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Even if you know you're awesome, there's something supremely validating about others recognizing it. Well, folks in these parts have long known Jacksonville's indie-rap phenom Astronautalis (born Andy Bothwell) is a hot commodity. But it's part- icularly good news for Florida's music scene that homeboy just became the first rap act to be signed by notable indie label Eyeball Records. Springing from the ranks of Orlando's own Fighting Records, the genre-bending rapper will enjoy an even higher national profile for his upcoming album, Pomegranate, out Sept. 23. Ya done good, kid. Keep on.

The beat

In its surge to become the best new development in the downtown scene, the middle warehouse of the Parramore art compound at 630 W. Central Blvd. has become a nonprofit, DIY-minded live music venue called the Black Box Collective. Last week (Aug. 7), the raw garage space was roaring with the lovable, face-melting sounds of hardcore, grindcore and power violence courtesy of bands like Philadelphia's Reign Supreme, Orlando's Republicorpse and Chicago's Weekend Nachos.

But let's focus on the most important thing: the venue. Despite some possibly serious cons — no AC (boo), no alcohol (boo!) — this place packs huge potential. The conditions aren't immediately welcoming, but what it lacks in amenities, it more than makes up for in social and cultural possibility. It's all-ages, all the time, so the place is youth-oriented. And its express mission is to provide "a safe place for all peoples to be free from all prejudices against race, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.," so it's progressive: a win-win situation. Racist, sexist or homophobic language or behavior isn't tolerated.

Basically, it's a secure, stimulating and open-minded place where kids can hang, listen to interesting bands and express themselves freely. In other words, it's an underground incubator. Cheap food and drink, unchained moshing and a punk chick toting her pet rat around, Willard-style; it's all cool, see? With enough community support, the Black Box Collective could become a needed anchor of the city's alternative youth culture. Stay looped by joining the e-mail list ([email protected]).

Seeking the creature comforts that big shots like me are used to (e.g., a can of beer), I headed back to downtown's east side to check in on Blue Meridian (Aug. 7, Back Booth).

If that name sounds familiar, it's because they used to be a prominent local band. If it doesn't, then it's either because they transplanted to Los Angeles a while back or because they went nowhere. Oh, they've been up to stuff, but none of it matters. They could relocate to the most glamorous of locales but, with music so shallow as to be soul-draining, they're still a relic of Orlando's douche-rock days. Man, am I glad to be able to call them an L.A. band rather than an Orlando band. Ah, the silver lining.

Tampa's Nervous Turkey is a band best enjoyed live — that's where the charisma and talent of frontman Ernie Locke truly shines. Their blues, rock and funk has some dirt under its nails but their hyperbolic grit is often diluted by a lack of substance and a surplus of cliché. Their Orlando CD release party (Aug. 9, Back Booth) reaffirmed their for-real live chops. If simple fun is what you crave, Nervous Turkey's solid live performances will hit the spot.

Rounding out the week's report is Richard Lloyd (Aug. 6, Copper Rocket). As one of the two famous guitars in Television, he's a key figure of the seminal '70s New York punk scene and there's always something special about being in the presence of legend. His guitar skills easily lived up to expectation but, despite his claim to fame, manifested themselves in much more traditional language.

Showing both a devotion to the great American rock & roll heritage and a huge Hendrix jones, he and his band, the Sufimonkey Trio, delivered a solid lesson in fundamentals.

Nice to see the house filled with lots of young people oozing with reverence and not just alt-geezers like I half-expected. Even better to see that the Copper Rocket's new ownership is making good on their promise to emphasize the live music experience there with measurable improvements like better circulation and a bigger stage.

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