R.I.P., Adam Yauch.
It's pretty well established now that Mills Avenue is where it's at. There are other spots that are cool, too, but none with as many cultural, urban and infrastructural stars aligning as Mills. It's a development that any music festival, like the recent Orange You Glad, should spotlight. The simple fact that more of such events have started to happen here speaks to the favorable ground conditions in place. Well, this past week, it was pretty great to see two notable ones going on at once.
The grander one was the four-day Total Bummer 3-D Music Festival (May 3-6, various venues). Having previously rocked the college hamlets of Gainesville and Tallahassee, the third annual edition of the traveling Florida indie music festival decided to try and take over a real city this time. Its lineup skewed heavily toward electronic acts, and though they couldn't quite compare with the full bands in terms of live play, they seemed to inspire the more notable experiences among the audiences.
Of the bands, particularly intriguing was Trails, a local guitar-and-drums duo built of complex rhythms and expressive notes. Although there's just one guitarist, he employs an army of effects that have the sonic range of a synthesizer to make compelling, curious music. They're still in development, but they're musically enterprising and budding with promise.
One of the more outstanding electronic acts, Orlando producer Grant, was also perhaps the youngest. For a peewee 17-year-old, the kid dropped some thick-ass, tripped-out rap beats, which you can cop for free (grantbeats.bandcamp.com). And dope as it was, the sight was, well, kinda adorable. But he showed some adult-sized respect by playing a Beastie Boys song, standing still with hat off and head bowed, and following with a moment of silence for MCA, who died that very day.
The most spirited spectacle was incited by Arkansas' Messy Sparkles, whose tropical indie pop lit up a wild little dance party inside Uncle Lou's. It wasn't pretty – no one's gonna mistake this for a Soul Train episode or anything – but it was gleefully heartfelt. Anyone who can Pied Piper the shit outta kids like this deserves serious credit. Check this cat out at messysparkles.bandcamp.com.
Despite some unevenness, like inconsistent and just straight-up odd hours (5 p.m. on a Friday, WTF?), as well as complaints of organizational lapses, Total Bummer Fest managed to make some laudable scene waves with a decidedly DIY vibe. Musically, this edition tended toward the more whimsical and electronic side of indie, which packed fun but occasionally at the cost of substance. In fact, much of the festival felt like an indie rave. I'm still trying to get my head around that one but, hey, at least these people came to party and dance.
Happening on the same strip but occupying the far opposite end of the musical spectrum was the expanded two-day reprise of the heavy music mini-festival You Are Doomed Fest (May 5-6, Will's Pub), the area's most tastefully curated metal expo.
The jaw-dropper of this year's event was Miami sludge-drone band Holly Hunt. The calling card of this haymaking guitar-and-drums duo is instrumental minimalism jacked to maximum heights.Instead of the typical pit of murk that lots of likeminded bands end up in, their thrillingly primordial beast-groan rages with electrified clarity. This is a campaign of power, not gloom. Guitarist Gavin Perry's rig is mammoth and, in the band's more charging moments, it becomes obvious how killer of a drummer Beatriz Monteavaro (ex-Floor) is. Together, they're one pile-driving phenomenon. And lucky for you, they're back in town this Saturday to open for Torche (May 12, Will's Pub) so go get flattened.
And there's still practically nothing like the stoned-out sludge of Jacksonville/Central Florida band Hollow Leg,one of the most exhilarating metal bands around. Few things are more life-affirming than letting the nasty mudslide of their dirty sound pour down on you. Damn, that shit makes you feel not blood but pure masculine power pump through your veins. That's truth there.
There's no shortage of metal in Orlando. But taken in aggregate, the median IQ ain't exactly high. That's why it's essential to support this kind of high-caliber heavy music gathering. Otherwise, you have only yourself to blame each time you see a mook-rock bill.