Music » This Little Underground

The dazzling debut of Perfume Genius, and Ugly Orange lands first sellout with Mild High Club

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PERFUME GENIUS AND DEAREST, THE SOCIAL, OCT. 16

Though not part of the official festivities, there is no more perfect show to follow gay pride weekend than Matador Records mainstay Perfume Genius. If there's a finer way to extend the style, artistry and beauty of the city's most out weekend of the year than to bask in the sun of the visionary Mike Hadreas live, I cannot conceive it.

With stage craft that more befits a play than a concert, this was the Orlando debut of one of today's most dazzling performers. A frontman of staggering magnetism who exudes balletic modernism, Hadreas owns the spotlight with slinky, liquid moves that blend grace and grind. It's no accident that his backup band were clustered all the way out on the wings of the stage, giving him maximum room to weave his spell. He's a queer icon, but one whose power of expression is of a magnitude that passes objective and universal muster with blazing colors.

Musically, Perfume Genius' auroral art-pop embraces soul, rock and even grand church music. While getting into genre associations is useful to discuss most artists, it's too reductive to grasp Hadreas' vision, which invokes many styles to craft something that transcends all of their traditions for a rarefied plane all its own. From one moment to the next, things can go from tinkling piano balladry to choral bursts of magnificence, theater and titanic dynamics that blow off the cathedral roof on the way to heaven.

Perfume Genius' music is predicated on harnessing the power of pain and reclaiming it by forging it into a brilliant phoenix. In current album No Shape, they've turned the scars to stars and pierced a new horizon altogether. And live – musically, visually, emotionally – it was breathtaking. Before a rightfully appreciative and roaring crowd, this was one of the most beautiful and deeply felt performances seen in a long time. Majestic and sublime, Perfume Genius is the stuff of cult legend.

Opener Dearest was a surprise local find. A name that hopefully won't remain unknown for long, the solo indie-rock act of Tracy Farah builds out songs live with an assured touch through loops, one layer at a time and in quick order. Although only a guitar was played, it was worked in all manner of ways – picking, strumming, striking – to create a palette of texture. The result was a halcyon sound tapestry whose focus can go from tracing the fibers of a bedsheet to gusting up a mountain face with post-rock atmospherics. Dearest is one of the most notable loop acts to emerge here in a while, one certainly worth more ears.

MILD HIGH CLUB AND PEARL & THE OYSTERS, WILL'S PUB, OCT. 18

Esteemed L.A. indie imprint Stones Throw Records may be one of the most open-minded and expansive hip-hop labels around, but even Mild High Club sits out on one of the further branches of the family tree. Their stoner soundtracks ride a soft, easy wavelength that belies some intricacy. I mean, those 12-string guitars are there for a reason, right? However, though pleasantly chill enough on record, many of their details tend to get washed over in the vibe. And live, it can sometimes take the form of jammy jazz. Judging from the maximum capacity flock that turned out, though, perhaps the only thing clear is that I am not taking the right drugs.

But without condition, I'm happy that it was the biggest show organized by local indie promoters Ugly Orange I've seen yet, their first sellout. We told you these ladies were on the up.

Opening was the Orlando debut of Pearl and the Oysters. Though the name may suggest punk silliness, they're actually part of the notable and arty Gainesville co-op Elestial Sound. Anchored by French transplants Juliette Davis and Joachim Polack, they're a jazz-pop group whose insouciance is cast through a sunny psych kaleidoscope whirring with '60s-inspired keys and electronics. It's a sweet tack that takes an airy drift and bends it with just enough charming eccentricity to be interesting.

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