This Little Underground

Our live music columnist checks out Swans, Mono, Tombs and more

Generally, I am not of the kids-these-days geezer mentality. But once in a while, something seriously makes me concerned. I first encountered formerly local electronic-screamo-glam-goth-pop-rap-whatever act Blood on the Dance Floor at the Social in 2008, basically on a dude-you-gotta-fucking-see-this kind of dare. So I went, I laughed, I died a little inside and I said my piece. But I wrote off this local-yokel ego gimmick as temporary insanity among a couple dozen misguided kids. However, a relocation (thanks and sorry, Phoenix!) and a couple of underage rape allegations later, they returned to town to play the Beacham (Oct. 17), and I went just to verify the horror.

Luckily, it wasn't packed out, suggesting that society hadn't completely collapsed. But to the kids who were there, you don't seriously think this jive is the sound of rebellion, do you? A bit of advice, because I care: It's not. It's cheap fame whoredom and, worse, just an aesthetic abyss. Then again, you can't expect so-called "scene" kids whose "scene" is the Internet to be capable of making such a distinction. So to the parents I say beware: Shit-sucking insidiousness lurks near your children. You can't shield them from all harm but, relatively speaking, meth and raw-dog group sex are lesser vices than BOTDF.

The Beat

Oh yes, hurricane season's still kicking, at least in the clubs. The mightiest was Swans (Oct. 16, The Social). Now that the noise-drone legends have been thawed after a dozen years on ice, they're back to roaring life and Orlando's been lucky enough to have them come raze us twice in two years. Life's a peach like that sometimes.

A Swans concert isn't just a show, it's an experience - one whose staggering volumes are felt as much as heard. Even a deaf person would be rocked by this show. Imagine what it must feel like to stand on the launch pad beneath the Space Shuttle during liftoff. Well, Swans suspend and stretch that sensation into a concert-length fog of unsettled, violent hypnosis. The raw thrill of being in a room with a thing of this magnitude is something everyone must taste at least once.

Opening was A Hawk and a Hacksaw, the project by Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost. Although done mostly on accordion and violin, their rendition of Eastern European and Balkan gypsy-folk music was most riveting when Barnes' hammered dulcimer was used. And Trost's coolest trick was pulling a loose string on her violin and playing it with the articulation of a horn.

The second tempest was Japanese typhoon Mono (Oct. 18, The Social). Their new album, For My Parents, is very classical and very slow-burning. Thankfully, they know the difference between studio work and live play, and therefore perform in charged ways that translate best in person. Chillingly beautiful live, this is the kind of band you want to see in a theater, cathedral or even remote mountain cavern. Exacting and epic, seldom will you ever see a rock band play with this much intent, control and mastery. And in terms of expression, their crescendos feel like the musical score to continents being born or meeting God face to face. Like Swans, Mono is a band that must be seen live to fully appreciate.

Igniting another impressively heavy and diverse bill was the debut of new Orlando band Sowester (Oct. 20, Will's Pub). Even with the occasional spacey effect, their blend of sludge, doom and stoner metal is dark without being silly, often moving with a bluesy Sabbath creep. It's a well-paced, well-calibrated sound that effectively balances heft, dynamics and tons of growling fuzz, all without getting too fancy. And they meet the requisite quota of at least one serious wizard beard. With a debut this convincing, put 'em on your radar now.

Following was 16, an exhilaratingly nasty California band whose sludgy bare-knuckle rock teeters dangerously on the precipice of hardcore and metal. Personified in singer Cris Jerue, who seems to lurch on the brink of homicide, they bring an Unsane brand of brutality and nerve that flows like skin and bone over concrete. Bad things happen to this kind of music.

Brooklyn headliner Tombs unleashed a squall that drops like a hammer but has the drama of heavy post-rock. It's a beautiful avalanche, albeit a monotonous one.

About The Author

Bao Le-Huu

Music columnist.
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