Support local journalism. Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club.

click to enlarge Strand of Oaks

Photo by Jim Leatherman

Strand of Oaks

Farewell to Billy Manes, Strand of Oaks returns with full band and massive sound, Guava Tree Gallery ups the art scene’s DIY game with Baker-Barganier Duo 

Late last week, Orlando lost a champion, a supernova, a true original. Be you acquaintance or follower, the universal connection this city has to Billy Manes speaks to how singularly out and brilliantly he lived. To me, he was a friend, colleague and fellow Pet Shop Boys enthusiast. You, Billy, were truly never being boring. And now, Orlando's light is a lot dimmer.


Dead Oceans act Strand of Oaks really impressed as opener for labelmate Tallest Man on Earth at the Beacham back in 2013 as just a duo. Now, the Philadelphia-based locomotive led by Tim Showalter is back as a full band with much bigger rock ambition.

Few approach folk-rock with a sense as expansive and mountainous as Strand of Oaks. Even though Showalter's take is unquestionably indie, it's also remarkably encompassing. In fact, his band went notably psychedelic here, with some expanded acid-rock passages that rolled out in epic, long-form songs like rural America's answer to the Verve.

But their specialty is anthems, and those soared as high live as they do on record. At their best, Showalter and company take rugged country-rock spirit, thrust it with altitude and render it in brilliant Technicolor. If the War on Drugs snapped out of their soft-rock daydream, rediscovered the exhilarating gust of their early days and maybe strapped on a jetpack, you might have something approximating the panorama of Strand of Oaks.

Even with all the sonic sweeps and deep dives, though, Showalter made it a personable encounter, bringing down the scale mid-set to get intimate and honor some requests. Between this and the performance of opener-collaborator Jason Anderson, this was one of those shows where the performers handled the venue like a living room, treating the assembled to a close engagement.

Anderson's own music is the sound of a big American heart that's born of conviction, open landscapes and rock & roll. Without any backup, he pours himself into the mic with powerful humanity. Making it especially personal, he dedicated a cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" to Pulse victims and survivors. Played solo, the song's empowering nerve took on an effectively – and appropriately – solemn tone. Respect.


It's no secret that house shows happen in Orlando's indie and punk scenes. What's more arcane, however, is that it's also happening in the art-music scene.

Guava Tree Gallery is one such example. Despite the formal name, it's actually a private home in a SoDo neighborhood near 903 Mills Market. But every third Friday, it transforms into an ad hoc art space and opens to the community for a free monthly gathering. It seems the Timucua White House no longer has a monopoly on arty house shows.

The latest was a combined affair. In a blacked-out front room, a stark and evocative film by UCF film professor Christopher Harris was screening on loop. In the living room, the music feature was the Baker-Barganier Duo, an experimental classical twosome from St. Pete. Elizabeth Baker – whom I first encountered at the In-Between Series in an actual full-time gallery – is a modern pioneer of the toy piano. In fellow experimentalist Erich Barganier, she has a multi-instrumental partner that expands the palette considerably while maintaining the same spirit of adventure.

Between the two of them was a menagerie of curious instruments, a miniature orchestra of toy pianos, theremin, saw, drums and electronics. Even more familiar instruments like the bass and mandolin were played unconventionally with bows and slides. Their work – much of it debuts of esoteric interpretations of slave songs – were studies in tension, accord and modernity.

But it's the phenomenon of the event itself that says something of particular note about the city's cultural fabric. Between the cross-media events that the Timucua White House, the In-Between Series and, now, the Guava Tree Gallery are doing, it's great to see a fuller embrace and integration of music by Orlando's art scene. And only great things can happen when it ups its DIY game like this. If you don't think anything special is happening here, you're not digging deep enough.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


© 2022 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation