This Little Underground

The good news: NBA playoff fever begins again! The bad? It won't bump Nickelback off the arena's calendar. But fuck it, go Magic! Let's get it done this year and shut 'em all up, boys.

The beat

In a nice bit of coincidence, Brooklyn's Here We Go Magic (April 9, the Social) showed some hypnotic indie-rock dynamism despite the nearly overwhelming din of annoying preps new to the bandwagon of headliner White Rabbits.

Easter means no more to me than funny Cadbury commercials and horrible candy. But this year, it meant stellar rock (April 4, Back Booth), like Cleveland's Mr. Gnome, who came back and impressed even more people with their high-impact collision of power and ethereality. They're of a dumb name but completely rule. Just like the Magic!

The psychedelia of Sleepy Sun comes from San Francisco but it ain't no goofy flower-power stuff. Spread thick with some of the juiciest, meatiest grooves out there, this is peyote rock made for desert tripping. Psychedelic music is in a renaissance and these guys are some of the most expansive and dimensional shamans on the heavy end.

But completely transforming the room with a striking light show and a swallowing live sound were headliners A Place to Bury Strangers. They may be NYC's loudest band but they're certainly not the loudest band Orlando has seen. Still, like an extraordinarily bottom-heavy Psychocandy, it was an impressive combination of frequency and volume that you could feel like a full-body massage.

Speaking of presentation, the arty flamboyance of Of Montreal is always a visual feast (April 10, Firestone Live). This time, using a pillow and a leaf blower, they covered the entire room in feathers. It's an awesome live effect, except it sent everyone into a coughing fit — which, OK, is pretty awesomely funny too. It's always worthwhile to see an act with a real sense of show. It's also nice to see how a weird pop band can blossom into a defining cultural juggernaut.

Despite their name, Boston's Doomriders (April 8, the Social) aren't all that doomy, but they do kick major-league ass with a beastly Molotov cocktail of stoner metal and hardcore. Heavy, hard, and juiced with horsepower, they might be the complete package when it comes to rock. But bringing levity to what's often an overly self-serious situation, singer Nate Newton, whom you may know from Converge, is like a heavy-metal Sam Kinison between songs.

Also worthy of more "Best in Show" props is L.A. headliner Red Sparowes. The motion picture majesty of their massive post-rock is evocative and well crafted on its own. But add artistic visuals and you have a live show that's as much a filmic experience as it is a concert. Despite their technical skill, this band's triumph is that they're absolutely religious in their placement of idea over instrumental indulgence. They understand focus and mission like few do, and that's why their show is an immersive multi-sensory experience and not some clinic in rock wankery.

Driven by the exact inverse is Jacksonville's Bastard Lovechild of Rock ‘n' Roll (April 9, Back Booth), who remain the most schizophrenic band around. I can't imagine how one could successfully meld BLORR's two faces — unserious electro-dance fluff and completely dope Black Keys-esque garage blues — but they don't even try. When you're good enough at one that it could probably make you a sensation if you just stuck with it, and you're completely useless at the other, well, it's not neurosurgery to figure out what to do.

Considering my position on jam bands, I share about as much philosophical overlap with Spring Jambando (April 10, Plaza Theatre) as I do the Vatican or the KKK. But if you have more hippie in you than I do — a biological certainty — then you might have dug this extravaganza of music, crafts and food. With four stages and vibrant atmosphere, the fifth edition of the annual event was a happening of real size and involvement. Though much of the music was suspect in taste, I did catch some solid bluegrass with local group the Flat Mountain Band.

The Bao Show

My next hand picked showcase of the area's most noteworthy bands will feature the rapidly rising Viernes, the explosive 1991 and the audio-visual splendor of Sloppy Disk (April 17, Back Booth). Even if you don't like me, don't worry: zero of your cash goes to me. I just put 'em onstage. So support your bands.

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