Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Unchecked Aggression/Life Hereafter/The Attack and more
Saturday, October 3rd 2015
Pegasus Lounge, Tampa FL
Originally published at Suburban Apologist

Three gigs in two days. Part three: conclude!

Dunedin’s Wes Gutter is playing his usual gritty, acoustic punk with character. And Gutter is right. Tonight Wes’s shirt features nothing more than an oppressive word beginning with the letter ‘c,’ and I’m not talking about this economic system. Numbers don’t seem to be this man's prime concern anyway. I’ve listened to his bright yellow Three Shitty Demos tape lots of times, and I am convinced it contains four tracks, failing even in its promise of down-to-Earth, no-messing-about simplicity. Still, it was generously free, and not shitty.

Numbering on, the second act is a duo named Mannrs, with sources telling me this is their second show (or similar). Hailing mainly from the indie field, you suspect on hearing them that they simply removed a letter from the debut Passion Pit album, with one guy sounding a bit like Nate Ruess of The Format/fun. A pinky toe dipped into emo comes from the introduction of Get Up Kids-style piano keyboard. For the third time in my three gig-weekend there are technical difficulties; is our disposable society crumbling so? These well-mannered boys make it two-for-two in the accurate moniker game. Punk gigs could certainly do with more politeness (Wes). The previously referenced economic system is rude enough.

Dabbling on the other, pacier side of The Get Up Kids coin is Enview, from Riverview. Amongst a flurry of onstage chatter their bassist refers to himself as Not-So-Silent Bob (so uh, more like the real Kevin Smith?) Yet his name is neither Bob or Kevin. It’s Chris. More innocuous confusion abounds when a cover of a song announced as ‘Sugar’ is not in fact System of a Down, but Fall Out Boy’s ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’. Band-based gravity of some kind is involved at least. All that is clear is that Enview are entertaining, and their new single ‘We’ll Burn That Bridge When We Get There’ is pretty good.

The Jukebox Romantics are not romantic in the most obvious sense, nor do they romanticize material in the way that, say, Postmodern Jukebox does. But they do love friendship and good times, displaying it through sincere onstage banter and relentless punk rock. They play like Bouncing Souls or Ten Foot Pole with Stza sometimes coming in on vocals. The fun and dancing and bearded singer Terry also remind me of local Oldsmar elusives Sugar Dynamite Delight. Bassist Bob’s shirt featuring Hank Hill and the word “ASS” maybe should have been a warning of things to come, when to my fake horror I win a booty-shaking contest (twerking not mentioned). I and some others got a just-in-time beer coozy and some other niceties from the touring New Yorkers. Later we’re all encouraged to forget our adult troubles and crouch down -- like we’re punk singers posing for an album's back cover photo -- and at the optimal moment, jump.

The next apropos name comes from The Attack from Orlando. Moving like a well-oiled military machine this is clean, fast hardcore a la 7 Seconds. It’s short, it’s sweet, the group vocals are spot on. The point is made and The Attack move along. What if there’s an attack in America?

It’s always exciting to attempt to describe a band that’s eking out something new from the bloated musical landscape. Quite how it escaped me this long I couldn’t say, but what Life Hereafter do is known as easycore. In my notes I describe it as the sound of “kids brought up on pop-punk and downtuned agro hardcore,” whatever the tarnation that’s supposed to mean. In any case it works for Life Hereafter, with weird choppy aggressive song structures and a great soft/heavy balance. Covers of Miley Cyrus and Vanessa Carlton are sufficiently unrecognisable from their originals. Despite minimal stage talk there’s a surprising presence and non-arrogant confidence from these suspiciously handsome, beardless youths.

It’s now 1am. Unchecked Aggression have set my expectations high with their truly wonderful name, and fitting the motif of the night it’ll work whether they’re funny or intense. Ska is always a good sign for humour, although the Bad Religion lesbian nun shirt on display doesn’t fill me with confidence (a disappointingly legit item from a 2010 tour). When you have approximately 27 dudes performing in a row I suppose that’s what you get. The music and set, though, is thankfully entertaining. It’s been a while since I heard some good ska-punk, and for a minute I’m taken back to Manchester’s Retro Bar (which I’m told looks exactly the same as ever). Unchecked Aggression probably used up their desire to actually incorporate John Goodman into their performances a long time ago, but their own comedy is just as genius: “This song is instrumental. Sing along if you know the words!”

They also had some smart things to say about work. On that note, I’d like to thank the promoters, Let’s Get Fired, for all the good music, as they are following their own philosophy somewhat and taking an extended break following this event. As I write, I am enjoying my first day of unemployment, before heading out to another local gig. JUST… DO IT!!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

UFO Sex Scene/i_like_dog_face
Friday, October 2nd 2015
Frolic Exchange, Tampa FL

Originally published at Suburban Apologist

Three gigs in two days. Part one: go!

The music marathon begins at the Whirlynn-based art house, where I get a sneak preview of the astronaut and alien scientist characters who will later welcome us into October. Performance and make-believe is not the domain of corporate entities nor exclusive to the selling season, innit!

When we get to Frolic Exchange in Tampa there’s more of that sentiment. A series of tiny enclaves are to host, a shoebox-shaped vintage shop and two adjoined courtyards. The main one with the performances features windowboxes and tabletops made out of pallets and many cacti on spring; there’s rocks on the ground. It’s like being inside a mini zen garden on some CEO’s desk, that they use to centre themselves when faced with a pending ideological crisis. Sarah Valdez AKA i_like_dog_face can be spotted rolling on these rocks. I see little, unfortunately, of her set, but to further judge by her recordings this experimental fare is ethereal both vocally and musically. ‘Bubble gum drop dinkers’ and ‘Hearing The Void’ have a dark old dubsteppy production. Attending is a dog with a likeable face. 

It’s possible that decades from now, operations like Frolic Exchange will be displaying quasi-kitsch paraphernalia from UFO Sex Scene the way they currently do Playboys, signalling an enlightened trajectory. The best foreign-being themed act since Foo Fighters or Alien Ant Farm want to believe in that great future (space travel and all), pushing the envelope in all directions visually and audibly. One of their warmup notes sounds like the opening to the Fatboy Slim remix of ‘Body Movin,’ while Valentina Garcia body morphs a green balloon dog into existence. Roundup-defiant bees fly around the mothership CFL bulb in anticipation. Sadly, when you stretch yourself you are sometimes frustrated by current limitations, with equipment struggles one after the other not resulting in the band's finest hour. The anthemic ‘Don’t You Try To Play Me’ might as well have referred to UFO Sex Scene’s instruments. But that’s the risk there is in science, without which your life would be extremely fucking dull. The potential is what is exciting. To read the data on a more successful study, here’s the band in August. You should try to play it.

Video courtesy of footage lord Jim Grinaker.