Ear Infection

Wednesday, May 5, Club Q, Davie, 9:30 p.m.: About 75 South Floridian kids have gathered at this dank strip-mall billiard hall to experience a musical rarity -- a nationally acclaimed emo band that's actually deemed South Florida a worthy tour stop. The term emo, which is widely disavowed by the bands who are tagged with the label, refers rather obliquely to the emotive quality of the music. (Typical argument against it: "Isn't all music emotional?") Using complex time changes and dynamics, along with intensely personal lyricism, emo bands are popping up and flourishing in large numbers around the country.

In metropolitan cities across the United States, disaffected and introspective youth have latched on to the post-hardcore genre, yet the phenomenon has barely reached our fair subtropics. But the Gloria Record, a five-piece outfit from Austin, Texas, whose first self-titled EP was just released by California's Crank! Records, has reached out to conquer new territories tonight.

The Gloria Record is only a baby band, formed last year, but its attraction primarily lies in the resumes of two members: guitarist-vocalist Chris Simpson and bassist Jeremy Gomez. The two were once members of the seminal band Mineral, which was one of Crank!'s original trinity of emo purveyors (along with Christie Front Drive and Boys Life), all of which have disbanded. Rounded out by guitarist Brian Hubbard, keyboardist Ben Houtman, and drummer Jeremy Tappero, the Gloria Record is now carving out a reputation of its own for making hypnotically ethereal music.

At 9:45 p.m. the crowd of mostly teenagers is milling around quietly, and the Gloria Record is setting up on the recessed corner stage. The kids are obviously familiar with the music, but the quaint stylistics of your typical emo crowd are nowhere to be seen. No sweater vests, no black-rimmed '50s glasses, no Spock haircuts. No pouting emo boys standing in their cross-armed corpse poses. The four bands originally scheduled to open for the Gloria Record have all failed to show, leaving the billiard hall ominously quiet while the band members huddle at the bar, consuming preshow beers and scoping the gathered kiddos.

Around 11 p.m. the Gloria Record takes the stage, asking the scattered audience members to gather closer. "People are what's gonna make this show OK for us," Simpson tells them, and most of the crowd ambles to the front of the stage. Simpson then apologizes for the fact that Mineral never came to South Florida, adding that no Mineral song will be played.

"They told us not to come to Miami," Simpson announces, obviously oblivious to what city he's in. "But we did." Asked who "they" are, Simpson replies, "Everybody."

After the banter Simpson announces a new song, "Tired but Inspired," and begins strumming his acoustic guitar. Though the softly swirling melody is less caustic than Mineral's songs generally were, Simpson's vocal peculiarities are the same. He croons in a near-falsetto, overextending his syllables to something that would approximate a whine were it not so heart-wrenchingly beautiful and singing simplistically ebullient lines like, "And I'm not sad/I just want to trust someone so badly." The song thickens with the addition of the second guitar and keyboards, ebbing and flowing like a tidal wash of sound. After the song the crowd claps appreciatively, but in typical emo style, there are no shouts, no screams, just ultrapolite hand-clapping.

Simpson almost apologetically asks the audience, "You don't mind the acoustic guitar do you? Do you like the heavy rock? Do ya?" Then he tells the crowd that the band has tired of heaviness. Simpson closes his eyes, and the band launches into "Grace, the Snow Is Here," a creeping melody that gushes with thick layers of rhythmic throbs. Throughout the Gloria Record's 45-minute set, the band unleashes its warm, enveloping, soft-core expressionism on the crowd, which responds with bobbing heads and rapt attention. At the end of the set, Simpson is left strumming and cooing while the other four members drop their instruments and walk off the stage.

The show was a beautiful and encouraging step in upping South Florida's cultural hipness level. One can only hope that the Gloria Record's experience will translate into further expansion of the indie-rock scene into this geographically isolated mecca of techno and plastic-coated glamour.

Hialeah's best (only?) power-pop quintet, Humbert, has finally released its self-titled debut CD, a collection of pop gems that easily ranks among the best local efforts of late. The criminally underrated band has been progressing toward this pinnacle since its formation in 1997, and the sterling, Weezeresque tracks on the disc are evidence that the wait has been worthwhile.

Tracks like the sweetly fuzzy ballad "Everything's Okay" and the church-organ-embellished "Bring Back the Day" demonstrate Humbert's immense potential for commercial success; the songs would be equally suitable for rock, alternative, or adult-contemporary radio. It's easy to speculate that such success is impending, given the quality of the material, but in this market such things are never easily predictable. One can only hope that such an asset to South Florida's cadre of talent will eventually get its due. Check out Humbert's pop precociousness in action Sunday, May 16, at Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-374-1198.

-- Brendan Kelley

 
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