Those music heads rueful over the dissipation of the record club that convened monthly at Lil Indies – all dozen of us – take note that the Will's Pub-Lil Indies complex has recently added a well-curated film component to its music culture menu. So far, they've screened well-chosen documentaries about the San Diego scene (It's Gonna Blow: San Diego's Music Underground 1986-1996) in January and Southern metal (Slow Southern Steel) just last week. Club promoter Tierney Tough says they'll try to do it monthly, so keep an eye on their calendar.
Though still young in its run, multi-genre showcase series the Grand Collab is already becoming a good source for bright Florida talent discovery. At the November debut, West Palm Beach's Hypoluxo gave me the surprise jolt of the night. This time (Feb. 22, Will's Pub), it was, hands down, the Heavy Drag gang from Miami. I call them that because it seems several projects overlap in these four guys, and though Heavy Drag was on the bill, at least one other separate band was squeezed into the same set. As they tell me, most of the material played was actually the Grey 8s. Confused yet? I was. But the good news is that telling them apart didn't matter too much because it was all exceptional.
Best I could tell, the beginning of the set was Heavy Drag. They're part of the noisy new school of psych rock ruled by the Black Angels and the Warlocks, and they're some of this genre's best sonic dope dealers I've heard come out of Florida. After a little musical chairs on the instruments and a simple member substitution – presto! – they were suddenly the Grey 8s, who were equally dark and druggy but more punk. The deeper down the rabbit hole they went, their garage-hearted scope even opened into some bluesy rock & roll. It's a tangled little knot and a lot to unpack. But the versatile set by the two or so sister bands was a high-grade trip unified by great power and atmosphere. And so my list of Florida bands to watch grows by two big ones.
First and foremost, I am motivated by music. But if I weren't attracted to spectacle, I'd just listen to records at home. Sometimes, that curiosity temporarily suspends my insistence on quality, even if just for the sake of pure show. Which brings me to The Bunny the Bear because, well, they wear animal masks – a bunny and a bear, duh – while sing-screaming their dysphoric adolescent hearts out with almost no detectable sense of art or humor.
Unfortunately, the worst part about their recent show here (Feb. 24, Backbooth) – well, perhaps not the worst part – is that they didn't even wear the disguises. Instead, we got the Bunny the Bear unmasked, otherwise known as the answer to a question no one asked. Anybody ever called for ICP to perform without make-up? Exactly. So now all we're left with on the scorecard is the music.
On that count, they're a genre train wreck of metalcore, pop and electronic that operates on the faith that they'll pull it off – not through taste or creativity but through sheer volume. It's like these guys looked at the Linkin Park model and thought that the only thing wrong with that dynamic is that it's too nuanced, doesn't have enough dance elements or ... do I really need to go on here? Now, the bear (a role filled by a rotating cast) is a woman (Haley Roback), which adds a little Evanescence whiff. There are some passable individual aspects here. But all together in this blender, it's a special kind of abomination.
Way on the other end of the spectrum was Minnesota opener Kyle Colby, who strummed and wailed out acoustic emo-pop so gooey that even Chris Carrabba might consider the kid for an atomic wedgie. He was likely included on the bill only because he plays bass in the headlining band, but poor little guy – so sensitive, so pained, so hackneyed. It ain't easy carrying that sad little hat trick. All right, enough already. Too easy. Even I'm starting to feel bad now.