;What's going on here?

;Right about now, some of you may be shocked, awed, horrified or an awkward combination thereof to see my name in this space. Then again, you may be muttering, "Bao Le who?" So before we tango, let's tackle some formalities.


;Not really a coup

; Contrary to rumor, this column space was not part of the wager for the rockcrit DJ competition in which Jason Ferguson and I squared off a few months back (I demand a rematch! — ed.), nor has he been chased into the hills by hordes of vengeful emo kids; he remains the music editor at Orlando Weekly. This space will continue to be filled with sober (though not literally) and sometimes sobering commentary, a critical stance and an idealistic ethos about our local music scene.

;; But even though he and I are now under the same flag, I'm not Jason, this isn't Notable Noise, and you'll soon see that our differences go beyond our divergent tastes in music. With a concert attendance record that's peerless in this city, I hope to offer a perspective that is more from the live-music trenches. Beyond a retelling of those experiences, this column will be about contextualizing them and spurring dialogue.

;; For those of you who already know me, I'll be the same judge, only with a bigger gavel. Teddy Roosevelt liked to encourage folks to "speak softly and carry a big stick." Well, I'm capable of only one of those. But for those who're as yet unfamiliar with my brand of butter, I won't offer an inflated sales pitch. Regardless of what I say about the musical goings-on in Orlando, the camps may divide, at least in the beginning. But the way I see it, I'll be signing boobies, kissing babies and slapping high-fives by Halloween.


;Enough about you

; This particular vocation is prone to misunderstanding so let's clarify where I'm coming from. For starters, I'm a bigger believer in this scene than most of you. In case there's ever any question about it in the future, that belief is precisely why I hold it to such a high standard. I'm not keen on spinning my wheels, so if the culture here weren't capable of greatness then I wouldn't even bother. Secondly, criticism is not only healthy, it's vital to any progressive endeavor. Tough love — both words, at the same time. I harbor no delusion that explaining this puts us all on the same page, but there it is. At least it's a matter of record that I tried.


;Musical chairs


Though it's more incidental than symptomatic, the changeover of this column mirrors the recent shifts in the scene's tectonics. Our typically static pool of live music venues is in flux, giving many people — including myself — a vague sense of uneasiness. Will's Pub is on hiatus, though the name will be behind bookings at other clubs. The face-lifted grande dame of downtown, the Club at Firestone, has re-entered the live music arena, however tentatively. The autumn calendars show that Foundation Presents, the booking powerhouse behind The Social, is partnering with them more frequently, further diversifying its influence. Back Booth has rallied from a controversial change in management to become a real player once again, moving in on the local-music real estate that the Social has largely relinquished in favor of national acts. Even AKA Lounge is starting to get scraps from the big boys' table. Thanks to the Florida's Dying promotion machine, Uncle Lou's is becoming an unexpected, and probably unsuspecting, venue for fringe-dwelling dirt-punks.

;; There's a surging class of talent. Some acts, such as the Sol.illaquists of Sound, who just released their first album for indie titan Epitaph Records, are attracting national attention. Meanwhile, local family-style labels like Post Records and Florida's Dying are picking up momentum by absorbing the city's most interesting acts. On top of all that, there are adventurous promoters, a handful of receptive venues and widened media attention. The infrastructure's all there.

;; Taken in aggregate, the scene is in a notably upward trend, and I'm cautiously optimistic that the restructurings around town will lead to something good. We may not be on the cusp of proclaiming ourselves "the next Austin," but neither are we deserving of the redundant self-criticism heaped on our burg. There is something going on here. And I'm not the only one who feels it.


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