For one night last Saturday, Orange Avenue was radioactive with credibility. Bottlenecked on a six-block stretch, a cluster of national indie pezzonovantes paraded through downtown. Orlando was the seat of hipness, and it felt good, goddammit. Over the short course of a few fated hours, the stages of the Social and Club Firestone would play host to underground heavyweights the New Pornographers, the Thermals, the Hold Steady and the Big Sleep.
New York City's Hold Steady are totally overrated but I'm developing a sort of backhanded respect for them, specifically for the testicular fortitude they show in consistently tapping much better bands to open their shows. The big, noisy drive of the Big Sleep's Sonic Youth—drenched rock was magnificently forceful as usual, but honors this time go to hot-shit Sub Pop band the Thermals. Big ups especially to their fans, who flat-out combusted into a bouncing, blissed-out mob as soon as the first note was struck. Guys … (lip quiver) … you had me at beer-flinging.
Though the Thermals didn't embrace this lovely gesture quite as warmly as Guided by Voices does, the punky electricity of their headlong, hook-laced rock onstage was a good mirror to the ecstatic insanity being played out on the floor. Man, these guys lit it up. The recent addition of second guitarist Joel Burrows not only added more dimension to their sound but also boosted their sonic octane considerably, making their blare that much more potent. What they pulled off was a thoroughly lively and infectious performance without a scintilla of restraint. It's no mystery why this show sold out.
Down the street at Firestone earlier in the night was another commendable show by ridiculously celebrated indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers. Critical praise coupled with trickling output tends to inflate a band's hype, but these Canucks proved worthy with a solid set. Though a little muddy at times, the earthy exuberance of their large sound was more than evident, especially with the stronger rock drive they showed live. The one consistently clarion aspect of the performance was vocalist/pianist Kathryn Calder, frontman A.C. Newman's long-lost niece. With a voice as memorable as hers in their fold, the absence of Neko Case was hardly noticeable.
Other concert hanky-panky last week included Boston metal merchants Isis. Their unusual sequences with synths and gentle melodic singing are interesting, I guess, for a metal band, but Isis is only worthwhile when they drop the heavy stuff. In the presence of their hard-hitting onslaught, those ill-fitting lighter passages just felt superfluous, at times silly. Openers Torche, however, totally killed. With the gaping jaws of their monstrous, pummeling sound, this Miami band is one of the brightest talents prowling the metal scene today.
No discussion of the history of Orlando music can be complete without mentioning the name Jim Faherty. The man is a cornerstone character in this city's cultural development. A brief lesson for the kids: The work he's done since the mid-'80s through his promotions company and record label, Figurehead, almost single-handedly laid the foundation for the independent music scene here. Though his name isn't currently tied to many concerts, his legacy is still felt.
The long-running synergy between the Social and Foundation, the influential booking and promotions company that operates out of the club, descends directly from him. Under his tenure, Faherty turned the venue (then called Sapphire Supper Club) into the indie stalwart that it continues to be today. Furthermore, Foundation co-owner and booking magnate Michael McRaney was a protégé of Faherty's. In short, Orlando's indie scene wouldn't be worth shit without him.
Beginning Thursday (and running through April 12), you'll be able to see this very important artery in the city's musical heart illustrated in full color. City Arts Factory will see the opening of A Journey Through Show Posters (1985- 2005), an art exhibit curated by Faherty and collaborator Gene Zimmerman featuring concert posters from Faherty's shows. The exhibit will feature posters designed by local graphic art luminaries Lure, Eye Noise, Stainboy and Juicy Temples, among others. Expect to be surprised by both the caliber and volume of music acts that have graced our city — artists like Pavement, fIREHOSE, Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth, Tortoise, the Replacements, Blonde Redhead, the Pixies, Hüsker Dü, Redd Kross, Soundgarden, Black Flag, Fugazi and many more. Friday, March 23, will feature musical performances by Townsmen of a Stiller Town (Jason Ross and Thomas Juliano of Seven Mary Three), Ben Nichols (Lucero) and Roadside Giant.firstname.lastname@example.org