Why Set and Setting are one of the best heavy bands alive and impressive showings by locals Freakazoid, Swift Knuckle Solution and Abandon the Midwest

Set and Setting
Set and Setting Photo by Sierra Reese

It's still reverberating on the street. We're hurting, but we're healing. What's rising, however, is a phoenix that's even greater than we ever realized we were before. Keep on, Orlando.


St. Pete's Set and Setting have been sonically stunning here the past several years so the idea of seeing them in a uniquely up-close situation like DIY venue the Space Station (June 21) was exciting. But, after experiencing their stentorian force in a pro venue with pro sound, how their signature roar would play in a small personal room like this was a real question. Now I know the answer, and it's like a military helicopter touching down in your living room. In a mammoth arrangement of two guitarists and two drummers who all attack at maxed-out shoegaze volume, they pack a sound that's supernatural in its immensity, overwhelming any limitations even in a guerrilla venue like this.

Set and Setting are one of the best heavy post-rock bands alive. Masters of both mass and craft, they have a more perfectly concise, climactic and tasteful take on the genre than practically anyone right now. This is next-level stuff that is absolutely ripe for prime time.

Opening was local duo Freakazoid. Like their name promises, their sound is a completely berserk head-on collision of hardcore and metal. It's a wild maelstrom of extreme musical forces and outré sensibility. Their furious scribbles definitely won't do shit for your nerves with all the shrieks, angles and speed, but this twosome can push the pulse with some raw, ravaging excitement.

Closing was Hivelords, a progressive black-metal band from Philadelphia, one of the current hotbeds of heavy music to which Orlando has lost some of its own musicians and bands. Live, they're a little less dark and more clarified than on record, but respectably blistering just the same. And, apparently, they have a huge Godfather jones. That's the only thing to call it when a band has a T-shirt design that's a total hesher rip of the iconic "puppet master" logo and opens their set with a headbanging version of the movie's theme song, which is quite possibly the weirdest thing I've ever heard at a metal show.

Richie Ramone (June 24, Will's Pub) was an '80s-era drummer for, duh, the Ramones. Measuring his solo work against one of history's most seminal and iconic punk bands may seem daunting and impossibly unfair, but he's the one still running with that commodified band alias. That's the thing with famous association. It gets people in the door, but then what? With great cachet comes great expectation.

He does have some lead singing and songwriting credits with the Ramones, though nothing that could be called truly classic. Furthermore, there's only so much currency from being in a legendary band when you're not one of the original gangsters. In the end, really, your art is on its own. And on that count, meh. He was a Ramone, his band played some Ramones songs, but they're no Ramones. Their own music is stylistically unremarkable and interesting perhaps only to the fogey contingent of the Warped Tour.

Luckily, the local openers packed more pound-for-pound nourishment. Swift Knuckle Solution sounds like one serious martial arts flick but they're a tight, unified Orlando unit stocked with credentialed veterans. They do melodies but they come fast and hard with '80s hardcore velocity. It's a classic style done with total devotion, straight fidelity and some pretty impressive force.

On the younger end were pop-punks Abandon the Midwest. My initial introduction to their music was a couple of years ago when a band member handed me a CD at the Florida Music Festival. It struck me as affable but generic, and I promptly shelved it. But since then, it seems they've ripened as a group and sharpened their compass. Now their previously cherubic sing-alongs roll with a little more gravel in the throat and hair on the chest, just enough gruffness to imbue their melodic hearts with some guts. Sounds like someone grew up and earned a place at the big kids' table when I wasn't looking.


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