From the juke-joint fire of Eugene Snowden (Wednesdays) to the soul inferno of Kaleigh Baker (Thursdays) to the Phat-N-Jazzy steeze of DJ BMF (Fridays), Lil Indies has an earned reputation for interesting music residencies, one of the best in town as far as bars go.
Gwadcip$, Lil Indies
There's a new – and very now – weekly residency in the Indies mix. On Sundays, the vibe's alive with young Orlando producer Gwadcip$ (Feb. 26), whose work is different and more live than the typical DJ set. Using a sampler, he actively chops, drops and tweaks his own original, sample-based music. It's a left-field union of hip-hop and electronics that works the dynamic between halcyon, disembodied samples and sharp, stuttering beats. His sound is chill, tasteful and future-minded, something you're more likely to see in the electronic-friendly Milk District. It's a fresh look for Lil Indies and it's now every Sunday.
Christian Lopez and Poppsy Cole, Will's Pub
Editing is everything.
Although West Virginia's Christian Lopez (Feb. 26) is young, he packs a broad cross-section of American roots traditions (country, Southern rock, blues, rock & roll). The kid's got skill, craft and heart; he just needs to figure out where to focus it all. Seeing his versatility on stage, it's clear what he's capable of. What's less clear is who he is. Lopez may be able to do it all, but he'd be more than just the sum of his influences with some judicious editing. Still, though his recordings tend to leverage the more obvious aspects of his youth, he actually cuts deeper live with some needed grit, the kind that could hang with some of alt-country's big boys.
Opener Poppsy Cole is a new local band. They, too, could distinguish themselves by ironing out some identity issues. What they do best is wide-swinging, straight-ahead country-rock. If they could exorcise some of the bar-band tendencies that muddle their sound, they'd be on their way. Incorporating some of the sweet pedal steel on their recordings into their live show would be a big and immediate leap in the right direction. But besides that and some added seasoning, they're already sitting on the fundamentals of good songs and singer JB Reed's soul power.
Aoife O'Donovan, Plaza Live
The three-part Women in Song series by the Orlando Philharmonic just concluded before a full house (March 1). The finale featured Aoife O'Donovan (said: "ee-fah"), fitting since it was this very event last month that yielded the revelation that the eminent musician is now local.
Probably best known as frontwoman of acclaimed modern bluegrass band Crooked Still, O'Donovan is highly regarded in literate folk circles with a list of collaborators ranging from Alison Krauss to Yo-Yo Ma and a current appointment in the house band on legendary radio show A Prairie Home Companion. As such, her progressive Americana sound has a folk foundation but with fine sensibility, studious craft and indie credentials (she's on Yep Roc Records).
As O'Donovan herself noted, it was a particularly significant occasion because it was her first local show as a local. Besides her own trio, she also enjoyed the deluxe accompaniment of a four-piece string section from the Phil, a hallmark of this series. And, naturally, her performance benefited from some extra special features like a duet with her husband, Orlando Phil conductor Eric Jacobsen, on cello. But the heart of it all was her rich, supple singing. Neither twee nor ostentatious, it's a voice that's confident in just its grace.
Although threads of American and Celtic folk are manifest, O'Donovan abstracts and re-contextualizes them in a modern singer-songwriter language alongside indie rock textures. With it, she gets personal. Her songs are the soundtrack of an inner world that's introspective but deeply inhabited and examined in detail, like a small house whose walls tell of entire lives lived within.
It was a beautiful and locally apropos way to complete the Women in Song trilogy, proving it one of the most earnest and adventurous audience outreach programs seen in a long time. This was the Phil's first run of the series and, luckily, it was successful enough that they're doing it again in their 2017-2018 season. Details to be announced soon.