People have been talking quite a bit about Will's Pub lately and frankly, it's been for the wrong reason. Will's will be closing sometime, but so will most of the other businesses in this town. (Except Disney; they'll be selling turkey legs to cockroaches while the snows of a nuclear winter blanket Space Mountain.) Yes, the demolition plans have been approved and at some point, those walls will come down. At that moment an ungodly stench the sweat of hundreds of struggling bands, the yellowed thickness of millions of smoked cigarettes and, of course, the backwash found at the bottom of trillions of beer bottles will escape like so many ghosts from the house in Poltergeist.
But children, hold back your tears, for that moment is not yet nigh. Nobody including Will himself knows when the place will close and, truth be told, he's a little sick of being asked about it. I understand completely. The big news at Will's isn't its imminent (if nebulous) demise, but rather the fact that the club is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. That, my friends, is a long time for any entrepreneurial endeavor and a virtual eternity for a rock club to remain in business.
Furthermore, Will's has stayed in business for 10 years as a place devoted to exactly two things: good bands and too much beer. There's no accurate way (beyond the utterly meaningless "good") to describe the type of acts that have frequented Will's, a haven for local bands and touring acts that are decidedly out of the mainstream. Yes, there have been many bad shows: bands so horrible that Will had to leave his own bar, hardcore crowds so rude and disrespectful that everyone present over the age of 16 had to question exactly what punk rock was about, "experimental" musicians who had yet to learn that "unlistenable" doesn't equal "complex." Hell, The Speaking Canaries played there.
But those nights have been far outnumbered by the legions of quality musicians that have trod the boards on that tiny stage. Although I've only been in town for three years, the sheer diversity of bands in the venue surpasses that of most clubs around the country; few other places have built reputations as must-plays for acts as diverse as Sam Rivers, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and Bob Log III. Hip-hop at a rock club? Spoken word? Seriously. Go anywhere else in this land of ours and tell your friends that Orlando has a club like this and they won't believe you. And that's before you start talking about how much fun it is to drink there.
While the other main music venues in town are known for putting on professional shows by big-name (and often not so big-name) touring acts and big-drawing local acts, there's simply no place in town like Will's. It's as much a neighborhood bar complete with all the scary characters you had no idea lived so close to you as it is a music venue, and that feeling of familiarity is something that sets it apart. So come on down Saturday, Sept. 10, and celebrate a decade of excellence; Will is pulling out all the stops with an outdoor stage in the afternoon (featuring Lucero, The Legendary J.C.'s, Bughead and others) and an indoor show that night (with Artimus Pyledriver, Dove, Bad Bear and more). But whatever you do, don't ask him stupid questions about the bar closing. It won't be that type of party.
Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of phone calls and e-mails about the item in this column three weeks ago about a large new club opening downtown. I had to tell everyone that I wasn't being coy by withholding information; it was simply a case of not being able to reliably confirm more details. Ironically, one reader thought I had stumbled onto his plans for a mega-venue. But no, the venture he's got planned for a mid-2006 opening "in or near downtown Orlando" is something totally different. For one thing, it'll be bigger (holding 1,500-3,000 people) and, will have a restaurant and a brewery attached to it.
HOW 'BOUT A CAGE MATCH?
I'm getting a little tired of writing about all these Battle of the Bands events, but they keep happening and maybe, if I keep pointing out how commonplace these things are, bands might figure out that winning one isn't the most special thing in the world. (And, maybe, promoters will put a little more legwork into choosing which bands to book.) I was asked to be a judge at the upcoming Zippo Hot Tour, but I couldn't, since I'm gonna be out of the country. (Darn!) Ten cities are hosting regional finals, and the good ol' AKA Lounge will be the site for Orlando's showdown, featuring eight area bands (Audiology, Better Than Average, Black As Day, Fathom, Last Winter, Lucid Fly, Power Movement Project, Pulse Nein) on four nights (Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29). They'll be competing for the attention of Capitol Records execs and the chance to move on to the national finals and win a $100,000 prize package and an opening slot on a national tour. All good things, sure, but nowhere near as cool as the prize package at the "Eklectra Style" battle of the bands at Underground Bluz-Kirkman on Tuesday, Sept. 13. The winner of this contest will get $500 cash (!) and a trophy (!!) as well as the "opportunity to play with The Piper on a National and International Tour including Singapore, China and Hong Kong." No, I don't know who The Piper is either, but his website is all about band-battles and "Piper's Pics" TV talent show, so touring with him must mean victory.