Heat, love and high fidelity

june 020

Last weekend involved music shows in Orlando and Tampa in one weekend. Considering my low key mood these past few months, this double-header presented a challenge — but was well worth the time.

Friday night Tampa Bay music enthusiasts of many ages and predilections had the privilege to see Brent and Darren Rademaker reunite at New World Brewery.

A nice size crowd showed up for the event despite the seamy, soupy weather. Sweat poured from every pour. Potpourris of B.O. infused the air.  The temperature (at night!) had no breeze to buffer it and came with a heat index of around 100 or so.

The two accomplished musicians made up for the discomfort with their harmonious acoustic set.  

Originally from Tampa, the bros achieved success in various nationally recognized indie bands in California — including Brent’s stint in Beachwood Sparks and Darren’s in the Tyde. They both first came to popularity in the alternative late 80s group, A New Personality.

Brent and Darren  performed tunes from their bands, a great cover of  Jan and Dean California Lullaby and even a sweet version of Jimmy Buffett‘s “Come Monday.”

After the Rademakers’ gig, I went to the bar to order a bottle of water to rehydrate. Promoter Jack Spatafora was in that popular, familar spot by the bar galley, under the pic of beloved bartender Joanne Rivera and late-great Tampa nice guy Dave “Rat” Anderson .

Jack said the funniest, truest thing regarding the Rademakers’ cover of Buffett:

“That was so punk rock. That had to be the most punk rock thing I’ve ever seen here.”

Spatafora went on to say that he really enjoyed working with Rademaker and they saw eye to eye when it came to their discerning, non-hipster-swaying musical tastes.

Palantine‘s Vinnie Cosentino and Scott Becker (visiting from Portland) visited the show after a rehearsal dinner for bandmate Brian Johnson‘s wedding. (Congrats, Brian!)

Cosentino and Jeff Fox are releasing their new band Therapeutic Chokehold‘s new CD in the coming weeks and the ever prolific Cosentino is working on another Palantine CD. He was very enthusiastic about it, especially the cover art he designed himself, which he joyfully described as ridiculous.

Back to the stuff on stage: Openers were pretty solid. I like Junkyard Kings, but please tell me why these nice and talented fellas don’t keep my attention.

Maybe rootsy bands are so plentiful in Central Florida that they have to have some special oopmph or originality to make an impression nowadays?

For example, you have Orlando bluesy rockers Thomas Wynn and the Believers, who bust out stage presence, tight skills and unbelievably great co-ed vocals (even if a tad heavy handed at times).

Better yet, you have Have Gun, Will Travel’s dynamic and  infectious vocal by way of smart and empathetic singer Matt Burke.  HGWT has a way with songcraft and never gets to jammy or boring.  They know how to have fun on stage and connect with the crowd. They convey balance: they love what they do without self-indulgence, which, sadly, is a pitfall of too many bluesy, Americana performances.

Or maybe we’re reaching the saturation point?

Did I say that?

On the other side of the spectrum was Philip Pietri and the Manatees, who performed after the Rademakers (please see previous entry for more info).

Pietri had a sweet echo effect on his vocal and even brandished a clarinet for one song. The sound was textured and poppy, recalling mellow new wave hits from Joe Jackson, Haircut 100 and Roxy Music.

The downside: The drunken New World chatter nearly drowned out Pietri’s subdued and atmospheric pop.

This never happens at a smallish Social show, something I’ll get to later.

Our evening of karaoke was followed by a festive karaoke jam session at the Corner Club. I couldn’t think of anything to balls to the wall, shocking and rocking, so I went with an all-time fave: “I’m Only Sleeping” by the Beatles.

Saturday was a day to decompress. Bonding time with my roomie Tim. Visited Yoko’s for sushi and redeemed a gift cerftifcate from Frank the Librarian at Vinyl Fever. Bought the new John Vanderslice and Phoenix CDs, plus the latest Grizzly Bear for a friend whose birthday was Monday.

Wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew and lo and behold, Tampa musicians Keith Ulrey and Brian Repetto were working the counter. It was like a weird High-Fidelity-hometown clashing of paradigms.

Repetto scoffed at me trading a Blonde Redhead CD. I jokingly said he must be in training to be a condescending record store clerk.

Ulrey shared that his promotions company, New Granada, has some cool shows booked this summer and that he’s really into the great food at the reincarnated Karma Pub, formerly Kelly’s Pub. I sampled some myself, and he is right on about how great it is. Ulrey said he’s working with owner Anna Stracey to strategize shows that work with the venue’s strengths and acoustic challenges.

Still feeling tired but mustering energy, I attended the John Vanderslice/The Tallest Man on Earth show at the Social in Orlando on Sunday night. 

Kristian Matsson, the height-challenged Swedish singer who amusingly goes by the name The Tallest Man on Earth had the entire joint rapt in attention with just his voice and acoustic guitar. The crowd was so still and quiet, you could hear glasses rattling at the bar.

Back to what I was saying before — no Tampa venue is ever, I mean EVER that quiet for a mellow act. Not sure if it’s testimony to Matsson’s charisma and vocal awesomeness or some strange geographical quandary — or that Tampa is chock full of  impolite alcoholics. I think it’s all of the above. I saw Yo La Tengo at the Social and at the Twilight (now defunct, formerly the Rubb). Take one guess at which one had drunken bimbos chattering in my ear while Georgia sang a soft, pretty tune. Grr.

Matsson and Vanderslice drew a small crowd to the Orlando bar — fortunate for us but stupefying nonetheless.

Vanderslice and his band played admirably well despite being down a musician. He shared that bassist Jamie Riotto had a stomach bug incident that caused them to stop alongside I-75. The poor fellow was back at the hotel.

Curly top synth and keyboard whiz Ian Bjornstad more than made up for the lack of bass with some percussive tricks along with twinkly and angelic sounds from his analog keyboard and synth combo. I think it was a Yamaha/Source combo. Friend Soraya from the Diviners was salivating and wanted us to hatch a plan to sneak ’em out to the car.

In my humble opinion, Vanderslice is one of the most underrated performers and producers around. He has a mellifluous yet off kilter singing style. His music is the perfect marriage between the complex and visceral, challenging your ear with unpredictability but rewarding it with timeless pop.

Not to mention, he’s a fan-fucking-tastic producer. His San Francisco studio Tiny Telephone is behind such notables as Death Cab for Cutie.

Vanderslices’ band descended onto the floor for an intimate but rousing finale of the tune Keep the Dream Alive. It was indeed magical.

june 046


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