Boy, I never thought I'd be housed by anything named Irma. But like all those busted trees and power lines everywhere, so went the show calendars, and so went my material in the aftermath. So, apologies for the unannounced column break last week. But the beat goes on.
SFS SOUTHERN BELLE BALL, WILL'S PUB COMPLEX, SEPT. 17
Of all Southern Fried Sunday's themed events, the recent inaugural Southern Belle Ball spotlighting the ladies of Central Florida roots music was one of its most distinctive. And the food drive aspect for worthy local charity Second Harvest Food Bank was particularly timely considering the storm recovery mode that our community is currently in.
The takeover of the Will's Pub complex featured almost a dozen area acts including the usual notables like Kaleigh Baker, Sarah Purser and Beth McKee's Swamp Sistas Songwriter Circle. But other standouts included Sleepy Giants – a new folk-pop duo spinoff of the Uke-A-Ladies – and Maple Sparrow – the Amy Robbins vehicle whose roots-minded, brass-filled rock & roll was given a good, solid honky-tonk edge by go-to pedal steel player Tommy Cooper.
But the musical storyline of the night was the storied Wynn family. Of special intrigue was Whyte Tygers, the new band of Heather Lee and Jordan Wynn. A decorated act themselves, the wife-husband team have been quiet for years raising a young family out in the country. Now, Whyte Tygers is the new engine for the couple's material that Jordan tells me has the potential to blossom into a group entity of its own. It's a full five-member deal that, live, plays with less gospel delicacy and more soul, groove and size. And for a unit that's barely a thing yet, they were a very solid ensemble and probably the most concentrated act I saw all night.
More than anything, though, it was a wonder to hear the power and grace of Heather's voice live again. Though it's been a long time since she's been able to play regularly, her soul still beams with the true fire and light of music. And it showed on stage, where she performed like a boss. The spark also reflected in guitarist Jordan, making for a collective performance that belied the fact that they've been off the circuit for years. They even sounded more salient and relevant than most of their current, younger peers in the area. If they could become more of a presence, these certified veterans would once again give the scene some fresh infusion.
Also featured was Hannah Harber, yet another, newer addition to the Wynn clan via marriage to local Southern-rock pillar Thomas Wynn. She, too, went maximum onstage with the Lionhearts, her own band of pros that included her husband on drums, local guitar legend Brian Chodorcoff, and lush organs. And because the opportunity was so ripe, Harber brought Heather and Jordan onstage at one point to make it a family blowout.
There's no more perfect note with which to sum up the night because family – be it the actual, musical or community kind – is precisely what Southern Fried Sunday is all about. And the Southern Belle Ball is an event that, if allowed to become a tradition, could become an essential Orlando institution.
DEAF POETS AND THE WILDTONES, 64 NORTH, SEPT. 18
Blowing into town like a tropical storm in a bottle to kick off a tour of the Eastern U.S. and Canada, Miami duo Deaf Poets hit big despite being a small band. They stand tall in the proud two-piece band tradition but operate on the whopping maximum end of the spectrum. With a raw attack that packs big lust and intent, they crank hard like a garage-built Zeppelin. Even for a band twice their size, this would be some pretty huge rock & roll.
The drum throne for local opener the Wildtones has lately become a revolving door. Current fill-in and local polymath Simon Palombi (of the Woolly Bushmen), however, provides some consistency, stability and snap that they never quite had before but with enough understanding of their primal soul to not buff the personality out of it.