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This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist calls out Best of Orlando voting and checks out KEN Mode, Ceremony and Kisses

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Wouldn’t it be something if some of these mysterious, from-outta-nowhere bands that placed in our Best of Orlando readers poll would put as much effort into their goddamned craft and work ethic as they do on their mad campaigning and ballot-stuffing? But looking past the odd names that made it in there via shenanigans or other artificial means – yes, they’re easy to spot – it’s always interesting to see how you guys voted. One funny thing that the tea leaves showed this year, though, was that there’s apparently mass confusion out there over genre definition, at least with regard to experimental. Well, we have a year to work on that. So now that the metro-wide buzz has subsided, it’s back to business.

The Beat

Join Hands is a new band comprised of Orlando veterans, which probably accounts for why they sounded impressively finished at their debut (July 29, Will’s Pub). Their good, red-blooded, ’90s-influenced American indie rock is an exceptionally centered thing that’s no frills, no fat, all meat. It’s a back-to-basics sound that’s substantial and melodic, just good songs and rock-solid fundamentals.

Also playing was Castor Willem, another new local that was unfamiliar to me but whose cast boasts some serious credentials from bands like Bestiarii and Portals. Unlike those rather together acts, however, this one was pretty rough sometimes. Still, they seem to have good taste and showed promise during their louder moments. But it’ll take a lot more finesse for that to count.

Will’s Pub recently rolled out a hat trick of major-league heaviness, beginning with the big KEN Mode bill (Aug. 1). Serious ass was kicked by Portland’s Lord Dying, a dope young Relapse band whose Orlando debut was an unrelenting charge of dirty thrash and sludge.

However, Rhode Island labelmates Howl were unexpectedly cheesy in person. Their music is a force, but between their presence and flair, shit just got goofy sometimes. When they shut it and got down to business, however, they rocked.

The next night’s rager was Ceremony (Aug. 2, Will’s Pub), one of the thankfully growing number of modern bands rewriting some hitherto fast rules by transcending hardcore and the narrow bounds of the punk ghetto. And as usual, they lit it up.

But Baltimore opener Ed Schrader’s Music Beat was something interesting. The truth that their primal, experimental drums-and-bass punk reveals is how little you need when you know what really matters. Tap the essential, crank up the excitement and – boom – you’re there.

Closing out the trifecta was the release show for Hollow Leg’s Abysmal (Aug. 3). It’s one of the year’s best Florida records, and this event packed every ounce of the homegrown pride that entails.

Besides their fine-etched aesthetic, what I dig about L.A.’s Kisses (July 30, the Social) – who are now on notable alt-pop label Cascine – is that they don’t just recycle the parts of the ’80s that have the circumspect benefit of history-proven academic favor. As a result, there’s freshness of spirit and in-the-moment joy in their dance-ready sophisti-pop. And that’s why, though the turnout was modest, the show erupted into a total dance party. What manifested live was how good and real of a band they were for a synth-heavy act. And don’t be fooled by their nerdy in-person charm – anyone who’ll drop a Debbie Deb beat and shamelessly sport tacky-ass resort wear onstage is packing unseen reservoirs of swag.

But, to my own surprise, my night wasn’t yet over. I was exiting the venue when club promoter Gerard Mitchell ushered me next door (the Beacham) saying that I really needed to check some action out. On paper, I knew what was happening: Mexico’s Molotov was playing. But I wasn’t entirely prepared for the wildly kaleidoscopic cultural rock spectacle they were. Despite the Jägermeister sponsorship, this show felt like a fervently organic affair because of the passion of their fans. Molotov’s range is impressive enough, but the fact that their fans stayed on the train for the ride is even more notable. I don’t get down with it all, but I’m impressed by the scope and devoted spectacle. The hot chemistry between this band and their fans makes their live experience a rock-en-Español juggernaut.

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