This Little Underground 

Our live music columnist checks out Kitty, Half Undressed and Set and Setting

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On her continuing ride of self-awareness as a polarizing music topic, Daytona rapper Kitty still uncomfortably straddles the divide between pop-culture phenomenon and defensive young girl. This is someone whose maturity point is such that she confuses journalistic criticism for beef, with a seeming obsession over what Orlando Weekly says about her. Instead of proving herself by bringing an improved or in any way legit performance, she wasted onstage time at her recent show (March 28, the Social) calling me out to her fans, citing my year-end column naming her the area’s worst live act. Oh, the irony.

But unlike the overly ambitious music critics defending Kitty, let’s just call this what it is: kid stuff. Nothing more, nothing less. The main reason she’s even fertile ground at this point is as a case study, a curiosity. Kitty’s relevance is more a trampoline for baitingly discursive conversation than proof she is a complete artist.

Outside of the ivory tower, however, there is a vast gulf between crafting a compelling online persona and being a real artist and stage performer. Something’s fundamentally wrong when the question a performance evokes is, “So that’s what this is all about?” And opinions like mine are what happen when the hype and the story just don’t match up to the reality.

The Beat

This week is an advance peek into the crop that’s stirring out there. For some of what I saw – like Kerry Hayes and Colorsphere (March 25, Will’s Pub) – it’s just too early to call whether they’ll bloom into meaningful vintage. But there’s always value in scouting.

The best roundup was the debut of Residents (March 27, Will’s Pub), a showcase of promising new Central Florida artists curated by Saskatchewan’s Chandler Strang, who’s been booking more at the venue of late. The concept is to be an indie hothouse for developing Orlando talent.

The Haroux is a young, hard-driving duo. Their edges are sketchy but passable since their aesthetic is a garage-smeared, psychedelic-edged, proto-punk thing. They need more time on the vine and lack the depth right now to do slower songs with impact, but they’re pretty promising in full-on rock mode.

From what I saw of Your Favorite Color, the solo project of Saskatchewan’s Geramy Layug, a good deal of hope lies within its dreamy, echoing synth-pop cloud.

But the act that only needs a bit of tweaking to unlock their greatness is Gainesville’s Half Undressed. Ease off the overly saturating effects just a bit and jack up the heft (with a bassist perhaps) and this band will drop jaws. Thick in melodic drama, their beautiful, ’80s-influenced songwriting is exceptional.

It just needs more judicious framing and brawn to really fly. Bookmark these guys. I am.

The new Residents showcase is an inexpensive, semi-regular affair that’ll occur every few weeks. The next one will feature the Dark Sixties, the Wendigo and Manson Girls (April 11, Will’s Pub). In the right hands, with the right support, something like this could breathe new blood and momentum into a somewhat stalled scene. From what I know of him and his taste, Strang may be just the man for it. And mark your calendars: The release party for the impressive debut LP of his own buzz band, Saskatchewan, is coming up (April 30, Will’s Pub).

The Sh-Booms release party (March 24, Will’s Pub) also gave a glimpse into a work in progress. As described onstage by illustrious frontman Eugene Snowden (Legendary JC’s), the Raymonds aim to be like the Stooges fronted by Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. Now, that’s a tall-ass order. Though there were moments of raw brilliance, like a stripped and soul-wringing gospel song, they’re still very much in development. But, as their closing song teased, if these cats even accomplish a fraction of what they set out for, then holy shit, buckle up.

The latest Orlandooom event (March 26, Will’s Pub), however, was back to the big leagues with perhaps the week’s biggest surprise in St. Pete’s Set and Setting. Their heavy post-rock stepped out in a long, airy drone. But when they finally hit, their storm touched down like a colossus in slow-mo. Like Mono with more economy and bigger rock, their songs are patient, mounting forces of nature with quiet moments of exceptional grace but peaks that are completely fucking massive. Daaamn.

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