Man, Winter Park was totally bangin’ this week. (Did he just say Winter Park???) Yes, I did. And no, I can’t believe that just came out of me either, but it’s true. Between the weeklong WPRK Marathon and the weekend-long going-away party for Redlight Redlight, the WP was jumpin’.
The annual WPRK Marathon, appropriately dubbed “The Blob” this year, basically took over the scene this week. This edition was marked by a big leap in musical happenings, which, y’know, makes sense for a radio station. And amen to that. The eager and tireless music-minded crew behind the Rollins College station seriously stepped up the buzz this year and took it beyond campus and into downtown. The result was a bona fide music event. Nice job, people.
There was solid on-campus action that even featured some noteworthy out-of-state talent, like eccentrically catchy Louisiana act Brass Bed, currently one of the South’s most promising young indie bands. The climax, however, was Boston-based experimentalists Sunburned Hand of the Man (Oct. 10, Bush Auditorium). Thanks to local art-scene shaker Pat Greene, who booked them, they finally played their first Central Florida show.
It’s no surprise that Sunburned is on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label; there’s definitely some of Sonic Youth’s exploration in their avant-garde DNA. But their sound goes beyond the stylistic touchstones of noise, post-rock and industrial. Augmenting traditional rock instrumentation, they employed technology to tap into the same primal, prehistoric force that Liars evoke so well. In their hands, machines become menacingly organic.
The performance was a nonstop, 40-minute jam accompanied at first with a self-produced art film projected on a huge backing screen. However, the film ended about 15 minutes into the set, plunging the auditorium into near-blackness. That’s when the show really got good. There in the dark, it was the thrilling musical equivalent of sitting in a cave with a huge mythical beast.
The off-campus WPRK events made for a good showcase of Orlando talent. Despite my tepid review of their new album, otherworldly band Happy Valley remains one of my favorite local acts and their latest performance reaffirmed it, maintaining muscularity (Oct. 7, Back Booth).
Sharing the bill was Viernes, a new duo that includes notable local musician Sean Moore. He is unquestionably one of the city’s most ambitious artists, but his esoteric work is often easier to appreciate intellectually than it is to flat-out dig. However, this electro-shoegaze project shows hints of some gorgeous sonic texturizing that you can really sink your teeth into, the kind that veers deliciously into My Bloody Valentine’s divine ether. Amid the haze were electronic rhythms and floating, delicate detailing a la Grizzly Bear that culminated into one of the scene’s more intriguing new sounds.
That same night, the WPRK kids also took over Bar-BQ-Bar with a showcase curated by local labels Post Records and Sleepy Bird Orphanage. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a real performance at downtown’s reigning dive. (Unintentional social comedies starring drunken hipsters don’t count.) But the stirringly tragic gutter-folk of Crutch and the Giant Junshi actually made the place seem like a genuine dive instead of the fashionable indie replication that it really is.
From here on out, cover songs managed to dominate the plot. In a show also part of the marathon, Orlando punk traditionalists the Attack closed their drunk-ass set with a couple of Misfits covers (Oct. 9, Back Booth). The awesome part? It was the same song, just played twice in a row.
Taking the stage afterward were scene luminary Eugene Snowden and friends, where they offered an excellently aching Sam Cooke cover. I know Snowden’s musical interests are varied and often blended, but soul music is the sweetest distillation of his golden voice. It’s impossible to believe I’m the only one who’d like to see him do a pure soul project.
At the Redlight Redlight going-away-but-really-just-moving party, I walked in on the Dark Romantics covering Chris Isaak (Oct. 10). Then local heartland rockers Mike Dunn and the Kings of New England fired off a whole round of nice covers, from the Replacements and Oasis to Ben E. King. (On a side note, and not surprisingly, I’m wound up in a fit of anticipation for the new Redlight to open.)
And the odd capper to this week’s cover-song theme? The hilarious/sad rendition of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” I heard pouring out of Dexter’s – yes, Dexter’s – while I was across the street at Redlight. Yikes.