Music » This Little Underground

The Pauses transport Will’s Pub back to 1996; Illuminated Paths transports Uncle Lou’s to another dimension with Byson and PolyKarp

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Again, this year shows no bottom to its inhumanity. All thoughts and strength to the Ghost Ship crew and their loved ones.

THE BEAT

The '90s redux has absolutely gripped this decade's style, and no one in town has embodied that spirit with as much fun and fidelity as local indie-rock band the Pauses. For the past three years running, they've taken over Will's Pub and transformed the venue into a wormhole back to one specific year of that era, beginning with 1994. This year, they're up to 1996. And for the first time ever, it was blown out to a two-night happening (Dec. 2-3).

As the event's cornerstone, the Pauses play both nights but different sets. And like always, they tap a select choice of current local acts to help conjure past glory. Opening night featured Overdale, Expert Timing and DJ Prom Nite. The second featured Luscious Lisa, Fictions and DJ Smilin' Dan.

Unlike 1994, with which they began, 1996 was kind of a non-vintage year. Musically, the term "alternative" had by then lost all meaning in rock. But the looks and sounds of the zeitgeist had lots of splash, so it makes for the kind of fun that happens when smart musicians combine a karaoke bar and a period costume party.

Actually, the Pauses' year celebrations are much more than just music. The bands all perform covers from the era, but the theme extends throughout the entire bar and includes all sorts of pop-culture ephemera like toys, tech, games, memorabilia and imagery, including a Scream photo booth set with props and costumes.

Besides cocktails inspired by the Spice Girls, the bar even stocked some Icehouse and Bud Ice for the occasion, two drink trends that hold an ignominious place in my misspent youth. And, yes, of course I ordered them both. If there's one place that has this much sense of humor and commitment to theme, it's Will's Pub.

Musically, it was popular nostalgia galore with songs from the likes of Beck and the Cardigans. But tucked among those were some inspired selections across the board, like the Pauses' cover of Superdrag ("Sucked Out"), Expert Timing's cover of Mazzy Star ("Fade Into You") and Overdale's cover of Jawbox ("Mirrorful").

As the anchor, the Pauses sounded and looked the most practiced and complete with a full audiovisual extravaganza that included costumes and video projections with their signature crowd-engaging "Interact-O-Vision" action. But among all their excellent retro visuals, however, the most wicked stroke was playing a cheesy old Will's Pub television commercial between songs.

There are parties and there are theme parties. But this annual Pauses event is celebration by total immersion, and it's become the best indie throwback tradition in the city.

However, nothing is ever traditional in the world of Illuminated Paths, the area's weirdest music label. Its music roster is a seemingly endless menagerie of left-field transmissions and its shows are oddity in motion. Besides audio strangeness of all stripes, all of IP's showcases benefit from the live-mixed video psychedelics of label boss Joshua Rogers.

Their latest showcase (Dec. 2, Uncle Lou's) featured notable underground acts I've covered before like Ray Brazen, who is one of Orlando's most iconic outsider visionaries, and Tampa's Fjshwjfe, whom I recently experienced at the Eva O show back in October. But besides being transported to another dimension, by now I've come to expect an education out of an Illuminated Paths event as well. This one introduced me to Byson and PolyKarp, two relatively new but definitely under-the-radar Orlando artists.

Whether due to its newness or its aesthetic – I suspect both – vaporwave is a genre awash with indistinguishable acts. What producer Byson brings to the game, however, is the structure and groove of hip-hop. For a nebulous niche that can be impressionistic to a fault, that's a godsend. And the results in his case are distinctive.

PolyKarp is even more of a party-starter with his warped, subterranean dance music that sounds like a video-game rave. Even better, he jams it out like a low-tech wizard with a miniature rig that includes a Walkman and a touchscreen stylus.

Again, IP uncovers freaks worth checking out.

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