One night last week (Oct. 5), Audubon Park was the most happening neighborhood in the city, the epicenter of indie Orlando. In the most historical, unique and crammed evening in memory, two major acts that would typically play the top independent clubs here instead made under-the-radar appearances in informal venues. It was a marquee night with no marquees and, for some enterprising people, a once-in-a-lifetime double feature.
Before me and approximately 49 others, North Carolina indie-rock great Eric Bachmann performed a living room show at the home of OW photographer and longtime Orlando music figure Michael Lothrop. The only degree of intimacy greater than that involves moonlight, serenading and a window. He even prefaced the performance by saying he welcomed requests – if he remembered it, he'd play it. And so the stage was set for a fan fantasy.
Over the next 90 minutes, Bachmann spanned his three significant and long-running projects: Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers and his solo work. Because his range has unfolded considerably over his lengthy career, the performance offered lots of alternate renditions of favorite songs, all acoustic, some on banjo even.
More campfire than concert, this experience was the ultimate live music encounter, as intimate as your personal relationship with the music but rendered by the man himself. The looks on the faces around the room reflected it, and it was beautiful.
As soon as Bachmann wrapped, I and some lucky others simply walked three blocks up to indie culture bastion Park Ave CDs just in time for the soundcheck to a pop-up show by power-pop royalty the Posies. A little more straightforward than the earlier show, this one was a full-band rock-out, even including a guest spot by local promoter-singer-opener Tierney Tough (The Pauses). But like the living room show, this in-store performance was a rare confluence of big names and extraordinary proximity.
Individually, the events were exceptional memories. Combined, they made one of the coolest and purest nights of music I've ever experienced. And it happened because of the local movers on the ground. Looking good, Orlando.
Sales (Oct. 4, the Social), if you recall, is a seriously rising Orlando buzz band that, underneath all the fog of internet hype, is debatable. The promise is that this indie-pop duo has some alluring songs. The rub is that they've always been more of a studio flower than a live tree. They've shown enough hope and spark to truly root for but – with a minimal arrangement that lacks the finishing live touches of, say, the xx – they just never satisfied onstage.
However, the prospect of a new member – a drummer – was intriguing as a possible missing link between Sales' mystique and their reality. Well, the debut of this expanded roster finally showcased what Sales could and should be. With vocalist Lauren Morgan's lovely singing, their music has always had heart. But this simple but necessary addition gives their live performance pulse. Now they're running on an instrumental chassis that, instead of being a distracting lapse, is at last suitable for translation on stage.
Sales have built enough momentum and cachet to register nationally and draw impressively at home, as their national-level draw at this latest show proves. It's only now, though, that they're finally getting serious. This could get big time.
Just as interesting is opener Fiona, a full-band project by local humorist and social media hero Harry Hillard Morall III (formerly known as rapper Mr. 3). Backed by a credentialed cast of live players that includes Ranson Vorpahl (drums), Tré Hester (bass) and Kendrick Leighton (guitar), this act is rap-based but with a pimp-smooth foundation of R&B and funk. As Mr. 3, Morall was a literate and hilarious pop-cultural assassin. But as Fiona, his famous showmanship comes on like a lion of chill swag. Trust me – and his black fur coat, and his black shades, and his medallion – on this. It's a legit progression for one of the city's most original voices. And because it demolishes the usual wall between rappers and bands, Fiona is maybe the freshest addition to the live scene in some time.