With the country’s political scene all astir right now, activism is on tap everywhere. Being a mirror of culture, the music community is likewise alive with dissent, particularly musician Max Bernstein. The son of Carl Bernstein (one of the two journalists who exposed the Watergate scandal) and former frontman for pop-punk act the Actual, he has dedicated himself to political commentary through his current band Max and the Marginalized. They do a musical blog of sorts by writing and releasing a new song about a current issue each week, a tireless clip they’ve managed to sustain for the past 30-odd weeks. In true power-to-the-people form, the message-tunes can be downloaded gratis on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/maxandthemarginalized) and their blog on the lefty Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com/max-and-the-marginalized).
The week got off to a confused start on June 3 at Back Booth, where I walked in on local boys Hand to Hand. Mashing together metal and emo-drizzled modern rock, they’re one of those acts whose attempt to blend genres just results in an ungainly mongrel. Most emblematic of the band’s misguided course was singer Robert Kellom, who embraces that annoying vocal trend in which styles are artlessly juxtaposed. No good has ever come from the pairing of screamo styling and commercial-rock man-crying.
In all honesty, though, what brought me to the club was headliner Dr. Acula. Not for any sort of informed reason, mind you. I actually had no earthly idea who they were. But anytime I whiff even the suggestion of a Mitch Hedberg reference, I’m so there. Turns out, they’re a grindcore outfit from Long Island, which isn’t particularly funny
I had better luck a couple nights later when Dallas ensemble the New Frontiers played the Social. Though their interpretation of alt-country often veers too far toward adult alternative, their mannered take on twang was nuanced in a live gig, sounding like a more rustic Travis. The set was, however, bookended by a couple of huge sonic crescendos, something they should consider doing a whole lot more often.
Club Firestone hosted indie drug du jour Vampire Weekend on June 7. First, let’s get one thing straight: They’re a good band. Their well-defined and energetic instinct for melody is undeniable. But I’m over ’em.
Maybe it’s the irrational frenzy that surrounds them. Or maybe their cuteness has a finite shelf-life. Likely it’s both. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that in the five months that have transpired between the release of their debut album and this Orlando performance, their Afro-pop edge has leaned on my nerves in exponentially increasing measure. Pretty much to the point where all I hear is fucking Paul Simon whenever their songs play. Not a good thing. In fact, the reason I sound a little muffled right now is that my lips are wrapped around the barrel of a gun at the mere thought of Graceland.
But this column is nothing if not au courant and they’re blowin’ up right now, so I had to go see what’s what. With the exception of struggling keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, they were pretty good live. Their rocketing star is totally blazing right now, but it’s tough to still qualify as a hip band when a small army of dudes in flip-flops populate your shows. The double-edged sword of fame: Ain’t it a bitch?
Also rather decent was effervescent opener Harlem Shakes, from Brooklyn. Kept buoyant by economical ’60s pop melodies and the skyward swells of Lexy Benaim’s voice, their garage-licked rock & roll packed a tune-
However, the gold mine this week was found at Crooked Bayou on June 6, where phenomenal French act Feeling of Love really lit shit up. Having spent a whole lot of time in their country, I know the French. But who knew they were capable of such bluesy ferocity? Certainly not me. They may be from the northeast of France, but their music is a howl straight out of the American South. Lying somewhere between the Immortal Lee County Killers and Bob Log III, these cats deal in thrillingly primal blues-punk that is absolutely life-affirming. Celebrating both the release of their boss new record on local imprint Floridas Dying and the birthday of label owner Rich Evans, they destroyed in an unchained set that was all guts and grit.[email protected]