This Little Underground

Bao champions Roadkill Ghost Choir and rediscovers Black Rabbits and Geri X.

Nobody has expended more words on local on-the-cusp folk-rock band Roadkill Ghost Choir than me. And it’s looking like there will be much, much more to say in the near future, so I gotta save my wad. But their recent show (Aug. 8, Will’s Pub) was a reminder that there is probably no other area band, pound for pound, that deserves to break out as much as these deceptively mature young musicians. They’ve taken the time to do things right – with substance and authenticity – but music this ready can stay quiet only so long. And if this is their pre-prime – and there’s every reason to believe it is – then, goddamn, look out.

The Beat

The Black Rabbits are a band you may not remember, but they have some notable and somewhat involved local history. Formed by brothers Jetson and Skyler Black, the band started here and played the Orlando circuit back in the late 2000s until relocating to Asheville, N.C., for a couple of years.

Conversely, due to their recent national ascendance on Kanine Records, you’ve likely heard of South Florida’s Beach Day. Well, all those kids were previously Black Rabbits. From what Jetson tells me, Beach Day triggered a schism because drummer Skyler allegedly ditched the Rabbits mid-tour to join his girlfriend (frontwoman Kimmy Drake) in Beach Day, and the brothers have since been estranged for over a year. Now ain’t that some soap-opera shit?

Well, now Black Rabbits are local again, with a different cast under frontman Jetson, and working their way back. They’ve been gigging a bit around town recently and are now on an Eastern U.S. tour. Jetson says they’ll be recording their next album soon and that they’re talking to producers. He drops some big names but, then again, Stan Lynch (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) did produce their first LP, 2011’s Hypno Switch, so it’s worth paying attention.

When the Black Rabbits first came up, I noted their promise as a band with a young Strokes-like rock & roll heritage. From their brightly executed recent show (Aug. 7, the Social), their classic sensibility hasn’t changed much. And why should it? The Rabbits just dust it off with the youthful exuberance that rock & roll’s supposed to have. And it connects because they’ve always had an instinct for hook-sharp songs. It’s simple and direct, with enough shine to remind you why basic rock & roll done right will always remain evergreen. A lot has changed since they first emerged, but they’re a good, still-young band that’s been around the block now, and worth a fresh listen.

Headlining was Atlanta’s the Sexual Side Effects. Oof, that name. But fortunately there’s more here than juvenile winks, because they’re fronted by transgender musician Amber Taylor and their songs are relayed through her unique perspective. But that’s just background – it all comes down to the music. It would be awfully tempting to ride that angle for all its provocative, titillating mileage a la Placebo (man, WTF has happened to those guys?). To SSE’s credit, however, their music is pretty straightforward. In fact, despite the edge at their disposal, they’re kind of straight-laced in style – to a fault perhaps, but at least it’s not cheap sensationalism. They are an earnest, solid alt-rock band led by a frontwoman with skill and flair.

But even though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her before, St. Pete’s Geri X took me by total surprise that night. Her appearance casts a Suicide Girl kind of splash, but her voice is a lovely, deep-reaching thing that radiates the kind of truth that could be a revelation in country and folk music. And it seems she knows, because her band’s rich, dark and dusty music is in that vicinity. Sounding like Murder by Death fronted by Mr. Gnome’s Nicole Barille, she’s West Florida’s full-band answer to Christina Wagner. I swear I’ve seen her at one or two of the local music festivals, but she has apparently come very far because this is the first time I’ve had no choice but to take serious stock of her. Well, I’m all ears now.