DEATH VALLEY GIRLS AND SOAPBOX SOLILOQUY, AUG. 29
In what is turning out to be a banner year for them, Orlando promoter upstarts Ugly Orange – who first distinguished themselves by illuminating worthy young Florida talent and expanding the city's music venue landscape – just continue to keep upping their booking game. Their latest concert brought noteworthy Burger Records group Death Valley Girls from Los Angeles.
Speedballing the slag of garage, punk and rock & roll into a death-psych drug party, this band does it with danger and style. They're the pulpy quintessence of vintage West Coast underbelly, evoking black-and-white images of cults, motorcycle gangs and Russ Meyer flicks. But more than just an act, Death Valley Girls rock with intent and mania. Beyond their noir-glam kitsch, they give a feral performance and have an impressively tall live sound pulsing with nervous organs. Still, as alluring as all that quivering, spooked atmosphere is, the real knives come out when frontwoman Bonnie Bloomgarden picks up a guitar to rip pure black-leather sleaze.
Opening was Soapbox Soliloquy, a pretty stunning discovery from our sister scene over in the Tampa Bay area. Although the psychedelic songs roam freely on record with an Ariel Pink-like latitude, this vehicle for young frontwoman Jasmine Deja got focused and heavy on stage. Live, she and her band rolled out big, thick, sweltering psych-rock that played like a billowing dual-guitar vortex. Trading leads liberally and attacking with abandon, Deja and second guitarist Drew Giordano (frontman of also-good St. Pete psych-rock band Sonic Graffiti, who was recognizable even in a floral dress) were an onslaught of diving effects and searing acid burnouts. It's a hard-rocking trip that's all dark rapture and night sweats. And they're one of the best psych bands seen around here in a while.
DIEALPS!, KINDER THAN WOLVES, EXPERT TIMING AND WOOLBRIGHT, THE FALCON, AUG. 27
Pairing locals and other in-state talent, this recent bill was a strong showcase of current Florida indie rock. Among the two good locals was Expert Timing, a band whose virtues I've extolled recently and who are such a joy that you'd have to be one seriously miserable malcontent to not be taken by them.
The other was Kinder Than Wolves. Moody, intricate and layered, their thoughtful indie rock is like dreampop reimagined for a new generation. With an arrangement of drums and dual guitars, they weave a lot of texture for just a trio. Together, it renders a lovely world that's forever twilit and suspended in reverie.
The imported Florida contemporaries included South Florida's Woolbright, who play an angular, restless brand of emo that buoys the heartbleed with some nice math dynamics. By set's end, they even went for some big post-rock size.
On paper, probably the most eminent band was Tampa's DieAlps!, who arrived on the fresh release of their debut full-length album Our City. Some records are a defining point in a band's life. And, though still quite young in their creative arc with only two releases under their belt so far, this new album is unquestionably the first lightning-bolt moment for DieAlps!. Our City isn't just an expansion of sound but a crystallization of aesthetic. With it, they've become probably the most exciting and upward act on top Florida indie label New Granada Records right now.
The album is radiantly cast in the golden rays of '90s melodic indie rock, with echoes of bands like Teenage Fanclub (and, by extension, Yuck), Catherine Wheel, Bettie Serveert and early Radiohead but without being in hock to any one in particular. Most fundamentally, however, their current direction derives its spark and vigor from the greater, more balanced chemistry within the creative core of wife-husband team Connie and Frank Calcaterra. And, here, DieAlps! played like a big, unified front. This is the sound of a band now firing on all pistons.
It was, in all, one of the most loaded bills to happen at the small art bar in some time, and the turnout reflected it.