Although Japanese noise punks Melt Banana have a long history of playing Orlando, they don't come too often. So each time they roll through, it's like the warm excitation of seeing an old friend – a dear, volcanic old friend. We're one of the lucky cities to regularly experience their legendary live shows, but they stay away just long enough that the sheer power and revelation of it always singes your face anew each time.
Their latest (May 28, Backbooth) was Orlando's first time seeing them stripped down to just the core duo of frontwoman Yako and surgical-masked shredder Agata. With other bands, this could be a heart-draining prospect, but not for these creative savages. Agata still does what he does, which is summon the sound of natural disasters with his guitar. Besides her usual blistering vocals, Yako now handles the remaining programmed audio with an illuminated hand pad. But Melt Banana's predilection is more Lightning Bolt than Anamanaguchi, so this arrangement's a little different. But not an inch less in intensity or insanity, if not a bit more complementary to their freaky conceptual streak.
Live, they compensate for fewer personnel with a more confrontational plan that pushes their whole sound rig right up to the front of the stage. One thing this lineup and organization does exceptionally right is really spotlight how powerful and underrated a front force Yako is, with a presence that does an astonishing amount of the performance heavy lifting. Even with a smaller crew, this show was maximum Melt Banana. Just ask the flying bodies on the floor. All smiles and slams, this was one of the most joyful pits you'll ever see.
Right before was reconstituted Ralph Ameduri-associated local band the Hamiltons, who play a noisy, thick-ribbed brand of American punk rock. They were decent when they performed the latest Ralphfest back in February, but they're already much more locked in now and looking like a band building a new head of steam.
One of their meaty songs stoked the beginning of a decent pit. Then frontman Robert English squashed it by stopping the music, expressing appreciation for the zeal but coming in defense of those peacefully trying to enjoy the show – you know, the punk show. Well, you don't see that every day. It was a courteous thing to some people at least, but it was a little like getting doused by an ice bucket during a hot fuck. Still, some subsequent crowd awkwardness notwithstanding, the Hamiltons delivered a good, gutsy set.
Geographically, Jackson Scott (May 25, Will's Pub) is based in North Carolina, but he's really from somewhere very much else. And who knows how long the 20-something has been on this perma-trip of his, but he first blipped on the national radar in 2013 via Fat Possum, who released his debut album (Melbourne).
On stage, his trio kicks out a fried kind of sunshine that scrambles nice pop melodies with eccentric instincts. His simple, pretty songs seldom stay that way, invariably bursting eventually into blossoms of unpredictability. Not all of it sticks but given psychedelic music's often-lax marksmanship, his bull's-eye moments of clarity and shine are notably frequent. Most importantly, his sound can never be accused of being ordinary.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was the one act on the bill I'd already seen before: Lakeland indie-rock band Poster. When I saw these kids back in January opening for St. Louis' Bruiser Queen at St. Matthew's, they were pleasant, but more promise than contender. Between then and now, however, something happened, something significant.
They've gotten tighter, fuller and altogether more decisive. That's a great thing because within those easy, ringing jangles is some fine, shimmering pop craft, maybe some of the best I've seen from the area's current freshman class. They're no-names right now, but that ought to change. After this show, they move up into a new bracket on my list because this is a band that's now got the stuff to start making some waves in the area. You're unlikely to find cool-zephyr jams as perfect for summer as this.
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