Sorry for the unannounced column break last week – you know I typically give you guys advance notice. But it was due to the sudden passing of my grandfather, one of the best men I've ever known. It's a poor consolation prize to him actually being here, but I'm most thankful this year for the presence and example he lent to my life.
Still, even though I took a needed break, I did sneak out to catch a couple shows. Restoring a sense of normalcy, they say, is important in times like these, and shows are my normal reality. And though they're somewhat distant history by now, I wanted to officially log some notable local things that happened.
First, I want to officially weigh in on the New Lows. They're a band I've been delinquent in reviewing for no particularly good reason. Perhaps their deceptively straightforward sensibility or grown-up lack of urgency and hustle made it easy for me to overlook them. Whatever the case, their new album, I Couldn't Sleep, grabbed me. So, I went to the release party (Nov. 10, Will's Pub) and was even more impressed with their A-gaming performance. This record and this show, well, that's pop-punk done right. As always, go see them for yourself at RalphFest 2 (Nov. 24, multiple venues downtown), which you should be attending anyway, if you're at all invested in Orlando music.
Part of the bill was what was widely rumored to be the final show by pioneering Orlando rhythm beast Basements of Florida. However, their public swan song will actually be this weekend at the aforementioned RalphFest. Now, bandleader Phil Longo tells me it might continue under a different name, but that sounds like a pretty definitive closing of a chapter to me. This performance featured special guest appearances by Tiny Waves' Steve Head and Maximino's Gerald Perez, who's been omnipresent enough to be in the express lane to becoming the next
Phil Longo himself. While Basements have gotten progressively more expansive, more noodly and less concentrated recently, they're still one of the best Orlando bands ever. So, consider me officially bummed at this goodbye.
Speaking of Steve Head, the expanded version of his parking lot project that floored me at the Tiny Waves anniversary party also went down as an official but somewhat on-the-QT part of the Accidental Music Festival (Nov. 9, Plaza Live parking lot). With more added cars, the sonic experience was still utterly enveloping. The interpretive dance component, well, I can take it or leave it – save for the single bird-kite part, which was just beautiful. In fact, it would've been much more poetic if it was simply a gaggle of them to the music alone. Like that plastic bag scene in American Beauty times a thousand, I was most transported when I stared at just that while the real-space surround sound washed all around me.
I like Face to Face, and, though their legacy's in pop-punk, I actually think the deviating Ignorance is Bliss is a surprisingly good and underrated album of beefy, moody '90s indie rock. However, neither prong of this esteem makes me think "Damn, that would just rule acoustic." But that's exactly what they came to do (Nov. 16, The Social), so I went, at least just to see what they were thinking. The first thing the performance showed was that frontman Trever Keith and, especially, Scott Shiflett on lead guitar actually play with nice dimension, more than you might expect from punk rock guys on acoustic guitars. The other thing that the stripped presentation affirmed was that this album is filled with some sturdy songwriting and that it's not only maybe their most mature record ever, but that it also withstood time better than most of their catalog. And when Keith explained how difficult it was to fit the material into their normal set, this setup made all the more sense.
Although not the most consistent act around, when Cypress Hill is on, no one can touch 'em. Despite some initial sound issues, their recent performance (Nov. 14, Plaza Live) was hyped and prominently featured live Afro-Cuban percussion. To the surprise of exactly no one, the Plaza got blazed the fuck out. But the room was absolutely jumping with raw energy – always impressive for a throng of stoners.