Crowded House: Five Orlando music scenes that know how to pack them in 

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click to enlarge Uncle Lou - PHOTO BY JIM LEATHERMAN
  • Photo by Jim Leatherman
  • Uncle Lou

Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall

The official name of the joint is Lou's LMGA, but it's known simply and affectionately as Uncle Lou's after the man who runs it. And it's become the city's weirdest little live venue by sheer, happy accident.

Uncle Lou began with a game room in Parramore, then moved to SoDo for a short while, until finally settling into the heart of Mills 50, a neighborhood interesting enough to allow a place like this to not just survive but shine. Live music, however, was never envisioned for the bar, at least not by Lou.

click to enlarge Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall - PHOTO BY JEN CRAY
  • Photo by Jen Cray
  • Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall

"Some kids came in and actually asked me if they could play music there," he says in his stout Jamaican accent. "And I said, yes, you could go ahead and play music, I've no problem with it, not knowing what I was getting into at the time."

It was a punk show, a revelation of sorts for the islander. "Probably the terriblest thing I ever heard, this loud noise banging in my ears," laughs Lou. "But I got an open mind ... I could notice that they was really having fun jumping around, doing this crazy dance, so I continued doing it from there."

Uncle Lou's has a total open-door policy, a true rarity anywhere. Musicians wanting to play need only hit Lou up on the venue's Facebook page or call the bar. Simple as that. "Whether it's five people show up or 30, Uncle Lou gonna let you have a show," he says. "Whether it's your first time playing or you've been playing for 10 year, Uncle Lou gonna let you have a show. I try to give everyone a chance."

click to enlarge Yautja at Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall - PHOTO BY JEN CRAY
  • Photo by Jen Cray
  • Yautja at Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall

For the past decade or so, the crossing of Lou's welcoming, laissez-faire hosting and the hungry DIY music community has been beautifully reactive, elevating the place from basic dive to truly special scene incubator. It's home to a colorful constellation of misfits and is the freakiest of the Mills Avenue fringe. But its true cultural import is as a hothouse for the thriving street-level creativity of the local scene and the wider, connected underground beyond. Besides representing the area's most interesting ends of the spectrum – punk, metal, noise, experimental, folk, rock, electronic, whatever – excellent national names like Black Diamond Heavies, Centuries, Yautja, Cult Leader, East of the Wall, Clamfight and Holly Hunt have electrified Uncle Lou's.

Lou himself admits to surprise at the identity the place has developed. But he might just understand something that developers, planners and legislators often don't: that interesting things happen when you just let them. And the combination of Uncle Lou and Mills Avenue has proven alchemical.

"There's no one that come through this door that I do not love," he proclaims. "I believe that these punk rockers, music people in a whole, they got my back. They believe in me. They love me." – Bao Le-Huu

Heard first at Uncle Lou's

The Rot Guts
Listen to: "Dream Girl"
Freak punk blending heavy sounds and weird thoughts

Trotsky's Watercooler
Listen to: "Mount Fuji Eruption – 1707"
Industrial noise that blends performance art

Warm Like Winter
Listen to: "UnNamed"
Good old-fashioned '80s hardcore revival

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