The 17th annual Florida Music Festival is now in the books. For my part, maximum credit goes to all the acts that played the TLU showcase – Saskatchewan, the Welzeins, Zoya Zafar and PolyKarp – and the fest organizers, who went all out to let me have Sales headline.
Revelations from my showcase include the usually solo acts of Zoya Zafar and PolyKarp coming big for the occasion with additional accompaniment. Zafar, in particular, showed a tantalizing glimpse of what her gorgeous music could be with a band. And Saskatchewan, who delivered the night's best performance, are showing some new looks with pivots toward a stately jangle-pop direction. As this performance affirmed, it's a beautiful and perfect new way to angle their perpetual dream.
On the macro, adding WPRK to the list of stage curators was smart. Having scene-mover Swamburger curate a stage again this year was a good idea. But him expanding it even further beyond his native hip-hop to include bands like Pathos, Pathos and Room Full of Strangers was genius.
DIET CIG WITH DADDY ISSUES, WILL'S PUB, APRIL 18
Diet Cig are an emerging New York band that first launched on respectable boutique label Father/Daughter Records (who also released the last album by Orlando's own Saskatchewan) and just now stepped out with their first full-length (Swear I'm Good at This) on esteemed indie powerhouse Frenchkiss Records. The duo's music is the sound of youthful earnestness delivered with directness and abandon. Even if you think you can feel it in their music, you don't really know shit until you see them live because their light is a thousand times more blinding in person, like Matt and Kim's little punk cousins.
That may all sound a little like death by giddiness, but it's hard to argue with something so pure, especially when it's delivered with this much verve and scrap. Frontwoman Alex Luciano is just an unstoppable supernova of world-changing will who turns sweetness into empowerment. Leveraging vulnerability into power by pouring their hearts out alongside ear-to-ear smiles and high kicks (!), Diet Cig beam the kind of fresh-faced, wide-eyed optimism that's immaculate proof that we're not all totally fucked. Who couldn't use a big ol' shot of that right now?
Opening were tourmates Daddy Issues, a Nashville band on Infinity Cat Recordings, the label run by JEFF the Brotherhood. The trio kick out grunge-pop that drives good, expressive melodies with a lot of horses under the hood. The era-specific influences are many – the grunge textures, the '90s indie-rock melodics – but Daddy Issues' rendition and blend are less overtly slavish and more reinterpreted anew than their many contemporaries. And that makes these ladies a very promising act. Though not quite as finished as their headlining billmates, Daddy Issues' music could've stolen the night were it not for Diet Cig's practically peerless incandescence.
END OF PIPE WITH BOYLECTRIC, UNCLE LOU'S, APRIL 21
El Diáspora is a new Orlando promoter doing something interesting and probably necessary: showcasing Latin punk. When you consider the sizable populations in both the punk and Latin communities of our area, the intersection is natural and has potential for prime synergy.
The latest event was headlined by Brazilian band End of Pipe. Though they're from a hemisphere away, their soulfully rugged music, all anthem and catharsis, is actually more evocative of a sound rooted only an hour and a half north of here in Gainesville – specifically, Hot Water Music. It's as solid a foundation to start from as they come, and End of Pipe's take on the style is sturdy and reliably hits its marks.
Opening was Orlando band Boylectric, who deal in a slightly amorphous post-punk sound that's hard-driving and diverse with some good influences, but could use some sharpening and experience.
More than any of the individual bands, though, El Diáspora itself is the bigger story. If it can get a foothold in the scene, it could be a welcome cultural force as a punk-rock ambassador program, a thing that probably only Punching Babies' annual Foreign Dissent showcase was doing here consistently until now. That's something worth getting behind.