This week's column is packed full of fresh Florida finds. Of course, that probably means it'll be one of the less-read ones, which is some sad commentary. But these are the kinds of columns most valuable to those of us keeping up and are often the ones I like writing most. So tough titty.
Henrietta is one of those Orlando bands that's gotten decent attention locally and beyond (they got a nice little write-up on Noisey not too long ago). Unfortunately, and for no good reason other than conflicts of schedule preventing me from seeing them perform, none of that notice has been from me. The condition had gotten so conspicuous to me that, early this year, I actually made a mental note to fix it. Well, it finally happened (May 18, Will's Pub) and now I can see why all the waves.
In melody and mood, Henrietta comes from the crestfallen side of '90s and early-'00s indie rock. Frontman Manuel Urdaneta's singing even conjures David Bazan. But for all the bummer emo drag which that springboard might imply, they yield something different and quite nice by coming with large sonic intent. With a sky-swallowing rock sound of ample body and texture, they turn the great big world and all its great big emotions into wind in their sails rather than weight on their chests.
Although their influences are different, touring opener Ivadell from Columbia, South Carolina, also mines the interplay of heavy and soft. Landing in the vicinity of Deftones and Failure, they merge thick guitar brawn and airy melodies into a flight of feelings and force, a thing of more open emotion than heavy guitar bands but more beef than emo bands. It's a well-built sound that manages both heft and beauty. The heart beats a lot more vividly at deafening volume.
In the case of local opener Kinder Than Wolves, duality came in the form of tender shadows and howling winds. An overt study in dynamics, they weave together sighing indie rock, wide post-rock sweeps, and unpredictable jags of guitar and percussion into something that's not the mess it looks on paper. Though they're still formative as an ensemble, they're a sonically enterprising band with an idea that's a little bit unexpected and a little bit bigger. And that's definitely worthy of note.
A block away (Uncle Lou's), Period Bomb went off. Like their visceral moniker promises, the Los Angeles/Miami punk band is a direct and colorful affront to convention. All that normative shit that you inherited by insidious social osmosis – even the boys-club punk orthodoxy – Period Bomb target it right between the eyes. In sound, optics and concept, they are total and exciting provocation. And they do it with maximum flair.
A recent homegrown lineup (May 19, Will's Pub) was topped by noted Orlando indie names Pathos, Pathos and Reverist, who rocked my latest guest showcase at last month's Florida Music Festival. But way down at the bottom of the bill was a nice find in Empire Cinema, who are apparently Tampa as fuck in their New Granada and Microgroove T-shirts. As postpunk revisionists in the bloodline of Interpol, their power comes from tall rock that's all stiff drive, and their mien from throbbing atmosphere. As faithful as they are to that dire aesthetic, they pack a little more thrill than many of their contemporaries. While others are content to haunt the room with gloom and theater, Empire Cinema often flex their capacity for throttle and gust, making them one of the more electrifying acts of their kind.
Also playing were the Knick-Knacks from nearby Melbourne, who could quickly be better with some tightening in both idea and playing. They play a lively blend of garage and '90s alt-rock even though some of their more nuanced undercurrents – like chiming guitars and cooing singing – were some of their most remarkable. If all those stylistic goalposts are making you a little dizzy, then you're seeing my point about focus. But they've got spirit and some solid blocks on which to build.