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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 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. The occasion — called "Help!" — 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 as I walked in around 9 at night. My thoughts, however, were drowned out by loads of feedback, as Delray metal trio Lazer Beast started a sound check. The band — made up of Matty Deathclamp, Tim Finamus, and Joe Sickness — mixes doom metal, Southern sludge, and bone-rattling bass for a concoction that both embraces self-parody and befits descents into clammy dungeons.
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. 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 mashup with hints of post-punk and cow-punk. This marks a serious evolution for the band to a smoother, more accessible sound.
The night wound down with sets by singer/songwriters Alex Nelson and Sweet Bronco, though they couldn't have been more different from each other. Nelson started out strong, but his set quickly devolved into a series of indistinguishable Top 40-style alternative tunes. 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 that 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.