Typically, it’s the legacy bands that get the DVD treatment, but not if you’re the Briefs. First time I heard “Poor and Weird,” I caught the fever immediately for their absurdly catchy, new wave–licked retro punk rock. But a full-length video chronicle of a band that’s only put out four albums and been around since 2000? A joke, right? Turns out the just-released DVD, modestly titled The Greatest Story Ever Told, isn’t a joke at all. It’s an engaging, articulate film that tells the tale of this unlikely Seattle band with candor. In that relatively short time, they’ve hit the peaks and valleys of the biz, experiencing hollow major-label seduction and ultimate redemption in the independent ranks. It’s a story not only for punk rockers but for any aspiring musicians who value their creative rights.
Speaking of punk, that’s what this week was, starting Oct. 21 at Uncle Lou’s. Locals Suburban Lockdown celebrated the release of a LP like a charging beast with an all-out set that merged hardcore, Oi! and sleazy ’70s rock & roll.
The main attraction was New Mexican Disaster Squad, one of Orlando’s best, most varicolored punk bands. Despite their earning a spot on the esteemed Jade Tree Records roster, both rumor and outward appearances imply that they’re on their last leg. Untrue, they say. They’re taking a break for a while to pursue normal lives and shit like that. Some Florida shows will be undertaken, but no touring. Nice to see that they had such an enthusiastic reception this night and inspired more moshing in the small space than I’ve ever seen.
No discussion of the week in punk rock would be complete without the sixth edition of the Fest, the flourishing punk-based festival organized by notable punk imprint No Idea Records in Gainesville. The main reason I journeyed, truth be told, was the reunited Naked Raygun. The upstart American band was among the first to blend punk and hardcore with a melodic sense in the early ’80s, and their influence spread far and wide. Though the fallout from that has been mixed, their music continues to stand proudly. The re-energized veterans served up a thick slice of old-school glory.
The particulars of the other bands I saw are irrelevant since they were all virtually identical, earning the Fest an award for most homogeneous festival lineup to add to their other award: most generic name ever. Don’t misunderstand, the event was a damned good time and long enough on spirit that it almost didn’t matter that they all sounded the same. Almost. Being somewhat glutted with faceless pop-punk acts, I only wish the representation encompassed more hues of the punk spectrum. Then again, nothing would’ve been as hard-core as the men’s room at the Venue, whose sewage overflow condition was like the nightclub version of the garbage-compactor scene in Star Wars. Yikes.
Man, however, cannot survive on punk alone, and I couldn’t resist the night of interesting music that landed Oct. 27 at Taste. Baltimore’s Celebration gave a headlining set of powerful, nearly earth-moving music. Though richly woven, their dark, theatrical sound was primal in motivation. Backed by the throbbing of haunting carnival organs, Katrina Ford’s force-of-nature voice stirred with restlessness, reaffirming her status as one of the great underground female singers. Always stunning live, Celebration is that rarest of breeds: a true original.
Opening was auspicious New York band Dragons of Zynth. Considering their ethnicity and penchant for avant-garde soul, comparisons to their buddies TV on the Radio are easy but only partially apt. Dragons have less urgency and core. They’re also not as fully formed. Like the ramblings of a genius, they overflow with tons of bright, brave ideas; with a touch more focus, they’ll be cash money. Like Celebration, they are the vanguard of indie rock. Is their arrival the harbinger of a wave of experimentalism and color in the underground? Let’s hope so.
Priming the night were locals Snails in Folklore. Aside from guitarist Justin Bean’s exemplary scene efforts with the Orlando Indie Awareness Initiative (www.orlandoindiescene.com), the band is noteworthy in its own right. As ambitious as it is eggheaded, their post-rock is crammed with all sorts of complicated stuff: abstruse, math-driven movements and angular shifts. Their talent is obvious, but it’s gonna take greater attention to proportion and smart decisions about what to leave out of their music if it’s to be anything more than niche firstname.lastname@example.org