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10/7/2010

Music > This Little Underground

This Little Underground

 

Thereís really not much more to say about the fourth annual femme-centric ELLA Fest (Oct. 1-3, Orlando Brewing) that I havenít already said, mainly because little has changed in its outlook. With a few exceptions, the talent was more or less the same in terms of caliber and edge. And in quite a few instances, the artists were even alums, which doesnít exactly up the freshness. Probably the most interesting band I saw was local twee-pop group Saving Twilight, who are less than finished, quite amateurish really, but at least their genuinely indie angle is something more than beige.

To be clear, Iím wholeheartedly down with the cause of bringing more attention to Floridaís female artists, and Iím glad ELLA exists in our city. But it still favors stereotype, and therefore continues to be a largely insular event. While thereís nothing wrong with that, it ainít gonna win any new hearts and minds. ELLA remains a rally for the congregation and not a revolution. And that translates to unfulfilled potential.

The beat

Want action? How about the authors of two of the yearís best albums in town during the same week?

First was hot-buzzing New York electro-rock act Phantogram (Oct. 1, Back Booth). Much of their highly atmospheric music was programmed, but enough of it was performed live and the visuals were effective. Perhaps in response to previous critiques of their live show, they added a real drummer and it worked well. Barsuk Records has a winner on its hands, because Phantogramís one of the best new bands to emerge this year. Yet another incredibly current booking by Parafora Presents.

The other star was the exceptional Mynabirds (Oct. 2, the Social), the fully formed new project by Georgie Jamesí Laura Burhenn. With a big, rich voice and the perfect musical setting for it, this chickís for real. And she put together a great band to fully replicate her lush recordings live. Burhennís already a heavyweight contender, and sheís just beginning. Next to her artistic gravitas, even Jenny Lewis sounds like a silly little girl. Watch your backs, grand dames, this oneís coming up on you fast.

All Iím going to say about headliner David Bazan is that itís gotta be tiring always having to justify your spiritual standing. But he always invites it, and somehow remains patient and articulate. Dude can handle himself in the exchange. But still, talking philosophy with any yahoo who raises his hand? Talk about death by exasperation.

In his blog post previewing the Two Man Gentlemen Band show (Sept. 29, Redlight Redlight), fellow OW contributor Jason Ferguson posited, ďjokey music is total bullshit.Ē And I completely agree with his assertion. That said, as you can tell from my recent review of their new album, this New York duo is the rare asterisk to that nearly absolute rule. Maybe itís the magical way the comedy schtick works with old-timey music. Or maybe itís their vaudevillian flair that makes it stick. Mostly, though, itís the way it works live. I seldom drive around listening to their CDs, but Iíll almost always drive to see them play if theyíre within a 100-mile radius. When you see the whole package Ė wardrobe, honed comedic timing and authentic musical chops Ė itís pretty easy to subscribe to the conceit. Itís, yíknow, a real show.

Local folk combo Goodrich & the Die Tryinís (Sept. 30, Back Booth) is a bracing blend of mostly traditional, slightly indie folk. Itís a mildly bluegrass-infused sound thatís got some hot Irish blood coursing through it. Most importantly, they achieve stomp and fire without beholden to easy traditionalist signifiers like canned hillbilly posturing, which is unusual and welcome. Tuneful and tight, their focus is on strong songs delivered with feeling Ė thatís it. And thatís why I really like this band. They may be the best folk group that the cityís folk scene doesnít yet know about.

Following Goodrich & the Die Tryinís was local act the Mud Flappers, who have all the visual cues Ė not to mention, um, that name Ė but not much at the base. Their old-timey getup has lots of filigree but their core needs development because they should be getting way more mileage out of that crowded arrangement. If they can tie all those frays together, they may have something. But as it stands now, all those instruments and costumes are mainly a busy pile of props.

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