This Little Underground

Looking good so far, Magic,

looking good. Keep beatin' that ass all day long.

day long.

The beat

Anyone who knows anything about entertainment in this city knows lounge act Mark & Lorna. And everyone who knows 'em, loves 'em. They're legendary, inimitable even (though it's been rumored that they were the inspiration behind the SNL sketch starring Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as the Culps, since SNL writer Paula Pell is a former local).

It takes something near Earth-moving to get the wife-husband duo to perform outside of their long-running, five-night-a-week stand at the cozily perfect Red Fox Lounge. But they agreed to do a one-time special engagement for the very worthy Ronald McDonald House (Oct. 28, the Social). I mean, seriously, who wouldn't get behind those badass fries, am I right? What? It helps families of sick children? Word. That's a righteous cause, too. But those fries, hot damn!

Though their charm and showmanship remain fully intact, there's a significant difference in seeing them at the professional rock venue of the Social rather than the old-school cocktail setting of the Red Fox. But what they gave up in intimacy, they gained in spectacle, thanks completely to Lorna. Give her room and the lady will daaance. Go on, girl!

Their regular gig may be small in scale, but the packed house at the Social on this night speaks to the power of their draw as one of Orlando's most cherished institutions.

Two blocks down, local singer Kaleigh Baker was holding down her own weekly Wednesday-night stand (Tanqueray's). Y'know all that stuff I said recently about the cliché that dominates acoustic chicks? Well, none of that applies to Baker, and it's not because she breaks the mold. It's simply because she's got the fucking goods in a voice that's all power and soul. She is the female singer par excellence. It doesn't even matter if she sings in a style that you're not crazy about; her power of expression will grip you. Baker is one of the very few pure models of the feminine musical ideal in this city. If you don't have that gift — and face it, most don't — then you'd better get creative.

Another female exemplar worthy of max R-E-S-P-E-C-T is Jacksonville songbird Christina Wagner (Oct. 30, Redlight Redlight). Yes, the fact that she's a tattooed, whiskey-drinking shit-talker unafraid to berate the audience for rudeness does contribute to her intriguing persona. But on a basic level, she's a musician of significance because her voice is rich, her expression deep and her execution thoughtful. Simple as that. Still, the shit-talking don't hurt. Other female hopefuls, take note.

Earlier, former Jacksonville and now Chapel Hill band Fin Fang Foom (Will's Pub) impressed me with thick, heady rock swimming in epic drama. A construct of massive, swerving guitars, effects-laden washes and churning, angular rhythms, it's music so strong and evocative that it would not only hold up in a strictly instrumental format, it'd probably be better.

Of the windfall from Gainesville's massive annual punk-a-thon The Fest, the most electric was NYC art-punkers Japanther, who absolutely tore it up with a blissed-out display that had the kids in a state of completely irrational ecstasy (Oct. 29, Stardust Video & Coffee). Their melodic, synth-jacked punk is a rare instance of the harmonious co-existence of concept and fun.

I think it's great that more good shit's going on over at Stardust. But y'know what'd make it better? If someone, anyone would keep Stardust's event calendar updated. Seriously, WTF, guys?

More pre-Fest action was happening simultaneously over on Mills Avenue (Will's Pub). Earlier, some young bands played the kind of punk rock that kids always play, which is fine and all but won't matter much in the long run. But giving the night some weight were locals How Dare You and Pennsylvania's the Menzingers. The ringing sound of the Menzingers had traces of gritty folk-punk soul. The tougher, more straightforward sound of How Dare You is a big-hearted, fist-pumping, neck-locking affair.

Both had pronounced pop melodies like the early bands, but the key difference was tighter chops and beefier sounds. The result was an anthemic timelessness.

These bands are salient reminders that tuneful punk rock can be done right, something too easily forgotten in this bed-wetting mall-punk age.

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