This Little Underground

Bao Le-Huu takes on Yo La Tengo, Carnivores and Surfin Serf, and has local news on Firestone Live, new booking team Norse Korea Presents and the sad closing of DeLand venue DaVinci

Lots of landscape changes to announce this week.

First, due to the increased demands of the artist-management arm of his main gig, Fly South Music Group, John Youngman is vacating his post as in-house talent buyer for Firestone Live. That’s a big deal because he was critical in steering the overhaul of the historic nightlife giant from dance club to live venue, thus adding more big-name concerts to downtown’s menu. But there’s good reason to stay upbeat, because his replacement is Chuck Dinkins. Between his pro skateboarding career and his recent position at CityArts Factory, Dinkins’ name may be familiar. But it’s his many years of previous experience in music talent buying for concert venues like House of Blues 
that can help maintain or even raise the bar for Firestone.

On a sadder note, one of Florida’s most enchanting venues, DaVinci in DeLand, closed its doors on Jan. 29. Again. Goddammit! I seriously hope someone else can step in and finally figure out how to make this incredibly special place sustainable. Those who’ve ever been there want it back, and DeLand’s gifted music community deserves it.

The beat

To cleanse the palate, here’s some good news: New Orlando concert bookers Norse Korea Presents ( are officially in business. Headed by Bradley Ryan and Kyle Raker, this group has both taste and ties to the underground’s rising new class.

Alongside locals Telethon, Yogurt Smoothness and Vein Cranes, Atlanta’s Carnivores anchored NK’s official launch (Jan. 26, Stardust Video & Coffee) with an astoundingly resonant set. Their scrappy, lovable melodies coast on a lively carousel of sunny ’60s pop, surf, punk spirit, and even reveal some stray tropical touches. But making it wondrously vibe-thick was the mixture of pedals and organ textures that is fondly evocative of seaside boardwalks. Their fresh pursuit casts those rich, nostalgic tones through a young, vibrant lens to produce a radiant beam of dimension and spirit.

A good debut event notwithstanding, the real story is that, unlike most other promoter hopefuls, NK is for real. And the reason you should keep up with them is because the string of upcoming acts they’ve already got lined up includes legit bands like Thee Oh Sees, Young Widows, Capsule and Surf City, 
who, y’know, only put out one of 2010’s 
best (and most overlooked) albums. So bring it, guys.

One of the locals playing the big Parafora Presents Anniversary Week (Jan. 24, Will’s Pub) was Surfin Serf. They’ve been gaining some underground steam, but I don’t quite know how I feel about them yet. That’s probably because where they’ll ultimately click is still up in the air. The challenge in chasing highly complex or unorthodox styles is that you often sound like shit until you’re far into the learning curve, when you’ve finally developed considerable technique. That’s how it was for Watch Me Disappear. Surfin Serf doesn’t sound shitty, exactly. It’s just that some of their odd technical shifts are currently beyond their skill level. So their sound of indie pop and jazz pop under constant mathematic siege sometimes has the mellifluence of pots and pans falling on the floor. Credit given for their high conceptual bar, but the jury’s still out on the whole package.

Yo La Tengo’s current tour (Jan. 25, the Social) has the elder statesmen of American indie rock freshening up their performance with a little bit of chance. Featuring two separate sets, the direction of the first depends upon the spin of a makeshift wheel of fortune by an audience member. The wheel categories include themes like “Songs with someone’s name in them,” or “The band acting out a classic sitcom.” Personally, I was rooting for the wheel to land on “Dump songs” so they’d play an entire set from bassist James McNew’s excellent side project. However, the winning category was “Songs starting with S.” And as it turns out, other people’s songs are fair game too, resulting in an interesting performance that placed YLT classics like “Sugarcube” alongside covers of bands like the Dead Boys (“Sonic Reducer”) and Jackson Browne (“Somebody’s Baby”).

In the increasingly rapid swirl of culture, with an ultimate aggregate value that remains to be seen, it’s great to see bands like this persist in the indie scene. Trends come and go like the tides, but we need bright points like Yo La Tengo – ones that represent quality and ethos – to act as lodestars.


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