On December 8th, 2018, I carpooled from the Tampa Bay Area with a pair of friends (Vallam and Penny Grune-Fae) in tow to play a show in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville is one of my favorite cities to play in the sunshine state. Ironically, the very first time I played there was quite possibly one of the worst shows I've ever played (quadruple-booked show, which I didn't find out about until I arrived at the venue; the curator also bailed right before their part of the show started), but every gig I've played there since then has always been a blast. I've even driven up that way sometimes just to attend some shows that friends of mine were playing.
This particular show took place at the Backroom, aka Thomas Milovac's house. Many acts from throughout the state of Florida played this marvelous event.
Thomas Milovac is a virtuoso jazz bassist that I had originally met when he was living and playing in the Orlando area. Currently residing in Jacksonville (as of this writing), he usually plays standup bass, either finger-picked or with a bow.
Up first was Bongus, the Orlando free improv collective consisting of core members Milovac, Syoma Klochko (drums), and Zach Muth (guitar), plus occasional hankin' from St Pete's Zachary Hickerson and several other collaborators. This performance ended up being a duo of just Milovac and Syoma, the latter of whom alternated between piano and drums. It's also worth noting their catchphrase, in true Primus or Green Jello fashion: "FUCK BONGUS!"
The second performance was by Penny Grune-Fae from St. Pete. Her setup was more minimal than usual, with only a few pedals run through a small amp that she conveniently packed up in small backpack. Ambient field recordings giving off a cinematic vibe.
The third performance was by Formaldehydra, a moniker I had been playing and recording under over the past year. It's my attempt at making more atmospheric noise. Recent sets under this name have consisted of a rhythm run through a looping pedal while improvising over the top of it. I was quite pleased with this set. (Photo courtesy of Penny Grune-Fae, because I don't take selfies when I perform)
The fourth performance of the evening was by local free improv husband-and-wife duo Tomokie's Cup, aka Adam and Aimee Naworal. They drafted Penny and I to collaborate with them for this particular set. The Naworals played tiny electronic devices run through Honeytone amps, while Penny played a theremin and I fumbled around with a ukulele bass. (I unfortunately could not get any photos taken of this set)
The fifth performance was by Fiver's Stereo, the long-running project of our good friend, Jacksonvillain Jay Peele. Jay played a variety of instruments (often simultaneously), including prepared guitar, Moog synth, and a microcassette recording of one of his old prog-metal bands from the 90s rehearsal sessions, played against his guitar pickups. One of my favorite sets I've seen of his to date.
Up next was Vallam, from Tampa, and one half of Tampa Bay noise booking collective the In-Between. Their set consisted of industrial rhythms and textures plus a broken guitar (no strings attached - literally) and what looked like a defibrillator being used on aforementioned guitar.
The final set of the evening was Venus Envy, from Panama City, which consisted of guitarist Scott Bazar and drummer Charles Pagano, plus Milovac sitting in with them on bass and various spacey effects. Scott an Charles usually play and tour together as Plutonian Burrito, but this time they decided to visit an entirely different planet. With the sounds ranging from chaotic free improv to more droning ambient soundscapes, the outer space theme is more than accurate here.
All in all, a great time was had. I look forward to coming back to Jacksonville (at the Backroom or otherwise) more often, perhaps at the upcoming Pre-INC show. Thanks again to Thomas Milovac for hosting the whole thing in his home and for having us!
Oh, also, fuck Bongus.
YouTube videos by Thomas Milovac.
View Aimee Grace Naworal's report on the same show.
(Currently nothing online of theirs at the moment, so here's a link to a Plutonian Burrito set in the meantime)