This Little Underground

Our live music columnist covers Meshuggah, American Party Machine and Phat-N-Jazzy

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Local dream-pop band Day Joy are now on their way up. How high exactly, you can never say for sure. But with the national release of their debut album (Go to Sleep, Mess) under the Frenchkiss label umbrella and the launch of their widest U.S. tour yet, with a big hometown release party (Feb. 15, Will's Pub), we already have Orlando's latest breakout. Their first show ever was opening my showcase at the Indie Summer Fest in Audubon Park back in 2010 as a fill-in for An Introduction to Sunshine. Compared to the full, lush band they are now, they were just an embryonic two-piece then. Still, you could already tell something was there. I don't know if their break would've come a little earlier if Kanine Records honcho Lio Cerezo, who attended the showcase, had shown up early enough to see them, but I think things worked out pretty well for them nonetheless. And for someone who's watched them go from bud to bloom like me, it's a pretty great thing to see some worthy local talent come to such prominent fruition.

Of the openers at the release show, young local band Manson Girls were especially impressive, with a sometimes-thundering garage blend of bleak '80s post-punk beauty and slacked-out '90s fuzz. They're still developing, but between their nice chewy sonics and strong melodies, there's a lot of promise.

The Beat

Let's get a little heavier, first with the technical metal clinic that was the Meshuggah show (Feb. 11, the Beacham). For all its high-minded technique, progressive metal can sometimes be a little Poindexter. D.C. openers Animals as Leaders certainly were. Led by eight-string guitar dynamo Tosin Abasi, they unleashed a rockslide of challenging, finger-cramping, breathlessly dense workouts. It's the kind of unchained academic adventurism meant more for the fingers of the practitioner and the eyes and brains of the audience than it is for the ears. And though dazzling, it's just way too crowded for my caveman taste.

Influential Swedish headliners Meshuggah pack their metal with all manner of math and jazz convolution, too. But, unlike Animals as Leaders, these thrash lords never forget to rock. And rock it hard they did, pounding with an almost mechanistic fury. This isn't my jam when it comes to the heavy stuff, but it's pretty obvious why they're revered.

Continuing on the complex metal tip, South Florida's Suns of the Morning Star was featured on the latest Orlandooom bill (Feb. 16, Peacock Room). Their blackened, progressive sound is a tempo-shifting flurry with enough shreddery and guitar heroics to grow your hair a foot. And though their music has a lot going on, it was all well-articulated and locked in, with enough collective groove to rock.

Also playing was local band Demons, a lean and impressively mean trio that seems to have gotten nastier since I last saw them. Their dirty sludge sound is more scraping, volcanic and just plain convincing now.

But nothing this week can compare to American Party Machine, who kicked the night into crazy overdrive. These guys are completely stupid and, goddamn, I think they're my new favorite Orlando band. Like Valient Thorr's more outrageous redneck cousins, this party (duh) metal band is a head-on collision of big-balled rock & roll and campy ridiculousness. Theirs is a world where America and pro wrestling occupy the same holy ground, a carnival populated with costumed hype men with awesome names like Uncle Slam and Pat Riot. But as utterly silly as APM is, they also happen to kick prime ass as a rock band. It's big, dumb fun, to be sure. But it's laid down with titanic swag and conviction. And what all this pageantry and culture translates to is a cannonball of a live show that's hilariously rousing. Watch them perform and, like me, you too will join their retarded cult.

Damn, can it be that Phat-N-Jazzy is 19 years old already? Shit! Well, the iconic, scene-making hip-hop party just celebrated its anniversary on Mardi Gras (Feb. 12, the Social) – Phat Tuesday, geddit? But as good as local guest DJ Stereo 77 and featured San Francisco DJ J. Boogie were, it wasn't truly Phat-N-Jazzy until flagship DJ BMF cued up. And still, no one can touch him on his own turf. Happy birthday, PNJ. Stay smoove.

About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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