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7/21/2010

Music > This Little Underground

This Little Underground

 

Ahhh yeah, happy days will soon be here again, sexy people. Concert calendars across the city are shaping up to be shit-hot for the fall with dope acts, current and classic, like MGMT, Yeasayer, Crystal Castles, Beach House, Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, the Legendary Shack Shakers, the Mynabirds, James, the National and Public Enemy. Oh, and something about that oil leak being plugged finally … maybe.

The beat

One of the nicest voices I’ve heard in a while belongs to local folk musician Danny Leggett (July 14, Back Booth). That supple, sonorous singing is rich enough, in fact, to stand with just an acoustic guitar or banjo. It was only after several songs that even the most minimal of extra accompaniment was introduced: At first, it was simply a kick drum and tambourine worked by his own two feet, and then only one other player, at most, provided backup on the last two songs. This is one guy who’s confident in his expressive ability, and he should be. It was a performance that was simple in scale, but very fully rendered, with outstanding covers like an affectingly plaintive version of the Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and an incredible banjo-and-kick-drum rendition of MGMT’s “Kids.”

Showcasing another impressive voice that night was Orlando’s Rudy Stockhausen, whose band the Knots followed up with a spirited set of airy indie rock. Irrepressibility is central to what they do, but greater exactitude would make their detail and vim pop a little bit more. Still, there’s real potential there.

Considering how almost irrationally picky I am with comedy – something I’m way worse about than music, by the way – the prospect of seeing amateur practitioners makes my stomach gurgle. However, the new, semi-regular open-mic comedy event All Night Longo (July 14, the Social) is an interesting nightlife addition that also features bands. 

Some of the comics were actually decent, but there’s always that uncomfortable aspect of watching people bomb onstage. Although a weirdly funny public circumstance in its own way, that spectacle brings the trial of live performance to a sharp, glaring point. Not to undervalue what musicians (or any other stage entertainers, for that matter) have to face, but these guys have to earn audience approval not one song at a time, but rather second-by-second. That shit’s rough going, man. They didn’t put a community bottle of whiskey labeled “Liquid Courage” onstage for nothing.

Hosted by music-scene fixture Phil Longo – he of the million bands and the city’s tightest jeans – All Night Longo’s marriage of amateur comedy and live music is a refreshing happening that brings some needed rawness and spontaneity to the downtown scene.

If you’re the kind of old hipster who still plays dress-up with kitschy vintage wardrobes and believes that everything cool has already happened, then you’ll flip for the jump-jiving high ball of original rock & roll, swing, jazz, country and surf created by Brooklyn’s Izzy & the Kesstronics (July 12, Will’s Pub). It’s been over a dozen years since these kinda cats were hep and I’m way over this kind of stuff, but these guys know what they’re doing. More than just a too-late novelty lounge act, they’re actual rock & rollers with skill and a love of music genuine and deep enough to encompass lots of roots traditions. Still, it is inherently campy nostalgia, so its relevance and appeal are cyclical at best. But there’s always that next revival wave, right?

I’ve been keeping tabs on Athens beacons Modern Skirts for a few years now. They started out with some pretty undeniable shine, and then they got more finesse but became a lot less interesting. However, their new EP Happy 81 is a weird little wonder, showing a turn in their sound that features lower fidelity and more electronics, a tweak that turns out to be very effective for them.

Modern Skirts have always been luminous live, and their new material made them exponentially better this time out (July 16, Redlight Redlight). They were already good, but now they’re good and distinctive, which is exactly the place to be. This band has never been as resoundingly current as they are now with this new direction. And that’s why I hope that this sound is a harbinger of where the Skirts are going and not just some passing fancy.

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