The lamppost banners are hanging, the Miller Lite-sponsored billboards have popped up all over, fliers for bands you've never heard of are ubiquitous and, naturally, the complaints and recriminations have begun. Ahh, it's time again for the Florida Music Festival.
Put on by the folks at Axis (a magazine and a management/promotion company), FMF is reflective of the organizers' logistical abilities as well as their more mainstream sensibilities. (To wit: headliners Third Eye Blind and Mofro.) The glossy machinations and behind-the-scenes maneuverings of FMF have caused considerable consternation in some quarters of the Orlando music scene (including this one), but with the more indie-oriented Anti-Pop Music Festival (held over six days last October) shaping up to be an annual affair, it's still impressive that a city this size can successfully host two disparate festivals, each of which possesses its own strengths.
With that in mind, most music fans (and smarter musicians) ignore the "music industry" focus of FMF's promotional materials. Unaware of the slighted club owners and the bands who had to pay a "placement premium" for a coveted time slot, festival-goers get to revel in an accessible weekend of live music downtown. For a $10-per-night ticket, most people will see more bands in one weekend than they take in the entire rest of the year. Though a substantial number of those bands will sound mediocre and some will be horrible, a few of them are likely to be memorable.
Need some guidance? Check out these bands:
Spacebar: OK, this isn't actually under the auspices of FMF. In fact, Spacebar's set is part of a two-night, 10-band shindig put on by awesome-despite-the-Creed-thing band manager Jeff Hanson as an "unofficial" alternative to FMF. Involved in FMF since day one, Hanson tellingly has separated himself from the proceedings this year. But, politics aside, Spacebar's super-catchy, guitar-heavy pop is one of the best things going in Orlando, and with the weekend including the last show by Forever Changed, the local debut of Chris Kirkpatrick's new band Nigels 11 and sets by Socialburn and Woodale, here's the perfect excuse to go gawk at the Mako's girls. (11:30 p.m. Friday at Mako's)
AM Conspiracy: Of the many radio-ready heavy rock bands in town, this is the one to watch. (9 p.m. Thursday at The Social)
Radio: Four kids (ages 13-18) from Miami who bring the rock right, this bands was one of a few who actually got signed after playing last year's FMF, having inked a deal with Atlantic. Unfortunately for them, it was the Atlantic Records of now and not the Atlantic Records of 1985, which is where their howling blend of Ratt and AC/DC would have fit much better. (11 p.m. Thursday at The Club at Firestone; 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Social)
Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England: By "New England," it can only be assumed that Mike Dunn means "New England Avenue," since he and his group hail from Winter Park, not Maine. Dunn's super-nasal voice takes some getting used to, but the sturdy, gritty Americana-touched rock he's singing makes it worth the effort. (11:30 p.m. Thursday at AKA Lounge)
Summerbirds in the Cellar: We rant and natter and cajole and do whatever we can to draw listeners to the Summerbirds' sonically rich (and recently muscular) approach. If you haven't seen them yet and don't bother to attend this showcase — the 'Birds will close out a largely excellent bill shared by The Heathens, Band Marino, Dodger and others — then you don't give a shit about good music. (1 a.m. Friday at Back Booth)
Second Shift: Hailing from Atlanta — the city that gets things so wrong they become right again — Second Shift would be an awful bar band if they weren't so damn freakily intense. What you end up with is an indie-friendly rock & roll band that (thankfully) left their irony at home. (11 p.m. Friday at Wall Street II)
Hand to Hand: Hand to Hand is a super-aggressive metal band that continues to improve exponentially, following fellow Orlando metallians Trivium onto Lifeforce Records. They'll be part of a heavy yet diverse lineup with the impressive North American Blackout Massacre and The Punching Contest. (11 p.m. Saturday at The Club at Firestone)
Dear+Glorious Physician: Another excellent Atlanta band makes their way to FMF. D+GP dish out an angular and challenging art-rock attack. (11:30 p.m. Friday at AKA Lounge)
The Rules: If Orlando has an unintentionally post-modern lounge act in the form of Mark & Lorna, we also have an intentionally futuristic lounge act in the form of The Rules. They know how to make the bubbly, lilting moods of post-rock sound interesting. (11 p.m. Thursday at Tanqueray's)
Rory: This Orlando band has a comfortable home on the One Eleven Records roster. The locally based label has figured out a way to inject melodic, emotional arena punk directly into the veins of middle-school kids, who then turn over their lunch money and their undying loyalty. (4:30 p.m. Saturday at Back Booth)
A Fir Ju Well: This Orlando act … oh, wait, they're from Atlanta. Jeez, is there no Georgia Music Festival where these bands can play? Hear propulsive, organic indie rock that might sound better in Welsh, but still sounds good. Unlikely to be signed, they're breaking up in July. (9:30 p.m. Friday at AKA Lounge)
Danny Feedback: Again, we find a fine artist on a fine bill. Danny Feedback refers to himself as a "reclusive guitar addict," and from the quirky, endlessly tweaked sound of his new CD, we believe him. With assorted local goodness ranging from the sweet sighs of The Sugar Oaks, the rockist shine of Gasoline Heart and the full-throttle punk rock of Country Slashers and Hex Tremors, Saturday will be another night to make the Back Booth your base of operations. (8:30 p.m. Saturday at Back Booth)firstname.lastname@example.org