This Little Underground 

Some of the benefit shows that the local music community has organized to help Haiti have had disappointing turnouts. I know these are the leanest of times, but put it all in perspective and go support them, people. It is literally the least you can do. Having a temporarily empty wallet seriously ain't shit compared to the unspeakable carnage and total destruction of civilization that the people of Haiti are facing right now.

The beat

Yo, headbangers, a band you should keep an eye on is local newcomer Swamplord. They still need refinement, but I saw enough at their latest show (Jan. 21, Back Booth) to believe that there could be something there. Because of the particular tonal virtues and stylistic traditions inherent to the gender, I'm not typically enthralled with the idea of heavy metal female screaming. But co-singer Heidi Kneisl does a pretty good job in achieving the requisite nastiness to be effective. The biggest prognosticator of potential badassness is that there were times when the band locked into some massive and very well-defined riff grooves. In those moments, they will rock your face off. But at this point, those moments are too few and far between. There are issues of synchronicity and consistency that they need to work on, so the jury's still out, but there's promise.

Because so many others have said it, I have completely overturned my vocabulary to come up with some other way of describing North Carolina's American Aquarium (Jan. 18, Will's Pub), but the obvious keeps staring me in the face: They are Whiskeytown and Bruce Springsteen rolled into one. And the best thing about this band is that they embody all the rich virtues of those two touchstones without inheriting their liabilities, judiciously handpicking the best qualities of both and synthesizing them into something big, cohesive and distinct. A country-rock band fleshed out with pedal steel, piano and organ, American Aquarium has just the right bells and whistles to give their sound the deluxe treatment. But thanks to the lean rock strength of their core, they never fall victim to excess.

The alternative country scene is cluttered with tourists playing dress-up and yuckin' it up, with honky-tonk stereotypes. These guys ain't one of 'em. No, there is conviction, heart and relevance here. In fact, every striving alt-country band in these parts should have been in attendance with notepad in hand, because there are just too many amateurs flooding the Americana scene right now in Orlando. More importantly, the sizable twangster contingent in the area needs to devote itself to checking out this band. You know that there's much more to the genre than just Lucero, right? Just checking.

Speaking of bands that this city is overlooking to its own detriment, Dead Confederate (Jan. 19, Back Booth) came back to town and kicked total ass with the crushing loudness of their dense, moss-draped rock. Add their heaviness and bottomless atmosphere into the mix and you're talking about a sound so thick, enveloping and serious that it feels like you're swimming, and sometimes drowning, in it. It's a thing that pounds your head while it wrings your soul. If Nirvana had the richness of the Southern Gothic tradition to pull from, this is the gorgeously dark majesty that might have been born. The band admitted to trying out lots of new material on the audience. If those songs were any indication, great things are to come.

The benefit for local rock warhorse Jim O'Rourke (hope you feel better, dude) climaxed with a duel between two real-life guitar heroes. The finale of the performance (Jan. 22, Will's Pub) by area blues-rock band No Circus featured a shred-off between wonder boy James Killgallon and local guitar legend Jeff Nolan (the Ludes). Put the immense chops of these two particular players in a head-to-head situation and you'll witness a sword-fighting dick swing of supremely indulgent proportions. It was one of the most thrilling local displays of musical fireworks you're likely to ever see in person. Too bad the equally skilled Brian Chodorcoff was on bass this time; otherwise it would've been the most epic three-way circle jerk in the greater metropolitan area and the universe would've collapsed on itself with all that guitar talent focused on one stage. Now that's something I'd like to see.

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June 16, 2021


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