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click to enlarge Amigo the Devil

Diana Lungu

Amigo the Devil

Endoxa goes beyond the heavy, Amigo the Devil makes a triumphant return 

Plus, Michael Bisio shines as ACA's latest master-in-residence


Endoxa Booking has been making some intriguing moves lately. The Orlando specialty promoter has built an actual career out of booking mostly metal shows, one that spans the state. But recently, Endoxa has been expanding its horizon in ways that are head-turning enough to be a scene development worth watching. The near future roster, as prime example, includes upcoming shows featuring L.A. beat scene figure Jonwayne (Nov. 11, Backbooth) and Fake Four dynamo Sadistik with Nacho Picasso (Nov. 15, Will's Pub).

Endoxa's latest zig was the very rootsy Dark Hearts Tour. I last saw compelling, formerly local headliner Amigo the Devil back in 2015 when he was at the bottom of the bill. But something pivotal has happened here since. The turnout for him this time wasn't just large, it was wildly devout and already in full sing-along mode from the jump.

Amigo the Devil continues to hone his Southern gothic aesthetic, blending murder balladry with subversive humor. In fact, his comedic chops have become both sharper and more central to his show. And it's added the timeless allure of a classic folk hero to his persona.

But besides his expression, it's especially nice to see a worthy artist deepen his footprint, as with this night's overflowing room. If Amigo's grip on his former hometown is any omen, he's got some momentum. What was once mystique has now, at least in his old haunts, bloomed into full-blown cult.

Idaho's Andrew Sheppard, making his Orlando debut, isn't dark like his tourmate or the name of the tour of which he's part. But he is soulful and true, plying the kind of country music that's traditional in heart but left in sensibility. An especially distinguishing feature is that he came with cello accompaniment from David Henry, a musician in his own right who added great depth and fluidity, not to mention incredibly harmonic vocal help.

With a palette that ranges from rootsy soul to classic country on back to old-time music, Sheppard shows echoes of Ben Nichols and BJ Barham to Hank Sr. He knows how to grease a new crowd with the levity of old-fashioned novelty songs, but he's truly at his best when he keeps it more emotionally dialed in with supple, modern Americana strokes.


Simply because not enough people know about this cultural jewel and the public fruit it gives, it bears repeating how fortunate Central Florida is to have the Atlantic Center for the Arts' quarterly Master Artist-in-Residence Program. Of course, it's great for the participating artists, who get to be immersed in an interdisciplinary womb of pure cultivation and creativity. But in free outreach events across the area like performances, readings and talks, the inspired energy of this cross-pollination is put on public display.

Musically, the ACA's residency program brings in some of the pre-eminent minds today in contemporary art music, figures like recent masters Zeena Parkins (collaborator to John Zorn, Yoko Ono, Björk, Thurston Moore, etc.) and Myra Melford. And luckily for us, because of the Timucua White House, the landing spot for the program's musical performance component is here in Orlando. But, look, you don't absolutely have to be au courant in the musical fine arts to reap the deep benefit here. Just know that the ACA has an accomplished track record – so if their name's on it, it'll be noteworthy.

The latest musical master artist-in-residence was vanguard American bassist-composer Michael Bisio, known for his collaborations with jazz titans Matthew Shipp and Joe McPhee. Like any card-carrying avant-gardist, he's out there. But even out on the fringe beyond standard constructs and formulas, Bisio plays his double bass with palpable soul and mystery, employing both bow and finger work that ranges from intricate to free. Amid all the nervy jazz fits and displacing lingers, he frequently gives you something intuitive to grasp – a relief passage that breathes naturally or is classically beautiful even – before free-diving back into the bowels again. In sum, it was a trek of over 30 straight, uninterrupted minutes that didn't take a single step twice.

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