Music » This Little Underground

This Little Underground



Lotsa good Georgia lovin' this week…

The Beat

Atlanta's Howlies (July 5, the Social Backroom) are one of the best trad-garage bands to come through in some time. Besides packing an abundance of ringing, well-crafted pop hooks, their prominent harmonies are four-parts strong. If you're looking for '60s revivalism done right, these are your boys.

Although California bands Delta Spirit and the Romany Rye (July 8, the Social) delivered powerful, professional takes on folk rock, the modern ruralism of Athens' Futurebirds (July 8, Back Booth) was far more compelling and incisive. The vibes may be similar but the sensibilities are infinitely divergent. Futurebirds' majestic and ghostly twang-rock is truer to down-home folk and country and more sonically progressive. Blending sunny melodies, honeyed pedal-steel wilts and echoing psych-rock depth, it's a vision that straddles indie and traditional in a way that's cogent and current. Count them among the bright young artists forging the new Southern sound.

With expanded harmonic dimension and improved ensemble cohesion, the already rich music of local indie-folk band Bananafish now pumps with much more blood. They still have acres of lush atmosphere; it's just delivered with more brawn. Once Futurebirds joined them onstage, it became a nine-person, Spector-worthy wall of sound.

Headlining was LeMaster, the latest project by acclaimed Athens musician and producer Andy LeMaster. With collaborations that include ex-Summerbirds Brad Register and Curtis Brown in LeMaster's other excellent band Now It's Overhead, he has a fairly deep historical connection to Orlando's music scene. This new band is more straightforward than Now It's Overhead. Although the music's less dynamic, it's more melodically pristine, which highlights his strong instinct for both intricacy and pop ease. Dude is just an exceptional songwriter. Much more than just an Athens treasure, Andy LeMaster is one of this national quadrant's most consistent indie rockers.

But absolutely owning the week was Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt (July 5, Will's Pub), who hit this city as fast and hard as their name suggests. Seldom has the gulf between event and mere show been so vast. Advance word on the street indicated that this might be the most hotly anticipated underground show in ages. But the wall-to-wall attendance and the near-riot electricity in the air that night affirmed it. People packed in and clambered everywhere they could — on the floor with the band, on the stage, on the monitors. The gathered crowd writhed in wait like a hive on the verge of swarming. And then it happened. The thunder struck and the place went up in a divine blaze.

Few things I've seen live are as searing and monolithic as their experimental rock blast. When all pistons are firing, it's seriously like being in the same room as a thermonuclear event. Although highly intelligent and artistic, their detonative noise rock affects on a completely primal level. If local shredders 1991 are total fucking freedom, then Lightning Bolt is total fucking insanity.

They played on the floor, and it was packed, so I saw little of the actual band. It mattered none. It was just as thrilling (and probably more telling) to watch the crowd react since Lightning Bolt has the evocative power to turn people into feral monkeys. Their frenzy was so raw and pure that it felt like watching early mankind see the blinding light of rock music for the first time. That's the miracle of a Lightning Bolt performance — it makes you feel like you're witnessing the birth of a revelation. And it's probably one of those spectacles that'll make you feel that way no matter how many times you see them.

This near-religious experience will go down as one of the most legendary concerts to come through town this year and beyond. It would do immeasurable good for our scene if promoters brought these kinds of shows more often. However, the attendees also need to meet that intensity because much of the experience of this particular happening was the unbridled buzz of the crowd. Even the best band can only do so much. A live concert is a shared experience, and the rest is on us. Between the more gifted locals and the high-quality touring acts coming through, there are plenty of bands that you should be genuinely excited about. You get what you give, so get up in there.

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