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This Little Underground

Our live music columnist checks out Gasoline Heart and Torche

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If you truly respect guns like I do, it's time to finally fucking get real about the gun issue in America.

The Beat

A handful of years ago, local band Poverty Branch emerged strong and shined early (see: the incandescent 2007 album Putting the Old Horse Down), only to wind up dull with a misguided attempt at mainstreaming their already way-accessible pop sound into forgettability (see: 2009's All Systems Go!!!). Well, it seems they're back on their feet. The sheer enthusiasm of their recent, large-sounding reunion show (Dec. 15, Backbooth) thankfully eclipsed their middling tendencies. These guys have some undeniable songwriting ability, so let's hope their hiatus has imbued them with the wisdom and clarity to do it service.

Making things feel even more like 2008 was having formerly local band Gasoline Heart share the bill. Like Poverty Branch, only more so, they're also responsible for some pretty great songs. Unlike PB, however, Gasoline Heart has always been unapologetically clear about what they do: red-blooded, blue-denim American rock & roll. And their latest album Thanks for Everything, released earlier this year, is a return to the beefy, wide-strumming, chest-filling hooks that made their 2006 debut (You Know Who You Are) one of the best albums to come out of Orlando. Few make anthems like Gasoline Heart anymore, and it was nourishing to see their straight-shooting, big-gunning rock & roll on stage again.

Between them was Neon NiteClub, a band that plays '80s pop cheese so straight as to be a novelty. In lieu of invention, they did have a shirtless, smooth-moving Santa come out occasionally to toss glowing jelly bracelets and necklaces into the crowd. So, that's something.

It's always notable when Florida doom-pop breakout Torche plays here or anywhere; doubly so when the bill's packing the hulking drone dirigible of Holly Hunt. But this show (Dec. 16, the Social) was momentous for the debut of new Phil Longo project Hussy. Sure, his groundbreaking bass-and-drums band Basements of Florida just barely issued its final breath, but anyone around the scene can tell you that a rolling stone like Longo never sits still long enough to gather moss. And this latest rollout packs a star roster featuring experimental guitarist Kris Gruda and drummer Eric Pitman (Chemical Ache, Mr. Pussy).

Hussy's manic, groove-propelled avant-punk sound is both technical and freeform. Although open enough to allow individual character and experimentation, it maintains a clear, persistent rhythmic core, so that when they all align, lock in and rise, it's a raw and formidable roar. Once again, Longo comes to the field with something not only good but also something no one else here is doing.

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