Concert Review: Help! featuring Flees, Dooms de Pop, Alex Nelson, and more at The Bubble, September 20

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Help! Featuring Sloane Peterson, Lazer Beast, Flees, Dooms de Pop, Alex Nelson, and Sweet Bronco
The Bubble, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday, September 19, 2009

Better Than: Later that night at the Poor House, where the Bubble crowd usually gathers and where the lead singer of some unnamed cover band - gasp! - danced on the bar and surely disturbed the gentle sensibilites of the bar's uber-hip patrons.

The Review:

It's hard not to gush over the Fort Lauderdale venue/gallery/space-for-all-things-DIY known as the Bubble. Kick-ass art by various local creative types litters the walls. Impressive local, eclectic musical lineups help pass the time. And the space's owners, Garo Gallo and Yvonne Colon, never charge more than $10, which gets you two beers and usually about five or six bands.

This past Saturday at the venue marked another sundry musical cocktail that included metal, thrash punk, indie, alternative singer-songwriter stuff, and folk. Called "Help!," the occasion was promoted as a fundraiser -- though at the last event I attended, Gallo stressed that "every event [at the Bubble] is technically a fundraiser." 

I mused over these words and the importance of artists having access to such a space as I walked in around 9 p.m. My thoughts, however, were drowned out by loads of feedback, as Delray metal trio Lazer Beast started their soundcheck. The band -- made up of Matty Deathclamp, Tim Finamus, and Joe Sickness -- mixes doom metal, southern sludge, and bone-rattling bass for aconcoction that both embraces self-parody and befits descents into clammy dungeons. Lead singer/screecher/guitarist Deathclamp stole the show, earning best-dressed award for sporting a rockin' mullet (think Kenny Powers) and an ensemble complete with tight gray jeans, a jean vest, and white Reebok Pumps with a fluorescent orange lightning bolt along the side. 

The show shifted outside for thrash group Flees. An old-school kick in the teeth, musically speaking, Flees plays the kind of punk that reminds you why you loved punk in the first place. It doesn't hurt that lead singer Elyse Perez, Yuengling in hand, is the perfect frontwoman. Her Jello Biafra/Exene Cervenka-style vocals tease and mock while her bandmates provide unmuddled shots of punk adrenaline, each under two minutes long. 

Dooms de Pop took the stage next, the crowd thinning as it started getting late. That's too bad, because those familiar with the group would have witnessed two surprises: a new bass player and a new sound. The trio, which includes Gallo, Rich Goldberg, and MJ, has transformed from a prog-punk, quasi-experimental group to an indie/alternative mash-up with hints of post-punk and cow-punk. And call me crazy, but I think I heard a few seconds of Misfits-inspired melodies. This marks a serious evolution for the band to a smoother, more accessible sound, and it's really freaking good.

The night winded down with sets by singer-songwriters Alex Nelson and Sweet Bronco, though they couldn't have been more different from one another. Nelson started out strong, but his set quickly devolved into a series of indistinguishable Top 40-style alternative tunes. Despite being emotionally charged, they failed to draw me in in any substantive way. Nelson has stage presence and a strong voice, but he just doesn't communicate the authenticity that Sweet Bronco does in droves. 

That latter group is largely the solo project of Chris Horgan (at least for now, he's in the process of adding members), and delivers the kind of lyric-centric, expressive numbers reminiscent of early '90s indie. It's a style which requires the artist to be both literate and genuinely self-aware, and Horgan delivered. He seamlessly interwove original compositions with songs by the Mountain Goats and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The fact that the blend worked just pointed to the strength of his own creations. And although only the die-hards in the crowd remained at this point, it was a fantastic way to end the night. Still, it would have been better if more people in the local creative community had come out to support the space that was built to serve them. After all, it's the only one we have in Broward.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I'm really happy I don't have to drive an hour north to Propaganda, or south to Churchill's, or to a smoky bar to enjoy good local music.

Random Detail: Sweet Bronco covered "Going to Georgia" by the Mountain Goats.

By The Way: Gallo's and Colon's monthly event Florida? Yeah! will take place again at the Poor House this Saturday. Lineup to come.

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