This Little Underground: Grand Collab crosses tribal lines

Plus, Laney Jones on the rise


Looks like a little bit has happened with Mount Dora folkie Laney Jones since I wrote about her last year. Her latest milestone was becoming one of only a dozen national finalists for the NPR-affiliated NewSong Contest. Fresh home from her performance for the contest at New York’s Lincoln Center, Jones and her band, the Lively Spirits, were met with an overflowing reception (Nov. 29, Milk Bar).

When I first saw them, their style – old music done with evergreen heart – was an easy charm. But it sounds like they’ve gotten deeper. Jones still has that vintage sweetness on lock. However, there seemed like less revivalist preciousness this time and more glimpses of greater emotional resonance, something approaching truer folk soul. Since that promises that her future holds more than cute novelty, it’s a very good omen, and it’s why she’s worth watching carefully.

The Beat

It’s always a good thing whenever a new showcase concept pops up. But Grand Collab is one for which I’m cheering especially hard because I believe so much in its premise. A joint between Chris “DJ Cub” Mendez and Sandra Quinlan, this series hopeful shoots for diversity through multi-genre shows. It’s the exact precept I’ve always used for shows I curate because I think you build a deeper, more aware and more broadly supportive scene when you open the doors between the rooms in this house of ours. Things begin to circulate more, and fresh air starts moving through. On my own, I’ve had only limited success with propagating this ideal, as if the very concept just cramped everyone’s damn brains or something. But I really hope Grand Collab can further this exciting and nourishing paradigm.

Spanning hip-hop, indie rock, electronic, soul and rock & roll, the debut (Nov. 23, Will’s Pub) was anchored by some certified forces like Fast Preacher. But I see Grand Collab’s bigger promise as a style-spanning gateway to the next class of homegrown talent, something I’m forever interested in. Like an open-genre Dope Operatic, Grand Collab featured a host MC (TKO) and DJ (Cub) to keep the night seamless and the action nonstop.

Both TKO and Sean Shakespeare dropped solid conscious-rap science. Orlando’s Ark proved that “solo” plus “electronic” need not necessarily equal “suck” by delivering a lovely set that struck a balance of synthetic and human that felt natural.

In Deaf 2 the Industry, guitarist-singer Addison isn’t the primary focus of attention. It turns out, however, that she’s got plenty of gravity on her own as a singer of confidence and power. With just an electric guitar, she merged rock and soul into a thing of raw, muscled vulnerability.

But the night’s lightning-bolt discovery was West Palm’s Hypoluxo. How in the hell have I not heard of these kids before? A band this good and this fully formed usually would have triggered a ripple of some range and amplitude by now. Well, let’s get them on the books already. With tall, stately indie rock cast in dreamy gaze textures, they sound like the National waking up one day with innocence restored and emancipated from the world’s weight. On the wings of a very clear and soaring vision, Hypoluxo is one of those bands that feels and sounds like they could catch fire at any moment. What’s more, it looks like they’ve been hitting the pavement pretty hard in NYC, so mark them now because you could be seeing their name again very soon.

So long as the bar is reasonably high, there is everything to like about the cross-pollination ethos of Grand Collab. Because I know firsthand how difficult natural tribal lines are to overcome, I’m rooting hard for this new entry into the scene. We would all be in a different, much better place if we fostered a rounded and enlightened local-music heterogeneity instead of the patchwork of cliques we often are.

Before the debut, Cub told me that, if all goes well, Grand Collab will become a regular series in 2015. Apparently, all went well enough to get Grand Collab confirmed again at Will’s Pub on Dec. 28. So go see what I mean.

Heads up, fam, I’ll be on column break next week.