This Little Underground

When discussing Afro-punk many distinguished names come up, but Detroit's Death probably isn't one of 'em. Considering that these three brothers were bashing out proto-punk inspired by the MC5 and the Stooges back in 1973, it probably should. But somehow, time has forgotten this landmark band. That is, until dope Chicago label Drag City made things right early this year by finally giving their never-released 1974 record … For the Whole World to See a proper, loving debut. Officially a cause;célèbre, Death re-formed and began touring. Now, as reported in NME, the next big domino to fall is that Mos Def is collaborating with Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash to make a documentary on the band. That's a happy ending, and possibly a new beginning, for some real OGs.


The beat


Country-punk one-man band and former Hank III bassist Joe Buck gave a bitchy, disappointing performance this time in town (Sept. 22, Redlight Redlight). Thankfully, South Florida's Viva le Vox saved the night with their theatrical psycho-brew of gypsy, punk, rockabilly, tattoos and goofy faces. Their stomping ragtag chanteys are rooted in a folk insanity that froths with occasional Man Man-nerisms. It's a mix of camp and gusto that's funny, but possesses plenty of fire. They pour it all out onstage for you, that much is clear. If anything, they bring some much-needed freshness and edge to the greaser's diet.


I always prefer Richard Buckner backed by a band, because a full vehicle best actualizes the richness of his majestic melodies. But since most of the gravity comes from that voice, even a solo performance like his latest one (Sept. 25, the Social) is a chest-filling experience. This time, greater use of loops -– a la Keller Williams – added volume and even experimentalism to his set. His music is grizzled country rock at heart, but his masterful, crystalline execution is the mark of a truly soulful artist.


Opening was Cape Canaveral Americana band Nine Volts. As regrettable as it was that a gnarly bonfire incident put drummer Larry Fulford out of commission for this performance, it ended up being a good measure of how far they've come in terms of instrumental tapestry. Their expression is now much more varied and intricate, elevating them far past the average twangy bar band. In fact, they make me nostalgic for a time only several years ago when there was a scrappy field of good alt-country bands in the area. What was once a promising young scene is now only a few practitioners: either very professional players or hobbyists who probably shouldn't be playing out. Thankfully, the Nine Volts are keeping the flame alive for the believers.


Speaking of growing up, the Ettes, too, have come a long way. Gathering real steam, they've distinguished themselves in the garage world, now rubbing elbows with heavyweights like the Black Keys and Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound), who produced their kickin' new album, Do You Want Power. Their recent performance (Sept. 26, the Social) was a big, pounding mammoth that strutted with delicious guitars, fuzz bass and the ever-deepening voice of hometown girl Lindsay "Coco" Hames. Of late, they've hit a balance between sexy and rocking that should be taken very seriously.


Also sharing the bill was Nashville's American Bang, who are built on enough rock clichés to be unlikable on paper. But live, their power and conviction kept much of that shameless stylistic pomp in check. The result was a gutsy slab of hard, classic, Southern rock that's like a more cock-wagging version of early Kings of Leon.


Headlining was Juliette Lewis. It's always a sigh-inducing proposition to judge a musician packing big celebrity gained from something other than music, especially a fucking actor. But I gotta say, she puts on quite a show. Her chick-rockisms are more than a little obvious, but at least she believes in rocking out in earnest. She's actually a tolerable singer – then again, cloaking herself with a good, loud band definitely helps – but for most, that's not really the point of seeing her live. That said, she's a generous, in-the-moment performer who gives her audience tons of energy and sweat with surprisingly little silliness and reasonably un-shitty music. Maybe that's just the actor in her, but with Hollywood rock twats out there like Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars), that's worth something.

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