Because I'm still reeling from the double blow of a weekend that saw the Christina Grimmie shooting at the Plaza Live and the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, I almost rewrote or deleted everything this week that exuded fervor. But my resolve and then my mind caught up and stayed me. So in the shadow of Orlando's darkest hour, the typically charged tone of this column may sometimes feel out of sync with the solemn reality that's exerting itself on us. But this is a stance.
As the very worst of these times descends on our backyard and makes us the focus of the world for a while, look after one another, Orlando. I love you.
Refused are one of those bands with not just legend but the kind of legend that's bloomed considerably after the fact. Now the Swedish hardcore expansionists are finally reunited, carrying some lore-fueled mystique and touring on their first new album in 17 years.
That's some momentous ammo, and they used it to reclaim due glory at their U.S. tour finale (June 9, the Beacham) with a maximum performance showcasing their daredevil tack of delivering combustive punk intensity with big rock flash. Singer Dennis Lyxzén dropped elastic rock-star moves, swung his mic around with the skill of a fly fisherman and walked on the audience's fingertips while the band threw shrapnel.
But this party was already in full gear – no, overdrive – from the jump. And that was single-handedly because of California opener Plague Vendor.
Even against all that big history on display, it was these Young Turks who laid the biggest claim to the future. They share some of the same genre-expanding DNA as Refused, especially between the two frontmen, a couple of jaguars out to prove that a little style won't kill hardcore. Singer Brandon Blaine, who was in the crowd by the second song, delivers full vocal rage like one of the greats but drops it between undeniable slither and swag.
Certainly, Plague Vendor are blessed with one of the best rising frontmen alive. But even that's just gravy on top of a locked-in sound that's extraordinarily concentrated and completely thrilling. Early in their career, they've already struck an electric and fundamentally perfect recipe that serves up total punk fury with pure rock & roll sex.
As impressively equal on stage as in the studio, their collective sonic juggernaut is a hurtling meteor of ravaging intent. There's a reason the tastemakers and scene-watchers are all talking about these guys with such unanimity and fever. They're the real Mac, the total package, one of the most truly exciting bands right now. This time, believe the hype.
Last year, Alexandra Sarton and DiVinci of the illustrious Solillaquists of Sound did an interestingly abstract jazz-inspired performance at Lil Indies. Now, they've officially emerged as Chakra Khan, and – as their recorded product and grand coming out (June 11, the Venue) prove – they're a more realized and crystallized union.
Their music is a futurist ride straddling electronic and soul with trap, jazz and tribal accents. It's an orbital, disembodied trip of sensuality and spirituality. Its suspended, heady hues show an outlook that's very now. But instead of the murk of some of their contemporaries, theirs is a vision rendered with the kind of clarity befitting their degree of craft.
The record release event was also their live debut. With Sarton's classical vocal execution and DiVinci's groundbreaking digital virtuosity, the performance aspect of the show was practically guaranteed. But to really mark the occasion, they added the full pageantry of a four-singer corps from the Sarton-led lady choir of Beautiful Chorus and a company of contemporary dancers from Raskin Dance Studio to help bring the show.
Chakra Khan is probably the best, most truly modern Solillaquists spinoff yet. Both individually and collaboratively, the Solillaquists are restless artists who constantly throw off creative sparks with new experiments popping up all the time, and they're always noteworthy. But Chakra Khan is a fully conceived, next-level project. It was met with the anticipation of a maxed venue and it brought down the house.