Solid voting on the Best of Orlando music categories, guys. Popular tastes don't always align with critical ones, so the fact that they did so much this year speaks to the irrefutable quality of the current class of native music.
But a bit of regrettable news to start with this week: Spacebar is officially dead. Scene heads have known that it's been iced as a venue for a while now, but owner Tommy Mot conclusively announced its end on Facebook late last week. The space will, however, continue as Phas3, a shop for local clothing brands. Cry not for Mot, though; the longtime local culturemaker has some other, potentially bigger, stuff cooking. Stay tuned.
JADE JACKSON, HOUSE OF BLUES, AUG. 25
Right there in the small print of the touring bill of venerated SoCal punks Social Distortion is a possible rising star. Mike Ness protégé Jade Jackson is on her first national tour and she's validating the hope of her excellent debut album on Anti Records, this year's Gilded.
A feminine idealization of what Ness has fashioned himself into over the years, this young artist, too, is a tough-and-tender American roots revivalist. She's a California girl but definitely not the blonde beach bunny cliché. Instead, Jackson is a black-clad, boot-kicking pistol. Like a more overtly country Kathleen Edwards, she's a force of twang and elegance. Live, that power was even more up-front with her world-challenging stance and rock band setup.
While her Ness-produced album is a rich and sonorous affair, lush with glorious steel guitar, her stage show is a leaner, sinewed ride. But either way, Jade Jackson is a trinity of classic sounds, youthful radiance and legit guts who belongs in the vanguard of today's bright young Americana class alongside leading lights like Nikki Lane and Lydia Loveless.
Having a figure like Mike Ness – who's invested enough in Jackson to come out onstage himself to reinforce her thanks to the crowd for their reception – as your collaborator, champion and mentor is one hell of an auspicious start, to be sure. But the promise resides wholly in her. And so far, her dawn is bright and her horizon looks unbound.
HOWLING MIDNIGHT, THE LUDES AND BUBBLE BOYS, WILL'S PUB, AUG. 25
Howling Midnight – the city's best, most commanding two-piece band right now – just celebrated the release of their new album, 10X15. One of the best local releases this year, it's a meaty slab of lean blues-rock muscle, with garage-cranked power that's head-on, unequivocal and pure. More indebted to bands like Queens of the Stone Age than the White Stripes, this bludgeoning guitar-and-drums duo is a heavy machine thick in riff and groove. And just so you know what kind of stuff we're talking about here, this new record packs a nice MC5 cover on it.
Hard Orlando rockers the Ludes have been keeping it fresh lately by performing entire tribute sets like they did for X when opening for Shonen Knife back in May. For this one, they did a sort of tribute to themselves – or at least frontman Jeff Nolan – by performing as I Love You, the '90s band that Nolan was in that actually landed on Geffen Records despite being somewhat buried by history. Though classic-leaning, the band was cut from a heavy rock cloth that should've fared better in the grunge era than it did. Regardless, this exclusive performance was a deep-diving trip down a now-obscure but notable rabbit hole of Orlando music history.
Very much now, however, are Bubble Boys, a new local garage-punk band whose profile has been conspicuously rising of late. They threw sparks almost as soon as they first emerged on the scene but, as a young band, looseness would sometimes dog them. Recently, though, they've been showing enough live improvement to now leave only the heat of big promise. What distinguishes them is that they're a punk band that can really rock & roll, generously streaking their hot sound with '60 tear and '70s flair. Most critically, they're one of those bands that's got that thing, and it's the kind of flare that could be bright enough to attract some outside notice.