- PHOTO BY JAMES DECHERT
- BENJAMIN BOOKER
OK, enough with all this upheaval already. In the most head-spinning season of ground shift in memory for Orlando nightlife, two more goodbyes are due for the Peacock Room and the Red Fox Lounge, which I mourn less as bars than as cultural institutions that leave behind important chapters in the city’s history.
Nobody’s as O.G. as Will’s Pub when it comes to current music on Mills Avenue, but the Peacock was another pioneer that helped till that soil years before it was cool. So maximum respect to the foundational role its culturally invested staff played in Orlando’s most interesting strip.
As for the Red Fox, well, this beautiful anachronism had a reputation far wider than the hotel it was nestled in. That renown was almost entirely due to lounge singers Lorna Lambey and late husband Mark Wayne. Their long-running and profoundly beloved stand here was the stuff of legend – local and, if you count the plausible connection to an SNL skit (Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer as the Culps), national. The Fox was a true, they-don’t-make-’em-like-this-anymore lounge, and Lorna and Mark were the truest lounge singers around. The Red Fox’s closure is especially tragic because the old-school magic of that alignment will never be again. But before the lights went off for good, Lorna headlined closing night (Nov. 1). Check out video from Red Fox's last night.
After the impossible parking situation, I was surprised to walk in and find enough room to at least suck in and move through. That’s because the adjacent ballroom was opened up for spillover, and that was well-populated, too. Due to the throng, I didn’t get much of a vantage. Sucks for me personally, but I’m OK with that because that’s the valediction that this place, with this performer, deserves. However, with some neck-craning, I managed to watch and listen through a doorway, and one of the things I got to see was Lorna perform “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” So, as much as I can ever be on such an occasion, I’m at peace. This one’s for you, Red Fox.
Lorna’s song, however, goes on.
What a difference some real exposure makes. I raved about Benjamin Booker back in March when he played Will’s opening for Two Cow Garage before about a dozen people. Since then, the Tampa son has been on a Kansas twister entailing the release of one of this year’s best albums, high-profile festivals, late-night talk shows and tour time with Jack White. Now, the young pistol returns atop the marquee (Oct. 29, the Social) to a very respectable turnout. Sometimes it takes years for an act I talk up to prove me right on any significant level. But this is one meteor that I’m especially glad to see rip right out the gate.
In March, Booker played as a two-piece with former Sh-Booms drummer Max Norton. This time, he came as a trio. But what still makes this the real shit is Booker himself. As a soul-blues-punk triple threat, he’s unquestionably, immediately thrilling, but he’s also much deeper than his punk peers. For one, his legit singing patina doesn’t sound like all the bratty kid brothers running around the scene. No, his music – wild and true – is more than just cheap kicks. It can party up, but it can also cut to the bone. More than anything, Benjamin Booker is the raw, undiluted essence of rock & roll.
Earlier, I popped in on this year’s fall edition of the consistently good Sargent House label tour (Backbooth) to see one-man loop architect Mylets throw some sparks. With live construction that’s deadly efficient and jaw-droppingly elaborate, this Midwesterner is one of the most purposeful and artistic loopers around.
Usually, the visual spectacle of the gimmick affords much amnesty in actual music quality (see: Keller Williams). But Mylets’ math-punk spirit-rock is a technical jubilation that’s only made more astounding by the fact that it’s executed by a single player. He may use technology, but what he does in handling his devices with the precision of a turntablist and attacking his guitar math like a shredder is completely and fiercely live.