This Little Underground

No foreplay this week. Let's get busy.

The beat

The big-shot feature for the latest Southern Fried Sunday was the Dex Romweber Duo (Sept. 19, Copper Rocket). If you don't know Dex, you can probably bet that he's a hero to some of your own musical heroes. A huge role model to Jack White, the former Flat Duo Jets frontman is an underground legend who's as close to original rock & roll as it gets these days, in sound and ethos. Packing both extraordinary expression and a bracing primal edge, Romweber's a man who understands how to tap what's essential, with style and drama and nothing more.

Closing the night was local act Darling Cavaliers, who are shifting toward something a little less darling. And that's not a bad thing. They're showing more pronounced folk-punk stripes in their increasingly driving sound. Although the ditzy between-song chatter from the ladies still maintains their fun-loving vibe, they're becoming less of a novelty act and more of a musical force.

Despite enormous success in their native U.K., James (Sept. 21, House of Blues) has remained more of a heritage indie band here. But the devoted assembly treated them like something between dear old friends and visiting royalty. The band, in turn, delivered a sentimentally genuine performance that rode every crescendo of those tremendously romantic melodies for all they're worth.

Besides tight musician-ship, Tim Booth's irrepressible, all-important voice remains unmarred by time. (Homeboy even got some new, albeit strange, moves that are a combination of the Michael Stipe and Mr. Peepers schools of dance.) But hearing how vibrantly it rang live was a reminder that this is a voice that should've attained a legend equal to Bono's.

More than 15 years past their zenith and a little bit grayer, James' day-breaking, open-hearted shine hasn't dimmed a single candela. If anything, they stepped it up like men with a new lease on life. Their clear gratefulness for both the continued privilege of performing and the enduring love of their fans translated into a real sense of emotional generosity and fellowship with the audience. Booth even descended into the crowd during "Say Something" and walked around the club serenading fans up-close. There was a degree of sincerity at this show that I haven't seen from a band in ages. In an increasingly disposable landscape, it's inspiring to see veteran bands stand and deliver like their lives still depend on it.

Back downtown was Brooklyn's Gold-en Triangle (Back Booth), the latest potential breakout act for boutique label Hardly Art. With solid musicianship and a distinctively noir-ish, post-punk-informed sound, they're one of the most finished and focused garage bands going right now. Physically, their live presentation is an all-out dance party. Sonically, their wall of reverb is a visceral experience so thick it's virtually tangible, a quality more akin to texture-heavy bands like A Place to Bury Strangers than the average garage revivalists. Even their strong recordings won't prepare you for the velvet earthquake they bring live. And since most of you didn't bother to show, be sure to treat yourselves when they come back in support of the also dope Crocodiles (Nov. 2, the Social). Golden Triangle is what's possible when you take your craft seriously enough to execute it right.

Speaking of being sonically manhandled, the tour de force of Nashville wrecking crew Legendary Shack Shakers returned to town (Sept. 24, the Social). Instead of relying on Colonel J.D. Wilkes' insane physical antics, this lineup is their most unified yet and focuses on delivering a sound that's been sharpened into a streamlined locomotive. But even a half-speed performance by the Colonel is still superhuman. Their honky-punk is some of the hardest charging redneck rock music around and they remain one of those see-before-you-die acts.

Although clearly unique and talented, the sight and sound of freaky folk-tronic act CocoRosie (Sept. 25, the Social) was a goofy waltz between mystical beauty and whack-ass art-school indulgence. It's as ludicrous as it is interesting. And for every minute I was impressed by their artistic creativity, there was another minute that I was more impressed by their ability to maintain a straight face while doing it. But, hey, if you're into faeries, wood nymphs and shit like that, this one's all you.

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