essential. To not let it fully spread its wings is an injustice. (Speaking of which, fans, brace yourselves for their upcoming record because it's a bit of a sonic departure.) Still, BOH is one of the current bands that are actually equal to all the attention and praise they enjoy.

And then there are the guys who never quite got their full due, like John Hiatt (April 28, Plaza Theatre). Although best when they stuck to countrified rock & roll burning with a Graham Parker-esque fire, his band was a true-blue reflection of the proud American music heritage. It's well-trod turf, but few do it with this degree of experience and old-school belief anymore. Yes, it is possible to age without losing edge or poignancy.

Ditto for the older audience. Although it's out of my typical element, I'll take this sort of older crowd any day over the younger ones gripped by acute self-consciousness and the politics of cool. You'd probably mistake them for geezers, but they beamed with more pulse and appreciation than most indie rock crowds. This kind of audience reaction makes for a purer live-music experience and a more meaningful sense of communion. The more you give, the more you get. Cheers especially to the people dancing in the aisles.

Standing somewhere between Josh Rouse and Orlando's own Mike Dunn, the expression of opener Matthew Ryan bears a perpetually reflective complexion. There's little emotional variation in it, but it's a warm, comforting place to linger. It's actually the closest anyone has come to the affecting rasp and spare emotionality of early Rouse, which is good news for Rouse fans like me since he's currently stranded in Spain in search of his lost mojo.

Pairing pop smarts with compositional intellect, Brooklyn's Bear Hands (April 30, the Social) are an effectively dynamic mix of complex rhythmic tension and dreamy melodic waft that fans of Q and Not U could rock a dance floor to. And it might just be enough to keep them in good standing once this rising new class of bear-named bands plateaus.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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