Welp, another edition of the Florida Music Festival is in the books. Another three-night bender filled with bands … wait, that's like every one of my weekends. But this one had a few more bands than normal. So let's review this bad boy before we put it on the shelf.
Like Jason Ferguson and I said in our FMF preview feature, the local representation is still in an upward trend and the artistic caliber is getting better. Bringing in Flogging Molly to wreck Wall St. Plaza as the opening-night headliner was a big improvement over last year. But there's no real way to go from Third Eye Blind but up. Most importantly, FMF still proves to be the only music event in the city that truly feels like a festival. It's an electricity that simply can't be overstated.
The main thing lacking was the considerable indie buzz that came last year from the synergy of so many artistically venturesome bands clustered together in one venue, namely Back Booth. Then again, many of those promising groups didn't bother submitting this year for some reason. And then there's still that little pebble of FMF's mainstream ideology rolling around in my shoe, but that's an innate philosophical difference. It's not my particular vision, but there's a place for it too.
Starting with the good, let's hear it for South Carolina's Leslie. In a festival rather lean on legitimately bad-ass rock, this was the one band I was relying on just to rock this shit out, and they totally did with a gutsy set revved with fire and swagger. Melbourne's Super Swamper kicked moderate ass too, with Southern-steeled hard rock. Also fortifying was local act the Attack, whose amalgam of classic street punk and anthemic hardcore brought things back to fundamentals. And since Knup folded, I'm just glad to hear Charlie Bender's mighty voice fronting a straight-up punk band again. Worthwhile punk bands not in the Floridas Dying extended family are a rarity around here, and this act is one of them.
Other highlights included St. Augustine's A Slight Breeze, whose set of experimental post-rock was broad and dynamic. Also wide in wingspan was the soaring sound of Jacksonville's Julius Airwave, which carried their graceful, heart-swelling piano-pop with agility. Oddly enough, it was the loudest show I saw, even forcing my deaf ass to stuff my ears. No way in hell am I gonna go deaf at an indie-pop concert. Though marred by growing pains, local group Spacebar seemed to have finally debugged their machine, because they came with a very tall sound that augmented rather than wrestled with their pop-savvy melodies.
Surprisingly good was Alabama's Wild Sweet Orange with a set of effusive, indie-minded pop-rock that was played with verve. The flat sound on their MySpace page belies the strength and vim their music actually has. Let this be a lesson to bands out there who've completely supplanted old-fashioned promotion (e.g. actual CDs, press releases, um, advance notice even) with MySpace, especially to the press: You're overestimating the medium to your detriment.
In this year's bad column is talented Jacksonville chanteuse Christina Wagner, not because her performance was flawed but because this was by far the worst setting for her yet. It wasn't the logistics of Vintage as a venue but rather the gathering of unbelievably inconsiderate bar people whose elevated talking volume only managed to trumpet their patently low IQ. Props to her for actually saying, "Shut the fuck up." Despite such indignities, not to mention sharing the bill with the kind of bed-wetters that have been tarnishing acoustic music for as long as rubber sheets have been around, it was obvious there was a heightened degree of support for and interest in her by the number of serious listeners who showed up just before she went on.
Also making the negative list is the Wynn Brothers Band, but only because of the news they dropped. An hour and a half before their Friday night performance at Wall St. Plaza, Thomas Wynn himself murmured in my ear that it would be their last one. My disappointment, however, is buffered somewhat by the upcoming project he mentioned a few weeks ago: Thomas Wynn & the Believers.
"Not good" in the more literal sense was Fort Walton Beach's With Hatchet, Pike & Gun. Yep, they were one of our picks, but their compelling music, filled with angles and math, just didn't deliver live, especially the singer's poor vocal performance. Fun-minded local rap troupe Emergency Pizza Party weren't quite retarded enough to be good.
The doctor is out
Are you sitting down? OK. Well, This Little Underground will be on vacation next week. I know, I KNOW! But don't worry, baby, I'll be all up in your grille the week firstname.lastname@example.org