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This Little Underground: Questlove’s three-night reign over Orlando

Live reviews of Deafheaven, Wreck & Reference, Bear Hands, Cage the Elephant

Photo: Photo by Christopher Garcia, License: N/A

Photo by Christopher Garcia


Has everyone regained your breath and cleaned off yet from Jimmy Fallon’s crew descending upon Orlando last week? For music heads, the hottest ripple was Questlove basically receiving mail here for three straight nights on the turntables (June 17-19, the Social).

Regarding Questlove’s table technique, well, his tombstone doesn’t need rewriting quite yet. Although he’s a solid and inventive mixer – in other words, not Paris fucking Hilton – he’s more of a butter-spreading groove-rider than a hot-cutting trickster. But even though he won’t be lighting up any DMC battles any time soon, he did showcase an exceptional song library, construction creativity and an aficionado’s selection on the Michael Jackson-themed night I attended – mixing, mashing and reworking MJ all up and down with what sometimes sounded like rare outtakes blended in. It was a dope party with some legit stardust. And it drew lots of Orlando’s most credentialed DJs – literally generations of them dating back to at least the big ’90s house boom, according to my count.

The Beat

It’s a daring, golden time for metal right now. Due to some great work by a new generation, the genre has moved up in recent times – past niche and stereotype –and into the most exclusive chambers of rock-snob hearts everywhere (Awwww). And perhaps no band has been as vaunted in the past year as San Francisco’s Deafheaven (June 16, Backbooth). Their merge of black metal, shoegaze and post-metal is frequently cited as one of today’s most groundbreaking sounds. And they’re mostly equal to the hype, especially live, where their relentless and grand storm expands heavy metal’s possibilities to express beauty in surprising and singular ways. And even if he is kind of like the Chris Martin of black metal on stage (that clacking locomotive you hear is all the metalheads now Googling to see who the fuck Chris Martin is), all of Deafheaven’s flair and widescreen drama is embodied in singer George Clarke, who is a powerful and iconic performer. As long as their searing sonic blitz is met by the rage and release of a loaded house like this one, their show will always be a true happening.

Dream house: Photos from Deafheaven and Pallbearer at Backbooth

Extra credit goes to Deafheaven for drawing a crowd that was notably attentive and receptive to openers that were nothing like them. In fact, fellow Californians Wreck & Reference are unlike practically everybody else out there, with a convention-bucking post-metal template that synthesizes black metal, noise and dark electronic experimentation. Furthermore, unlike even many of their fellow genre jailbreakers, their sound isn’t about density and crush. It’s rendered instead with space and atmosphere that’s atypical of heavy music.

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