Cover bands are usually good or bad. But great? The derivative nature of the idea all but precludes such a laurel. Stereolad (May 26, the Social), however, may be the coolest cover-band concept ever.
Stereolad is Sacramento alternative dance-rock band !!! opening for themselves as a Stereolab tribute band, in a take that packs both fidelity and humor. Even with more volume and horsepower, they were fairly faithful to the motorik drive and organ vibes of the source material. Frontman Nic Offer lived the gimmick far enough to go drag in a requisitely coquettish dress and adopt a bad French accent, like maybe Laetitia Sadier with more rockist tendencies and hairier legs. Well, something like that. Inventive and uproarious, Stereolad's opening set actually took the room all the way from zero to 60. Hell, when have Stereolab themselves ever done that?
Then !!! took the stage and shot the club to the moon with a glitter bomb of funk, house and rock. Few can maintain such a forward artistic gaze while keeping it as straight funky as this outfit. What makes !!! so exceptional as a band – and especially a live act – is that they're brainy but never at the cost of booty-bumping fun.
But it is unquestionably the Pied Piper power of Offer's irrepressible Jagger-esque presence that leads the party and turns the whole house into a rubbery sea of lost inhibition. From the stage to the floor, everyone was all out with zero self-consciousness. It was about as pure a vibe as it gets, the kind of total dance fever seen more in da club than at live concerts.
Their genius, however, is that they take the primal idea of unchained, goofy fun and push it to transcendence. A fan actually walked up to Offer mid-song just to embrace him. That's some cool shit. And that's why !!! is the best disco band alive.
False Punk are always worth the price of admission. In terms of who the city's most electrifying punk band is right now, they're still kings of the mountain with no credible threat on the horizon. It's not because there aren't enough legit contenders – there are – it's just that they're that good. But with a bill padded with quality and variety, the homecoming show (May 22, Uncle Lou's) for their East Coast tour was one of those events whose turnout and energy reassure me that all will be OK with the world.
It's been a while since I've checked in on surf traditionalists Thee Wilt Chamberlain and, in that time, they've perfected their craft. By now, they've really got their thing down, with patina and atmosphere so complete and enveloping that they make stepping into Uncle Lou's feel like a scene from a Tarantino film. Thee Wilt Chamberlain may be the only pure surf-rock band in Orlando, but it would take a seriously exceptional practitioner to topple their reign as the best.
But it took Jade Tree band Socialite all of about 15 seconds to peel the lid off the joint. The beautifully blared and elemental hardcore of this Philadelphia crew isn't trying to expand the form outward, they're distilling it back to its essence. In tapping that pure marrow, Socialite are one of those bands that reaffirm the fundamental eternity of punk rock rather than just perpetuate its fashion. So, naturally, things got crazy. Bodies flew, ceiling tiles got knocked out, it was live.
Still, you can't undersell invention, especially when you're face-to-face with an act like intensely captivating Fort Lauderdale band Ian Iachimoe. As a headlong duo that kicks with the twin barrels of noise and punk, the Lightning Bolt comparison is facile but appropriate. While Lightning Bolt rides the frenzy, however, the bass-and-drums assault of Ian Iachimoe gets heavy and hairy like a sludgy, fuzz-thick, bottom-heavy cousin that's every shred as thrilling as it looks on paper. With the cumulative impact of dynamics, power and that pulse-jacking torque so signature of duos, Ian Iachimoe show the real mileage of a two-piece when you put some brains and guts into it.