This Little Underground

R.I.P. Alex Chilton.

The beat

I've been to two of the three Bread & Circuses Music Feasts (March 20, Will's Pub) and I still don't fully get it. The latest edition was a sort of marathon variety show with bands, food, live visuals and freak-show entertainment. It was as weird as it sounds, and not always intentionally. Points for trying to do something different, but this one lived up to the Roman Empire reference in its name only because it became a strange bacchanalia of amateurs who drank themselves senseless way too early.

Equally confusing was local act Room Full of Strangers, the masked dudes who perform looking like bank robbers with S&M tendencies. Decent when they play primitive punk and forgettable when dishing out irresolute black-clad rock, this band can be stylistically inconclusive. And though they tiptoe the edge of farce, at least they're theatrical.

Little Dragon kicked off a busy night right (March 19, Back Booth). Featured on the new Gorillaz album, this Swedish group deals in an intelligent, left field brand of minimal electro-pop that's a song-based synthesis of '80s and '90s dance. Despite good live players, their strong identity comes down to their sharp synth hooks and Yukimi Nagano's alluringly lissome voice. Through a rare mix of quirkiness and fluidity, even understated music like this can beam brightly.

Later was the final Orlando show of local American trad-rockers Gasoline Heart (Redlight Redlight), whose future remains uncertain due to member relocations. It had all the trappings of a farewell blowout, with lots of drinking, emotion and interminably dragged-out songs. And though they haven't really been in top form in years, I'll genuinely miss this band for being stubborn believers and for kicking out massive hooks.

Even later was Athens, Ga.'s Music Hates You (Will's Pub), who are some hard Southern motherfuckers. Their music — something they call "dirt metal" — rages somewhere between grisly metal and whiskey-drunk hardcore. From their audience baiting to their pounding music to their blinding-white lighting rig, everything about this band is confrontational. Their motto, emblazoned on an amp, is "You Have Failed as an Audience." My eyes tend to roll whenever a band resorts to words to get a crowd going but at least they held up their end with jaw-breaking delivery.

Live is always the fullest way to experience nuanced post-metal bands like Caspian (March 14, Will's Pub). And in their first Florida show, the Boston group showed an enormous range of mood and technique. Their crystalline melodies wind between their high-rise crests of sound, but even the prettiest songs eventually swell to epic, cliff-rushing scale. To hear them live is to experience an immersive, utterly enveloping sound that feels like all four walls are speakers. They have a mix of elements that nicely crosses party lines: Lovers of heavy music find their inner beast tamed with the gorgeous melodies while non-metalheads are seduced into feeling the head-rush of sonic force. Their finale involved five guys banging on drums, a climax so rousing that the audience practically forced an encore.

Mexican duo Rodrigo y Gabriela (March 17, House of Blues) is responsible for some of the most hot-blooded acoustic shredding in the world. If you don't believe there is such a thing, YouTube 'em. The hands of those two do the work of a whole brigade of mortal guitarists, with Gabriela handling most of the rhythm through mind-blowing flamenco golpe while still keeping dazzling pace with Rodrigo, on guitar, without a hint of strain.

Rod y Gab is a perfect storm of burning folk pathos and aggressive rock ethos. But looking beyond its well-known schtick of throwing snippets of hard-rock covers into their sets — which are used pretty effectively to push the mercury through the roof — these masters are the kind of young torchbearers that traditional music forms need to remain visible, viable and relevant.

With a little taste and style, French pacesetters Air (March 14, Hard Rock Live) did exactly that for the '70s space-age futurism of Italo disco. Though imposing theater seating at a rock venue is perhaps taking yourself a little too seriously, as does having a white-gloved technician come out to adjust your vintage synthesizer every few minutes, what they've accomplished is conceptual pop music par excellence.

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