This Little Underground

Our live music columnist takes on Mr. Gnome, Wilbur, Justin Townes Earle and more.

Is anyone really surprised that Gov. Charlie Crist’s, ahem, coup de grâce pardoning the long-dead Jim Morrison was met with all the fanfare of a distant fart? But, hey, in a largely unremarkable gubernatorial term, at least the Tanned One finally mustered a bit of good ol’ fashioned Sunshine State bizarreness.

The beat

Cleveland’s Mr. Gnome (Dec. 7, Back Booth) is one of those out-of-state bands that Parafora Music has stubbornly brought to town regularly during the past year. And thanks to them, a decent crowd is finally sprouting for this very worthy two-piece – a crowd that actually forced the band to do an encore when they clearly hadn’t planned one. Too many good bands come through here unnoticed, so it’s great that Mr. Gnome isn’t slipping through our fingers because few bands can both enchant and rawk as equally powerful as this pair. And seldom will you see a duo cover so much ground.

Opening was local duo Wilbur, who sort of started their young career stumbling through an opening slot for Mr. Gnome’s first Orlando show almost exactly a year ago. They’re a notably more organized musical unit now. However, the two are no longer romantically connected, which sounds like a tricky bump for the expressly loverly angle of the band’s music (not to mention just an all-around awkward sitch if you ask me). That premise is kind of a precarious angle for a young couple in a band, and you may recall me asking them about that very dilemma in the feature story I wrote on them only three months ago. But for now, it seems that the project continues.

However, perhaps the most significant aspect of this bill is the surprise revelation it yielded in young local band Wet Nurse. The twin-fronted, all-girl garage-pop act is reasonably well formed for a new band and deals in snappy songs beaming with guts and charm. In fact, with their melodic craft and pleasing tones, they’re already showing the stuff it takes to be much more than just another willfully disheveled outfit. Loaded with potential, Wet Nurse is one of the most promising new bands I’ve seen in a while.

Over the course of his last album or so, Americana royalty Justin Townes Earle (Dec. 10, the Social) has grown into his own man. Despite the tall shadow of his rabble-rousing dad, Steve, he’s always been pretty focused on establishing his own distinct voice that’s rooted more in smoldering atmosphere. And after seeing him live in a traditional folk setting, it’s clear that the kid’s legit.

Meanwhile, Gasoline Heart made a rather triumphant homecoming (Back Booth). For a group of guys who haven’t played together regularly in a long time, they were impressively solid, while erstwhile local boy Louis DeFabrizio sounded reborn playing with his old mates. More than anything though, the show was a reminder that this band penned some of the best American trad-rock anthems ever birthed on Orlando soil. And the gap that Gasoline Heart left when DeFabrizio 
relocated remains.

Ingenious local circuit-benders Dr. Moonstien celebrated the release of their fascinating new album, Spaceweenie, with a set (Dec. 11, Will’s Pub) that showed more rock ribs than before. Even if you missed the party, you should still check out this low-tech, high-concept record. That it’s a wildly inventive joy ride should be enough to intrigue you; that it’s available for free download should seal the deal ( The confluence of pop cogency and true originality is a rare thing, and Dr. Moonstien is one of the most singular pop bands around right now.

Opener Kelly Craven is anything but coffeehouse fluff when it comes to acoustic music. He’s intense, theatrical and emotion-
ally ablaze. And I’m not just saying that because he kinda looks like Glenn Danzig attacking an acoustic guitar. Like some revolutionary brand of folk music, he puts a jolt of hot blood into the form.

As noteworthy of an occasion as Dr. Moonstien’s official release was, it was equally thrilling to witness the very welcome return of the mighty Franchise. This particular set was more openly rocking and melodic than the spacey flights of noise they’re known for, and it worked beautifully. For both the people who missed them the first time around and the new class of music heads that’s sprouted since, this is a significant local 

About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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