This Little Underground: Will's Pub tests the waters with a dance night

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Baby Erection
Baby Erection Ashley Belanger

Backbooth's been doing it for years. But now Will's Pub is the latest live venue to enter the dance night sweepstakes with its new Tuesdays. More than at almost any other nightspot in the city, this will seem curious and possibly alarming. But don't freak, regulars. This new night is Soul Shakedown and it's spun by the unfuckwithable DJ BMF, not some newjack Serato twat with more social media presence than skills. The Phat-N-Jazzy cornerstone turntablist is as O.G. as they come, and he brings his full audiovisual experience and a sure-shot music selection of jumping soul and funk.

Functionally, it doesn't seem to affect the Tuesday concerts drastically. They're only a little earlier, which isn't a bad thing for a school night. And for a late-night event, it's not absurdly late, beginning at a relatively inclusive 11 p.m. But the cherry on top? No cover. The Mills 50 district does things on its own terms, and shit's gotta be legit. So it's about time this surging neighborhood had its own chance to dance on the reg too.

The Beat

North Carolina's American Aquarium (April 11, Will's Pub) was excellent, as usual. Really, these guys have been one of the best country-rock bands going for a while now and are – in sensibility, work ethic and trajectory – the next Lucero, if there's any justice in this world. So if you think Lucero's lost some (or perhaps a lot) of their bite and intimacy – I do – then American Aquarium is your next jam.

But the big story this night was an Orlando one. Ever since last year, local heartland rocker Mike Dunn has been putting real pieces in place for a comeback. As of this opening show, he debuted his new band (the Company) and has a new album (Hard Luck Soft Rock) in the can, set for a summer release. Although mostly together, the band sounded like they're still coalescing. The new songs, however, sounded solid enough to raise anticipation for the new LP a little more, so stay tuned. Details are being sorted still, but Dunn has some cool release events in the works for this summer.

Their punk-scuffed folk music is a pretty good listen in its own right. But, live, Nashville trio Fort Defiance (April 8, Will's Pub) is a rousing stage display of flashy busker tricks and bellies of fire. Although they have a dedicated percussionist with a rig of intriguing things like a suitcase foot drum and a washboard, their irrepressible beat is an ensemble effort with the other two singer-players stationed high atop stomping platforms – one a travel trunk and the other a wooden crate.

The reason to take them more seriously than basic show entertainment is that, in contrast to acts like the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, they lead with soul, not gimmick. Their songs are good, earnest and full of real heart that's colorfully stroked by the male-female harmonies of the vigorous Jordan Eastman and Laurel Lane, whose raw, Dolly-esque country shine could be a diamond in the rough.

All this makes the crowd involvement that their wall-breaking performance style solicits a lot less awkward. But even if you decline to sing along or grab one of the many percussion instruments they pass around the audience, you'll still get an all-out performance.

Sharing the bill was Brooklyn's Baby Erection. There is, of course, that name. And then there's the wardrobe, which was perhaps more outrageous than the moniker. Possibly awesome but probably just gross, the frontman's getup makes the Darkness' Justin Hawkins seem almost prim. But that about does it for their notable qualities. Beyond all the laugh bait, they're just an undercooked hash of garage, glam and punk.

Melbourne's the Dull Blades are still doing the two-piece thing and still doing it well. They've developed rock & roll hues beyond the White Stripes template that guided them before, but their aesthetic remains nicely honed and their execution more in the pocket than ever. This high-performance duo has always been an underrated area band, so it's nice to see them still in business and kicking ass.

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