This Little Underground: The weird originality of Illuminated Paths

I've been thinking a while now about enigmatic Central Florida music label Illuminated Paths – what it's doing, what it is – and the launch of its first label showcase tour and our feature story (June 15) that it compelled recently brought it to a point. There are, of course, other boutique cassette labels out there in the indie galaxy. Illuminated Paths, however, isn't just another emptily trendy outfit. My story unpacks this in depth, but what I discovered through the course of pursuing it is that this label's methods are themselves expressions of art and meaning, every bit as much as the work of the musicians it presents. In some cases, I suspect more. Almost no other music label can claim that, at least not to this degree. Label boss Joshua Rogers is doing something truly unique. When it comes to weird Orlando, this is one of the most notable stories right now.

Not enough people were at the tour kickoff show (June 21, Uncle Lou's), that's for sure. But the good news is that, by the time you read this, the tour will be circling back home for a finale show this weekend at Will's Pub (July 5) with a fresh lineup. If you missed the sendoff, here's your chance at both redemption and enlightenment. It's an event that anyone who's interested in or cares about the Orlando underground should not miss.

The Beat

In a career defined by relative unpredictability, Ceremony has somehow managed to take a turn that's just plain puzzling. Although products of punk, they've proven in recent years that they're no slaves to hardcore orthodoxy. Progressively adding moody hues of gray into their sound, they've made a name of bucking convention. That's why one of the last places you'd expect a defiant band that's operated very much outside the box to land is where they now stand with their new LP (The L-Shaped Man): a neo-Joy Division act. Not that the music is bad, it's just perilously literal. Tally up that straight apery alongside the direct inspiration for their name (the song "Ceremony" by you know who) and this could all be verging on artistically shaky tribute-band ground here.

The thought of how this might alter the usually intense chord of their live show is probably keeping pit junkies everywhere up at night right now, and it looked like the nightmare might be validated when they opened their recent Orlando show (June 23, the Social) with their new sound to a floor of statues. But you can never count out a band that's pushed the brink, and the minute they snapped back into their old selves, the bodies started flying.

For every pound of gut punch that Ceremony has shed in the chase of their latest muse, local openers False Punk and Gross compensated with some serious heft. These true underground heroes have built cred on torching subterranean spots around town, so it's nice to see them get on a prime stage like the Social.

Increasingly impressive in previous shows, Gross has been making more ripples lately with a buckshot spray of area performances. At this show, their metallic hardcore blasts came more assured than ever, proving their position as a band to watch out on the best extremities of modern heavy music.

You've probably heard me talk up False Punk pretty intensely, but, truth is, I had yet to see these noise punks live. Normally, because of this column, my endorsements usually stem from firsthand stage experience. But their debut mini-album Kick Rocks was just so ravagingly cogent that I jumped on immediately, giving them two Undie awards last year.

Still, there's no touchstone like live performance. So in order to fully validate anything, rubber must meet the road. In their case, the whole damned thing – rubber, steel, flesh and bone – hit the pavement in one noisy, violent episode that managed to say everything that needed saying in 10 raging minutes, and that included a snare drum change-out. False Punk is for real, and they're quite possibly the most forceful new punk band around.

Root of the world: Photos from Ceremony and Tony Molina at the Social Also featuring Wildhoney, False Punk and Gross - Photo by Carlo Cavaluzzi
Photo by Carlo Cavaluzzi
Root of the world: Photos from Ceremony and Tony Molina at the Social Also featuring Wildhoney, False Punk and Gross


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