Between Vice magazine and foodie provocateur Eddie Huang ("Huang time coming," Feb. 27) talking mad shit about Florida last week, I don't know who to fix first. Vice, well, they're hopeless in their single-mindedness to stroke their snark-dick. Besides, Hundred Waters, the very subject of that hack piece, expressed public embarrassment over the story in the online comments section. And both editor Ashley Belanger and local Dante Lima served it back to them, the former in OW's blogs and the latter published in Vice itself.
But, Eddie, I went through the same-ass Asian minority experience here in Orlando. Yet somehow me and my skateboard managed to stumble onto some decidedly not "soulless" culture in this city that's since magnified like a muhfukka. I'm never one to deny a brother from doing his thing. But, yo Eddie, we got a thriving indie scene, some legit hip-hop, even indoor plumbing now. So next time you're back in this tourist backwater slummin' it with the parents, hit me up, fam. I'll give you a tour of your old turf. Maybe you missed something.
The natural-born Chairman Bao.
It's impossible not to be dazzled by Orlando powerhouse Kaleigh Baker. She's as peerless a vocalist as they come – seriously one of the great ones. That voice is nuclear in its power and infinite in its truth. Just listen to the more stripped-down numbers her band does, where she has room to work, and you'll hear her shine the brightest. And Baker can rock that classic style up to high heaven like no one else. But with all that blinding virtue, what screams the loudest isn't what she currently is but rather what she could be.
Without a doubt, the recent performance by Baker's band (Feb. 28, Will's Pub) was a roof-trembling sensation. Her soul-thick, blues-greased rock & roll packs a megaton of old-school glory. But is it traditionalist to a limiting fault? Involuntary or not, it can drift into dinosaur territory. She's far too young and vibrant for that.
This might be an unpopular position in light of her sheer persuasiveness and how beloved she is in this city, but there's room for improvement. I say it not because she's at all bad. It's because, with that much natural wattage and gift, she could be absolutely gigantic if she devoted as much gusto to finding her own point of view, instead of exuding inspired revivalism. Seriously, has anyone ever wondered why Kaleigh Baker's not national? Only everyone who's ever watched her perform. At the very least, giving her sound a more relevant renovation à la Alabama Shakes would be a revelation. It's because I have complete faith in her talent that I'm motioning manically toward her next level. With perhaps the greatest voice to ever emerge from here, she's already a star. But she could be a supernova.
Defunct local band the Die Tryin's were resurrected, at least for one night (Feb. 27, Will's Pub), as a duo. When they were around, they were one of the more notable folk bands in town. And though there was more than a little rust, they showed enough to remind me that I miss 'em.
It was also good to see Orlando punk-folker Johnny Knuckles back up in the bright lights. Of the few local notables who till the soil between rough edges and sweet, soulful heart, he's one of the best. And don't let that burly, tatted bouncer appearance fool you – the guy's got a pretty enormous sense of humor. He twanged it out and displaced its context enough that it was unrecognizable until the lyrics sank in, but he closed his set with a rendition of the theme song from … The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. How many country toughs do you know who'd do that? He also did a reworking of "Folsom Prison Blues" that amusingly skewered local hipster culture and, if recorded and made available, could be an Orlando classic.
Co-headlining with Knoxville's Matt Woods was Adam Lee. Between his devotion to O.G. country music and that Cash-esque pompadour, the Kansas kid burned with a proto-rock & roll resonance, laying down a rich and rollicking set of sweet honky-tonk and fiery folk that brought up local twangster and fellow hard-liner Daniel Berry for a song.