In music, in everything, it's been a funereal year. But perhaps the way it concluded here – with two debuts that were inspired, homegrown and possibly recurring – can give us hope for 2017.
Art guerrillas Time Waste Management and left-field dance cabal TMD – two of the city's most forward arts organizations – pooled their energy and vision into Counterweight (Dec. 15, Audubon Park Covenant Church), a show merging ambient sounds, video art and an unconventional setting.
Lifting off was Temperament, a drone project by Glenn Ritchey of noise- metal band Ad Nauseum. His elemental set unfurled like a soundtrack that suddenly makes you feel the mass tectonic creep happening beneath your feet. It was a slow rise that began in the primordial ooze, emerged into a prehistoric mammoth plod and then voyaged out into a storm of disintegration.
Closing was Ubik, a project by Fortune Howl's Bryce Linde. Unlike his main gig, this is an even more abstract concept whose experimental DNA is woven with strains of ambient music and found sound. It's capricious, suspended in wonder and would be right at home on Illuminated Paths.
With due respect to ambient music, however, there's a reason it's called such. So it was a smart stroke by the event conceivers to build in a visual aspect. Sounds like these allow visuals to be not just a backdrop but an integrated and activating force, like it was with the work of Orlando film artist Kate Shults. Her video projections – spanning the entire chancel wall – were the only light in the cavernous space, creating kinetic impressionism that gave optical life to the sonic movements happening.
But the last defining factor was the setting itself: a church. Alive with underground pulse, under the nighttime spell of art like this, it exuded extraordinary presence. Everything culminated, effectively and transportingly.
Seeing people present interesting things is always great, but that's only half the formula for sustainability. So it's just as invigorating and meaningful to see a thirst for it like there was on this well-attended night. With such a compelling premiere, this multidisciplinary affair will be a series worth watching. It's the most ambitious musical art campaign to contend in a long time, next-level DIY that's beyond the garage. If Time Waste Management and TMD can make it a thing, Orlando will have a very fresh new horizon.
Then, in an MVP turn only 48 hours later, Glenn Ritchey launched his own behemoth baby, the Florida Is Loud Fest (Dec. 16-18, Uncle Lou's and Will's Pub).
The festival – the biggest, most notable heavy-music congress in a long time – is a fiercely DIY affair that's proof of the depth of community in the underground. Its focus is on Florida acts, which is a deep enough pool when it comes to metal and punk. But its reach radiated beyond, summoning a notable national in Nashville's Yautja, who've forged alliances through frequent tours through here, and the homecoming of beloved, formerly local hardcore crew Knife Hits on the apex night (Dec. 17, Will's Pub).
I arrived in time to catch only the end of the set by St. Pete's Weltesser, but the damage and infatuation is likely permanent. It doesn't require a half-hour to absorb, process and appreciate a nuclear roar like this. It's one of the most overwhelming detonations of sludge and doom around, and I will not be late for their next Orlando stop.
Collectively, Knife Hits brought some impressive torque and velocity to a bill heavy on the heavy. But, individually, it was nice seeing the faces of these Orlando expats around the bar again.
And Miami duo Holly Hunt reminded again that they own some of the most distilled and monolithic sludge in the game right now.
Hopefully, the clear fellowship that permeated the proceedings and the crowds like the one that packed out Will's Pub will impel the Florida Is Loud Fest to be a recurring thing, because there hasn't been a concentration of talent this big, heavy and good here in years. Good vibes, maximum tonnage, unholy volume.
Brace yourself, loves, TLU will be on break next week.