This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist covers Old Flings, Mount Moriah and William Tyler

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Well, the latest Florida signing is a juicy one. Centuries, the West Palm hardcore band that made my best-of-fest list for last year's Orange You Glad Music Festival by igniting Uncle Lou's and creating an inferno of flying bodies, has just been blood-sworn to premier extreme label Southern Lord. So, cheers to another worthy homegrown band on a super-legit label.

After my blog post about the recent opening of new country bar Winter Park Saloon in the old McRaney's Tavern, maybe you shook in your shit-kickers a little as the words "new country" slithered down your spine upon reading the press release details. I did, even though the ownership told me they might introduce some classic country into the programming. But it looks like the cavalry is already on the way because they're launching a real country night this week. Wednesdays will now be spun by noted honky-tonk purist DJ White Lightnin' ("Pickin', Grinnin' and Sinnin'," WPRK 91.5 FM), focusing on greats like Hank, Waylon, Merle, Johnny and George. A good move.

The Beat

Also fresh on the scene is new bar Orlando Nights, which is already starting to host some shows. From the generic name to the basic décor, some might think the new Mills Ave. spot a nondescript joint. What I see, however, is a bar that's ripe for a fresh clientele and a new identity. With the same general setup as previous gay-bar occupant Paradise, it has the basic ingredients for a solid, no-fuss neighborhood bar: pool tables, darts and an interesting layout that works for small floor shows. It's uncertain yet what kind of live music will take root and to what degree, but it's a prime tabula rasa for whoever is ready to settle it. So here's a call to all the Mills Ave. flies: Break this mother in the right way, and the strip gains a strengthened north end.

The pop-punk show I attended there (March 5) featured the joyous fire of Jr. Meowzer, the spirited consistency of the New Lows, the ragged heart of Among Giants and the serviceable prosaicism of Gainesville's You Vandal. Headlining was Asheville's Old Flings, who brought their strong, noisy, '90s-indebted sound to Florida for the first time. With just enough guitar heroics to be beyond punk and driven by enough melody to really hook, their aesthetic is an effective, well-etched thing. If Texas Is the Reason ever outgrow their adolescence and sprout a pair, this is what they might grow up to be.

But the week's best show featured standout Merge Records labelmates Mount Moriah and William Tyler (March 8, Will's Pub). Besides being the most moving performances, which is enough in itself, it was an exceptional bill of forward-looking folk music. Instead of simply remaining content to lovingly trace the contours of their inspirations, these two acts do the art justice by making it their own and furthering the form. Both make music that's smart, tasteful and just plain effective.

Opening was Nashville's William Tyler, who's a panoramic folk guitar soloist in the noble tradition of Jack Rose. He plays the kind of hypnotic folk music that's an elevated take on American roots, is devoid of clichés and exists instead on a rarefied plane with deeply nourishing musicianship and incredibly sophisticated expression.

North Carolina headliner Mount Moriah drew a crowd that, though disappointingly small, was impressively avid. In fact, this assembly proved one of the more demonstratively appreciative crowds I've seen in too long. Over the course of the show, my initial discouragement over the lack of attendance for such a good band faded. First, it yielded to total personal envelopment by the expressiveness of Jenks Miller's guitars and especially Heather McEntire's stunning vocal conviction. Eventually, it was eclipsed altogether by the sheer engagement of the audience. To hear local musician Stephen Rock belt it out from the floor at the frontwoman's general request for help on a song was something else. These were real fans, they were grateful and, most importantly, they let the band know it. Sometimes, the size of the crowd is secondary to its spirit. And this rapt, in-the-moment audience will claim toldja-so rights when this band finally gets its due.

Heads up, lusty readers, I'll be on column break next week. Be strong.


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June 16, 2021


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