Substance, a new Mills Avenueart bar and gallery, makes for an interesting nexus, especially since music is also on tap. Although I’m definitely a rock-club guy when it comes to music rooms, Substance’s modern, but not starched, milieu is a welcome alternative to our menu of listening spaces. It’s got some street-smart steeze, but its gallery function and basic sleekness somewhat limit the range of acts that might work there. Still, though their calendar looks DJ-heavy, the sound was decent enough for a real rock band to do its thing pretty fully. And on the city’s most colorful and organic strip – just down the street from Will’s Pub and Uncle Lou’s – Substance looks like it could be a bright new light.
The primary motivation that brought me to Substance was another notable Norse Korea Presents showcase (July 30), headlined by hot-buzzing Miami band Lil Daggers. Although clearly veined with some trad-garage roots, their psychedelic, darkly groovy sound can be a surprisingly complex brew. The singer’s voice sometimes rises up and properly ravages, while the guitars occasionally ascend into sandblasting crests of stripping noise. And, well, you’ll never hear any complaints about that here. Even in their most romping moments, there’s a nice, brooding seriousness throbbing beneath. Easy to see why the band is one of the rising leaders of the South Florida school of rock.
Also playing were thick fuzz-poppers the Band in Heaven. With all the right influences – Warlocks, the Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – this West Palm Beach outfit was onto a good thing from day one. But this set proved that they’ve gotten even better as players. Now that their latest 7-inch (Seven Minutes in Heaven) is the maiden release on new local imprint NK Tapes, perhaps their profile will enjoy a deserved bump. And I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of their turbo-charged cover of Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” (yes, that song from The Silence of the Lambs), which you can still score for free on their Bandcamp page (thebandinheaven.bandcamp.com).
Neotraditional chanteuse Jolie Holland was fine and all, but the star of the night was opener Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside (July 26, the Social). The Portland band featured a scrappy, smoldering blend of blues and jump blues, vaulted with original rock & roll spirit. Their rock has an old, sometimes old-time, soul, but what distinguishes them mightily is that they’re not twee in their revivalism.
The vintage touchstones are a launch pad; these guys have a gutsier destination in mind. All the signifiers notwithstanding (upright bass, violin), they’ve got the fire in their hearts and bellies, and much of it comes through in Ford’s commanding, athletic voice. It’s a combination that works in a much fresher way than it looks on paper. Unlike practically all their other peers, this is a band not content to be arrested in amber. Their sound is a living, kicking thing pulsing with assertiveness. Also, big ups to them for covering Wreckless Eric’s excellent “Whole Wide World” with some crunch.
We all have good and bad in us, but putting your best self out there is a matter of editing out your lesser indulgences. That free little nugget there is for Tampa’s the Groves (July 27, Will’s Pub), whose strength – bluesy Southern rock – is currently under siege by some tendencies that could betray their intentions. Between the soft-core, commercial-rock emoting and the limp white-bread jam vibes creeping in, their credibility is the casualty. It’s not an issue of chops – those they have. It’s an issue of debatable taste.
But saving the night, in their first Orlando appearance, was Port St. Lucie killers Sweet Chariots. Rockabilly revivalists have, for too long, rested on their visual style to carry the day instead of bringing the motherfucking heat onstage. But not these cats. The sheer rock ass-kickery of their frenzied, hard-hitting punkabilly stands way taller than their pompadours.
And besides being the best, purest rockabilly singer in these parts since Michael Bales (Rocket 88, Knock Down Drag Out), frontman Thomas Warren is an in-the-moment live wire of a performer. These guys don’t just wear the clothes and pose, they live the spirit. Most importantly, they earn it the hard, physical way onstage.
Put these guys on the bill the next time the Legendary Shack Shakers roll through and that party will swing off the hinges.