This Little Underground: The Pauses party like it’s 1994

Plus, the Social/Beacham’s downtown coup, Wet Nurse, Black Pussy, Royal Thunder, O’Brother, Leisure Chief

THE PAUSES - Photo by Michael Lothrop
Photo by Michael Lothrop

Forget the attractions, man. This week, Orlando nightlife was the area’s most dizzying ride. Besides Roxy closing, the bombshell was the turning of a legendary downtown trust (Bar-BQ Bar, Eye Spy and Sky 60) over to the live-music juggernaut of the Social/Beacham group. Some changes will happen as we’ve reported, but more will be revealed soon. This seismic development on the deepest and best block in downtown will have defining shockwaves. Stay tuned.

The Beat

Themed events continue to be this year’s local motif, and the Pauses pulled off the latest home run: 1994 (Aug. 2, Will’s Pub). Even though the ’90s were the beginning of the end in some ways with alternative becoming mainstream, there’s much to celebrate. This show, besides being an occasional reminder of bad pop-culture decisions, was a great nostalgia trip.

Seeing prestige bands perform live mixtapes like this was pure entertainment and constant surprise. Songs ranged from the cognoscenti-approved (The New Lows covering Jawbreaker) to guilty radio pleasures (Wet Nurse covering Ace of Base). Probably because they were all too young to be cool in 1994, Wet Nurse really exploited the zeitgeist for a fun, excellent set. They completely hotwired the Offspring’s “Self Esteem” and turned the aforementioned Swedish scourge of the ’90s airwaves into a vehicle to certify the gold of their own pure pop ability.

Cut. It. Out.: 50 photos from the 1994 cover show at Will’s Pub

But besides having the genius to tackle Portishead, the Pauses also showed what Dinosaur Jr. would sound like with a good singer. And just when I wasn’t entirely buying their take on NIN’s “Closer,” frontwoman Tierney Tough hurled stuffed animals into the crowd, yelling, “I wanna fuck you like an animal.” Classic Pauses humor.

With pussy being the new black in music, it’s an inevitability that a band named Black Pussy (July 28, Will’s Pub) would rise. More Nashville Pussy than Perfect Pussy, these Portland guys are total throwbacks to the hard and heavy side of the ’70s. And holy rock Jesus do they look every inch the part, with bell-bottoms, hair for miles and enough vintage gear to fill a garage.

Now if this stuff totally isn’t your bag, there’s more than enough here to write ’em off within a second’s glance. But spend just five minutes in the same room with them and the only thing your hater mouth will open for is a gape of awe. They may be loaded with gimmick, but they’re no joke.

Dripping with weed and sex, Black Pussy’s stoner-boner rock is just high enough to party without crossing over into the exploratory beyond. Live, they are a mountain of overdriven fuzz, groove and swagger that tumbles boulders like dice. They’re heavy, but they’re also maximum rock & roll. Not many walked in that night knowing who this band was, but everyone walked out changed – and probably wishing they had a Camaro right about now.

Although Atlanta’s O’Brother can be emotional dudes, they come from the heavier side of post-rock. Live – where their softer tendencies are checked and their more forceful strokes are emphasized – their sound is an impressive storm. They may work that high drama, but at least they crank it to epic scale and drive it with moving dynamics.

Easy talk: Photos from O’Brother and Royal Thunder at Backbooth

But owning this night were fellow Atlantans Royal Thunder. Despite the metal prestige that being a Relapse band strongly implies, they’re more hard Southern rock, and they pack a blend of evocative forces that immediately distinguishes them from the pack. Like the Kills’ deadlier swamp cousin, they’re a mighty, blues-greased, smoke-thick hex rising from the dark South. Their stoned heaviness is all power, atmosphere and sex.

Afterward, Leisure Chief was holding down their weekly residency (Tanqueray’s). Most know them as Buster Keaton, but they just officially changed their name. They’re one of the younger acts rising in the local groove-band scene and it’s easy to see why. Their jam-friendly merge of polished funk and jazz is chill while kinetic and professional, but not too self-serious. The result is a modest but enjoyable band that, rather than be distracted with trend, just cares about locking it down and keeping the spot lively every Thursday. This band in this venue is a perfect combination.


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