Perhaps you saw that hilariously uninformed but only marginally hilarious jab piece on Orlando nightlife last week in culture zine Vice. Now I'm all about ruffling feathers, but that was a pretty thin piece of snark, and this comes from the King of Thin Snark, here. C'mon, even the studious and far less hipster-obsessed New York Times at least made it to Mills Avenue. Plenty of craziness and street culture to make fun of there; it's just more authentic and would've made the Vice piece more legitimate. But the author's slimy "downtown" adventure is what you get/deserve when your perspective comes primarily from a) living on the outskirts of town and b) relying on a party bus to show you the way in. Fucking tourist.
Knoxville, Tenn.'s Matt Woods (Aug. 2, Will's Pub) is one of the more noteworthy country musicians to regularly work Orlando's indie circuit. But whatever praise I heaped on him last time, times that by a hundred when he's backed by a full band of Orlando boys (Larry Fulford, Sean Holcomb, Ben Thacker) as he was this time. From this performance, you'd never know this was a brand-new, makeshift ensemble cobbled from a couple states away. All of which is to say that Woods might want to consider making this a little more permanent because it brings his songs to extraordinarily rich life. His solo performances are for real, but this is how his songs are meant to be heard, with full wingspan.
Like Woods' previous Orlando appearance, local country-rock band Six Time Losers opened again. This set seemed more stylistically focused on country, which is judicious because they sure write some good songs. Because their core virtue is their songwriting, they're a lot more penetrating on their melodically earnest songs than their lighthearted, goofy ones. But still, they were much better this time.
I don't know if the nerd culture in this city blew up in the past handful of years or simply just emerged from the woodwork, but Nerdapalooza (Aug. 3-5, the Beacham/Social) is illustrative of the explosion. Last time I checked in on the event four years ago, I was impressed that the gathering managed to take over Taste restaurant and supplant its dining services for a whole weekend. Now, this geek congress is commandeering one of the city's largest and premier music halls and its sister club (the Social). Damn nice work, nerds.
The quintessence of the event's spirit was Athens, Ga.,'s Bit Brigade. Featuring members of Cinemechanica and We Versus the Shark, this band's performance was basically one member playing the classic Capcom video game Mega Man on a big video screen while the rest of the group played the game's score live, performing all the varying levels with fidelity and skill. So, yes, that means their roster officially includes two guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a … master gamer. That's some serious nerd bona fides there.
A recent Juggernaut (July 31, Backbooth) – the solid new weekly night of heavy metal and cheap booze – featured Orlando's Power Dump, probably the second most scatological band name in the metro behind the supremely direct Fecal Ass. Their thrashy, hardcore breed of metal is fairly typical but competent and forceful. Particularly exceptional, however, were the hide-tanning vocals.
Since the metal train was still rolling through downtown the next night, I popped into the latest edition of the roving series Florida Metal Showcase (Aug. 1, the Social). From what I could discern, Orlando's Entity is from an entirely different side of the young metal scene with quite another approach to things. But ethos aside, their music was all buckshot – blasting but completely without focus. The approach is to pour all their various impulses into a single blender. Unfortunately, the mix has lots of ideas and fancy gear but really no cohesive concept. Besides a hybrid sound that's essentially a more extreme Linkin Park, growling vocals butt up against melodic rock crooning, and indulgently copious double-kick drumming is emblematic less of a band than a group of young dudes working out individual stuff and trying to pass it off as one sound. But in a few more years, these cats will all be in totally different bands. That is, if they know what's good for 'em.