This Little Underground: Moon Jelly trips out the In-Between Series

This Little Underground: Moon Jelly trips out the In-Between Series
Photo by Jen Cray

In the daring show spirit of the In-Between Series which has sometimes ventured beyond just sound, Orlando freaks Moon Jelly (Aug. 17, Gallery at Avalon Island) pushed the sensory envelope even further by creating an experience involving diffraction glasses, which I half thought was a joke when I read it on the Facebook invite. Like a real-life filter, the musical voyage was visually swathed in prismatic rays, an optical effect triggered through the specs by an overhead installation by Winter Calkins and singer Anna Wallace. It was all very retro psychedelic and supremely apropos to the city's trippiest pop band. About that though, they're not so pop any more.

Moon Jelly spent about a year back in the chrysalis and reemerged very different, shedding their childlike enchantment in favor of something much more psychotropically adult. With long, rushing sheets of guitar, their new music – now a little more Yo La Tengo than Yo Gabba Gabba! – has more core, texture and gravity, making their rabbit hole much deeper. This event was maybe one of their most inventive presentations, but it was certainly their best, most serious musical face to date.

Though Moon Jelly has always done interesting work, this was their most mature and accomplished show yet. And, I'm happy to report, it was received by a room with every seat full, which forced a standing-room-only crowd that afterwards erupted into a thunder of applause, hoots and hollers. Moon Jelly got a posse, y'all. All this for an experimental act in a gallery. See, what did I tell you about this series? Something's happening here. Keep up (

The Beat

The confluence of Nashville Pussy, Valient Thorr and American Party Machine (Aug. 19, Will's Pub) was one of the hottest, heaviest rock orgies I've ever seen on a single stage. Unless something biblical happens, this triple threat will go down as the party of the year.

The bands may not all be of equal profile but, in terms of hard rock heat, this was an all-star lineup of historical proportions. In fact, the openers are so 'roided with showmanship that Nashville Pussy had their work cut out for them if they were to matter much at the end of the night. Look, when the local opener shoots it to the moon before their first song is done, you know it's gonna be one crazy night. But that's what you always get with Orlando's American Party Machine: a constant, unrelenting climax of red, white and blue. And it was easily the evening's biggest spectacle.

As anyone who's seen them knows, American Party Machine is as informed by pro wrestling as they are cock rock. So while everyone was geeking out on APM, an interesting sight I caught later that night was singer Aaron "Mack Studley" Pullin geeking out selfie-style on someone else in the house: Tom Pestock. You may not know that name if you don't watch pro football (he was an NFL offensive guard from 2009-2011). But he's now known in the WWE ring as Baron Corbin, a name you can bet your ass packs serious currency with those APM dorks.

Now I'm not the religious kind but, thanks to North Carolina's Valient Thorr, I know the sweet taste of rapture. It's been a few years since I've been to one of their revivals – and that's exactly what they are: big, hairy, sleeveless denim revivals. After this, however, my devotion burns anew. If frontman Valient Himself was the minister, I would go to that church.

As for Nashville Pussy, it's good to see their kick's still nice and hard after almost two decades, especially lead guitarist Ruyter Suys. She may not be the one in front, but she's unquestionably the HBIC and the not-so-secret nitro behind this rock engine.

Think Andrew W.K. parties hard? You wouldn't after seeing this three-headed beast. Wanna rock out with your beer or weed? American Party Machine's got you. Need speed? Plug into Valient Thorr. Hookers and blow your thing? Nashville Pussy's your soundtrack. This is rock & roll, and it hasn't been this funneled into one sweaty, dirty night since probably the '70s.

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