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This Little Underground

Bao Le-Huu takes on American Aquarium, Kevin Devine, An Horse, Mux Mool and Shigeto

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Mills Avenue is already cool and only getting cooler. The recent edition of Southern Fried Sundays (Oct. 16) gave us a glimpse of the possible next level. Because of a booking conflict at its usual home at Will’s Pub, the event was moved across the street to Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors. And instead of some half-assed consolation prize, things snowballed in just the right way to end up with a nice and sizable outdoor stage setup in Wally’s parking lot. I don’t know how many times this has happened here before – I can’t recall even once – but it needs to happen more because it was a great setup that’s both bigger than you’d think but still intimate.

There is just something activating and beautiful about hearing music floating through the open night air as you walk down the street. Then again, it didn’t hurt that it was the outstanding sounds of on-the-rise North Carolina country rockers American Aquarium, either. Even at the relatively tame volume necessitated by the noise ordinance and surrounding residential context, the situation worked well. Beyond SFS, outdoor live music in general should start happening here more often. Mills is the city’s most colorful stretch, and this is a great way to express the neighborhood’s culture outwardly. And, if done both well and somewhat regularly, it can become a beacon that announces what’s going on here in a bigger way.

After the early Sunday event wrapped at 10 p.m., my particular itinerary took me back over to Will’s to catch Kevin Devine. But as the event crowd was dispersing, I heard lots of people talking about carrying their own parties over to either Will’s or the Peacock Room. And that’s not even mentioning the more niche but equally good hangout options of Uncle Lou’s, Substance and Paradise.This is how a social zone blossoms.

The beat

Luckily, the show that temporarily displaced SFS was itself a well-attended, high-quality event. Live, Brooklyn headliner Kevin Devine benefits immensely from the added rock heft of his so-called Goddamn Band. It brings needed gusto to his music and brings his emotional earnestness into livelier focus.

But, for me, the highlight was opening Australian duo An Horse. As any good two-piece should be, they kick out their bright and precise ’90s-style indie rock like a lean, efficient machine. The qualities that comprise their constitution are melodically essential sinews and no bullshit. And the core virtue of An Horse is that they’re a band that understands that’s all you need.

The first time they played Orlando a couple years ago, it seemed hardly anyone knew about them. This time, there was a full room waiting for them with many clearly familiar with their songs. Even singer-guitarist Kate Cooper felt compelled to clarify that they were not headliner Kevin Devine because of how demonstrative the audience was. Good to see a fan base swell for a worthy band.

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