For nightlife pros and chronics, Halloween out on the town is way scarier than any stupid haunted house, what with all those amateur cockroaches infesting our usual spots. But this year's witching season is looking amazing for good music. Remember the legendary autumn of 2010 (aka Rocktober)? Well, the days surrounding this year's Halloween look a lot like a compressed-and-loaded little sister to that. Besides actual Halloween-night festivities featuring Gainesville sensation Hundred Waters (BackBooth) and Maserati (Will's Pub), the whole week is solid gold with a stampede of stars including Why? (Oct. 27, The Social), Aesop Rock (Oct. 27, Plaza Live), Alejandro Escovedo (Oct. 27, BackBooth), King Tuff (Oct. 28, Will's Pub), Sharon Van Etten (Oct. 28, The Social) and Black Moth Super Rainbow (Oct. 29, The Social).
So slap on your shark-jumped zombie makeup or whatever and shake a goddamned leg, people.
Recently, long-running Orlando fanzine Kick Bright Zine has been doing showcases to spotlight out-of-state bands they dig. The latest featured Chicago's Absolutely Not (Oct. 13, Peacock Room), whose sparkplug combo of garage punk and live-wire pop jolted the room with high voltage. They nail the bull's-eye because their urgency verges on wild, but their playing always remains on-rails tight. And though their catalog was entirely new to me, this high-impact performance ripped forth like an all-hits set list. And that says a lot about their songs.
Absolutely Not? Definitely yes.
As for openers, it's been a while since I've seen Hot Hands - the duo of KBZ author Jeffrey Howard and wife Kristin - and I'm again amazed by how heavy they've gotten. They were a bit of scruffy fun before but this is beyond kitsch and into something much lustier. I never thought I'd be saying this about Hot Hands, but this is fairly sexy stuff. With added guitar beef and some feral rock & roll screams, they're less garage pop now and just more all-out rock.
Speaking of more rock, tasteful Florida heavy music marathon Swamp Abyss Sorcery Fest (BackBooth) dropped serious boulders downtown earlier that night. Man, could Jacksonville-DeLand's Hollow Leg get any better? Maybe, but I simply cannot imagine it. Alongside an all-heavy lineup, these sludge stoners actually show how much nastier they are than all else. While much of metal simply fantasizes darkness, these guys are pure sweet murder. And it's about time a crowd got violent to their set. Now, you know me and how ride-or-die I am for Florida, but Georgia guest Demonaut also deserves serious ups for being nearly as monstrous with a charging dual-bass sound that comes on like a stoned, raging elephant.
I've been impressed by Atlanta's Ponderosa many times, but their latest show (Oct. 7, The Social) was my first time seeing them since their dramatic reboot from a mighty but literal Southern rock band to a more abstract folk rock band. The transformation is in full, magnificent effect. And though it sounds like an impossibility, Ponderosa is now like Fleet Foxes with balls. What was dreamily atmospheric on their recent watershed record (Pool Party) was made absolutely humongous live with some hair-raising, breath-stealing crescendos and amazing walls of beautiful sound.
By disposition, I dig the thick, sexy blues-rock style of UK headliner Band of Skulls, but I don't always love their songs. In person, however, they pack real stomp and wallop. Even if they don't quite have the songwriting ammo of peers like the Duke Spirit or the Kills, their live swag is real and their studied cool is done well enough to buy into. Quite frankly I wasn't altogether ready to be that impressed by them. But they proved to be a decent, thick slice of post-White Stripes rock.
Opening up for Langhorne Slim & the Law (Oct. 10, The Social), Virginia seven-piece symphonic folk band the Last Bison delivered an earthy but grand performance. Despite the scale however, their expressive tenor is sweet and completely guileless in a way that might suggest that these guys are really just a bunch of folk nerds. And though it once in a while borders a bit too closely to ren-faire stuff for me, they do their music with, if not invention, then at least zeal, earnestness and skill.