Slowly but surely, I'm coming to the realization that the DIY ethos of the punk-rock revolution and the at-home production of electronic music are colliding with all this world-wild-interweb technology in an ever-tightening noose of insular clusterfucking, the end result of which will be one trillion bands with exactly one fan each. To wit: www.myspace.com, which is the most recent in a long line of "social networking" sites that, in this particular case, is being used by bands to get their music out.
Conceptually, MySpace is a winner, since it merges the you-like-this-so-you-might-like-me vibe of Friendster with the if-you-upload-it-they-will-come ethic of MP3.com. In other words, not only is it wide-open with virtually no filtering process (the wet dream of Internet conceptualists), but it also utilizes some primitive tools to allow bands to hook up with potential fans through keywords, networks of "friends," etc. Accordingly, approximately one trillion bands have signed up for it, and the result is a heaving mass of undistinguishable mediocrity.
Oh wait, maybe that mediocrity is just the Orlando bands on MySpace. You see, I figured that since Orlando is home to a couple of dozen bands who desire nothing more than to network, touch base and all that shit (you know, the stuff that gets you "signed"), I thought The City Beautiful would be well-represented on My-Space. Boy, was I wrong. There weren't a couple of dozen bands on the site; there were more like 30 dozen Orlando bands there. (And by "Orlando," I'm being somewhat conservative; I restricted the search to within 20 miles of the 32801 ZIP code.)
Yeah, 360-plus bands from my town, of which I recognized about 60, which means I've seen them or, at the very least, they've had their shows listed in the paper. You starting to get the picture here? You think those 300 other bands are "edgy" or "out of the mainstream" or some such thing? Nope. They all fall neatly into exactly one category: Completely Amateur/Likely Still in Parents' Garage. Sure, there are the requisite Boring Singer/Songwriter, Wannabe TransCon Star and One of a Billion Emo Bands subcategories, but it's really sad to see the way so many bands are skipping previously required steps like learning songwriting and playing live shows that aren't open mics or high school talent shows. Sadder still, to out-of-towners looking in, Orlando looks really overpopulated with way-below-average bands.
And what of the five dozen "known" acts? Sadly, the majority of them don't do much to bolster our reputation. A few of Orlando's more adventurous bands like Vostok are scattered here and there along with struggling pop bands like The Adorables and Greater Grey and regular crowd-pleasers like Supervillains and O.F. Beatdown. Occasionally, you learn something: Digging around the MySpace pages, I was pleased to discover that the dearly departed Motion Picture Massacre is back in action. And, if it were just bands like Motion Picture Massacre and Supervillains representing O-Town to the world, that would be okay with me. But those bands are in the vast minority on MySpace.
No, my friends, if you judge Orlando solely by MySpace stats, you'd think that the most popular band in town, the one most indicative of what Orlando is all about, the band we residents eagerly await every performance by ... you'd think that band was Atomic Tangerine. Yes, with their 8,981 plays and 11,818 fans, the astoundingly mediocre pop-rock pap Atomic Tangerine plays (poorly) is statistically head and shoulders above every other Orlando band on MySpace. (Supervillains, undoubtedly one of this city's most beloved bands, have only 330 plays and 95 fans.)
Which tells me exactly one thing: Atomic Tangerine is way more worried about "making it" than they are about making good music (or coming up with a nonretarded band name). And, in a funny way, perhaps that does correctly represent a certain segment of Orlando's scene. But sadly, it also turns a lot of people off.
Given the direct band-to-fan nature of MySpace's networking tools, it's more than likely that you'll be able to come across a band you like there and, if you're a band, you'll more than likely come across some people who like you. But if like Atomic Tangerine you allow MySpace to be your only web presence and content yourself with those ridiculously high numbers of "fans," you're cutting yourself off from the most essential part of being a band: getting out and playing and actually earning your reputation in front of crowds. Of course, I could just be old-fashioned that way.
Correction: At the time of writing this column, Atomic Tangerine's website was redirected to their MySpace.com site. Since then, the band has established a new homepage, www.atomictangerine.com, that is separate from their MySpace home. More importantly, however, it turns out that the reason the band has not been playing live shows is due to the fact that one of the members has been hospitalized with Hodgkins' Lymphoma. Although I'll still insist that AT's music is less-than-wonderful, I am deeply apologetic for implying that a band dealing with such difficult issues is somehow lazy or stupid. In fact, given the problems the band has had, their success on MySpace is proof that the site is useful in helping bands maintain a presence when live shows aren't possible. Again, I apologize and want to assure all readers that I was totally unaware of the situation and in no way meant to make fun of the suffering the band was going through.
SPEAKING OF RETARDED BAND NAMES
I recently ran across an online contest that, unfortunately, has ended. (The deadline for entries was Oct. 1.) However, I was amused by the fact that the new band started by Brett Hestla (ex-Virgos Merlot), Will Hunt (Skrape), Corey Lowery (ex-Stereomud, Stuck Mojo), Troy McLawhorn (ex-Double Drive) and Clint Lowery (Sevendust) is so creatively bankrupt that ... wait for it ... they want you to come up with their new band name. I'll say it again: They couldn't come up with a band name on their own, so they had a contest, in which the prize was an autographed copy of said unnamed band's yet-to-be-released CD. Now, I haven't heard this band (who has? And if you did, are you sure?) and I'm sure they're gonna be just fine in a heavy-radio-rock kinda way, but seriously, even they've got to realize how ridiculous this appears.
A LITTLE MORE TO THE STORY
So, I got this press release in my e-mail inbox on Sept. 20 from the folks at Fighting Records, announcing the official debut of the Orlando label as home to Bloom, Whole Wheat Bread, Grand Buffet and Astronautilus. Lo and behold, soon after there's Jim Abbott's Sept. 24 column in the Orlando Sentinel headlined "Orlando is indie trendy." Cool, I thought, he's picked up on the fact that there's more to the Orlando scene than Alter Bridge. As I read the column, though, much of it seemed ... familiar. By "familiar," I mean quite a lot of it was lifted verbatim from the press release, which is lame, but not surprising. But what was truly disappointing was that the column made it seem like Fighting (and Social Recordings, which was profiled the previous week) were the only label games in town.
This made me question the recent releases I'd received from One Eleven Records (This Day & Age), Pure Cash Entertainment (Fidel Cashflow), ROA Records (Jessica Dye) and others. And what about the label the guys over at Axis magazine are putting together? What about the super-secret, hush-hush label project being undertaken by a big-time local manager? (I can tell you more about that later, but trust me, I'm surprised Mr. Abbott didn't mention it ... oh, wait, they didn't send out a press release yet.) Were these not local? Did 407 area codes and 328XX ZIP codes not make them worthy of mention?
As I thought these things, I got pissed off. Not at Jim Abbott for being a press release-regurgitating "critic" (that, I've come to expect), but at myself for not informing the readers of the Weekly about this stuff. Since I started this job two years ago, I've felt quite overwhelmed with the amount of local material (and, honestly, with the amount of bad local material) and wanted to make sure I was only highlighting the best.
That's meant that a lot of respectable (if average) stuff has been passed over. And, truthfully, these respectable efforts being put forth by many local musicians and the fans who put their money behind these releases (and not just the folks at Social Recordings and Fighting Records) are worth noting. Though the music may not always be interesting (or even good), these folks are trying and they should be applauded for attempting to give artists professional representations. But no, that still doesn't mean Atomic Tangerine is any good.
FALLING TO PIECES
I saw a band called No Choice at Screamers the other night on a bill with New Mexican Disaster Squad and Elephant Gun. I came expecting hardcore, and I got hardcore, but jeez, I don't think I've ever seen a hardcore band as sloppy and reckless as No Choice. The band's 15-minute set was a falling-down, scream-at-the-audience mess and it was one of the best punk rock shows I've seen all year. Hell, it may have been the only truly punk-rock show I've seen all year.
Carl Wayne, onetime vocalist for '60s prog-popsters The Move, died on Aug. 31. Although The Move is probably best known for yielding Electric Light Orchestra and Roy Wood's Wizzard, anyone who's heard the band knows they were quite worthy on their own merits. Their heavy, proto-symphonic sound was lightened by intensely infectious melodies, and tunes like "Blackberry Way" and the ridiculously catchy "Fire Brigade" were made that much better by Wayne's voice. No, he wasn't from Orlando, but I felt I had to mention it since nobody else did.
Something else I was surprised didn't get much attention was the fact that September 2004 marked the 25th anniversary of the release of "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang. You know, the song that basically kickstarted rap music as a bankable genre? Funny, you'd think that such a true musical landmark might have been noted in the media. Oh well.