This Little Underground

What truth did I glean from all those hours of watching the Winter Olympics? That if I could learn how to handle spins like a figure skater, I would absolutely destroy at dizzy bat.

The beat

It looks like the stars are aligning for Tallahassee's Holiday Shores. They're part of a small-but-mighty uprising of summery, echo-laden bands, and they're turning more and more heads. Like shiny coins under the surface of the water on a bright day, their first Orlando show (Feb. 16, Back Booth) was a shimmering affair. Each player is technical, but as a band their collective eye is always on the bigger goal, resulting in a cohesive display of lovely textures, intricate interplay and infectious kinesis. Believe the hype. Or better yet, see for yourself on their next swing through town opening for the reawakened Aloha (April 12, Will's Pub) — whose upcoming album Home Acres(out March 9) is surprisingly good, by the way.

Sharing the bill was steam-gathering Nashville band Turbo Fruits. One of the best outcomes of Be Your Own Pet's breakup is that guitarist Jonas Stein can now focus on this superior project. Unlike his former band, this one's less juvenile, more virile and burns with the stylish primality of early rock & roll.

For reasons too numerous and fundamental to get into, jam bands aren't my bag at all. But at least Orlando-Gainesville band Diocious (Feb. 18, the Social) has the sense to keep their rock-psych-funk vehicle lean and mean, with three distinct players who are skilled and even aggressive at times, particularly drummer Partin Whitaker. I'd love to see him let loose in an all-out rock format. If you don't typically dig the kind of music I've just described them as playing — hey, I don't — then just believe me when I say that they're better than they look on paper. They're occasionally guilty of the boringly beige pap too, but this band's capable of more.

Later on down the street, Amanda Blank (Firestone Live) walked onstage and delivered the kind of spectacle that's highly dependent on the external electricity of a very loud and lively crowd. Absent that, it reveals itself to be a thin live show, which is a precarious and completely backwards way of approaching live performance.

Our news-saturated culture may be tired of hearing about it, but Haiti is still in total devastation, and the Big Hugs for Haiti Fest (Feb. 20-21, Will's Pub) was the most interesting and complete lineup of all the local benefits so far. Natural highlights included the forceful rhythm machine of Basements of Florida, the increasingly exciting Telethon the Musical and the room-altering Attached Hands, who understand that even a little bit of structure and composition can give noise music so much more effect.

Among the other bands not yet covered here was the Weezer-loving Skyline Underground, whose big and precious power pop was reasonably pleasant but too loose for a style that requires a lot of snap.

Gainesville's Rabbit Punch delivered an organic, groove-based take on electronic music that combined synthesized atmospherics, live singing and big funky beats that were made more real with the aid of live drumming.

Clocking in at only about five minutes total, the primal attack of mysterious feedback-and-drums duo Posture hit so fast and weird that it was hard to really process what had just occurred. They stormed in, did their damage and left me to sort out the fragments of my brain. Though they're not necessarily accessible, their experimentation is provocative enough to leave an impression.

Akron/Family are fierce folk innovators who push the genre's elasticity to its outermost reaches, even bleeding into noise, droning primitivism and rock tribalism. But despite their fearless propensity to explore, their latest concert (Feb. 19, Back Booth) showed that having a good compass prevents you from getting lost in the woods. Even when they're swirling in seemingly freeform orbits, it always circles back to a completed and powerfully focused concept.

However, there's a key difference in approach that makes their taxonomy-busting, freak-out folk truly special. For most artists who dare to venture, experimentalism is a cerebral gesture. But for Akron/Family, it's a visceral thing. What distinguishes them from the ephemeral oddity of their contemporaries is their merge of unorthodoxy and raw intensity. If more bands bridged those two worlds, the musical landscape would be much more vibrant.

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About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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