This Little Underground

Bao Le-Huu checks out Sharon Van Etten, Black Moth Super Ranbow, the David Liebe Hart Band and more

Oh, hell yeah – the best nightlife weather we have all year is upon us. See you out.


A recent bill served as a nice introduction to some native experimental electronic acts I didn't know (Nov. 2, Will's Pub). Rhythmic, trance-like and framed by tingles of melody, Big Job was a one-man, noise-based project with mind-bending intent. Basic but promising.

Peace Arrow was the solo project by Mitch Myers, the male half of the core lineup of leading Florida act Hear Hums. It purports to be singer-songwriter stuff, but it's a claim from a dude in an experimental psych-pop band. So, really, it sounds nothing like what you'd expect from any sort of traditional singer-songwriter. It was unusual to be sure, but it was somewhat disjointed and not fully formed. It's telling that his surest moments were the same kind of gorgeous rhythmic passages Hear Hums already do so well.

The night's most intriguing and developed act was Wekiwa, the new duo of Fever's Kelly MacDonald and Attachedhands' Henry. First off, MacDonald's guitar tone has always been incredible. But this guitar-and-electronics project is an interesting marriage of her brooding and sonorously atmospheric guitar work with his noise-based patterning, which is more minimal here. The result is a dark, electronic-spined trip with a depth of mood that is surprising for an instrumental duo.

A Sharon Van Etten show is no basic chick-and-acoustic-guitar thing. While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, you know how trite it can all be. (Still, she'd be able to pull even that off with that extraordinary voice of hers.) Instead, this first-ever Florida performance was a robust full-band affair (Oct. 28, The Social).

Now, I love her music, especially 2010's Epic. But as a guy who goes to a lot of rock shows, I was sort of concerned it might end up sounding slight or sleepy live. However, her band is incredibly solid and renders in large, thick, deep strokes. This is the sort of accompaniment that's actually equal to the long, beckoning warmth of her voice. Together, the ensemble was moody and vibe-rich but intent and occasionally even more urgent than on record.

In a time when female singers get noticed for their flashy vocal gymnastics rather than their control or purpose, Van Etten's voice is a beautiful thing to be robed in. This is the kind of voice I like to hear. More than just strong, its sustained flow is artistic and tasteful. She's the real deal. The props have gradually been pouring in, but she should be a bigger name. She's one of the leading new female voices today, and, judging from her studded list of collaborators, your favorite indie band probably already knows it.

Chicago's David Liebe Hart Band was fascinating and an interesting choice of opener for a neo-psychedelic show (Oct. 29, The Social). Then again, the world of an outsider artist is itself an alternate reality. Hart is a cult hero (who has most famously worked with Tim and Eric) and a true eccentric. His manner and subject matter carry that unpredictability, humor and sweetness that Wesley Willis fans would appreciate. Even backed by a punk rock band, Hart largely maintains a notably earnest, gospel-inspired vocal style, only he's singing about really weird shit. He's also known for his puppetry, so it delighted die-hard fans when a puppet finally came out for the two closing songs.

Headliner Black Moth Super Rainbow showed that they're truly back on track - a new one, sure, but it's their next level. Under Tobacco's watch, they're just a better, more athletic band now, with real crunch, craft and focus. Their early, captivating grain was cool. But if that drift was still riding this many albums in, they'd just be a novelty act. Instead, their tripping android pop is refreshed and reinvented.

And if you're wondering if they still have the ability to transport, just refer to the total stranger who politely but earnestly asked me, and I quote, "Would you be offended if I asked you what planet you're from?" Yes, this actually happened. So, instinctively, bluntly, I reply, "This one." As a shade of what looks like fleeting disappointment passes across his face, he then smiles and says, "Maybe it's just this show." Yes, indeed, my new friend. Yes, indeed.


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