This Little Underground 

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Everyone’s just sooo outraged about Casey Anthony, but what about Animal Collective? These guys inspired a locust swarm of hacks who suddenly thought all it took to finish incomplete ideas was a bunch of reverb and underwater effects. OK, so A.C.’s not responsible for the primary crime; they’re better than that, right? Well, unlike their enveloping previous Orlando appearance, the lackluster set list of their latest (July 7, the Beacham) was a reminder that there’s still some bullshit swimming in their Kool-Aid. The show was less an example of the groundbreaking pop deconstruction they’re credited with and just boringly wandering indulgence. If you’re gonna take us on a trip, make it worth the time out of our lives. Yes, their magnum opus, Merriweather Post Pavilion, was a justifiable psych-pop monument. But the avalanche of lazy, half-cooked detritus it triggered is hard to overlook. So maybe all we nail ’em on is an accessory charge. I can live with that.

Now more of a cultural phenomenon than a complete band, A.C.’s not entirely equal to their wildly overblown hype. They’re at the head of their class, but they occupy an exalted seat that others perhaps deserve more (see: Fog, Evangelicals, etc.). However, the ultimate fate of the Animal Collective school of psych music is, I believe, still undecided. And once the comparative sobriety of history sets in, I suspect its import won’t be equal to what their fans think it is right now.

It was sell-out attendance and everyone there was going nuts, so many will disagree with my indifference. But to them, I say investigate the underground. After seeing what some of these lesser-known artists in your very midst are capable of even without the budget, you might change your mind about what a live show can be.

The beat

Elsewhere, Austin gaze-pop trio Ringo Deathstarr made a pretty dazzling Orlando debut (July 9, Will’s Pub). Ohhh yeah, they bring that sweet, sweet live noise with delicious things like fuzz bass and dual-guitar tempests. And they wrap around you like a warm, fuzzy, really loud blanket. This may be my biggest G-spot and they hit it like a heavyweight champ on a speed bag.

The once-ubiquitous Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England have been laying low for a while. But the local boys recently reemerged (July 8, Will’s Pub) and, man, it was good to hear ’em again. The ringing, open-armed hooks of their heartland-style rock have granted the Orlando music canon some of its most classic tunes. Here’s my public plea for them to get back on it and make another record that reconnects with the measured grit of their definitive 2007 debut EP, The Edge of America.

Equally great was that American Aquarium, a band bred from the finest North Carolinean alt-country blood, got onto this bill because it finally gave them the local crowd they deserve. Judging from the reception, this could be their pivotal Orlando show. And it’s about time. A more intriguing prospect this performance suggests is that maybe, just maybe, they’re on the same trajectory that Lucero took in our city. American Aquarium got way drunk on whiskey, played deep into the night, opened a vein and let it pour (even dropping the best cover I’ve heard yet of my pet Whiskeytown song). Sound familiar? Yep, thought so. And that’s what it takes to endear yourself here: open it up and we will feel it. Even when it was just frontman B.J. Barham up there alone, that heart beat loudly (which you can see yourself when he returns solo Aug. 3). In fact, pair American Aquarium with Lucero and you’ll have the best, most local non-local bill ever.

Of all the touring bands currently working Orlando hard, American Aquarium is definitely among the cream of the crop. Paying them – and any other worthy ones trying to crack this market – due attention is how you ensure your musical menu, Orlando. Lip service is cheap. Waiting for the ”next time” is perilous. Enough of you do that and they’ll stop knocking on our door. Forget that dumb fucking adage because what you don’t know can most definitely hurt you. Ignorance is only the illusion of bliss. And I think we just extended American Aquarium’s lease here.


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