This Little Underground

Our live music columnist judges locals in the Pedal Challenge and unveils Peacock Room's creative new Tuesday initiative

Just about the entire city's music community tuned in last Thursday to see locals Tierney Tough, Ranson Vorpahl and Tre Hester rock it on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon as part of Matt Pond's tour band. None of them had the balls to meet my on-air dare, but they represented Orlando exceptionally on national TV, and I'm immeasurably proud of them.

Apart from that and a flurry of big news swirling madly about in the music world, I forgot to mention that the new EP (D.A.I.S.Y. Rage) by Daytona's own Kitty Pryde – oh, sorry, I mean just Kitty now – also just dropped. And I'm as surprised as anyone to say it, but it don't suck ass. Perhaps she's ripening like her new, elegantly minimal moniker clearly suggests, or perhaps she's now surrounded by a team of producers and collaborators who're framing her in a more prime-time light. Regardless, perhaps now someone can help whip that pathetic live show into shape.

The Beat

When an inspired concept springs from our music scene, my world is complete. Well, the latest master stroke of the Orlando underground is the Pedal Challenge. When the parents of a musical competition event are local musicians Tim Murray (Moon Jelly, Glen Runciter) and Phil Longo (Hussy, Basements of Florida), it is certain to be interesting, unusual, genius – or all of them at once. And the Pedal Challenge is an eccentric battle call to the musically daring that rewards improvisation and crazy originality.

The open-call competition is three rounds of effects-pedal madness progressing in difficulty and length. The extempore nature of the affair is ensured by the blind draw that determines both the instrument (musicians brought their own instrument for Round 1, and for subsequent rounds they used a selection from the grab bag that included Omnichord, slide whistle, bells, bass guitar and cell phone) and the pedals (distortion, delay, Mini Murph, Loop Station, Whammy) each contestant must use.

So, essentially, it's an experimentalist's wild fever dream. The first one, back in January, was won by local circuit-bending phenom Dr. Moonstien, a result that came as a shock to exactly no one. Besides the reigning champ, this second edition (Feb. 5, Peacock Room) featured a pool of players stocked with members of notable area acts like Sterling Schroeder, Trails, the Rules, Tam Tam the Sandwich Man, Alias Punch, Out Go the Lights and Wekiwa.

Alongside Maximino's Gerald Perez and Hau Zarest's Russell Harrison, I was asked to judge. Winning the $100 prize and the deep genuflection of his peers this time was Steven Head, whose recent parking lot projects at the Accidental Music Fest and the Tiny Waves anniversary party attest to his soundscaping bona fides. Tying for second was Dr. Moonstien with his squelch mastery and Arkie Calkins (Alias Punch) with his fine-spun, bell-based compositions.

For the most part, there was consistent consensus among us in the scoring. But according to my score sheets from previous rounds, there were some other moments that deserve particular applause of their own. Sterling Schroeder's incredible Round 1 performance, for example, worked an Omnichord and a Whammy pedal into a wondrous Dan Deacon-esque jam rousing enough that I had him listed as the top seed going into Round 2. Other honorable mentions include Carlos DeSoto (the Rules) for his studious guitar-and-bass-loop constructions, Alex Clements (Out Go the Lights) for being ambitious enough to pimp a sitar and Todd Gerding (Tam Tam) for being weird and/or high enough to rock a damned plastic juice bottle.

Besides being an occasionally flooring chance to see your local luminaries solo and out of their box, the Pedal Challenge is one of the most unusual, fun and wildly creative music events you are likely to ever encounter. As such, this was no ordinary night out, and that's precisely the point of what the Peacock is now trying to do with its Tuesday nights under the name (and commendable social imperative) Kill Yr TV Tuesdays. Besides the Pedal Challenge, which will likely occur monthly, the people involved in curating the night are throwing around some ideas aimed at challenging the night-scene routine – ideas ranging from wacky to brilliant. Keep a serious eye out for Peacock's Tuesday nights. If some of these concepts actually materialize, this could become the most imaginative and interesting night in the city.


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