SINKANE AND ERIC SLICK, THE SOCIAL, APRIL 23
This promising bill is the case of a couple of seasoned and well-credentialed ensemble guys who are ready to emerge on their own as solo artists. And both were making Orlando debuts.
Sinkane, the vehicle for New York-based musician Ahmed Gallab (just added to this year's lineup for the ever-dope Afropunk Festival), have actually been at it for quite a while. Besides releasing as Sinkane since 2007, Gallab is the leader of the star-studded William Onyeabor tribute act the Atomic Bomb! Band and has been a session player for indie heavyweights like Of Montreal, Yeasayer and Caribou. But the latest Sinkane album, Life and Livin' It, is an extraordinary sharpening of vision and one of this year's best releases.
Sinkane's music has long been a wildly pan-genre thing. But lately, they're dialed in to a deep, rich brew of Afrobeat, soul, blues, desert blues, funk, psych and pop. Though that still sounds like a lot, it's all synthesized so well and executed with such élan that Sinkane are a seamless machine of velvet and groove. On stage, Gallab's lush six-piece ensemble – all of whom contributed vocals – took creamy '70s language and an unmistakably African pulse and gave it all a modern indie thrust that had the room moving and swooning by set's end. If any work could break Sinkane to the next level, Life and Livin' It is it.
The claim to fame for opener Eric Slick is as a member of Dr. Dog. He, however, is now stepping to the fore for himself with a debut solo LP (Palisades) that was released just two days before this show. From both that album and this performance, it's clear that the drummer's own musical dreams come in full color and dimension. The fact that it all bears little resemblance to Dr. Dog shouldn't be a concern to anyone but hippies. Far less loopy than that band, Slick's own music is interesting and prismatic. His disarming blend of musing indie rock and psych-pop camouflages the onset of frequent sonic swells of texture and muscle, an aspect that was punctuated by a strong, affable show by his very finished live band. With a start like this, the guy usually behind the kit is already making a strong case for leading man.
THE HOWLIN' BROTHERS WITH THE PRESTAGE BROTHERS, WILL'S PUB, APRIL 25
Touring headliner the Howlin' Brothers are an old-time string band from Nashville that share more ancestry with the punker side of the young folk revivalist scene that rocks the dives than those cutesy, pop-gentrified preps selling out the big rooms. As such, they aren't the most finished thing around, but they keep the soul, grit and truth in the tradition.
Opening were the Prestage Brothers, actual brothers from South Florida with lots of local ties and cred. Musically, I know the siblings pretty well individually. Jon, a former Orlando scene fixture, ran in certified circles for years in local bands like So Help Me Rifle and Basements of Florida. And Ben is one of Florida's most eminent, and simply best, one-man bands and bluesmen. But of what they do together, I know not even a note. It's nothing if not an intriguing prospect, though.
Ben was already a high-functioning one-man band on his own. The Prestage Brothers' arrangement, however, takes the ingenuity and economy of that full-body, multi-tasking setup, then doubles and harmonizes it. Ben handles a guitar and foot drums like usual, but now Jon rides shotgun handling six-string bass, cymbals on foot and backing vocals. Between them, they man a full drum kit with just their feet. It's like a symphonic version of the one-man band aesthetic, and truly something to behold.
If you're one of the many Ben Prestage fans, then the Prestage Brothers will be like Christmas for you. That signature swamp blues sound is as in effect as it ever was, only fleshed out with some country and soul. But sonically, it's a deluxe expansion of that honored, porch-shaking vision – faithful but more – that brought this house down. They'll be releasing their new album soon, so be on the look.