Reviews

What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

Author: Bao Le-Huu
10/07/2010 | Orlandoweekly.com | www.orlandoweekly.com | Live Show Preview
There's really not much more to say about the fourth annual femme-centric ELLA Fest (Oct. 1-3, Orlando Brewing) that I haven't already said, mainly because little has changed in its outlook. With a few exceptions, the talent was more or less the same in terms of caliber and edge. And in quite a few instances, the artists were even alums, which doesn't exactly up the freshness. Probably the most interesting band I saw was local twee-pop group Saving Twilight, who are less than finished, quite amateurish really, but at least their genuinely indie angle is something more than beige.

To be clear, I'm wholeheartedly down with the cause of bringing more attention to Florida's female artists, and I'm glad ELLA exists in our city. But it still favors stereotype, and therefore continues to be a largely insular event. While there's nothing wrong with that, it ain't gonna win any new hearts and minds. ELLA remains a rally for the congregation and not a revolution. And that translates to unfulfilled potential.

Want action? How about the authors of two of the year's best albums in town during the same week?

First was hot-buzzing New York electro-rock act Phantogram (Oct. 1, Back Booth). Much of their highly atmospheric music was programmed, but enough of it was performed live and the visuals were effective. Perhaps in response to previous critiques of their live show, they added a real drummer and it worked well. Barsuk Records has a winner on its hands, because Phantogram's one of the best new bands to emerge this year. Yet another incredibly current booking by Parafora Presents.

The other star was the exceptional Mynabirds (Oct. 2, the Social), the fully formed new project by Georgie James' Laura Burhenn. With a big, rich voice and the perfect musical setting for it, this chick's for real. And she put together a great band to fully replicate her lush recordings live. Burhenn's already a heavyweight contender, and she's just beginning. Next to her artistic gravitas, even Jenny Lewis sounds like a silly little girl. Watch your backs, grand dames, this one's coming up on you fast.

All I'm going to say about headliner David Bazan is that it's gotta be tiring always having to justify your spiritual standing. But he always invites it, and somehow remains patient and articulate. Dude can handle himself in the exchange. But still, talking philosophy with any yahoo who raises his hand? Talk about death by exasperation.

In his blog post previewing the Two Man Gentlemen Band show (Sept. 29, Redlight Redlight), fellow OW contributor Jason Ferguson posited, "jokey music is total bullshit." And I completely agree with his assertion. That said, as you can tell from my recent review of their new album, this New York duo is the rare asterisk to that nearly absolute rule. Maybe it's the magical way the comedy schtick works with old-timey music. Or maybe it's their vaudevillian flair that makes it stick. Mostly, though, it's the way it works live. I seldom drive around listening to their CDs, but I'll almost always drive to see them play if they're within a 100-mile radius. When you see the whole package wardrobe, honed comedic timing and authentic musical chops it's pretty easy to subscribe to the conceit. It's, y'know, a real show.

Local folk combo Goodrich & the Die Tryin's (Sept. 30, Back Booth) is a bracing blend of mostly traditional, slightly indie folk. It's a mildly bluegrass-infused sound that's got some hot Irish blood coursing through it. Most importantly, they achieve stomp and fire without beholden to easy traditionalist signifiers like canned hillbilly posturing, which is unusual and welcome. Tuneful and tight, their focus is on strong songs delivered with feeling that's it. And that's why I really like this band. They may be the best folk group that the city's folk scene doesn't yet know about.

Following Goodrich & the Die Tryin's was local act the Mud Flappers, who have all the visual cues not to mention, um, that name but not much at the base. Their old-timey getup has lots of filigree but their core needs development because they should be getting way more mileage out of that crowded arrangement. If they can tie all those frays together, they may have something. But as it stands now, all those instruments and costumes are mainly a busy pile of props.


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