The downtown-conquering Florida Music Festival (April 7-9) just celebrated a decade of existence – an accomplishment any way you cut it. With Anti-Pop and Orange You Glad sitting out last year, I was just happy to be doing a large-scale Orlando music festival at all. That said, the biggest thing I miss about FMFs of yore is the element of surprise. There’s almost none of it left anymore. The reputable bands were expectably good, while the others were nobodies for good reason.
This year, Southern rock represented best with hearty sets by Atlanta’s Pond-erosa, Baltimore’s J. Roddy Walston & the Business, Miami’s King Bee and Mississippi’s the Weeks. I experimented a bit and deviated from my own itinerary, but the only remarkable sights that yielded was the laughably overblown pageantry of Star City Meltdown, the swirling miasma of wrongness that is Evolve Thru Scars and the démodé, gyrate-and-point rock-guy stylings of Five Mile Drive. But apart from a raft of sad bands that are basically throwing away tons of cash and energy, I didn’t make many cherry discoveries. The only positive was a tip I got for the aforementioned Weeks. With a singer who’s a strong facsimile of Caleb Followill, they’re tailor-made for original fans of Kings of Leon who think they’ve gone too indie rock.
With careful selectivity, there’s still some decent music to be had for a bargain. And there’s something to be said about FMF’s reliable longevity. But for those of a certain taste profile – regular readers of this column for prime example – FMF holds little adventure anymore.
Although clearly well done, the soul-funk-hop of Bay Area rapper Lyrics Born (April 4, the Social) never really grabbed me. At this show, however, something clicked. Sure, he had robust support from only a DJ, a live drummer and a powerhouse backup singer. But his huge, generous live presence just made the music land in all the right places. Music editor Justin Strout’s comparison of him to Cee Lo is well founded. With the ability to both rap and sing legitimately, Lyrics Born is, like Cee Lo, a modern-day complete soul package, only with a bluer collar.
The groove-based set paired live electricity with the nonstop hop of a DJ set, putting L.B. in a sweat only halfway through the second song. What makes his concerts great is that he’s a guy who not only puts his everything into the performance, but simply owns every stage he steps on. Though alternative in pedigree, his live vibe is all party and hardworking showmanship. I’m sold.
Meanwhile, over on Mills (Will’s Pub), it happened. Surrounded by a cloud of mystery, anticipation and promises of a Jesus Lizard-like fire, heavy-ass local supergroup Mr. Pussy made their monstrous debut. Comprised of members of Khann, Basements of Florida and the Great Deceivers, they blasted hardcore-hearted noise rock that’s burly and teeters on the edge of sanity. Now that’s the kind of local debut I like to see. Leading up to their first show, they had built up a degree of street-level hype that could’ve been their undoing. But come showtime, they dropped their nasty rock like an angry T-Rex foot and delivered one of the most exciting and combustible local debuts in a while. The best new heavy band in town? Betcher ass.
This was another amazing and packed-out free floor show; a great development that continues to keep our underground scene pumping with hot, red blood. But don’t overlook the donation bucket at the door, McDuck. Not at these shows.
While we’re on the heavy tip, Canadian destroyers KEN Mode (April 9, Will’s Pub) also laid down some serious hurt. With maximum efficiency and volume, their blend of hardcore and noise rock is a model of pure, face-breaking ferocity. A merge of technique and detonation, they’re intelligent yet impressively unmerciful. They’re simply on a different level when it comes to sheer force of delivery. For those who are rightfully over all the stale trappings that have permeated the subculture, this is hardcore that’s legitimately, intimidatingly, thrillingly hard. I haven’t been this fortified by an aggressive band in a long time.
Head’s up, lovers, I’m taking a column break next week so don’t go all Egypt or anything. It’s not you; it’s me. I swear. But I’ll be back right here in our home the following week to resume our domestic disturbances.