Music » This Little Underground

Poptone resurrect the Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets/Bauhaus trinity in unexpected ways; Bad Balloon on the rise with debut of Vacancy




There's little dignity in being a tribute act, even if – or maybe especially if – it's yourself you're playing. But when your two leading figures were members of not one but three legendary post-punk bands, well, the calculation changes a bit. Such is the case for Poptone, a new band anchored by hallowed veterans Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins, big names in their own right as original members of Bauhaus, Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail (and, in Ash's case, a noted solo artist). That's about as deep an inkwell to draw from as they come. Peter Hook has been showing the glory of live underground nostalgia with the oeuvre of two canonical acts at his disposal, so the chance to see three in one night is just unmissable.

When the primary stage lighting of a band in 2017 is black light, you know they embody the zeitgeist of yore. As for the execution, however, Poptone played with fidelity and fitness, enough to put to rest any concerns of washed-up geezery. In fact, there was, impressively, no sign of rust on either of the two OGs.

The set list was very lean on Bauhaus material, which is in a way courageous and commendable. Even more laudable, their one dip into that catalog was "Slice of Life," an unexpected selection that's both inspired and overlooked. Even though the band were largely faithful to the recordings, there were occasional renditions that brought things back to beautiful basics, like that sexy-ass rendition of Love and Rockets' "No Big Deal" that traded in the studio gloss for some beautiful Jesus and Mary Chain crank.

Beyond their legacy stature and the many golden hits under their belt, though, it was interesting to see the most obscure work of all – Tones on Tail – be given most of the night's spotlight. That stroke made this concert a rare live experience, one that reminded me how strange some of that material was. No typical greatest hits tour, this was a true cult feast, which is so perfectly, classically alternative.


Having just started booking shows at Will's Pub this past summer, Bad Balloon – the working moniker of local artist Josiah Wess – is the newest name to watch on the city's promoter landscape. Of all the usually indie-minded Bad Balloon productions seen so far, this latest was a pronounced step into the heavy, a big one.

About that, while heavy music is in a current high tide, one stripe that sadly isn't enjoying an especially huge spike is noise rock. Although relatively small, there is a young crop, and it's studded with some real warheads from our native Southeast like Whores and Florida bands like Wrong and Meatwound. To that list, go ahead and add new act Vacancy, an impressive triad of brutes from the Tampa area. In their Orlando debut, they landed like a grenade with economy, volume and fury. Between their filthy, mighty grooves and skinning vocals, there's no frill, no fuss, only what's essential to pulp you. Sold.

Of the surrounding all-local support, a particularly gripping performance was delivered by Uh, an Orlando band that's been around for a few years but not in an especially visible way. Too bad, because they lay down post-metal with heavy atmosphere that's gloomy, deep and beautiful, and just as expressive as some of the most cinematic bands of the genre. But what makes them total is that when they rise, they are a deafening megalith. It's engulfing and exceptional enough to wonder why this project isn't more of a primary concern.

Though only months into the booking game, Bad Balloon is already showing the kind of young spark that Ugly Orange has, with possibly even more range if shows like this are any indication. There's no better omen for the addition of Wess to the scene than introducing a fresh new killer like Vacancy. And if Bad Balloon becomes a name to look to for new Florida talent discovery, it will be a player. [email protected]

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected].

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.