HO99O9, BLACKSTAR, JUNE 9
Ho99o9 – or more precisely, their locally based manager Mike Feinberg – did it again. The hot-shit band's Orlando debut last October at Spacebar was a legit underground sensation and one of the best live events of 2016. Last weekend, the rap-punk juggernaut came back, packing a gunning debut album with the seriously timely title of United States of Horror.
To up the ante, their return was a secret show, a clandestine word-of-mouth affair with nothing officially announced but a date. Then came a post on the Facebook event page three days before the show that linked to a spartan website (blkstr.club) for a club that didn't even exist yet with only a downtown street listed – no number. The only click there linked to an RSVP page on the band's website. Then, on the day of the show, a scan of a hand-drawn flyer with complete details was emailed out.
On site, there was a designated free parking lot – a major bonus in downtown – for those who either flashed the flyer or knew the event password ("deathkult," of course). Once out of the car, signs led to a fence break in the lot where the path to a back entrance was. This, people, is called event-making.
Anytime, anyplace, Ho99o9 are a phenomenon of pure eruption. But given some of the explicit themes on their new album, they've become the sound of artistically armed resistance that meets the current zeitgeist head-on, threat for threat. The cavalry has arrived.
But just as exciting, and no doubt the bigger story locally, is the new venue. Blackstar – yes, a Bowie reference – is the working title of the place previously known as the Brink and most dearly remembered as neighborhood-dive-cum-DIY-venue Hoops Tavern. Though the Hoops structure is part of it, the venue actually expanded into a two-building-and-courtyard compound as the Brink. In terms of space and renovations, that club did a very good job of capitalizing on the potential of the full site and cleaning it up without glamming it out too much.
This new concept is poised to build on that work and, hopefully, do it justice finally. However, club sources tell me that Blackstar is a fluid thing right now, a developing idea that's more in trial mode than actual soft opening. But it's been a long time since something around here has been worth watching this intently. If done right, like this debut, it could be game-changing.
As for Ho99o9, they know how to make a splash, that's for sure. But this show reaffirmed that Mike Feinberg knows how to make a happening. And with some key help from Spacebar's Tommy Mot, it's a flair he's been exercising liberally here on his home turf. Lucky us.
(SANDY) ALEX G, JAPANESE BREAKFAST AND CENDE, THE SOCIAL, JUNE 7
Live, headlining Domino Records artist (Sandy) Alex G validated his well-established reputation as an intriguing wonder. But his openers are bands you should know.
Japanese Breakfast is the vehicle for Michelle Zauner (of Little Big League). Though the new album on Dead Oceans (Soft Sounds From Another Planet) isn't released until July 14, the band's Florida debut gave an ample and lush glimpse of it. Zauner is venturing even further out than she has before, stylistically and sonically – from wispy, sighing pillow-talk pop to gorgeously dreamy and panoramic guitar flights, even on out to sleek electronic dance ("Machinist"). But through the kaleidoscope, a bright-eyed ecstasy permeates it all.
The brightest spark, however, came from the newest act, Cende. They're a Brooklyn band whose moniker – pronounced "send" – is a Descendents reference (lop off the first and last three letters of the name et voilà), and they're loaded with members of very notable rising young bands LVL UP and Porches. But, those weighty associations aside, Cende deserve their own place in the race. Their music, pulsing with pace and melody, is punk-kicked power-pop dialed in to the indie-rock now. Live, they're a finely tuned jet of spirit, wire and sinew. And between their beaming, just-released debut album (#1 Hit Single) and tight, bracing stage presence, this band is both real and ready.