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Concert Review: Totally Nebular at Radio-Active Records, January 22

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Totally Nebular
Totally Nebular
With Milk Spot and Ice Cream
Radio-Active Records, Fort Lauderdale
Friday, January 22, 2010

Better Than: Chugging Mad Dog 20/20s from a brown paper bag in a parking lot.

The Review:

Underage bands have the toughest time finding places to play around town; they're often relegated to performing at warehouses or house parties with rickety sound systems. Fort Lauderdale's Radio-Active Records has truly filled a void in that regard, becoming one of Broward County's all-age hubs for young bands and their fans.

This past Friday night was no exception, with the record store offering up a line-up featuring some of the more experimental acts from South Florida's underage underground. Set to perform were Ice Cream, Totally Nebular, and Milk Spot, who boasted members who looked like they might still be taking Fred Flintstone vitamins.

Upon our arrival, we were bummed to find out that Miami freak-out troupe Ice Cream had cancelled. We were still very optimistic about the forthcoming set by West Broward's spacey Totally Nebular, whose material on MySpace -- which suggested a more digestible pre- Merriweather Post Pavilion Animal Collective -- thoroughly impressed us. 

The trio's set did follow many cues from Animal Collective's cerebral whirl. But believe it or not, Totally Nebular's take proved to be 10 times more chaotic than the most chaotic moments of the elder group's work. Totally Nebular's unpredictable bleeping and blooping is the work of three high school friends, Eddie Roqueta, Weston Mansfeld, and Gabriel Berrios, who took turns alternating between snare drums, samplers, and keyboards. 

Of the three, Roqueta showed the most signs of a traditional front man, grabbing a guitar every so often and dishing out jerky riffs between dreamy loops and letting out unintelligible chants. Mansfeld and Berrios teamed up on vocals on a couple of songs, sounding somewhat like Matt and Kim, but more deranged.

The boys did manage to rein in the chaos on "Captain Benson," perhaps the group's most successful (and approachable) song. Lead by playful glockenspiels, textured synths, and Roqueta's howling, it offered a somewhat complex end to a compositionally challenging set that was nevertheless equally as enjoyable.

Milk Spot, from Fort Lauderdale, ended the evening with a performance that was more about spectacle than symphony. Dressed up in flowing pirate shirts, skirts, and makeup, the group looked like a cross between the Ringling Brothers and the Pirates of the Caribbean. "Treehorn," a Cramps-style creeper with proto-punk touches, seemed to be the ensemble's most popular song of the night. Lead vocalist Jesse, donning a dickhead (a helmet with a larger-than-life dildo taped to the top,) was the group's unabashed showboat. He spent much of the set singing in a low register that seemed to mimic Eugene Hütz from Gogol Bordello (or Triumph the Insult Dog before him.)

Many props has to be given to the guys at Radio-Active Records for again opening up their store, endangering their vinyl stacks (there was many an errant mosher on this night), and giving these kids a place to play. Young, raw talent like this needs a place to flourish.  

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I think that sometimes one needs a little challenge in one's rock and roll.

Random Detail: All three members of Totally Nebular are recent grads from Pembroke Pines' Charter High School.

By The Way: Totally Nebular completed their impressive debut, Boat Boat, a "short LP," over the summer. You can get a copy at Radio-Active, or by e-mailing the band at [email protected]

-- Alex Rendon

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