While you're out at the Indie Summer Fest (Aug. 8) in Audubon Park this Sunday, come check out my handpicked showcase inside Big Daddy's, especially if: A) you wanna see a sampling of Orlando's best, or B) the sky opens up like a faucet, a la 4th Fest. It'll feature Telethon, Great Deceivers, Dr. Moonstien, 1991, SSLOT, An Introduction to Sunshine, Band in Heaven, Lighthouse Music and the Silver Fleece. But there'll be tons more action, so check full festival deets in this issue and at www.indiesummer.net.
As a solo acoustic artist, Orlando's Moor Hound (July 28, Cameo Theatre) has a performance style so soft-spoken that it could recede into the wallpaper. However, he's got traits that could rescue him from singer-songwriter purgatory should he ever truly do something with them. His expression has a beckoning back-road quality that nods to folk and bluegrass. Moreover, his gentle-but-not-pussy mien conveys an emotional authenticity that suggests he's in it for the music and not just to woo chicks. Still, he needs to dig his spurs in deeper to actualize that potential. Playing more of the banjo that's on some of his recordings would be a sizable start. Stretch those wings, son.
Following Moor Hound was Indiana's Rodeo Ruby Love, whose cutesy, catchy indie pop-rock would stand a good chance of winning the freecreditscore.com band contest. OK, maybe they're a little more real than that, but still.
Between the street-level efforts of the venue and the bands playing there, promotion for shows at the Cameo is woefully sub-par, which sucks because that means a prime room with space, location and way-cheap beer is being underutilized.
Just around the corner, local garage-popper Ray Brazen (Uncle Lou's) played. With his oddball observations and odes to women like Cat Power and Wendy Chioji, some say the Daniel Johnston acolyte puts the "Ray" in "kuh-RAY-zee." Although I can't say for sure whether he's truly touched or simply eccentric, it's probably a little bit of both and is as close to outsider art as it gets around here. Good? Not entirely, but definitely colorful.
You may recall how much I gushed about Atlanta Dixie-rockers Ponderosa after seeing them at Florida Music Festival 2008, naming them the "Best Overall Band" of the festival. Well, their recent performance (July 25, Back Booth) only deepened that impression. And I'm not completely nuts because they've just been picked up by reputable alt-country bastion New West Records.
The new Southern sound being forged by the indie set is definitely the deal, not to mention a much-needed renovation, but traditional Southern rock done this well will always be classic. Ponderosa does it with absolute faith in the form and gives an arena-sized performance no matter how small the assembly. When you hear the soul, boogie and vigor they inject into their songs, you just know why this stuff will always maintain a grip on the artistic psyche and inspire even the genre's most daring revisionists. There are precious few doing it with as much conviction as Ponderosa right now.
One such beacon of the new South is Athens' Dead Confederate (July 27, the Social), who've done quite well since emerging in 2008 but should've blown way the fuck up by now. Seeing them live is like a deep physical descent — the atmospheres multiply, the air gets denser and even the walls seem to bellow. Outside of metal, they are the heaviest Southern rock band alive.
The retro-modern twang of Rhode Island headliner Deer Tick sounded far more good-ol'-boy traditional live than indie. Although the performance belied their full atmospheric ability, it made for a rocking show. Moreover, the pleasing grit and gutsy expressiveness of John McCauley's voice earns the band a seat at the feast next to Lucero.
But my favorite new band is Tampa's Sleepy Vikings (July 31, Will's Pub), which appears to have absorbed just about all of the members of another personal fave, Giddy-Up, Helicopter. Although guided by generally similar inspirations of layering and dynamics, Sleepy Vikings are more surefooted. Their lovely melodies float like a laidback breeze but their extraordinarily climactic style elevates the songs to skyscrapers with screaming gales of shoegaze. And it's precisely this swooning squall that affirms them as one of the most talented and distinctive groups in Florida, and a band you need to know firstname.lastname@example.org