Though crammed with shows, Feb. 26 was a nice break from the whole indie-rock thang. Truth be told, the night yielded more than a few moments of magic – the good musical kind, not the stupid David Blaine shit. First was the launch of the Baraka Collection World Music Series in Hannibal Square, a series organized by the Baraka Collection art gallery in west Winter Park. Steppin’ out with big guns blazing were Le Trio Joubran, an internationally acclaimed Paris-based group of Palestinian siblings.
Their incredible music is the flower of a unique arrangement wherein all three brothers play the oud, an ancient stringed instrument native to the Middle East and Northern Africa. It’s similar to the lute or mandolin and creates sounds so sonorous and sensual that its fan base now permanently includes me. When they play, the hypnotic instruments exhale an old-world smoke, and their execution burns with youth. All the while, the interplay between them maintains a bewitching tension. Theirs is an evocative sort of music that, without any words, conjures entire landscapes in the mind. It’s a music steeped in terroir, and the brothers, along with outstanding but unrelated percussionist Yousef Hbeisch, delivered it with verve.
Afterward, I hit the highway and headed north to DeLand. Decent weather and some free time is about all it takes for me to roll out to the picturesque Caffe da Vinci, but there was no decent weather to be had on this stormy night. No, this particular trek was all about kazoos, man, kazoos. The pull was the novelty act Two Man Gentleman Band, a couple of young NYC ironists getting their kicks by playing old-taahhh-meh music (which everyone knows must involve banjos and kazoos). Upon arrival, though, I saw that they had switched time slots and were already done. Luckily the duo were good sports and played another short impromptu set at the end of the night out on the sidewalk of the beautiful courtyard without much prodding.
Now before I lay it down, can we let go of our too-too-hip stance for a sec? Can we also forget that this is the kind of fare for which white people are consistently made fun of? If you can, you’ll dig these guys, who are a collision of Tin Pan Alley and locker-room humor. Sure, the affair was totally juvenile and not to be taken seriously, but the performance had enough comedy and brio to beguile. More than anything, it was very much in the moment. The Florida rain even started to come down on us in the middle of the set, but they kept playing and we kept listening.
Another solid New York act was opening for the ever-reliable Southern Culture on the Skids Feb. 25 at the Social. Though not a string band in the true sense, the Demolition String Band is a totally righteous country-rock outfit that’s a well-measured balance between melody and muscle. Together, Elena Skye’s big voice and Boo Reiner’s efficient but studly guitar-playing packed enough octane to juice an 18-wheeler. Pretty damned McCoy for a buncha Yanks.
Kathleen Edwards Asking for Flowers (Zöe) Another confident capture of her well-proportioned alternative country-rock reaffirms her as one of the stateliest voices in Americana today.
Mlle Caro & Franck Garcia Pain Disappears (Buzzin’ Fly) It’s the first artist album ever to be released on the taste-making house label of Ben Watt (Everything but the Girl), and its minimal, microcosmic electronica proves that house music can still be expanded in intelligent and convincing ways, a miraculous feat in itself.
Evol Intent Era of Diversion (System Recordings) Well, whaddya know? Jungle ain’t dead after all. This effort by the Atlanta trio is the most confrontational, political and just plain slammin’ drum & bass I’ve heard in an eternity. That may have something to do with their inspiration: hardcore punk. (Bane’s Aaron Bedard even makes an appearance as a guest vocalist.)
Born Ruffians Red, Yellow and Blue (Warp) A marriage of twitchy-squirrel indie rock and exuberant pop, the debut by this caffeinated Toronto trio is as sweet as it is spastic. It’s cute, to be sure, but its obvious dynamism keeps it from becoming sickening.
ShellShag Destroy Me I’m Yours (Starcleaner) These punk rock primitives from Brooklyn take the perfect amounts of electrifying racket, glorious stupidity and genuine melodic ability, throw it in a blender and create an exciting firstname.lastname@example.org