Shit, another year gone! That really freaks me out. Anyway, you know what that means, kids — yep, time for the annual year-end Undie Awards! The following are some local truths that became apparent to me over the course of the 300 or so concerts I attended this year. Drum roll, please …
The 2009 Undies
Best new local band(s): 1991, Bananafish, Cotton Candy Cookies and Cream and Dr. Moonstien
Call it an indecisive cop-out to have a four-way tie if you want, but a surplus of dope new acts too good to leave unrecognized is a dilemma I'll take happily any day. You can also consider this category "bands to watch next year."
Local album of the year: No More Heroes, Solillaquists of Sound
This ambitious and extraordinarily multidimensional sophomore album by Orlando's first family of hip-hop is a triumph of concept, both musically and graphically. Both the sound and the art are big, vibrant, exciting and contemporary. Now that they've thrown the doors wide open with this one, who knows where they'll go on their next and trilogy-concluding album.
Most constructive scene development: Greater grass-roots cooperation
The two events that embodied this most notably in 2009 are the Orange You Glad and Anti-Pop music festivals. Collaboration in the music community happens every year, but not always with such depth, focus and scale. Working together in any form is a good thing. When it's measurably productive, great things happen.
Promoter of the year: John Youngman
As the city's most powerful indie booker, Foundation Presents is always a scene-shaping force, as are the more cutting-edge bookings of Parafora Music. But the seasoned Youngman earns the 2009 honor for a couple of reasons. First, after taking the reins as head talent buyer for Firestone Live earlier this year, he's brought large, high-quality concerts back downtown on a more regular basis than we've seen in ages (Animal Collective, Atmosphere, Gogol Bordello, Cut Copy, Hank III and others). His promotional power was instrumental in Firestone's committed and so-far-successful leap this year from dance club to live venue. The second reason he takes the category is the effective way he turned the challenge of hosting the Anti-Pop Music Festival during economically difficult times into a more local-minded effort.
Best venue repurposing: Garage Days at the Social
Chris Rae's Monday-night backroom punk concert series started out as a way to fill the concert doldrums of summer, but wound up creating a great underground gathering spot that inventively utilized the venerable nightclub to provide a raw, up-close live music experience. A close second is the Shak Nasti CD release party that turned the Enzian Theater into a surprisingly convincing live music venue.
Best social collision: Hardcore shows at Hoops Tavern
There's a decent tradition of fringe factions of the city's underground seeking offbeat and unlikely places to hang and just be themselves. These shows at Hoops are the latest and greatest. There's a conspicuous lack of traditional promotion, so you'll have to ask the nearest crust-punk for the DL, or just follow your nose.
Most welcome comeback: DaVinci
Formerly Caffe da Vinci, this beloved DeLand institution is thankfully back in business. It has yet to regain its former momentum in terms of shows, but here's hoping that one of the most enchanting spots in the state to be, drink and listen is on its way.
Best impersonation of Visage: Firestone Live
Other clubs, like Independent Bar and Cairo, have tried to revive the golden-era alternative vibe of pioneering nightclub Visage with knowledgeable DJs, but by getting the buzz bands of that time to actually perform in person, Firestone Live has strangely re-created Visage's scene-defining live venue component. Nitzer Ebb, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Revolting Cocks — it's like 1989 all over again!
Worst act: Ricky Diamond
I know I'm in for another lengthy, irrational and insulting blast of cyber-stalking from the guy, but I gots to call it like I sees it. Frankly, he'd be a hundred times better if he embraced the outrageous silliness of his dance-pop schtick with some honesty and a sense of humor. But from his prima donna bitchiness, the likes of which tops anything I've personally been bombarded with, you'd think he was conducting the fucking symphony orchestra or something. Amazing.