From Italy with Love: The Folk Explosion of Kalàscima

Sometimes music can take you over in a feverish, festive dance. During this moment of sweaty abandon you feel inextricably connected with everyone around you, and the past bleeds with the present.

That’s the feeling you’ll get from the neofolk ensemble Kalàscima. The exuberant Southern Italian band performs tonight in Miami in the North Beach Bandshell in celebration of Italian heritage month, and then will fly to Canada to kick up a swirl of folk, rock and other styles with the sandy heel of The Boot. Tonight’s free show features renowned co-headliner Ermal Meta.

Kalàscima’s sound is informed heavily by the guys’ southern Italian birthplace and Greco-Eastern European influences. It features a mind-boggling array of instruments including Italian bagpipes (otherwise known as zampogna) plus traditional flutes, Italian organetto) an assortment of percussion from Southern Italy and other nations — such as the rick and darbouka. They combine it all with electronic and electric stand-bys such as bass guitar and  a loop machine.

The band is part of an intriguing folk/world music movement championed by their label, Ponderosa. HuffPost has a great article about the collective and Kalàscima here.

First, let me say that I’m a little heartbroken that I can’t be in SoFla tonight to see this feisty band from the same Italian region as my mother, Puglia (around two hours of south of her Provincia de Foggia hometown). I identify with their staunch pride in where they’re from (something they wax poetic about in their tune “Meridionale,” a term Italians use for Southern Italians).

If you see them, say “Ciao!” for me — their names are Luca Buccarella, brothers Federico and Riccardo Laganà, Massimiliano De Marco, Riccardo Basile, Aldo Iezza and Roberto Chiga, all of whom grew up together in rural Salento. They picked up the traditional Italian folk music from their grandparents and added current musical instruments and technology.

Their latest album, Psychedelic Trance Tarantella, conjures both a popular dance at Italian weddings on acid, but stems from the cathartic music and dance once thought to cure the delirium caused by tarantula bites.

I caught up with member Riccardo Laganà for quick Q&A before the ragazzi headed to our southern sunny region. We talked about where they’re form and what keeps them going at their frenetic pace.

When I hear “Meridionale” I think going back to all the stereotypes that I have heard from the North Italians. For example, they call the lazy southern and blaming them for the economic problems in Italy. Confession: I cannot understand all of your lyrics because of your rapid-fire deliver, but I think I understand — you are singing a song of pride and love for the region with some jokes … am I right? Could you tell us what inspired the song?

“Meridionale” speaks of our love for our land, full of sun, sea, good food and great people. We speak of a South united, no parochial divisions, to let the world know about Southern Italy and be known to the world. Although still someone speaks ill of southern and south, we invite you all to visit us and to visit our land, to discover the beauty that hides in its brightest corners.

I know that you come from Lecce, but could you explain something to us Americans: What does it mean to be Salentino?

Salento is on the last strip of land southeast of Italy, on ‘the heel of Italy. Being Salentino means to be born and raised in a land surrounded by the two seas where the sun warms the heart and beauty of the landscape is inspiring every day for all of us. Being Salentino means to be born and grow up in a land rich in traditions, culture and music. It means to feel a strong bond with the land, with his roots, with his family and his friends. It means having a strong sense of belonging. It means to love.

Who was born first? You or Federico? How does your fraternal dynamic influence the band, and how long have you all been friends?

I, Richard, was born first. Federico is the smallest but the most good. The group is born with us, and we from the first day, for more than 15 years. But we can say that the whole band is a family, and that we are all brothers, having grown up together and having lived together big part of our lives.

Your musicality really struck me — the instruments that you incorporate into your sound, their history and the harmony of your voices and arrangements. Do you arrive at the intersection of the past and present spontaneously or is it planned carefully? 

Kalàscima was created to express music in our feelings and our ideas. We grew up listening and playing the traditional pure music with the elderly and the singers. We have known, studied and learned the true traditional music, with no contamination. But we are men of 2000 and we live in an age that has taught us many things and gave us many stimuli. Writing popular music today, in our view, it means using the tools of the past, the styles and techniques of the past, but in a modern world. The merger between the old and the new, it is natural for us. And ‘the expression of which we and our music is our idea of new folk music.

Can we expect to see you in more US cities in 2018?

After this tour in the U.S. and Canada, we hope to return soon to play in North America. We are always received well when we fly to the USA and the Americans always bring us much joy.

In addition to the concerts, there are other projects that we can expect from Kalàscima next year?

For next year we have big news. The new album. We are working, even in these days, and we hope to come back to you to present it in 2018. For now, expect everyone to Miami Bandshell to dance and sing along. It will be a big party. See you soon!

Riccardo – Kalàscima

(Italian transcript below)

​​
Ciao, Riccardo!

Spero che state bene. Ho scritto qualche domande come introduzione per i fans dalla Florida. Vorrei scrivere una interviste unica, ma dato che sto imparando a conoscere il vostro band, le domande potrebbero essere un po ‘fondamentali — mi scusate, per favore! Sia casuale, fuori tema, tangenziale, filosofico o breve – qualunque cosa ti senti bene!

Quando sento “Meridionale” ritengo di tornare a tutti gli stereotipi che ho sentito dagli italiani del Nord. Per esempio, chiamano i meridionali pigri e li incolpano per i problemi economici in Italia. Confessione: non riesco a capire tutti i vostri testi rapidi, ma penso di capire — stai cantando una canzone di orgoglio con alcune battute … ho ragione? Potresti dirci cosa ha ispirato la canzone?

La canzone Meridionale parla del nostro amore per la nostra terra, piena di sole, mare, buon cibo e persone splendide. Parla di un sud unito, senza divisioni campanilistiche, che vuole conoscere il mondo e farsi conoscere al mondo. Anche se ancora qualcuno parla male del sud e dei meridionali, noi invitiamo tutti a venirci a trovare e a visitare la nostra terra, per scoprire la bellezza che nasconde nei suoi angoli più luminosi.

So che venite da Lecce, ma potreste spiegare qualcosa a noi Americani: Cosa significa di essere Salentino?

Il salento è l’ultimo lembo di terra a sud est d’Italia. E’ il tacco d’Italia. Essere salentini significa essere nati e cresciuti in una terra circondata dai due mari dove il sole scalda i cuori e la bellezza del paesaggio è fonte di ispirazione ogni giorno per tutti noi. Essere salentini significa nascere e crescere in una terra ricca di tradizioni, cultura e musica. Significa sentire un forte legame con la propria terra, con le proprie radici, con la propria famiglia ed i propri amici. Significa avere un forte senso di appartenenza. Significa amare.

Chi è nato prima? Tu, Riccardo o Federico ? Come influenza la vostra dinamica fraterna sulla banda? Da quanto tempo voi tutti siete stati amici?

Io, Riccardo, sono nato prima. Federico è il più piccolo ma il più bravo. Il gruppo è nato con noi, e ci siamo sin dal primo giorno, da più di 15 anni. Ma si può dire che tutta la band è una famiglia, e che tutti siamo fratelli, essendo cresciuti insieme ed avendo vissuto insieme grande parte delle nostre vite.

La vostra musicalità mi ha veramente colpito — i strumenti che si incorporano nel tuo suono, la loro storia e l’armonia delle tue voci e arrangiamenti. L’intersezione del passato e del presente avviene spontaneamente o è deliberata? O tutti e due?

Kalàscima nasce per esprimere in musica i nostri sentimenti e le nostre idee. Noi siamo cresciuti ascoltando e suonando la musica pura tradizionale con gli anziani ed i cantori. Abbiamo conosciuto, studiato ed appreso la vera musica tradizionale, senza nessuna contaminazione. Ma siamo uomini del 2000 e viviamo in un’epoca che ci ha insegnato tante altre cose e ci ha dato tanti stimoli. Scrivere musica popolare oggi, secondo noi, significa usare gli strumenti del passato, gli stili e le tecniche del passato, ma in un mondo moderno. La fusione tra l’antico ed il nuovo, per noi è naturale. E’ l’espressione di cui siamo e la nostra musica rappresenta la nostra idea di nuova musica popolare.

Possiamo aspettarci di vederti in più città degli Stati Uniti nel 2018?

Dopo questa tourneè in USA e Canada, speriamo di tornare presto a suonare in Nord America. Ci troviamo sempre bene quando voliamo in USA ed il pubblico statunitense ci regala sempre tante gioie.

Oltre ai concerti, ci sono altri progetti di Kalàscima che ci potrebbe anticipare per l’anno prossimo?

Per il prossimo anno abbiamo una grande novità. Il nuovo album. Stiamo lavorando, anche in questi giorni, e speriamo di tornare da voi per presentarlo nel 2018. Per adesso aspettiamo tutti al Bandshell di Miami per ballare e cantare insieme. Sarà una grande festa. A presto!

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Our Collective Responsibility in Ending Mass Violence

 

America’s misguided attachment to guns, the industry’s lack of regulation must be addressed in the wake of these mass shootings, but there are other societal factors at play.

American culture fetishizes dominance, violence and fear. Take our action movies, for instance — they are vastly unlike the ones I grew up with — they include a scene of horrific, cruel and graphic violence but no nudity or lovemaking. That’s seriously effed-up. We chafe at intimacy but glorify cruelty.

Add to that, we are experiencing an epidemic of social isolation thanks in large part to to our device-dependent culture. Creating a culture of stranger paranoia — just shutting out those we deem “crazy” — could possibly makes things worse in the end, leading to more copycats.

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He is a terrorist and human. What next?

Think about it: Devon Kelly lashed out at a church, a refuge for love, peace and comfort. Somewhere in his brain he did not connect with this common perception and detached from the innocent, well-meaning children, parents and elderly people inside. We need to ask why. We need to start by examining our own behavior toward one another when we are not in fellowship or in the company of others.

“It is undeniable that persons who have shown violent tendencies should not have access to weapons that could be used to harm themselves or others,” writes Jonathan M. Metzl, MD, PhDcorresponding author and Kenneth T. MacLeish, PhD in “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the Politics of American Firearms.” “Notions that mental illness caused any particular shooting, or that advance psychiatric attention might prevent these crimes, are more complicated than they often seem. Evidence strongly suggests that mass shooters are often mentally ill and socially marginalized. Enhanced psychiatric attention may well prevent particular crimes. … By addressing gun discord as symptomatic of deeper concerns, psychiatry could, ideally, promote more meaningful public conversations on the impact of guns on civic life.”

We must strive toward becoming a better society — stat. Make eye contact. Offer a benevolent gesture when you can. I’m not recommending you let random people crash on your couch, but consider this for a moment: Lashing out violently is rooted in paranoia of “the other.” Ask yourself, “What can I do to set an example of compassion, a sense of community?”

We need to educate, understand history, become more enlightened. The more we learn about world history and science, the more we understand how much we are alike as humans. Prevalent misconceptions about race, ability and personality call attention to the fact that we have to raise the bar higher for civilization. We can’t just continue worshiping at the altar of consumerism. Money doesn’t measure human value.

This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about survival.

Don’t chalk up violence to “human nature.”  People are as wired toward compassion and altruism as aggression and cruelty. Science backs this.

Casting off people with major problems presents numerous ramifications. These aren’t personality issues or simply “evil deeds.” No one should be left to his or her own devices to plot and acquire an arsenal without attention. There are faulty misfires in the brain that can be examined with a brain scan that many insurance policies — certainly Medicaid and Medicare — do not cover. These individuals hole up in their rooms or homes in an alternate reality. This should not be happening.

Lack of care on an individual and societal level coupled with an epidemic “other” anxiety and, the biggest factor of all, the U.S.’s gun romance and lack of arms-purchasing regulation are going to create a domino effect of more alienated souls lashing out and committing copycat crimes; that is, if we don’t start making major changes to how we approach and care for one another now.

Some recommended reading and resources:

Directions for Living provides services ranging from counseling to workshops. Here’s a training program titled “Act Against Violence for Parents.

“Things You Can Do Today to End Social Isolation” — Sandy Hook Promise

“Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts” Scientific American

“Social Death Penalty — Why Being Ostracized Hurts Even More Than Bullying” — Alternet

“Buiding a Culture of Inclusion” — Diversity Journal

“Mental Health Care Access Care Data” — Mental Health America

“Mental Health Reform” — National Alliance on Mental Illness

“Mass Shooting Analysis” — Everytown for Gun Safety

 

 

 

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Conceptiams: neologisms that define our times, ed. 1

We all have shared observations that we sometimes don’t even know we have.

Even when our thoughts and opinions of a person, place or thing seem especially weird or nuanced, almost invariably, someone else has made the very same observation.

The need to define phenomena of our times has also inspired this ostensibly  handy reference guide to help coin occurrences, conditions and other ephemera that are “becoming a thing.”

Neologisms are ever-present   — from Sniglets to Douglas Coupland’s Generation X to Urban Dictionary — and continues to be done, but like birdwatching, some hobbies provide contentment and transcendence despite increased participation.

Emotionary has already accomplished a good chunk of what I had hoped to by coining phenomena that occur in human verbal and non-verbal interactions. Come to think of it, there should be a word for that feeling you get when you’ve come up with a good idea and realize you not only the first to come up with it, but someone has already capitalized on it.

How about this: conceptiam — concept + iam, the Latin word for already.

In the future, I’d like to see a full-blown. instantaneous Internet search engine that you helps you find new words for ideas. It could be powered by by neologists across the nation and around the world.

For now, may this little pocket reference strike a chord, call out ridiculous rituals, demystify trends and, hopefully, help us all share a laugh.

Look out for new phrases each week updated in this blog.

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Expresidentia when a U.S. president, no matter how loved or loathed, becomes more liked overall after his tenure as Commander and Chief.
Continue reading “Conceptiams: neologisms that define our times, ed. 1”

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6 thoughts after the solar eclipse

Extreme fatigue today but here are some semi-coherent thoughts to document this historic day.

1.) Have the sun and moon let all this attention to to their big heads? They are so 8 hours ago. Wish they could put on their act without requiring the purchase of accessories to view them. So high maintenance. Prima donnas, I tell you.

2.) We didn’t stare up through cardboard glasses to watch the eclipse. We gazed at the weird light and little shadow wonders around us. I shot; Danny edited photos of the successions of mini crescent-shaped eclipse shadows shimmering up our front yard like glow-in-the-dark fish scales. It was a pleasant surprise, somehow unspoiled by the tsunami of pre-event news coverage.

Brads_Status_2607173.) I saw the trailer for the forthcoming Ben Stiller vehicle Brad’s Status the first time today on an all-trailers cable channel (thanks, Frontier; how did I live until now?). It seems Hollywood is establishing the Gen X midlife crisis genre to capitalize on the current batch of middle-agers’ First World lamentations. Making this prospect more tantalizing is the inevitability of identity crises large and small brought on by the amplifications of social networking. Those crafty studios are appealing to us older folks with a coming-of-age subplot for the millennials. Aging ungracefully with technology. A win-win, say the suits. In the film, Ben Stiller drives his college-bound son (Austin Abrams) crazy. The boy points out the dad’s rich friends are dicks, which I’m sure will be therapeutic for many folks my age. If you are around my age in the Gen X bracket, you be inundated with Boomer midlife ennui from movies like The Big Chill. It’s our turn now. Torturing millennials with our collective existential whine is a necessary rite of passage. I’m also especially glad to see Jemaine Clement in another film.

4.) My mother is experiencing sundowning, a form of aggressive behavior that people with Alzheimer’s and dementia experience when night falls. It gets a little Mommie Dearest in here from 8 to 9 p.m. She used to fall asleep and stay asleep but since removing her Lorazepam, she doesn’t have that sleepy calm anymore (which was doing more harm than good). I now have to be judicious with evening activities.

5.) Listened to Everything Now, the new Arcade Fire album. I love this line in the title track: Every song that I’ve ever heard/ Is playing at the same time; it’s absurd. Maybe you have to be my age or older to get this one.

6.) Thank you WUSF for your travel escapades on Monday night– a stroke of genius public TV programming. So shrewd and necessary. The golden-voiced Rick Steves may as well be the Sandman. I gently take hold of the cashmere sweater breezily draped on his shoulders and fly away with him.  An hour later, a show about driving Route 66 is giving me a vicarious ride elsewhere. It’s a drive I’ve always wanted to take heading west but in combination with other two-lane routes. There and back, I’m setting the pace old-codger-with-an-old-Ford-Pickup style.

One more from my friend Nastasya, who offered a toast on Facebook to the karaoke DJs dealing with an unfortunate uptick in selections of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” The song has seen a ridiculous surge in popularity because of yesterday’s astral event.

 

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3 reasons to see Opera Tampa’s Tosca at the Straz Center this weekend

Tosca

Straz Center of the Performing Arts’ Carol Morsani Hall

Tickets start at $66.50
Performances Saturday, April 8, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 9, at 2 p.m.
Visit strazcenter.org for more details.

 

This weekend, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to see a first-rate production of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (La Boheme, Madama Butterfly and Turandot).

The distinctive emotional melodic sweep of Puccini’s score is interpreted on point by the highly accomplished Maestro Daniel Lipton, who leads the Opera Tampa Orchestra and Chorus with Jeffrey Buchman directing the production.

Principals include Lisa Houben as the titular diva Floria Tosca, Cesar Antonio Sanchez (Mario Cavaradossi) and Mark Walters (Scarpia). The company also includes Kevin Thompson (Angelotti), Peter Strummer (Sacistan), Peter Joshua Burroughs (Spoletta), Christopher Holloway (Sciarrone), Franco Rios-Castro (the Jailer) and Louisa Ramirez-Flynn (the Shepard).  Presented in Italian with English translations projected above the stage, the production is sponsored in part by Dr. Zena Lansky and Mr. Warren Rodgers.

Whether you’re already an opera aficionado or are willing to experience the classic performing arts genre for the first time, there are at least three compelling reasons you should experience Opera Tampa’s production:

Of course, the musical and vocal talent.

Houben and Sanchez fill the room with their pitch-perfect belt-outs. Coupled with the Maestro Lipton’s expert timing and his impeccable orchestra’s gut-socking crescendos, the climaxes of favorite arias like E lucevan le stelle leave the viewer almost literally shaken and stirred.

The production value: From the elegant gowns and historically accurate uniforms to moody lighting replete with fog for mood-setting affect and its clever backdrops, there is nothing cheap or amateurish about the look of Opera Tampa’s production.

Its timeless sociopolitical relevance — especially resonant today as we fear shifting political regimes and the impending oppression of art and free speech, and other civil liberties.

Tosca and her beloved Mario aren’t the only Puccini principals to deal with oppression. The composer became legendary for his characters struggling against oppressive forces — whether it’s Madama Butterfly’s concubine Cio-Cio San or the struggling poet Rodolfo in La Boheme, we’re entreated into the world of artists and fringe dwellers in turbulent times. They live out allegories to power struggles on the world stage.

Writer Lisa Kramer Reichel reminds us that Tosca to be the only grand opera tied to a precise time and setting. Puccini’s  historical opera takes place during a critical time in the military campaigns of the French general (and later Emperor) Napoleon Bonaparte. During the final years of the 1700s, Napoleon’s invasion of Italy by and his French armies resulted in the expulsion of the old dynastic rulers, including the Papacy.  Radical French republics or states set up in northern Italy and in Naples. The city of Rome became the Roman Republic, of which, in Tosca, the political prisoner/fugitive Angelotti was a former consul.

While Napoleon was far away in Egypt in 1799, another movement was brewing. Queen Maria Carolina of Austria — wife of the defeated King of Naples, Ferdinando IV, and sister of Marie Antoinette — began a regal coup to bring back dominance to wealthy imperials. Her forces took out anyone in opposition — which included thousands of republicans and free-thinking liberals and anyone who had supported French rule. Meanwhile in Floria Tosca’s Rome, Napoleon’s army regained ground with the help of General Desaix who, in real life, lost his life in the effort. During the second act of the opera, news arrives of the defeat of the monarchy. Mario belts out “Victory” in front of  monarchy police chief Scarpia, who orders Mario to be dragged off to prison.

Also during the second act, we witness the attempted rape of Tosca.  Amid the melodrama, we can relate to the urgency of Tosca fighting off the advances of Scarpia and Mario risking his own life to help his fugitive friend.

Flash forward to today. PBS, which helped many of us first fall in love with opera with its televised programming from the Met, is at risk of running out of federal funding as our President grants favor to friends with both new and old money. Women are losing their medical rights and are protesting for equal pay. Organizations like Opera Tampa themselves are struggling to stay funded to maintain a standard of excellence.

The ongoing struggle against stubbornly cyclical socio-political movements initiated by old money are ingeniously and artfully crystallized in the struggles of Puccini’s tormented tenors and sopranos.  This couldn’t be truer in Tosca.

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Strange Corners, Surprising Detours: Grindhaus Brew Lab & The Clearwater Record Shop

1650 N Hercules Ave, Unit I
Clearwater, FL 33765

Robb Larson and Lisa Colburn, owners of HiFi Homebrew and BBQ Supply, love where they work — so much so that they’ve tacked on a fun, cozy pub to hobnob with fellow craft beer enthusiasts and like-minded lovers of offbeat cinema.

Larson and Colburn’s micro tavern Grindhaus Brew Lab offers a comfy unpretentious hang with refined sensibilities and a sense of humor. Raimi and Tarantino movie posters decorate the walls and a vintage jukebox adds distinctive charm.

Sadly, the jukebox isn’t functional —  yet — but you can count on a cool mix of indie music and classic rock and R&B to provide a soundtrack to your Grind Haus drinking experience.

Along with refined brew recipes, Grindhaus guests can enjoy classic, cult and B-movies screened every Friday and Saturday night.

To find the pub, use your phone’s GPS (Google Maps works) or look for the railroad tracks on Hercules and an office/warehouse complex just northwest of them. Not visible from the main road, Hi-Fi/Grindhaus can be found tucked inside the nondescript  Hercules Space Center Complex.

Well worth the trip to Clearwater’s industrial boonies, Grindhaus distinguishes itself as a small batch brewery serving brews made with select quality ingredients and no extract. Double Taps, a Grindhaus original concept, uses one beer divided by two plus one variable.
 Don’t go expecting to take a six-pack home. The small-batch brewery doesn’t make enough for leftover takeout. According to Colburn, bigger is definitely not better. She says she’s just fine with keeping the operation small (for now).

   “With small batches I can hand pick ingredients and improve the recipe when I feel like it,” she shared. “When you have a big operation you’re stuck with the same formula for weeks whether you like it or not.”

 Classes on beer styles, brewing, ingredients, off-flavors, and the history of beer are held every month. Visitors can also partake of brew tours and tastings that include  flights of 4-by-8-ounce tasters. Click here to see what they have on tap today.

Before heading out, stroll a few storefronts down to Suite G, where you can browse an impressive selection vintage vinyl. The Clearwater Record Shop kicks it old school with vinyl, CDs and collectibles.

 On our visit we found a staggering variety of genres, including some rare imports, bossa nova and foreign albums. If you’re into vintage movie posters and collectibles, you can find plenty of those too.
 Some may especially love the Peaches and Record Bar display crates. They’ll take you back to at time when record shopping was a less obscure hobby (and might give you a flashback or two about the days you worked in a record store).

Continue reading “Strange Corners, Surprising Detours: Grindhaus Brew Lab & The Clearwater Record Shop”

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Help Clearwater-Largo Road get some artistic love

Clearwater-Largo Road used to be one of the most depressed thoroughfares in Pinellas County.

Though the long, curvy road borders one of Tampa Bay’s most affluent areas — Belleair — the road itself used to represent an extreme example of wealth disparity.

No more. The past decade has seen encouraging growth in growth and retail in the area. The City of Largo invested $4-million into making over the area (here’s a piece I wrote recently for the Tampa Bay Times about the surge of independent retail along the once-infamous corridor).

One ambitious artist, Mickey Krause,  is doing her part to boost Clearwater-Largo’s cultural presence by establishing an art studio nonprofit and community gathering place in an area that used to be the  considered the other side of the tracks.

She is creating a little Pink House for you and me, as John Mellencamp would say.

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The above video shows the transformation of a condemned property to potential community asset.

Krause, who turns 65 today, rescued the building at 1300 Clearwater-Largo Road, Largo, to convert it to a working artist’s studio, gallery and gathering spot for painting classes and outdoor parties.

Photos by Daniel Veintimilla

The studio is open to working painters, who will be vetted by Krause, for $150 a month. Members to Art Lovers Place get full access, their own working and wall space. Krause says she’s hoping to get around 10-12 artists in the space. Projected opening is Spring 2016. Amenities are ADA-compliant, and the grounds will be spruced up with landscaping.
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Mickey Krause

Krause attended Ringling and grew up near Louisville, KY. Her mother didn’t become an artist until she went back to college at age 56 and obtaining her BFA from Webster University in St. Louis, MO at age 62. She had a studio away from her home for about 15 years but now has one in her home and she painted it pink “Lotus Flower” last year when she was 84 — the inspiration behind Krause painting Art Lovers Place the same color.

A painter of impressionistic and photo-realistic nature scenes, familiar Florida creatures and fauna, Krause says watercolor is her primary medium. 

Her works were featured in a group show at the Francis Wilson Playhouse in May 2016.

Krause left her career in the restaurant business to devote her all of her time and resources to a non-profit facility she founded. Art Lovers Place Inc. will serve as a co-op and space for working artists who don’t have room to paint at home.

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Watercolor of purple coral by Mickey Krause

She says she hopes the project will provide a cultural infusion to the Clearwater-Largo corridor, an area in transition. She painted the building pink in tribute to her artist mother, who worked in a pink studio when Mickey was growing up.

Persevering with the project despite a difficult chronic illness — pulmonary hypertension — Krause has raised some funds through a GoFundme page, but needs more help. She’s been working hard on the many improvements needed to the facility but can use more help.
Wish Mickey Krause a Happy Birthday by donating to the Art Lovers Place.

14711048_10209558339268139_7413847918833211156_oKrause  met Bill Murray in 2006 at a golf tournament/Kevin Costner Band (in which her brother-in-law was the fiddle player).

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From South America to Standing Rock II — the spirit lives at the camp

Photos by Daniel Veintimilla

This installment is a follow-up to last Tuesday’s Tampastica blog on Clearwater resident and photo/videographer Daniel Veintimilla’s visit to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota. He visited  the mid-northwest assisting the Weaving Ties organization escort Amazonian tribal leaders to the Standing Rock camp and is helping document the delivery of a ceremonial drum signed by 12 nations representatives in support of the Dakota Pipeline protest.

 

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Candido Mezua of the Embera nation in Panama looks across the Cannonball River in North Dakota, pondering what’s at stake if the pipeline project comes to completion.

 

 

Traumatized by irrevocable harm to the Amazon jungle and rainforest by Chevron and other oil companies, visiting tribe leaders representing Meso- and South American nations voiced their protest in solidarity with North Dakota Sioux tribes to prevent an additional and even more massive environmental catastrophe.

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Protestors face off against armed guards and law enforcement.

Along with the desecration of sacred lands, burial grounds and artifacts, the proposed pipeline could wreak harm by way of a burst or leak. Damage would be far-reaching since it is being planned to cross under the Missouri River, a vital artery that feeds into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. Eight-million lives could be affected, adding urgency to the #waterislife hashtag and Tuesday’s Presidential election. (Candidate Donald Trump has voiced his support for dredging oil and fracking at all costs.)

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Candido Mezua offers a gesture of prayer for Standing Rock.
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Wicahpi Ksapa aka Lewis Grassrope, a camp leader, embraces Mezua. 

Last week, Daniel Veintimilla traveled to North Dakota to assist the Weaving Ties organization by picking up tribal leaders from the airport, interpreting English and Spanish at meetings, interviewing people, filming videos and shooting photos of life on the campsite, and editing into the wee hours. He is working on footage for the project as I type.

He was too busy to provide info over the phone. I caught up with him late at night once while he was en route back to his room at a Bismarck Radisson. He was excited to have just seen a white deer cross the road and seemed quite taken with the rolling hills and expansive countryside of the North Dakota prairie.

There’s another side to Standing Rock we’re not seeing, he told me.

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Native Americans and people from around the world have united in protest.

The camp has become a gathering of love, a community unto itself that’s become a refuge for people finding a sense of a purpose.

He said he could feel the spirit there.

Flags line the entrance of Sacred Stone campsite and tipis dot the countryside with a number of Native American and non-Native American groups represented. Even the National League of POW/MIA Families has set up camp there, too. Native American visitors to the campsite are telling their own stories of human rights abuses as well as trauma and discrimination within their own tribal subcultures.

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Volunteers are distributing winter clothing and helping to construct tipis.

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The camp has become an umbrella for hundreds of lower-profile but significant conflicts endured by Native Americans. It’s become an Occupy America gathering of sorts, and the motivation is understandable — discrimination against and conflicts within American indigenous tribal communities have continued into the 21st century.

Daniel interviewed a tribe member whose family came under attack by mercenaries during the protest. He also interviewed Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, a female Sioux tribal leader (pictured below) who gave a moving account of her plight with the pipeline. She talked about a prophecy in which a black snake devours the world and she wept as she as shared that her son was buried on the land that had been taken over by pipeline project.

She also said she received death threats.

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The South American tribal leaders voiced their support for her and her community with Daniel’s assistance in translations. They grabbed hands with her and gave her comfort.

Fortunately for Daniel, no violent incursions took place during his visit but he witnessed firsthand the patrolling of thug-like mercenaries and law enforcement officers who have pepper sprayed and roughed-up protestors as if they were unhinged criminals. Ominous unmarked helicopters still circle above the camp.

Momentum, however, is building on the side of the protestors and more people are setting up camp. The feds have called off the mercenaries’ unlicensed attack dogs and two area police officers turned in their badges over the weekend because they didn’t want to participate in the lopsided effort.

Daniel related stories that both inspired him and chilled him to the core. An elderly female Sioux tribe member died from wounds resulting from an onslaught of rubber bullets by mercenaries. Shortly after he left, his colleagues at Weaving Ties shared that another female protestor died at the frontline.

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One startling discovery: The suicide rate is high for Native American adolescents. Yesterday, Daniel witnessed the moving account of Jasilyn Charger,  a 20-year-old Cheyenne River tribe member (pictured above), who gave a moving account of physical abuse and pressure from tribal leaders attempting to force her into an arranged marriage. She fled to join the protest at Standing Rock only to be roughed-up and maced during last the recent campground arrests.

Despite upheavals, Charger is persevering. She founded a support group for Native American youths that now has a camp at Standing Rock.

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Embera leader Candido Mezua and Adolfo Chavez, leader of the Takana Nation in Bolivia show off the signed tribal drum at the Cannonball River.

Another tent offers psychological counseling.

There’s also the more business-formal side of the protest community — the recent summit of leaders on the American continents has created an opportunity for members to sound their grievances and voice support for one another.

With recent visits from European representatives and UN acknowledgement, the Standing Rock convergence is growing too large to be ignored (even amid cable and network news preferring to devote more airtime to a Starbucks cup controversy and the circus-like Presidential election).

Representatives of the pipeline received an anonymous $4-million dollar donation this week just as the feds are upping the amount of bail to six digits to trespassers arrested on the territory that the government turned over to Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), a Fortune 500 oil and natural gas company based in Dallas. According to the Washington Post, ETP is the main owner of the pipeline, along with Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66. Accounts of aggressive treatment of journalists continue, too.

As of this writing, an injunction agains the pipeline is still pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals. In September, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington declined the tribe’s request.

The takeaway from Daniel’s visit is that early Americans cultures provide historic perspective and enlightenment, and their lands should be respected. Their tribal culture should be supported and celebrated, and their rights as both indigenous peoples and U.S. citizens should be valued. Their heritage is a vital thread in our American tapestry, and they represent our own identity as Americans.

If we allow the oil industry to build that pipeline through their sacred lands, our agricultural heartland and a vital waterway, we’re mainlining poison into our own future.

For what — an antiquated technology?

If not compassion and intelligence, some common sense and perspective are seriously needed in North Dakota.

Video footage to come …

 

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From South America to Standing Rock — Daniel’s arrival to North Dakota

My life partner and frequent work companion, Daniel Veintimilla, landed a special gig this week assisting representatives of Amazonian tribes visiting North Dakota.

An Ecuadorian friend referred him to Weaving Ties, a South America-based network of social organizations dedicated to the management of forest territories in Asia, America and Africa.

(Daniel, for those of you who don’t know us intimately, was born/grew up in Ecuador and became a U.S. citizen in August.)

According Michel LaForge, a spokesperson for Weaving Ties, flags from all the different nations will line the entrance to the Sacred Stone camp with tents and tipis everywhere, adding that the Indigenous Environmental Network and Sacred Stone Camp were notified of the leaders’ arrival.

Arriving from  Lima, Peru, leaders from Amazonia and Central America will meet at the third Amazon Summit. Two representatives  — Candido Mezua, from the Embera nation, from Panama, and Adolfo Chavez, from the Takana nation,  from Bolivia — are delivering a message of solidarity from Latin American indigenous groups to people in Standing Rock.

They come in the name of the Mesoamerican Alliance of  Peoples and Forests (AMPB), which represents 10 organizations from five Central American countries, and the   Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), which represents indigenous organizations from nine countries.

This resistance campaign, many say, has emerged as part of a greater global crisis—a united struggle in which indigenous lands, resources, and people are perpetually threatened by corporations and governments often using military force. Integral to this shared narrative is the routine ignoring of treaties. —White Wolf Pack

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, the tribes leaders are bringing a traditional drum signed by all indigenous leaders present, from 12 countries, from Guatemala to Bolivia. “The drum is calling to the voices of indigenous people to be heard,” Michel says.

Daniel, he instructed, will help with translation and in charge of production of media content (and driving).

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JUST ARRIVED TO ND: Daniel Veintimilla salutes Candido Mezua from the Embera Nation, who’s holding a drum signed by tribal leaders representing 12 Latin American nations.

Here’s a primer on the Standing Rock protest from TheAntiMedia.org:

“The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is leading the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have been joined by the largest tribal coalition in more than 100 years in their stand against the pipeline.

The coalition comprises activists, allies, and environmentalists, collectively known as ‘water protectors,’ at the Sacred Stone Camp, an encampment close to the location where the pipeline is planned to cross the Missouri River in North Dakota.

According to the Sacred Stone camp website, they are opposing the pipeline because ‘the Dakota Access threatens everything from farming and drinking water to entire ecosystems, wildlife and food sources surrounding the Missouri.’”

The Standing Rock Sioux also say the pipeline is violating treaty land, Sioux territory that was established many years ago by the federal government.

“We will not allow Dakota Access to trespass on our treaty territory and destroy our medicines and our culture,” they say.

More news from Daniel on the South American tribesmen’s visit to come …

Teaser image courtesy of whitewolfpack.com.

 

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5 reasons to see Good People at American Stage

American Stage’s first full-scale production of the new season and the first in its In Search Of … America play series, Good People delves into class differences and the struggle to make ends meet in South Boston.

With a spoonful of salty-sweet humor, Good People makes an all-too-relevant examination of The American Dream — how much more does it have to do with hard work than it does straight-up good luck. The 2011 play is the first hand-picked production by new American Stage Artistic Director Stephanie Gularte, who also directs this production.

“I find David Lindsay-Abaire’s play to be one of the most exciting plays of the past 10 years,” Gularte says. “It is such a fulfilling journey for audiences because it is funny and intense and surprising and ultimately lends itself to some great post-show conversation.” (Read more about about Gularte’s edgy and exciting play choices for the 2016-17 American Stage season in Creative Pinellas’ revamped web magazine next month.)

Other reasons to see Good People:

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Stevie (Britt Michael Gordon) awkwardly fires Margie from her job at the Dollar Store. Photo by Kara Goldberg.

 

1.) Good People effectively shifts from sassy humor to intense drama:  When Dollar Store manager Stevie (Britt Michael Gordon) fires Margie (Rebecca Dines), an old acquaintance of his mother and mom of a mentally challenged adult, Margie will try anything except working at the Gillette factory — even if it means hitting up Mike, a high school flame (Peter Reardon), who pops up at a local fundraiser after a long absence from the neighborhood.

29558859821_4b6ab4f6ca_zVickie Daignault (Jean), Rebecca Dines (Margie) and Bonnie Agan (Dottie) engage in amusing tete a tete. Photo by Kara Goldberg.

From Margie’s apartment to the bingo hall, we’re treated to feisty exchanges between daffy landlady Dottie (another great turn by local actor Bonnie Agan) and Margie’s best friend, Jean (played hilariously by transplant Vickie Daignaualt). There’s something a little shifty about Dottie, and Jean doesn’t let up on her with that tough-as-nails Irish sarcasm that doubles as a coping mechanism in South Boston, and Southies like Jean wield it like a billy club.

Jean suggests that Margie approach her erstwhile preppy Romeo. Margie resists at firsts and then consents.

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Peter Reardon (Mike) and Rebecca Dines (Margie) play an awkward game of catch-up. Photo by Kara Goldberg.

Margie unceremoniously barges into Mike’s office. (Mike: “I’m a reproductive endocrinologist.” Margie: “I don’t know what you just said, but I just got a little excited.”) Mike treats her with both nostalgic affection and awkwardness as he reluctantly invites her to birthday dinner party in his tony Crescent Hill home. Kudos, by the way, to Gularte and the actors for making this difficult and highly nuanced interplay work.

In Act Two, we meet Mike’s wife, Kate (played exquisitely Renata Eastlick). She’s a poised, educated foil to off-the-cuff dropout Margie. As Mike and Margie go down memory lane and some uncomfortable and upsetting subjects arise involving a past incident, we see Kate tested, but her integrity remains intact. Life goes on after this encounter, but a realization that Mike, Kate and Margie are no longer the same hovers over the performance.

2.) Good People stays on course without avoiding complex subject matter: South Boston has a widely publicized history of racial tension. The neighborhood violently resisted school busing in the mid-1970s, and in Good People, we learn that one of the central characters was involved in bullying incident that casts a pall on his character. Pulitzer finalist Lindsay-Abaire handles some horrific revelations  with the appropriate weightiness needed but is never too heavy-handed. Ambivalence, wrong choices and unfair advantages come into play, too, as the central Southies deal with how they and their lives changed after high school.

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Peter Reardon (Mike), Rebecca Dines (Margie) and Renata Eastlick (Kate). Photo by Kara Goldberg.

3.) Impressive lighting, stage management and set changes: With backdrops on casters and nimble prop changes, American Stage takes us from graffiti-sprayed back alley to kitschy 1970s apartment to bingo hall to doctor’s office to a luxurious upscale home. Credit goes to Gularte for both her overall direction and sound design, scenic designer Frank Chavez, lighting designer Dan Covey and the production designer/manager Jerid Fox and stage manager Rachel Harrison.

4.) The on-point performances: The entire cast kicks ass. Rebecca Dines gives us a Margie that’s part Laverne Di Fazio, part Sally Field in Norma Rae. Though she’s endured a great deal of misfortune, she’s no martyr.  Margie’s flaws make her more interesting and endearing, Of course, a great performance helps in this regard, too. Dines, an Australian-born Equity/SAG actor who played in the same role with Gularte in a past production of Good People at the director’s former home, the Capitol Stage Company, conveys the spunkiness and frustration of her character without making Margie too cartoonish. She, and the other ladies pull off a convincing Southie accent, and Reardon, an Irish-American Mass. native, provides just the right shade of a brogue covered up by decades of yuppie shame.

5.) Good People stays with you long after the play is over:  American Stage’s production strikes a chord for anyone who’s felt like a misfit in America’s class hierarchy or has experienced a disconnect between their potential vs. their achievements. Lindsay-Abaire’s script reminds us that our society places too much value on appearances, and that it’s the job of a great stage play like Good People to excavate the inconvenient truths that lurk beneath our most commonly held perceptions.

Good People runs through Oct. 2 at American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. Visit americanstage.org for showtimes and ticket info.

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You go, Dina! Turkey neck no more

Every morning while watching WTSP-Ch. 10 with my mom a Sonobello plastic surgery clinic commercial comes on without fail.
I am haunted by this adorable little lady’s horror story about her insidious waddle. She has an accent and melodic speaking manner that I can’t get out of my head.
My hunch is that she’s Greek-American … or maybe Brazilian or Latina. Not sure.
Regardless of her ethnicity, Dina’s presence has become a staple in my morning routine.
I feel like we’re pals.
I recite her memorable line in unison with her:
“My nephew used to play with it. He used to go *gabble gabble.”
Thanks, Bea Nicholson, for the phonetic pronunciation.
Featured post

Teenage Favorites Video Jukebox — my ’80s on MTV

Social media sites have been more splattered with 80s nostalgia than a Flashdance-off-the-shoulder puffy paint shirt.

When it comes to music, as a rule, I try not to dwell on the past, but the 1980s are special to me because they perfectly span my adolescence, from age 11 to 20.

I began my inklings of womanhood during the advent of MTV in the U.S. After growing up with the Eagles, the new sounds I discovered in 1982  were absolutely thrilling. Synthesizers came into their own, and jazz, reggae, Latin percussion and all sorts of exotic elements whirled together. Men  and women experimented with looking androgynous and wearing stylish suits. Hairstyles were crazy and unpredictable.

Here is a list of just some of my personal favorite not-quite-so-overplayed MTV videos, the tunes that I struggled to stay awake to watch in the wee hours while crashing at my older brother Joe’s house (because he had cable and I didn’t).

I think I liked them so much because they were a little outrageous and glamorous, the antithesis of the 1970s prog and southern rock my teen brothers awakened me with well past my bedtime when I was a little kid.

Simple Minds — Promised You a Miracle

My first favorite video in 1982.

The English Beat — Save It For Later

I have two favorite videos from The English Beat, known simply as The Beat in the UK. The first is my favorite as a youth and the second is my favorite now. The Beat has stayed with me and evolved in familiarity more than most ’80s bands.

My favorite video of all time back then, Save It for Later has a sway and Beatnik aesthetic that was so cool to me as a kid.

 

The English Beat — The Doors to Your Heart

Now, this is hands down my favorite video. I love the energy and geography …

… but my favorite tune/video if I had to choose one  …

The English Beat — Too Nice To Talk To

 

Prince – Controversy

This made us younguns’ go, “Wow, what was that? … Is it really 6 minutes long?”

(Of course, I couldn’t find it on YouTube)

INXS – Don’t Change

Uplifting, gorgeous rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s best tune of all time.

 

The Members — Working Girl

Irreverent, snarky and loads of fun.

 

The Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)

Considered by most to be a big-hair trifle, inferior to its members’ previous outing, the Specials, Fun Boy Three is unfairly underrated. The band had one of the most original sounds I’ve heard, combining modern effects with spooky reggae undertones, catchy choruses and dancy rhythms. Plus, David Byrne produced their album, The Waiting.

 

Bananarama with The Fun Boy Three — Really Sayin’ Something

Oh, Bananarama. I wanted  so badly to dress like those girls when I was 13. They were my fashion icons. I even had my mom make me outfitslike theirs

Echo and the Bunnymen – The Cutter

Never Stop was my first pick but the original video wasn’t available; this is a gem, too, showing young Ian McCulloch’s full lips in full effect.

 

The Fall – Victoria

(One of thee best Kinks covers) with singer Mark E. Smith looking zany in a Napoloeon uniform. Very fitting.

R.E.M. – Can’t Get There From Here

Favorite R.E.M vid hands down. Funny, playful, smart,creative, crazy … the R.E.M. I love. Insanely arcane lyrics, like “Philomath is where I go.”

 

 

Let’s Active — Waters Part

Mitch Easter, Let’s Active’s frontman, produced R.E.M.’s early albums. This was my favorite on a favorite album of all time.

 

 

The B52’s — Song for a Future Generation

Thompson Twins — Love on Your Side

Blow Monkeys – Forbidden Fruit

Pretty horns and one  beach party goddess. Loved the editing with backward-motion effect. (Sorry for the poor quality. All YouTube had.)

 

China Crisis – King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)

The dorky brilliance and gentile charm of so many unsung pop geniuses of that time period. It made me feel naughty to sing the word Catholic in less than a reverential manner when I tape-recorded this tune, which was right around the time of my confirmation.

 

 

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark – Joan of Arc

Moody proto synth pop at its best. Another “Catholic” song.

 

Depeche Mode — Everything Counts

That xylophone in the refrain always got me.

 

Haircut 100 — Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)

Shimmering and timeless … excuse the poor video quality.

 

Heaven 17 — Penthouse and Pavmenet

Heaven 17 didn’t sound quite like anyone else. The Human League counterparts released two great singles that outdid all of Human’s League’s hitlist (in my humble adolescent opinion). Would have to revisit to see if I still feel the same. … Most likely.

 

Tears for Fears — Pale Shelter

My first VHS tape was of Tears For Fears’ singles from The Hurting album.

 

Aztec Camera — Oblivious

This  video by the Scottish band that made me shriek whenever it came on and I maybe got to see it just a few times:

Ultravox — Dancing With Tears in My Eyes

Dramatic and so beautiful.

 

Japan — Visions of China

Another rarity and such a big deal to me when it came on, usually in the middle of the night …

 

The Style Council — “You’re the Best Thing (That Ever Happened to Me)”

My favorite love song of the 80s.

 

Or maybe it was this:

 

Prefab Sprout — When Love Breaks Down

Favorite heartbreak tune.

 

Joe Jackson — Breaking Us in Two

Another heartbreaker.

 

The Fixx — Stand or Fall

More drama.

 

Time Zone — World Destruction

Along with “Radio Clash,” a favorite  rap song and protest song.

Wham — Young Guns

Wham when they were known as “Wham UK” — “Hey sucker, what the hell got into you?!”

 

Adam Ant — Desperate but not Serious

 

The Clash — (This Is) Radio Clash

https://vimeo.com/121199001

 

The Police — De Do Do Do De Da Da Da

The Police and The Clash —  they both are known for their white reggae rock but hated each other. Yet they are doomed to be remembered by me in tandem. Here is a video I loved to see because it was seldom on MTV.

 

Talk Talk — It’s My Life

Gwen Stefani couldn’t touch this.

 

Icicle Works – Whisper to a Scream

Icicle Works introduced me to Buddhism, funny enough.

New Order — Blue Monday

In 1985 my focus veered from MTV to my favorite underage nightclub, Skyfeathers, which featured a Union Jack-painted dancefloor. This tune lured the majority of the kids with big hair at the time.

 

Tones on Tail — Go

Another danceclub favorite.

My two favorite female-fronted videos:

Siouxsie and the Banshees — Spellbound

The Pretenders — Tattooed Love Boys

(She wasn’t British but her band was.)

The Smiths — What Difference Does It Make?

Word porn for adolescents and great rock ‘n’ roll, period.

 

The Cure — In Between Days

The tune, the video that put me over the moon for the Cure.

Split Enz — One Step Ahead

No list would be complete without my favorite New Zealanders.

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Rappers who get this nerd out of the trap — plus updates on Tampa Bay hip-hop artists

By Julie Garisto

Daniel, my other half, has taken over our Spotify and Youtube accounts, eschewing my trust-fund-kid-approved playlists of Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra in favor of  Fetty Wap and O.T. Genasis.

His playlist on Spotfy is a diverse mix of hip-hop and R&B, ranging from Aesop Rock to Big Sean to Childish Gambino to Run the Jewels to J. Cole to Nikki Minaj. I’m a little late to some, but I’m starting to get current.

Boogie, who’s more intense and buggy-eyed than Lil’ Wayne, has grown on me. His “Oh My” has a big fat hook you could hang Andre the Giant’s coat on.

Chance the Rapper’s “Angels” is an ambitious track that doesn’t conform to the status quo but is equally bold, as so is his superheroic video.

 

My favorite this month is  Domo Genesis feat. Anderson .Paak‘s “Dapper,” a smooth tune with a sweet roller-skating vid.

Action Bronson is a cult sensation who along with rapping is a full-on chef who hosts a cooking show on Vice’s Munchies channel called “F*ck, That’s Delicious.” Along with being smart as a whip, the 32-year-old performer born Arian Asllani gives us this big teddy-bear nice guy vibe but can hold his own in a fight.

Bronson’s “Baby Blue” video (directed by Lil Chris) has no doubt endeared many with its Coming to America tribute the world’s most awesome revenge verse from Chance the Rapper.

Dave Burd, aka Lil Dicky, is a humorist and lovable douche who has been dubbed an anti-rap artist because he crafts rhymes about saving money and the mundane pastimes of middle class life. His track “Lemme Freak” is a brilliant sendup of suburban male sexual frustration. My favorite part is when he envisions himself a senior in the virtual reality future, calling out his wife for throwing out his shoes.

Locally, Dynasty, aka Dream Pusher, aka Lady Dy still reigns supreme. Both fierce and uplifting, she is on point with her poetry and doesn’t have one iota of inauthenticity.

Here’s her track from a few years back, “Magnificent”:

Dynasty has always been community-conscious, too. Right now she’s recruiting kids for the STAAR Program, a music and arts summer camp in June. Visit her homepage for more details.

I had the honor of being the first journalist to interview Ms. Diana Hardy more than a decade ago for the Times/tbt*. Since then, Dy has had a number of great collaborators, from Talib Kweli to Tampa Bay rapper Mike Mass, who, likewise, has an effortless flow.


Mass was recently featured in Blame Ebro as an “Artist on the Come Up.”

For those of you who appreciate having more to love, Clearwater-based Blackwell, a Blakknation Music hip-hop artist, has just released a track dedicated to the BBGs of this world:  “Thick,” featuring Shock Da world and D. Jone$. For more info go to Reverbnation.Com/blackwell612. Oh, I almost forgot: He’ll be on WTAN-AM’s “The Dawn Reese Show” Wednesday, May 11, 6-7 p.m.

Tampa favorite Breakdown, whom I was also fortunate to interview when he first hit, is working on a new album.

Here’s what he had to say about it:

“Quite a few of songs deal with my interactions with different women, so I touch on love, heartbreak, unrequited feelings, dating, etc. A couple songs deal with the frustration of just working full time and still trying find time to devote to writing music. So a lot of it’s dark, but there are a few songs about typical-rapper stuff. I actually composed all of the music first. Some of the songs started with samples from punk, emo, and melodic hardcore bands and the other songs started from original guitar riffs I wrote. There’s some faster tempo stuff and almost drum and bass on a few songs.”

Here’s a vid for “Been a Minute” from his last release a couple of years ago, So Far Away. Directed and animated by Ranmecca, the track can be downloaded for free criticalbreakdown.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you again Breakdown. It’s indeed been a minute.

Featured post

8 reasons to see Jobsite Theater’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike

Jobsite Theater continues a tradition of unconventional theater offerings with Christopher Durang’s conventionally lauded Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play that is no less weirdly wonderful than Jobsite’s other offerings.

The farce by satirist Christopher Durang endeared Broadway for the same cynical and cathartic reasons  Iñárritu‘s Birdman won the Oscar last year: It’s a non-stop riff on stage and showbiz life — its pitfalls, embarrassments and pet peeves — that satirizes  everything from narcissism to elitism to lame auditions to fading celebrity while managing to convey poignant insights on aging, mortality and family bonds.

Vanya and Sonia works on many levels if you can approach it with an open mind, sense of humor and let go of preconceived notions about how a play should play out on stage.

Here are some other reasons to see the latest production of the Straz Center of Performing Arts’ resident theater company:

Anton-Chekhov1.) It’s a treat for Anton Chekhov fans: If you didn’t figure it out reading the title, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is an absurd and affectionate send-up of works by the Russian playwright and his famous plays, including  The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. The story centers on siblings raised by a theatergoing parents (hence the character names) and offers similar eruptions of neuroses in a rustic setting. There’s even a scene when Roz Potenza’s Sonia professes, “I am a wild turkey!” which is a humorous homage to Chekhov heroine Nina’s famously self-actualizing line, “I am a seagull!”

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From left: Roz Potenza as Sonia, Jonelle Meyer as Cassandra and Brian Shea as Vanya. Photo by Crawford Long.

2.) Jonelle Meyer as a wacky psychic: She is one of the funniest women alive and we’re lucky to have her here in Tampa Bay. As the hippie housekeeper Cassandra in Vanya and Sonia, Meyer lives up to her mythological name as a seer no one takes seriously. She plays the role big with her signature bug-eyed, animated physicality and verbal dexterity that endeared us in past productions of Almost an Evening and The Divine Sister, recalling our favorite uninhibited comedy heroines from yesteryear like Madeline Kahn, Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett but with a fierce ownership of the stage that is all her own.

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Potenza, Elizabeth Fendrick as Masha, Shea and show-off Spike played by Jamie Jones. Photo by Crawford Long.

3.) Jamie Jones as a ridiculous boy toy: The nimble and deep-voiced Jamie Jones is one of our area’s most versatile actors. One moment he’s the handsome love interest of celebrity Masha, the other he’s a self-absorbed, IQ-deprived aspiring celebrity and exhibitionist peacocking all over the stage in tighty-blackies, thrusting his junk in Brian Shea’s face. Like Meyer, he delivers comic relief with brilliant physicality and ingeniously meta overacting. It takes boatloads of talent to deliver over the top performances without grating on the audience’s nerves, and both Jones and Meyer elicit big laughs as their ridiculous characters.

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Potenza and Shea as Sonia and Vanya. Photo by Crawford Long.

4.) The sensical relief of Brian Shea’s Vanya: Brian Shea plays the rational if inhibited older brother who brings sanity to the play. He’s a skilled actor with an enviable ease once again, and in the second act, he delivers an epic monologue (too long by conventional standards, an “in your face” to critics) that laments the good old days of rotary dial phones and wholesome sitcoms, pre-ADD-enabling bursts of device-driven communication.

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Elizabeth Fendrick as Masha shows her disappointment after being showed up as the belle of a costume ball. Photo by Crawford Long.

5.) Elizabeth Fendrick as a diva: Okay, so this list is basically praising all the performances in the play, and rightfully so. Fendrick starts out arrogant and shallow but undergoes an arc that eventually makes her sympathetic to the audience. When her costume party Snow White is confused for Norma Desmond, we simultaneously laugh and feel a twinge of sympathy.

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Emily Belvo as Nina and Jones’ Spike. Photo by Crawford Long.

6.) Emily Belvo as the spazzy neighbor Nina: As with her animated castmates, it takes a certain measure of talent to pull off an over-the-top role, and Belvo is adorably perfect as the aw-shucks, adulating young neighbor and aspiring actress. Durang belies her supposed naivete with more sense and inner equilibrium than her older counterparts, showing us that people are often more than their “type.”

7.) Another first rate set and exceptional lighting by Jobsite: Kudos to Patrick Barnhart (Lighting Assistant Intern), Ryan Finzelbar (Lighting Designer), David M. Jenkins (Sound Designer) Amara Manickchand (Associate Lighting Designer), Brittany Reuther (Costume Designer) and Brian M. Smallheer (Scenic Designer). Together, they re-create a believably homey cottage porch in the backwoods of Pennsylvania replete with tree branch shadows  and nostalgic Beatles tunes.

8.) The Potenzas: One of local theater’s most beloved couples collaborate to make this show great. Paul Potenza, the award-winning actor who wowed us with his kpaul-and-roznockout performance as a dying curmudgeon in Jobsite’s Annapurna directs this first-rate production that includes wife Roz as Sonia. Roz’s Sonia is a bit awkward and stares at the ceiling as if she’s ruminating on a million things while she’s speaking, but we begin to get to know her as much more than a reclusive eccentric. She comes out of her shell at a costume party portraying Maggie Smith on Oscar night, accent and all. Come to think of it, the world would be a better place if more Sonias were given a second look the way Durang lovingly unravels this sweetly flawed heroine. Paul lends his acting intuition to his direction by humanizing a play that tinkers more with ideas than the nuances of interaction, but ultimately succeeds in doing both.

All photos above by Crawford LongShow times are 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Thursday and 4 p.m. Sunday, through March 20 at the  Straz Center’s Shimberg Playhouse, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets are $28 (discounts available); call (813) 229-7827; visit strazcenter.org or jobsitetheater.org

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Strange Corners & Surprising Detours — Clearwater pt. 1

The second in a destination series,  Strange Corners & Surprising Detours is a recurring feature that highlights unusual, compelling and less-visited sites around Tampa Bay, and, occasionally, other places encountered while traveling. Photos and words by Julie Garisto; additional pics by Daniel Veintimilla.

Clearwater conjures only a couple of bits of imagery to to most. Just about everyone loves or knows about the overcrowded, overdeveloped but still fabulous Clearwater Beach. Downtown Clearwater is still under-appreciated, known primarily for its Church of Scientology buildings, and maybe the Capitol Theatre or Coachman Park, but almost no attention is given to the eye candy between the gulf and the bay.

The Harbor Oaks neighborhood, located just south of downtown, is one of the prettiest and oldest neighborhoods in the city, and up the road, a collection of neighborhoods known to residents as “Greenwood” is a post-segregation but still-pretty-much segregated community, avoided by most white people. The area’s charms, however, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here’s a look at some of the above interesting and pretty Clearwater places you won’t find in the tourist brochures.

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Nauti-Nancy’s is an Old Florida-style seafood cafe conveniently located next to the Pinellas Trail. Photo by Julie Garisto.

 

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Church of the Ascension Episcopal Church lets its presence be known with a majestic bell tower dedicated to a Clearwater civic leader whose name I mainly recognize from local car dealerships. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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On Gasparilla Day, this was our one and only pirate boat adventure. No beads or boobie-flashing here.  Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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Northwest view from the little Clearwater park pier. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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View from atop the stairs. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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I did some digging around on the web and found nothing on this  little no-name park (not mentioned in city or county directories) but it does have an actual city park sign that lists hours (closed after dusk) and allows dogs on a leash. Dog owners, of course, must clean up poop (which should go without saying but unfortunately doesn’t). Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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The Harbor Oaks neighborhood isn’t just made up of gorgeous mansions and villas. There’s a cluster of beautifully quaint apartment buildings along Oak Avenue — one of my first choices if I were to rent. The above porch belongs to Mike Post, a retired florist. Photo by Julie Garisto.
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Mike Post amid his greenery. Photo by Julie Garisto.
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In Greenwood area — an old church-turned-community center, originally St. John the Baptist Missionary Baptist Church, built in 1921. Photo by Julie Garisto.
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The beautiful bell tower at the Church of Ascension. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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Remember Dimmit Chevrolet?
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Bottom-up view by Daniel Veintimilla.
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Close up of the bells, bells, bells, bells … photo by Daniel Veintimilla.
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Church of the Ascension Episcopal Church lets its presence be known with a majestic bell tower dedicated to a Clearwater civic leader whose name I mainly recognize from local car dealerships. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.

 

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SourceTalk Saturday: “Police State”

The primary presidential election has offered a town hall meeting almost every night. Sadly, these media events are rife with name-calling and canned rhetoric. Not much of relevance is shared beyond the talking points.
Today, in Tampa, you can attend a town hall that delves into issues and ideas that are relevant right now in American cities.
The community organization Us‘s topical forums known as SourceTalk Saturday (based on the live, issues-based talk show called Wide aWoke Wednesdays) explore issues and ideas we all care about.
This Saturday at Seminole Heights Library , Us will present Police State, a SourceTalk that delves into the current reality of racial profiling, violence and law/law enforcement. Panelists include Us Community Committee member Sundiata Shu ‘El Bey and minister/former law enforcement officer Nicole Gadson.
Tafari said that Shu’El Bey (pictured above) is a legal expert who has assisted criminal defendants navigate the courts system. The activist will help attendees get to the source of the fear and ignorance to blame in problems with law enforcement, “so we can make wiser, more rational decisions.”
A registered Aboriginal-Indigenous Moor, Shu El’Bey is also know as DJ Breeze. He’s a favorite in the local spoken word and hip-hop scene, and a member of The Us Community Committee, “an organization with the mission in mind of serving all of Us with Righteous Intentions and Works ” [initial caps retained].  
Says Tafari: “El’Bey will speak on his firsthand experiences of being a adult Black male and dealing with law enforcement here in the U.S. this Saturday at SourceTalk.” 
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Nicole Gadson

The event’s other panelist, Gadson, she got involved with US through Walter “Wally B.” Jennings, who participated in a previous SourceTalk Saturday.

“When I spoke to her in detail on the show, she loved the idea and what it represented,” Tafari shares. “Her objective, as well, is to help Us get to the source of the issue between Blacks. The former  Orlando police officer will allow people to possibly “overstand” why law enforcement does some of the things they do, says Tafari.

 Gadson is a self taught musician and singer-songwriter. She has performed up and down the East Coast, and is currently working on a gospel album.  A member of Hurst Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where she is a leader for the Singles Ministry and a musician with the Music Ministry, Gadson also performs with Black on Black Rhyme. She has appeared on stage with  Lyfe Jennings, T Pain , Keyshia Cole  and Field Mob.
Also at the event: live music by Camille Scringer, Us Community Committee. Vendors include Tampa based Higher Hustle Clothing  and The Vegg’d Out Vegan Kitchen. Video recording by Streetdrop Cinema Digital Video Production will be presented in conjunction with GivThanks TV.

Attend Police State at 6 p.m. today at Seminole Heights Branch Library,  4711 N Central Ave, Tampa. Admission is free. Find out more about Us here.

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Broadway tour of Matilda the Musical brings the endearingly twisted wit of Roald Dahl to the Straz Center

The winner of four Tony Awards continues its run through Sunday. Review by Julie Garisto.

Matilda the Musical, a Dickensian-lite tale of a young genius who uses the power of her mind to defy unfortunate circumstances, can be seen through Sunday at the Straz Center of Performing Arts in downtown Tampa.

From its first note, the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel charms with ear-wormy Oliver!-style anthems and darkly cartoonish characters, like those in Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children) movies. Skewed Scrabble tiles pile high in a surreal backdrop as a mostly young cast entertains with impeccable choreography and vocal harmonies.

Matilda the Musical follows the childhood of precocious and imaginative British girl born to boorish parents (Quinn Mattfield and Cassie Silva) who horribly mistreat her. Their crass neglect and verbal abuse, and the scowling and ridiculously mean headmistress of Matilda’s school (portrayed hilariously by male actor David Abeles) are over-the-top funny.

The show’s star Lily Brooks O’Brient belted out admirably in the title role. (The actress alternates dates with Sarah McKinley Austin in the title role.) Jennifer Blood as sweet Miss Honey gives the show’s most heart-rending turn and also gives a mighty vocal performance. The only disappointment performance-wise is that we don’t see more of Jamaican librarian Mrs. Phelps (Esther Antoine).

Matilda‘s adorably talented ensemble of schoolchildren make the musical a must-see for families and anyone who grew up reading Dahl books. The show rouses with a spirited rebellion and mischievous defiance of a miserable status quo — and a tongue-in-cheek dash of satire Dahl fans have enjoyed in classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The verbal cleverness of Dahl is abbreviated in the theater version, of course, but the musical has more heart than the film adaptation starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

Sound technical issues marred Wednesday night’s production at the Straz’s Morsani Hall. Volume and high-end distortion made the British accents a little tougher to follow.

Future audiences should be dazzled by the special effects in Matilda the Musical. Pyrotechnic lights, explosive sounds and a beautiful silhouetted cut-out animation are some of the show’s highlights. There’s one more audience-involved complement, but I won’t give that away. The surprise is too special (and colorful).

The orchestral score is a star of the show that deserves mention. The tunes are catchy and incorporate gypsy jangle and classic melodies — one even rocks.

Sadly, the book feels somewhat slapdash. This touring production is a little too long, like so many of Broadway’s family-friendly, commercially driven productions these days. Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Dodgers (!), it could use some serious tightening up.

Some takeaways : You can always rewrite your own story, everyone needs a little love and tenderness, and perhaps, most relevant, ignorance should never be tolerated from our authority figures.

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention Tampa’s Event Show Productions performers (inspired by Matilda’s imagination) who perform outside the lobby pre-show. They were a surprising treat.

Click here for showtimes and ticket info. 

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“Humans of New York” creator to speak at USF

The everyday portraits by Humans of New York have changed the way we social network. The photos lure you in with a compellingly intimate, empathic, connective power that resonates above the divisive bitchiness and antagonism going on just about everywhere else.

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Brandan Stanton, photo from chronicleme.com

See Brandon Stanton, the mastermind behind this internet staple in April at USF. Stanton will appear on Tuesday, April 5, during USF Week. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., in the Marshall Student Center.

 

Stanton started the photography blog Humans of New York in 2010 as a census, but when he began collecting quotes and short stories from the people he met, the project mushroomed into another being altogether. People around the world learn about the lives of New Yorkers of all walks of live through portraits and captions. The blog is now followed by nearly 14 million people, has become the fastest growing Arts and Humanities page on Facebook and is the subject of a No. 1 New York Times bestselling book. Stanton’s third book, HONY: Stories, was released in October 2015.

Says: chronicleme.com: “Stanton is not the type to enrich in the popularity he was gaining all for himself. In 2012, DKNY approached him to use 300 of his photos for a fashion campaign but he declined. When DKNY went ahead and used his pictures anyway, in at least one store in Bangkok, he decided against suing them for money that he rightly deserved. Instead, Brandon publicly asked that they donate $100,000 in his name to a YMCA, so they could send a bunch of underprivileged kids to summer camp.”

The lecture is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis following priority seating for USF students. For more information about the lecture series, including the audience policy, visit uls.usf.edu.

 

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February is for Ybor art lovers

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“Greenman” by Ken Echezebal

 

Ybor City has always been a haven for bohemians — even when developers and corporate interests forced the independent business owners, local bands and artmakers to the outlying areas of the district.

Now, artists from outside the district are even commuting to work in Ybor because the energy is so great there right now. Ybor’s re-burgeoning arts scene illustrates how camaraderie and support can turn unknowns into thriving professionals. Artists push each other to be more daring and experimental, which in turn gives more to art lovers and the community.

If you’re curious about Ybor’s artistic resurgence, February offers a bounty of Ybor art shows (and one honorary Ybor artist in Pinellas). Here are a handful of events coming up:

Silver Meteor Gallery‘s next art show will spotlight one of Tampa’s most enduring and imaginative painters, Ken Echezabal. Psychedelically inclined, bold and a connoisseur of color, the Tampa native owned Dog Eat Dog Artwear in Ybor City in the late 1980s. His artwork has added distinction to some of Tampa’s alternative night clubs over the years, like Masquerade, DNA, the Parthenon and the Castle. Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design.

Liquid Experiments — Paintings by Ken Echezabal  runs from Saturday, Feb. 6, to Sunday, Feb. 14.  Attend an opening reception for the show Saturday, Feb. 6, from 7 to 11 p.m.. Admission is free. Other hours by appointment.

According to a press release from Silver Meteor owner Michael A. Murphy, the exhibition will explore two different styles of Echezabal’s experimental painting:

“In one series, Ken manipulates built-up layers of paint; the other, contains Op Art pieces done with fluorescent paint. The combination of these two distinct styles will be illuminated with both halogen (white) and ultraviolet (black) light.”

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“blacklightdrops”

Echezabal studied fine art at the University of South Florida and the Ringling College of Art & Design. Raw, wild expression often complements his expert technique.

Says Echezabal of Liquid Experiments: “I would describe the show as an introspective space odyssey. I will be showing several different styles of painting, with various distorted and inflated perspectives.”

Silver Meteor Gallery can be found at 2213 E. Sixth Ave., between 22nd and 23rd streets, in Ybor City. Click here for the venue’s Facebook page.

. . .

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Friends and art patrons usher in the new Gallery @ 14 Days in Ybor.

The owners of Ybor’s 14 Days to Close real estate have gone from art supporters to gallery owners by agreeing to display local art into its office’s new makeshift gallery space, The Gallery @ 14 Days.

 

The idea of the gallery started when artist/curator Brien Hockman was showing his works and others in tent shows.

“At one, I met Realtor Grant Vreeland who expressed a strong interest in my display,” Hockman recalls. “We chatted about his desire to have creative energy in his office space. After a few emails and calls I met him at their office at 2609 E. Seventh Ave. My first impression of the space was, Wow there is no art with the exception of a mural depicting their logo. … I had asked grant and Jordan Vreeland what did they typically do for home owners when they closed on a house. Grant explained that they typically would give a gift card to Home Depot or home decor. I suggested, why not start with art?”

An agreement was made that Hockman would get artists to create an innovative work space rent free if the Realtors would purchase art. How often and how much would depend on their profit margin on a new home or business closing.

Hockman himself didn’t pursue his dream to make and sell art until he and his wife watched the movie The Bucket List.

“After the movie, we talked about life’s dreams and missed opportunities,” Hockman reminisced. “We started our own bucket list with each of us putting a folded piece of paper in a coffee can. Depending on what was pulled would be what we did for the weekend. My wife, Katrina, had put do an art show within a year. That was the starting point five years ago … Since then our works have made it to the Regent Gallery of HCC, a couple of restaurants, an animal hospital, a cardiologist office and an upcoming Warner Brothers movie (Bastards) with Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Terry Bradshaw and J.K. Simmons.”

On Feb. 26, celebrate Hockman and Vreeland’s successes, and most importantly of all, the works of local artists at Evening of the Arts @14 Days. The event is a great way to become acquainted with this refreshingly new gallery concept and features live painting, music, food and beverage, and a meet-and-greet with the gallery’s artists.

. . .

schwackeMason Schwacke doesn’t live in Ybor (he lives in Largo) but he’s worked with the artists in the Ybor Art Asylum collective, where he gained a following for his owls and other colorful, expressionistic creatures.

For his next show, Schwacke will be schlepping new works to Gulfport’s PORTSPACE Gallery, which, incidentally, is also finishing up a show by another talented Ybor-based artist, Bekky Beukes.

 A Color of Their Own opens Feb. 20 at Portspace with an opening reception coinciding with Gulfport’s third Saturday art walk. The show takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. and features small paper works and a large-scale mural that will be completed on the gallery walls.

. . .

 

MF Arts is at the heart of the young Ybor artist scene. Its next big event, Love and Lust He(Art) Show, on Saturday night, Feb. 27, should offer more of the imaginative, fringy-fun and convivial vibes that have made the warehouse space at 1616 E. Second Ave. such a big crowd-pleaser during its first year in Ybor.

Love and Lust, touted as a collaboration of local artists, photographers and performers, and will highlight a staggering variety of visual artists Samuel Ramon, Macy Eats Paint, Milli Misa, JunkYrd, Dylan Perry, Jenna Marie Alderiso and Jake Troyli. The variety should be staggering

Photographers Chevy Chevarria, Harrison Ponce, Bailley Burd, Kenny Bobby and Allison Nielsen will also show their imagery, and expect just as much boundary-pushing music/live performances by Robb Gats, Granata, Mike Mass, HMTWN and Louis Junior. DJ Wally Clark spins in between.

. . .

On the same night as MF Arts’ event (make it a twofer!), LiveArt Laboratories brings us Insanity in Motion: An Exploration of Off The Rails Performance Art, an exploration of performance art in a wide range of forms.

The lineup includes suspensions by Oxi Lox, aerial silks by Suzanne Curry, fire performing organized by Nemo, Rally, and Rose, music by Bride of Chaotica and Synthetic Nation
Shibari by Stephanie Kinkaid, A Live Musical Ritual by LILITH and Project Ohmsted.

. . .

Though the DIY stronghold on commerce along Seventh Avenue temporarily slipped away, and we lost the neighborhood’s art master, Theo Wujcik, the Ybor City’s art scene is alive and well.

Ybor is downright exciting right now with more and more works coming from  The Ybor Art Alliance, Ybor Art Asylum, MF Arts and other fringe-friendly galleries have created a renewed sense of community. The thrum of positive energy in Tampa’s historic district has definitely been palpable. I’m sure that Theo would love it.

 

 

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Tampa’s road to nowhere, aka Northwest Commerce Park

This blog is a first in a destination series called Strange Corners & Surprising Detours.

Photos: © Daniel Veintimilla

If you’ve ever traveled west on Hillsborough Avenue, you may have been confused by a sign beckoning northbound Veterans Expressway that’s posted just by the on-ramp, immediately after a turn that does not lead to the highway.

Maybe you noticed the tricky optical illusion in time the first time you saw it, or maybe, like me, you had to take a U-turn. Did you ever wonder what lies at the end of that road? Well, nothing … sort of.

One afternoon last November, curiosity and feverish procrastination overcame me en route home to Clearwater. Danny, my photographer bf and I decided to take the by TIA and Memorial/Veterans highways and see if we could somehow criss-cross some office parks and get back on a main road.

No doing. The road, Jet View Circle is just that, a circle, that takes you into the Northwest Commerce Park, an office/industrial park owned by Eastgroup Properties.

 

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The park is apocalyptic. If you dare to drive there — which may or may not be trespassing (sorry, officer, we didn’t know) — an eerie, otherworldly aura permeates the park’s weird backdrop of suburban decay. Wooden shingles dangle from its very 1980s-style rooftops. Blunt wrappers blow in the breeze. We didn’t see one discernible business in operation, but seemingly functioning satellite antennas could be spotted, and a surreal array of graffiti warded off trespassers and depicted crazy cartoon characters on its exterior walls.

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Danny and I joked about how the park looked like the headquarters of some secret operation —dirty DEA or cop drug stashes, CIA weapons and holding areas, Mafia storage? The possibilities were intriguing. (Sidenote: If I wind up mysteriously missing, this blogpost may be why!)

Jokes aside, the least compelling scenario usually corresponds with reality. Most likely, Eastgroup is holding onto the properties until some moneybags developer comes along.

The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce wrote on its website that “the W. Hillsborough Avenue corridor between Town ‘n Country and Oldsmar is another hotbed of development, with thousands of high-end apartments, condos and single family homes slated to begin construction within the next few years.”

In the meantime, Northwest Commerce Park is an intriguingly desolate twilight zone that would make a great backdrop for a zombie horror film. Maybe if we stayed long enough, we would have seen some walkers.

One more thing: If you venture inside the complex and travel to its far east end, you can get a great view of a TIA landing strip.

See below for a gallery of photos from the park.

 

 

 

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Spend a well-versed Saturday afternoon at Improbable Athenaeum’s Poem Swap

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Saturday afternoons aren’t just for running errands. Add a little poetic flourish  with professional actors and fellow lexophiles reciting favorite verse  at 2 p.m. on Jan. 16.
Tampa theater company Improbable Athenaeum invites poetry lovers to the Seminole Heights Library to bring a book or print-out that includes a treasured poem. You can either request that one of Improbable Athenaeum’s performers read it — or recite some verse yourself.
Formerly the Alley Cat Players, Improbable Athenaeum combines literary text with dance and movement, music, projections, visual art and other art forms. As part of its mission, the troupe stages free or low-cost shows anyone can afford to attend.
Headed up by local veteran actor/director Jo Averill-Snell, IA presents a regular series of free script-in-hand performances at the Seminole Heights Library, 4711 N Central Ave., Tampa, on the third Saturday of the month.  Its repertory includes familiar faces from Jobsite Theater, Stageworks and other nearby professional playhouses.
“We also put on plays and other events, as the mood strikes us,” the troupe’s website says.
So, get busy going through your shelves and stacks to find that treasured poem from long ago.
I, myself, would love to scuttle my ragged claws to Seminole Heights for a spirited recitation of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot. Ned Averill-Snell, I pick you!
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Wednesday2 begins a new tradition of storytelling and performance in Gulfport

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Gulfport favorites: At the 2014 Gasp! with Ciara Carinici and Wilson Loria. Photo by Daniel Veintimilla.

When I was arts and entertainment editor, I wrote about a collective of theater talent in Gulfport, who have remained in the shadows of the Bay area’s theater scene at large. Tonight, a few of these local fringe-dwellers — who have successful performance careers beyond the Bay area — will be spearheading Wednesday2 (pronounced Wednesday Squared), a showcase of words and theater at the City of Imagination in Gulfport.

Renaissance Man: Peter Suarez has been known to wield a sword, fire and acoustic guitar at ren fests and elsewhere around the world.
Peter Suarez, a veteran New York actor and international flamenco dancer, will be reading his “El Traje de Luces”, a bullfighter’s tale. Wilson Loria, who was recently honored for “Best Text” at the Montreal Fringe Festival, will be reading his “Accordion” and “Subway” pieces.
The night of theater and prose will also include lit scene favorites Cathy Salustri, Creative Loafing’s new arts and entertainment editor, and Tiffany Razzano, founder of Wordier Than Thou. Suggested donation is $10.
If you can’t make it tonight, a new showcase of will take place every second Wednesday of the month featuring short plays and prose written and read by local authors. Visit  the Wednesday2 Facebook page for details.
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Obscure goodies

When discussing music from the past, Brian Repetto, a.k.a. the Dark Esquire and of Dumbwaiters/Insect Joy fame has always had a great knack for reminding us about what we forgot and making us aware of what we missed. He’s the guy to remind you that Simple Minds had much cooler stuff out there way way way before the Breakfast Club soundtrack. Likewise, he’s on top of what’s new and unusual — not just embracing weird for weird sake but keeping an ear on what’s appealing and challenging in good ways.

If you want to be privy to what Repetto is listening to these days, visit his new blog, Obscure Alternatives. Highly recommended.

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Tampa Bay Band Photo Hall of Shame

I get inundated with ridiculous band photos all year long from earnest and often talented  musicians wanting to get their name out. Sometimes in their efforts to gain exposure they make some misguided decisions.

I think as a public service and excuse for a laugh we should award the best worst  local band pics we see.

If your band lands here, it’s all in good fun. We won’t judge you (wink!).

Please feel free to submit your favorites to juliegaristo@verizon.net.

Here are some:

Free Reign: Who told you to feel free to wear quasi-matching T-shirts … and how can you be so serious about it, too?

How’s that for some awkward patriotism?

Fort Myers’ DayMinus7 wants to kill you in the face …  but will size up your fashion choice first.

 

The members of St. Pete’s Stalwart have been instructed to stand a few feet apart.

Are they about to begin an aerobics class?

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Fond farewells

   No end-of-the-decade retrospective would be complete without mentioning a few of the great individuals who touched our lives and, sadly for us, left our world. While I regret I cannot include all the late great musicians who made an impact, there are certainly three standouts: Jeff Wood, Mike O’Neill and Dave “Dave Rat” Anderson.

   Please read below and share in the reminiscences. E-mail any pictures or fliers you want to include here to juliegaristo@verizon.net or share your own stories in the comments below.

 … Let’s take a moment to raise a pint to them one more time.

Photo of Jeff Wood taken by Chris Zuppa of the St. Petersburg Times

         A great musician, confidant, maker of merry, defender of the underdog and owner of beloved basset hound Bubbles, my friend and neighbor Jeff Wood died at age 42 on Sept. 14, 2007, after a several-year-long battle with brain cancer. The former drummer of Nutrajet, Joe Popp’s band and other acts helped out in a pinch and looked after his friends.  

   As a musician, the rocker nicknamed “Woody” was a precise and propulsive skins man, a captain in the army of British Invasion rock.  

  “He was as loyal a bandmate as anybody could ask for and would follow me blindly into any crazy idea,” recalls Popp. “He wore a dress in Macbeth and boxing shorts for the Bruiser release party. He was an unbelievable drummer and could play three times as hard as any other drummer for a solid hour. The saddest part is he never got to play for a living – an honor he most certainly deserved.”

   An all-around force of nature, Jeff maintained a fierce exercise regimen. He never lagged behind in his employment, often working overtime at his shipping and receiving  job, and all the while providing the beats for several bands at a time.

    He left no question about his character, so big in size it didn’t seem to leave room for attitude or ego, and if you take into account the droves of musicians and fans who showed up to his memorial service – who still share stories about him over a beer – his spirit is still very much alive and among us.

   Ask a former neighbor of ours, Connor Halpern, 9, who, according to his mom Andrea Halpern, recently got in a conversation about the afterlife with his grandpa.

   “I believe in ghosts because I feel Uncle Jeff all the time,” Connor said. “He’s all around me.”

   For more Jeff Wood memories, visit http://www.joepopp.net/Jeff_Wood/Home.html.

Dave Rat Anderson with bartender Joanne Rivera in photo hanging at New World Brewery; by Julie Garisto

 

 

 

 

 

Dave “Dave Rat” Anderson – Another drummer beloved by the Tampa rock and punk scenes, a guy who also helped out on the spot and exuded a sweet soul — whose void makes hearts sink a little and leaves friends asking why — Dave Rat, did not have a reputation for picking fights, but found himself in the middle of a fatal one early morning Oct 24, 2004, at an event celebrating a reunion of friend John Kennedy’s former South Florida punk band, Nuclear Beer, at New World Brewery.

      Anderson, 34, was fatally stabbed while attempting to come between musician Dave Decker of Valrico and Christopher Bellamy of Gainesville.

   The friendly musician could be seen all around Seminole Heights and Ybor City, riding around on an orange scooter and never lacking for a smile for each person he greeted.

     “I’ll never forget Dave’s mischievous smile!” said friend Christina Petro. “He was the first true punk rocker I ever met.”

      Bellamy has since been convicted of second degree murder. Decker recovered from his injuries.

    “Dave Rat never met a stranger,” Kennedy said once in a story I wrote earlier this decade. “You always knew where you stood with him. He was a very special person and touched many people lives positively. We should all be so fortunate.”

Portrait of Mike O'Neill by Carrie Waite

   Mike O’Neill – A shock and heartbreak, the frontman for Monday Mornings, Nailbiters and Unrequited Loves committed suicide on July 17, 2006 at age 41, in a manner so publicized that I’d prefer you Google it than ask me to repeat it here.

   In the late ’90s, fresh out of North Pinellas and having landed gig at the area’s alt-weekly newspaper, Weekly Planet, I found myself in contact with new artists and musicians. My head was swimming.  It was exciting but  hard at times. I didn’t have the sense of shared history everyone else had, but with Mike that didn’t matter so much.

   Joe Popp, on the other hand, got to spend more time with O’Neill. “(He was) a great songwriter and a passionate talent,” said Popp. “I knew Mike for as long time. When I was in Dogs on Ice he gave us our first gig. He used to play extra notes in between chords, which is a trick I flat out stole from him. He was probably the only guy that was at the Hub as much as me. We used to joke about doing a rock musical together, in which he would star as me. He said we along with (Will) Quinlan were the class of ’65 and we would all one day live in a home for aging local musicians.”

    For Mike O’Neill, my lack of scene cred or whatever you call it didn’t matter. He made anyone feel welcome – an equal-oportunity defender and, well, offender. He was even-handed joking around at your expense; part of his charm. It almost seemed if he should have cigarette holder. So droll was he.

   Well read, astute, empathetic (yet unpredictably aloof) and sometimes a stream-consciousness rambler — whatever the moment, Mike came across as unflinchingly honest.

    He always called me out on my mistakes. (Mike, if you’re reading, I am sorry I used the word Americana once in an Unrequited Loves blurb. I think I got confused seeing you with Diviners’ Will Quinlan on those long benders at the Hub. It was a busy week.)

    Mike and I bonded many times over our tastes in music. We’d play the Kinks or Zombies and Nuggets garage rock CDs. He dated a couple of my friends. I dated a couple of his. Both recurrent situations made it awkward to bond at certain intervals.

   I wish I could have talked to him more. I now make a mental note now not to let snafus with mutual acquaintances keep me from a good conversation with someone I respect. Life is too short for such nonsense.

Band goodbyes

 

Home:  Home flew the coop just before this past decade began. The uncannily brainy-accessible band had established a huge following in Tampa Bay and decided to seek out new opportunities in New York. Some of those pursuits paid off. A short time later, Hope opened for Flaming Lips during the band’s European tour. Home returned home in 2000 to play a record-attended Screw Music Forever Showcase at the Orpheum with Dumbwaiters – probably the best local show of the past 10 years and have returned on a few more occasions. Home-comings are always huge and worth planning ahead to attend.

 

Tres Bien: During the fall of 2008, the Tampa Bay’s reality show finalists The Next Great American Band, decided to relocate up north to Pa. (See earlier entry for more details). When visiting our area, however, the energetic performers return to a local stage and go all out for at least one rousing British-Invasion/psychedelic popaganza.

 

Geri X: This month, Geri X performed her last show. The Bulgarian-born singer made quite a stir with her poetic, confessional lyrics and textured compositions.    She said: “I’m terrified of leaving. It’s so final. I’ll miss everything I built here, but sometimes the greatest things come out of confronting your biggest fears. So I hope to go to Atlanta and focus more on my music full time and not so much the stress of my regular day-job life. I don’t expect to be on MTV next month, or to become a millionaire. I just would like to make some more people happy and tour. That’s all. I’m not sure why I have to leave to do it but I feel like I have to. The day of the going away show was probably one of the worst days I’ve had this year but the night and the actual show as one of the best. So I seem to be compensating for my shortcomings (laughs).”

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Another look back at ’09: Best new(ish) bands on the scene

Some have been around for a year or two, but 2009 saw these acts come into their own, playing the mainstays of the music scene. My personal favorites among many — and that’s saying a lot.

Sons of Hippies frontwoman Katherine Kelly; photo by Leigh Armstrong of tbt*

1. Sons of Hippies – Married duo Katherine Kelly and Jonas Canales break all the rules and bring back the rebelliousness of 80s punk and the idealism of 60s folk to paint their own stark and beautiful picture from jagged puzzles pieces of the past.

2. Stolen Idols – The soundtrack to a hep tiki party, Stolen Idols perform smooth lounge exotica with earthy percussion, inspired by tropical locales and composers Les Baxter and Martin Denny. Live,  torches often line the stage and the guys wear Hawaiian or guayabera shirts while bird sounds coo through the PA.

3. Beardsley – Pop eats itself and twists itself on a fork with mind-bending noodles. Wash it all down with sweet catchiness, evocative lyrics and a playful stage presence. Member Andy Craven talks about the silly and the regal. You could characterize Beardsley’s music in a similar manner.

4. The Sheaks – Timeless pop and rock ’n roll that’s at times pleasant, raucous and always infectious. The savvy players in this band sport a keen awareness of the backlashes and cravings of musical trends; I heard drummer Hunter Oswald can predict what you’re going to have for dinner next Saturday. 

5. Tie: Glasgow and Gentlemen, Please – Glasgow takes the best, dominant forces of the Tampa music scene, indie-pop atmospherics and folk, to create one crafty coalition of sounds. Gentlemen, Please performs otherworldly, intelligent and listenable pop brought home by Alastair St. Hill’s strong and intimate vocal; artistic challenge without the cringe.

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Lots to look forward to in 10 …

I think 2009 became bogged down by holding patterns in many arenas of expression —  especially in music … especially local music.

My complaint about recent times: My head is worn out from nodding. Please — somebody — shake my booty again. Keep your black-frame glasses and geeky cool indie aesthetic. That’s quite all right by me. You don’t have to go total Usher on me. Just give me some intelligent lyrics, solid instrumentation and FAT BEATs. Thanks.

Other than that, band upstarts and new releases by established acts were slim on the local music front, but — thank goodness — things will pick up after the new year.

Here’s a sneak peek at what’s on the horizon. Let me know what I missed by way of commentsurations.

Fittingly disturbing and beautiful art by my buddy/painter superiore Oscar Beauchamp, to be used on King of Spain’s forthcoming EP, Peek.

1. King of Spain – Multi-instrumentalist Danny Wainright has joined Matt Slate to add rhythmic backbone and doubled-up atmospheric dynamics, hypnotic effects to the shimmering tunes of  our beloved Señor Slate. We look forward to more shows by the duo and the impending release of a new EP titled Peek

2. The Semis – also has a new album on the way, showcasing the onetime loud-but-arty garage band as more discerning and savvy masters of pretty (!) plus edgy pop. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised — and moved.

3. Beardsley – one of my favorite new skewed pop bands is set to release a  CD. I have no idea if they’re staying in the same direction, but knowing these smart, funny dudes, it won’t be boring.

4. Poetry ’n Lotion – Twisted mandolin-kissed and folksy-progressive cover band PnL has evolved nicely, adding their own compositions to a suite of classic reinventions of Zeppelin tunes and TV show themes, such as the Knight Rider song. New CD releases in January.

5. Florida Nite Heat —  More pyrotechnics in the sky, I hear. Hopefully this new band will offer something newer and more exciting in this vein since Tampa has almost as much of this type of thing as it has Americana. Word on the street is FNH won’t let us down. Says Matt E. Lee of Brokenmold promotions: “(FNH is) ephereal with melodic undertones; drums by Mes of Crate brothers, bass by Dre, a.k.a. Black Viking God  and Pocketchomper, a.k.a. Jensen on guitar. They do a slowed-down version of A-ha’s ‘Take on Me,’ and Jensen is a phenomenal guitar player.  He writes all the stuff and has a great tone/sound; he’s out of Jax and one of the premier up-and-coming artists in the bay area.”  See the new act perform Jan. 29 at New World Brewery with Patrick Baldwin and November Foxtrot Whiskey.

 

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On Crystal Antlers, on blitzing

Crystal Anters, performing tonight at Crowbar in Ybor City.

Antlers this time of year usually conjure images of Canadian beasts schlepping Santa’s sleigh.

If we were to suss out indie rock’s Rudolph, we’d have to allocate that awesome misfit honor to Crystal Antlers from Long Beach: “fringe-psych explorers of the first order,” according to label Touch and Go‘s site. The swirly, oomphy band headlines a sweet-ass experimental type show at the Crowbar tonight.

So as you pop in on and escape from the ho-hum holiday parties, remember there is something interesting and fun to do in Tampa tonight.

Don’t show up too late though.  New locals Dafrebos get the Absinthe high on without the hangover, along with the likewise envelope pushing Audacity and Set and Setting

I would like to write more, but my computer is being a turd.

Hope to see you there.

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An ‘Insane’ Jannus finale (maybe?)

 

    Walking through Downtown St. Pete to Jannus Landing Friday night, I felt like that down-on-his-luck movie character who stumbles on the dilapidated cinema palace of his youth; a rumpled newspaper skips by; a homeless man urinates on the boarded-up box office window; and above, a marquee spells out in mismatched letters a ridiculous adult film title like Bazooms from the Moon.

   Is this what would become of Downtown St. Pete’s outdoor concert venue? Reduced to low culture and an eventual demise. It certainly started to look like that kind of scenario to me.

    No urinating homeless men, but there were a hundreds of empty plastic soda bottles strewn by streams of vomit on the Second Street sidewalk.

   And this was before the Insane Clown Posse concert, what Jannus management announced as the last concert at the venerated venue.  

    I felt a twinge of melancholy and made a mental list of my favorite Jannus Landing memories:

  • Reggae and local “Nu-Rock” fests of the early ’80s
  • My first headliner concert, the Psychedelic Furs, 1983, age 14, where I looked like a little new wave knockout with poofy hair, Scotch-plaid miniskirt and fishnet stockings. I was excited beyond rationality. Not only was I about to see one of my favorite British bands – during their prime – but all the arty new wavers I admired from afar in the record store and teen club were all congregating in one place.
  • I also remembered interviewing the gracious Tonya Donnelly at the adjacent Club Detroit before the Belly/Radiohead concert. I waved a reticent but polite hello to Thom Yorke in the courtyard during the sound check. He looked haggard and put off a “don’t talk to me” vibe.
  • Then there was the Lemonheads, whose leads singer, Evan Dando, was an alternative heartthrob in the early ’90s. Former Times music critic Gina Vivinetto met him the day of their concert. The openly gay writer worked with me at the time as a copy clerk and came back to her shift all a-flutter, recounting her starry-eyed admission to him that she’d go straight to be his girlfriend. Later that night after a fantastic and energetic performance, the drummer gave a stick to my friend Brooke Becker, who attended the concert with us in her wheelchair, a short time after recovering from a coma and life-altering head injury.
  • I also felt a bit verklempt when I took my nephew Matthew to his first concert at age 15 in 2007 to see reggae legend Toots and the Maytals.
  • Also that year, I attended my favorite Jannus concert. It was on April 15, the eve of my birthday: Flaming Lips. I bobbed and weaved dreamily, hugging on my group of close friends as flowing steamers swayed from the big oak tree and big yellow balls bounced through the crowd, a visual spectacle that counterpointed one some of the most inventive and melodic rock music I ever heard.

  

    Thousands of  music lovers have their own special memories of Jannus and many have shaken their heads in disbelief that the lights might be going out on a beloved and historic outdoor entertainment venue, one that’s spanned three decades and generations of music lovers, simply because the owner John C. “Jack” Bodziak didn’t manage the books properly and was arrested in May for tax fraud charges.

    So, yes, the seedy, absurd and tragic have intertwined once again in Tampa Bay. Sometimes it seems like we have front row seats to some of the universe’s most senseless parlor tricks (e.g., this season’s Buccaneers).

   But Friday was ICP’s night. As day turned into night and hundreds of fans lined up to enter Jannus, some six police cars and cops and horses waited on the street, but no major incidents occurred before or immediately after the show.

      The mostly white teens and adults in black head to toe, tanktops and black-and-white clown face – the signature look of the ICP ultimate fan, the Juggalo/Juggalette – remained in good spirits and didn’t get out of hand. They chanted “Faygo! Faygo!” in the tradition of Insane Clown Posse’s circus-like spraying of the inexpensive soda brand.

   Getting to the door involved navigating piles of litter (somewhere there was a crying Indian) and a friendly policeman helped me sidestep a puke puddle.

   Police presence was heavy, so black hip-hop fans: Don’t think you’re racially profiled. Anticipation of violence at what can be construed as some sort of rhyme-ish show is an equal opportunity reality.

   My hackles were up too. Having grown up in unincorporated Pinellas and pushed around by rough-and-tumble Latchkey kids, I felt like I was face to face with my childhood nemeses. Phrases like “meth-head convention” and “big night out for obese shut-ins” popped in my head. My inner jerk was in full force and was flinging inaudible insults left and right.

   I kept in mind though that the merry mayhem makers of ICP had acquired a loyal following through the years, the “Gathering of the Juggalos,” so I squelched the little smartass devil inside me and began chatting to the attendees.

   Every one I spoke to was pleasant and polite.

   The “love, hope and family” vibe that ICP espouses – by way of their moralistic-meets-highly offensive lyrics – seemed be in full force at the show that wasn’t the U2 concert.

   The mood was upbeat, though some fans conveyed sadness about the looming shutdown of Jannus.

   “I love this place,” said Chris Peoples, 37, of St. Petersburg, a thin, fit woman with a mohawk and tattoo of Elvira at the center of her chest. “I’ve seen the Genitortures here, plus Twizted, GWAR, Ministry.”

    Michael Brownwood, 29, of Brandon, attending his third ICP show, said his first concerts at Jannus were Rancid and the Descendents. 

    No mentions of U2, performing across the bay at Raymond James stadium, could be heard by ICP or openers Southwest SOL and Hed PE. ICP fans fought U2 concert traffic to come from Tampa and Pasco County to see ICP with nary a complaint. They drove from the south and west.

   Young Juggalo-costumed couple Justin Mullis, 21, of Crystal River and Julie Brengle, 21, of Lecanto waited in the back by Tamiami, getting some quiet time together while hordes of smelly and shirtless young men caused a ruckus by the stage.

   Hanging out back, a mom balanced a toddler in Juggalo face on the wooden handrail of the rear elevated deck. At the Tamiami, the bar at the back end of  Jannus, a Juggalo dad and daughter pair from Newcastle, England, showed off the best costumes of the night  – she in polk-dotted dress and striped stockings and he in green died hair, mock prison shirt and big red rubber nose.

   Plumes of marijuana smoke wafted nearby, smelling piquantly like what I can only imagine was high-grade chronic. People-watching for the first two-thirds of the night offered more entertainment than the lackluster openers, Southwest SOL (Dirty South hip-hop) and Hed PE (some kind of California nonsense). Sure the rhyming skills were there, but the mixes were lacking, the bass lines overly simplified and lyrics completely inane. Though ICP sprinkles in the shocking content (a la Eminem) and expletives, they don’t use them as a crutch. ICP had much better flow and more originality than the predictable hacks that microwaved the crowd. Much hotter than all three: the Apache summer heat that broiled the courtyard.

   The crowd packed in front to end. Beyond capacity? Don’t know. Considering the dubious machinations that have gone on behind the scenes, one can only wonder about issues like capacity, security checks (I witnessed none), insufficient Port-O-Lets, overpriced beverages and other tactics that have besmirched the glory of Jannus.

   I had lots of time to philosophize while being bored by Hed PE. The clown-face band (yes, how original) went from hardcore to hip-hop to reggae in such a by-the-numbers fashion, you’d think they were following a horror-core for dummies instruction manual.

   Jokes told in what was ostensibly a clowning style, were worse than what you’d hear from openers at Coconuts Comedy Club. The band’s front man (Jared Gomes) immaturely riffed on emo kids and said he loved his girlfriend because she watched the fight with him, cooked for him and swallowed. The crowd cheered. And then he said, “My wife doesn’t swallow.”

   ICP were an agonizing 30 minutes late to the stage, but was – to my surprise – worth the wait. What a spectacle. Sure it was no 360 setup with a sci-fi contraption at the center, but they came on strong with a stylishly splashy backdrop: the dark carnival, one of the band’s motifs. A sign bearing the band’s current LP title, Bang! Pow! Boom!

   Girls in red burlesque gowns sauntered downstage. Vivid red and teal stripes drew the eye to the back wall, where sideshow acts “Ape Boy” and “Many Faces” danced in cages. Clowns in glitter jumpsuits ran to and fro and around white barrels covered in shiny foil stickers. Those barrels held the Faygo for audience-spraying, which a roadie in zombie face would replenish throughout the show.

    After getting the crowd excited with the rousing and catchy Jack Jeckel and its “boom shaka boom shaka” chants, the energy dipped a bit, but the duo regained momentum for what was most definitely the best moment of the night, a fantastic performance of its cheesy 80s dance hit cover, Lets Go All the Way by Sly Fox. During the entertaining number, the glitter clowns tossed tons of confetti into the air and shot toy bazookas of soda to the crowd. The surreal reverie harked back to the Flaming Lips concert of ’07 – but with much less complexity and artistry.

   Toward the end of the concert, I spoke to Brandon Ready, 13, of Sarasota, who cheered when ICP announced it would start another series of apocalyptic joker cards, which so far have represented the bands albums. Brandon and his friends wore shirts bearing logos of the cards and showed them off.

   That kind of excitement reminded me what the collective, joyous experience of Jannus concerts is all about. No carelessness and corruption can take that away.

   Talk to concert-goers of all types, the sentiment is unanimous: the hope that someone, or a group of investors, comes along and keeps the tradition alive.

   And ICP, not so obnoxious after all. After the concert, the soda stash was revealed to be diet, so they were either looking out for setting a healthier example or didn’t want to get the crowd sticky. How considerate of them!

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Gogol Bordello man goes Rio grand

Here are some highlights of my interview with Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz, which appeared in tbt* today. The band brings its Eastern European-folk punk-mishmash of styles and infectious reverie to the Ritz in Ybor City, Tampa, this Monday.

What’s new recording-wise; what’s on the horizon for Gogol Bordello?

   We’re working on new record with Rick Rubin. I think it’s too exciting to hold some of this material back, so we’ve already performed some of it. As you probably know, our music is biographical, so as we continue traveling – we’ve been spending a lot of time between Brazil and New York – my two main residences,  be prepared for outbreaks of gypsy punk rock samba. It kind of came full circle because there are a lot of Romani in Rio. It just amazes me everywhere I go, I wind up hanging with family. We all know the same songs, different dialect but essentially the same language.

   I was thinking of making another film (like the Pied Piper of Hutzovina), but in Brazil. There are amazing things that keep happening to me. I became quite fanatical about visiting samba schools, and every favela has its own samba school with completely different style. I’ve been going and invited to play with some of the bands. The tourist experience never did it for me. When there’s something really interesting and heart-stirring, I want to live it by getting it closer to it. … I’ve been really welcomed in Brazil in a lot of ways.

   So you know, when we’re playing Sao Paulo, it’s really good, but when we’re playing Rio, it’s like this is our guy! He wears the T-shirt of our town! It’s like a fucking homecoming.

 So how will you manage those syncopated, Afro-Latin beats?

    We have a new drummer, Oliver Charles. He has actually joined the band at the right time. He comes from a dynasty of drummers from Trinidad, which is a key and so essential for some of the new elements in our music. Oliver comes in with a full knowledge to break out the gypsy punk samba. It is out of this world. A lot of times I really can’t believe what I’m hearing. It’s too good to be f***ing true (laughs). Right now I cannot share the recordings with anybody. Live, I can’t hold back! We’re just too much on fire to play them!

 People are down and out in America now. Do you consider this tour a rescue mission of sorts?

   I certainly hope so. You’ve got to burn all the tension. You’ve got to take all the trash out of the soul. That’s our calling. That’s our job. Hopefully, it works for everybody.

Is it true that Manu Chau lured you to Brazil? 

   Manu is the guy who originally turned me on to Rio. Originally, I went to hang out with him a bit. I just fell in love with the place. This last carnival in February we ended up performing together in Pernambuco, which is in north Brazil. It’s becoming like this secret new hang. Aside from all its beauty and charms, it’s a real 24-hour city. When people say “New York City – 24-hour city,” I don’t know what they mean. They mean the subway, yeah. There really is nothing there as far as nightlife goes. It’s not the kind of nightlife I enjoy anyway.

Has your way of life changed since living in Rio?

    No. It’s become more like when I was 17. It’s in my blood. Nothing’s going to change it. I gotta go – I can’t be in a city that’s not happening throughout the night. Despite all its history, America there’s not a one place in the whole country with 24-hour open microphone for poetry and music going on which is well-attended and exciting, but in Rio they do. What the fuck! Where am I going to be? Where there’s places like this? Of course! Nightlife is not about going to a predictable night club. That doesn’t interest me. I like swirling groups of people that have some kind of special activity on their mind, whether they’re obsessed with graffiti or making a party on the beach, playing music together or going up to the jungle and doing God knows what.

     The fact that all that is happening is up until the sunrise, on a regular basis, that’s the way to go. Different regions of Brazil will inspire you with something different. That’s what I live for. Being in Rio has tripled my creativity. It’s actually helped me to see similarities with Eastern Europe, with the way people are more in touch with their inner warrior. People here (in the U.S.), their inner warrior is pretty solidly fucking asleep.

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It was an Americana whirl, fulfilled promises

The Americana Fest at Skipper’s Saturday was a resounding success.

(Apologies  for the belated post. Your friendly writer here is battling an uprecedented case of malaise, insomnia and brain fog. That. …  Just. … Won’t. … Go. …  Away. … I’m fighting it though. Like Eugene Hutz says: “I’m in touch with my inner warrior.”)

So back on point: The  shindig at the Skipperdome was almost uncomfortably crowded, it was so well attended. There were the old school WMNF/Skipper’s boho types along with young rockers, college kids, 20- 30-something hipsters.

Very diverse but very white. Clorox white.

Oh, well, you can’t win ’em all. The bands were in top form — though some faded in the background more than others.

Performing were Nine Volts from Cape Canaveral, Matt Butcher (Orlando), Roppongi’s Ace (Tampa), Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England (Winter Park), Black Finger (Lake Worth), Nervous Turkey (Tampa), Thomas Wynn & the Believers (Orlando), Have Gun Will Travel (Bradenton), Will Quinlan & the Diviners (Tampa), Ted Lukas & the Misled (Tampa) and Blue Mountain (Oxford, MS).

Ran into St. Pete’s queen of rootsy chanteuses, Rebekah Pulley. She and her main squeeze-bandmate, Rob Pastore, had just returned from a Northeastern tour.  She hadn’t made it home to shower yet. That’s loyalty, for ya’s.

She and the band played a gigantic and memorable house party in West Virginia and got to be on satellite radio while performing in New York. Ms. Pulley was aglow from the tour’s success and was ready hit the road again.

Thomas Wynn and the Believers got the daylight crowd pumped. I was on the fence about the band until I saw this soulful, tight-as-Rod-Stewart-pants performance because I’m not too keen on blues rock as a rule — unless it’s done really well (as with Roppongi’s Ace).

So, yeah, I’m of the faith now, you young sexy Wynn syblings.

Will Quinlan and the Diviners‘ set was short and sweet, reports my keyboardist pal Soraya: “We played a song called Calvary that included Josh H from HGWT and Olivia Wynn (and I believe those two sang on the last song I’m about to mention). For this set we had Danny Burke from HGWT on bass and featured Alex Spoto on violin on a song or two, as well as HGWT’s Josh Hernandez on viola on one song. We closed out with a cover of the Jackson Five’s I’ll Be There that was surprisingly well-received by the crowd.”

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Matt Butcher, by the pound

 

butcher4

Photo by Charles Brewer III   

    Matthew Butcher, a soon-to-be 26-year-old singer, guitarist and harmonica player from Orlando, and longtime friend Dave Chmil used to be in the twangy pop band the Heathens, which disbanded in 2006.

   His current act, a group of close, simpatico musicians — Daniel Berry, drums; Matt Mendel; piano, organ and vocals; Dave Chmil, lead guitar and vocals; Gus Ramage, bass; Olivia Wynn, guest vocals; and Tom Cooper, guest pedal steel and vocals — has been performing for around a year with frequent visits to Tampa.

   Butcher cuts to the bone with a sinuous, earnest vocal, met with poignant lyrics, folk traditions and shimmering soft rock touches.  Like on Me and My Friends, his 2008 CD’s title track – a subdued sax gives way to the harmonica of On My Mind.

  Hear him at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday in a solo performance at the Americana Fest at Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa. $12, $15. (813) 971-0666. He and his full band open for the Avett Brothers at the Cuban Club in Ybor City on July 18. For more information on both shows, visit wmnf.org.

Below is the uncut interview used for tbt* Meet the Band profile for July 10:

When did your last band (the Heathens, right?) break up and when did this one form? The Heathens broke up in 2006. After that, I spent a good amount of time playing solo. I never really set out to form another band. When the time was right for me to make my first solo record I started asking some of my favorite musicians to play on it. We’ve just sort of carried on from there.

Congrats on getting the Avett Brothers opening slots in Orlando and Tampa. How did that come about? What are some of your favorite headliners you’ve opened for? Thank you! They are wonderful people and it really is an honor to be doing these shows with them. My band,  the Heathens, opened for them in 2005 and we struck up a friendship. We have kept in touch since and they have extended me numerous opportunities. I toured with them solo for a week, and last November the band and I opened for them two consecutive nights at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn. It was an amazing experience! They really are great guys and so deserving of all their success. Their new record comes out in September. The little bit that I have heard is fantastic.

To my ears, your band balances catchy, sophisticated pop with rustic appeal, whereas some Americana bands can be too jammy and kinda dull. I think your vocal and a timeless quality make your music stand out. Are there any pitfalls you avoid as a band? Please explain why it works for you? Thanks so much! To me, the most important part is to be performing well written songs. I am not sure if I always achieve this, but it is what I am aiming for. Musically, we strive to leave a lot of space in the songs. I think sometimes  a composition can become drowned in music. I am definitely a fan of the less is more approach. Simplicity is often the most effective approach. Listen to the first four bars of Neil Young’s “Out on the Weekend” … Magic.

What are some qualities in your bandmates that lend to your chemistry? I feel very fortunate to be playing with such talented musicians. They are all extremely respectful of the material. Beyond the fact that they have great musical chops, they are incredibly mature players.  very one really listens to each other. We try to make our performances a musical conversation, not a bunch of guys talking over each other.

I read that your early 20s were a turbulent time, as they are for a lot of us. Did you draw a lot of inspiration from the thoughts and  feelings of that period for your current album? If so, what song do you feel encaspsulates it best and why? My early 20s were an interesting time, to say the least. I spent several years in an alcohol and drug induced stupor. It was fun, at first. But it’s not a party if it happens every night… Haha. I think that’s a Ben Gibbard lyric. Most of the songs from “Me and My Friends” were written during this time. The title track certainly captures the overall vibe of the time. Songwriting for me has always been a way for me to reflect on my life. During these dark times I was writing a lot about depression, loneliness, isolation. Not the most upbeat material, but it needed to get out. I like when Tom Yorke says, “Be constructive with your blues.” That’s good advice. I got sober in 2005 and things have been looking up since then. The next album is all about beautiful girls, fast cars, and big bags of money.

Is Matt Butcher your real name, and would you  could share a little about your family life growing up?
Yes, it is! Slightly ironic, as I work at at a vegetarian restaurant. I was born in England, and also lived in Amsterdam and Colorado Springs before moving to Orlando in 1999. My parents were Christian missionaries, so we moved around a lot. Neither of my parents are musicians, but my dad has a huge vinyl collection and was always playing music in the house. I was listening to great stuff at a young age … Van Morrison, The Jam, U2, Springsteen. Not a bad education.

Are any of your bandmates old friends? Some are. I have known Dave for about ten years. We went to high school together. He played in The Heathens for a while. I have known Gus for about five years, and the other guys I have come to know in the past few years. We are all good friends!

Is the name Revolvers in any way related to the Beatles’ album? If not, what inspired the name and when did it become a part of our band name? Partially, I’ve always loved that album. Our piano player, Matt, is a big Beatles fan so I knew he would love it. I love the aesthetic of the word! It is more inspired by the idea that the line-up can change if and when it needs to. It’s a revolving door.

This is a silly question. You don’t have to answer it, but you
might have fun with it:  You’re from Orlando, the land of theme parks. If your band had its own theme park, like Dolly Parton has Dollywood, what would it have the others don’t?
I am so glad you asked this, because I came up with the best idea the other day. I want to  open an amusement park where theme park rides go to retire. Imagine, for a small fee you can experience Captain Eo, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, The Back to the Future Ride and many more! It would be cheap and run-down, but that’s all part of the charm… I’d call it.. YesterdayLand! Okay, the name needs work. But I think the idea is solid gold.

Featured post

Heat, love and high fidelity

june 020

Last weekend involved music shows in Orlando and Tampa in one weekend. Considering my low key mood these past few months, this double-header presented a challenge — but was well worth the time.

Friday night Tampa Bay music enthusiasts of many ages and predilections had the privilege to see Brent and Darren Rademaker reunite at New World Brewery.

A nice size crowd showed up for the event despite the seamy, soupy weather. Sweat poured from every pour. Potpourris of B.O. infused the air.  The temperature (at night!) had no breeze to buffer it and came with a heat index of around 100 or so.

The two accomplished musicians made up for the discomfort with their harmonious acoustic set.  

Originally from Tampa, the bros achieved success in various nationally recognized indie bands in California — including Brent’s stint in Beachwood Sparks and Darren’s in the Tyde. They both first came to popularity in the alternative late 80s group, A New Personality.

Brent and Darren  performed tunes from their bands, a great cover of  Jan and Dean California Lullaby and even a sweet version of Jimmy Buffett‘s “Come Monday.”

After the Rademakers’ gig, I went to the bar to order a bottle of water to rehydrate. Promoter Jack Spatafora was in that popular, familar spot by the bar galley, under the pic of beloved bartender Joanne Rivera and late-great Tampa nice guy Dave “Rat” Anderson .

Jack said the funniest, truest thing regarding the Rademakers’ cover of Buffett:

“That was so punk rock. That had to be the most punk rock thing I’ve ever seen here.”

Spatafora went on to say that he really enjoyed working with Rademaker and they saw eye to eye when it came to their discerning, non-hipster-swaying musical tastes.

Palantine‘s Vinnie Cosentino and Scott Becker (visiting from Portland) visited the show after a rehearsal dinner for bandmate Brian Johnson‘s wedding. (Congrats, Brian!)

Cosentino and Jeff Fox are releasing their new band Therapeutic Chokehold‘s new CD in the coming weeks and the ever prolific Cosentino is working on another Palantine CD. He was very enthusiastic about it, especially the cover art he designed himself, which he joyfully described as ridiculous.

Back to the stuff on stage: Openers were pretty solid. I like Junkyard Kings, but please tell me why these nice and talented fellas don’t keep my attention.

Maybe rootsy bands are so plentiful in Central Florida that they have to have some special oopmph or originality to make an impression nowadays?

For example, you have Orlando bluesy rockers Thomas Wynn and the Believers, who bust out stage presence, tight skills and unbelievably great co-ed vocals (even if a tad heavy handed at times).

Better yet, you have Have Gun, Will Travel’s dynamic and  infectious vocal by way of smart and empathetic singer Matt Burke.  HGWT has a way with songcraft and never gets to jammy or boring.  They know how to have fun on stage and connect with the crowd. They convey balance: they love what they do without self-indulgence, which, sadly, is a pitfall of too many bluesy, Americana performances.

Or maybe we’re reaching the saturation point?

Did I say that?

On the other side of the spectrum was Philip Pietri and the Manatees, who performed after the Rademakers (please see previous entry for more info).

Pietri had a sweet echo effect on his vocal and even brandished a clarinet for one song. The sound was textured and poppy, recalling mellow new wave hits from Joe Jackson, Haircut 100 and Roxy Music.

The downside: The drunken New World chatter nearly drowned out Pietri’s subdued and atmospheric pop.

This never happens at a smallish Social show, something I’ll get to later.

Our evening of karaoke was followed by a festive karaoke jam session at the Corner Club. I couldn’t think of anything to balls to the wall, shocking and rocking, so I went with an all-time fave: “I’m Only Sleeping” by the Beatles.

Saturday was a day to decompress. Bonding time with my roomie Tim. Visited Yoko’s for sushi and redeemed a gift cerftifcate from Frank the Librarian at Vinyl Fever. Bought the new John Vanderslice and Phoenix CDs, plus the latest Grizzly Bear for a friend whose birthday was Monday.

Wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew and lo and behold, Tampa musicians Keith Ulrey and Brian Repetto were working the counter. It was like a weird High-Fidelity-hometown clashing of paradigms.

Repetto scoffed at me trading a Blonde Redhead CD. I jokingly said he must be in training to be a condescending record store clerk.

Ulrey shared that his promotions company, New Granada, has some cool shows booked this summer and that he’s really into the great food at the reincarnated Karma Pub, formerly Kelly’s Pub. I sampled some myself, and he is right on about how great it is. Ulrey said he’s working with owner Anna Stracey to strategize shows that work with the venue’s strengths and acoustic challenges.

Still feeling tired but mustering energy, I attended the John Vanderslice/The Tallest Man on Earth show at the Social in Orlando on Sunday night. 

Kristian Matsson, the height-challenged Swedish singer who amusingly goes by the name The Tallest Man on Earth had the entire joint rapt in attention with just his voice and acoustic guitar. The crowd was so still and quiet, you could hear glasses rattling at the bar.

Back to what I was saying before — no Tampa venue is ever, I mean EVER that quiet for a mellow act. Not sure if it’s testimony to Matsson’s charisma and vocal awesomeness or some strange geographical quandary — or that Tampa is chock full of  impolite alcoholics. I think it’s all of the above. I saw Yo La Tengo at the Social and at the Twilight (now defunct, formerly the Rubb). Take one guess at which one had drunken bimbos chattering in my ear while Georgia sang a soft, pretty tune. Grr.

Matsson and Vanderslice drew a small crowd to the Orlando bar — fortunate for us but stupefying nonetheless.

Vanderslice and his band played admirably well despite being down a musician. He shared that bassist Jamie Riotto had a stomach bug incident that caused them to stop alongside I-75. The poor fellow was back at the hotel.

Curly top synth and keyboard whiz Ian Bjornstad more than made up for the lack of bass with some percussive tricks along with twinkly and angelic sounds from his analog keyboard and synth combo. I think it was a Yamaha/Source combo. Friend Soraya from the Diviners was salivating and wanted us to hatch a plan to sneak ’em out to the car.

In my humble opinion, Vanderslice is one of the most underrated performers and producers around. He has a mellifluous yet off kilter singing style. His music is the perfect marriage between the complex and visceral, challenging your ear with unpredictability but rewarding it with timeless pop.

Not to mention, he’s a fan-fucking-tastic producer. His San Francisco studio Tiny Telephone is behind such notables as Death Cab for Cutie.

Vanderslices’ band descended onto the floor for an intimate but rousing finale of the tune Keep the Dream Alive. It was indeed magical.

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Featured post

Philip Pietri, uncut

 

Philip

Here’s the initial version of my interview with Philip Pietri. He’s performing tonight with Brent and Darren Rademaker (of A New Personality, Tyde, Further and Beachwood Sparks) and Junkyard Kings at New World Brewery in Ybor city.

 

1. When did you start this performance project and are you releasing a CD this year? If not, what have you released so far?

My band playing this Friday (Philip Pietri & the Manatees) is a little project I started late last year for fun.  I play guitar and sing. Josh Price plays Bass. Preston Beebe plays drums. There were, like, three albums that I could not stop listening to at the time that kind of helped inspire the sound we had (and still have) going. They were Claudine Longet’s “Sugar Me”, Joe Jackson’s “Night and Day” and Lambchop’s “Nixon”. It’s an interesting mix of genre’s but I wanted to give the experimental and ambient thing a break and have some fun. We did our first recordings in a basement last Sunday that we’re going to have available on Friday. It’s only 6 songs but you gotta start somewhere, right?

I am working on an ambient album as well that will probably be released in a year or two, depending on how crazy life gets.

I’m also working on some hip hop material, which I’ll preview on Friday.

 
2. What instruments and devices do you play?
For my solo recordings I usually use anything that can make noise. In the past that has included styrofoam cups, pen caps, silverware, glass bottles, wind chimes, coins, glockenspiel, clarinet, saxaphone, guitar, drums and probably a million other things. This new band I’m fronting all I have to worry about is guitaring and singing.
 3. Do you have a background of singing or playing music before starting this? What is your musical experience?
I’ve played Tampa’s bar scene for 7 years in different bands ranging from rock to experimental…nothing anyone really cared about until my other band Pielos came out and started a mild stir…and even that is a love it or hate it thing. When I first started playing experimental music solo it was a matter of playing to a crowd who knew they were attending an experimental music show. Jack Spatafora gave Pielos a chance to bring that free improvised wall of noise to a broader audience by booking Pielos at some of the bigger venues. Some people have liked it, some haven’t and some have actually thrown up during a set (literally). Point being, as mentioned before, I wanted to create some more pleasing memories…like people actually enjoying and relating to what is being performed and that is why I started playing these new ‘conventional’ tunes.
 
4. Am I correct that you work as a physical fitness trainer at Lifestyles? It’s a job that doesn’t go with the stereotype of the experimental musician. In what ways do you feel like you defy musician/artist stereotypes, if at all?
I’m not sure where you heard that but yer close! I was a graphic designer and photographer for their corporate office for a few years until they LAID ME OFF A FEW WEEKS AGO…sorry. However, I most certainly defy the stereotypes. I am just like any other guy you’d see walking down the street. I don’t have an awesome beard and psychedelic drugs don’t inspire my creative works. I think the struggle of the modern everyman in itself has the emotional and psychological impact to fuel new and exciting forms of expression.
 
 
5. Are you originally from Tampa? If not, where did you grow up?
I was born and raised here. I love it and I plan on dying here.
 
 
6. What are some experiences that have inspired you while writing your lyrics and song titles? Your music sounds dream-like. Do you approach your words with the same aesthetic?
There is such a wide range of emotions that we experience every single day. Being a creative person I’ve been able to capture and isolate them as they have occurred throughout my life and express them by whatever means felt right, whether it be in a song, painting or a string of words.
 
 
7. I saw that you did some work with Aaronsarsutzki. Would you tell me about that and any other collaborations?
Aaron is an incredibly talented guy. I really enjoyed collaborating with him. I remember towards the end of our set the noise just kind of fizzled into silence but that did not stop the performance…it just kept going. The moment was suspended in silence that lasted a good 5 of minutes until we felt that there was a natural end to the piece. It was a big moment and the feeling was unforgettable.

My favorite collabs are with my close friends. Pielos is a big collaboration between friends of mine who played in 4 seperate bands (some of them I’ve known my whole life). It started as these improvised recording sessions where we would just completely lose ourselves locked away in a room. We have hours and hours of recorded material. We never really intended it to be something we did in public but it happened anyway.
 

 
8. Do your performances involve a multimedia presentation? Please tell us about what you use on stage, how much is preplanned and improvised.
Nah. Just sounds. What you see on stage is me making an idiot out of myself.
 
 
9. I guess you are aware that your last name means “rocks” in Italian. Pretty cool. Did you add that on or is that your birth name?
I’m well aware of that. It’s in the blood. Such a cool last name, right? It’s too bad people pronounce it Pee Tree.
 
 
10. Where in the world — anywhere — would you stage a performance and who would be on the bill with you?
The moon. With Prince.
I mean, seriously – how rad would that be?
 
Featured post

A classic Tampa night

Friday night was not tightly planned but included an itinerary:

1. Brent Rademaker at Friday Extra concert, Lowry Park

2. Grand opening party of Karma Bar, featuring D’Visitors

 3. Cumshotte reunion at Brass Mug.

I arrived too late to enjoy the dreamy pop of Beachwood Sparks’ Rademaker but got to say hello to him, wife Kate, chihuahua Starsky and the Kelly sisters (former high school friends). He shared that the show was a little surreal but fun. He performed with Joe Lala, a Tampa native who made his name as a member of the Byrds, Manassas and Blues Image.

 “(Lala) was thee go-to percussion cat for three decades,” Rademaker says, “playing with everyone from Neil Young to Ringo Starr.”

Rademaker played a cover of Wake Up Little Suzy to the elderly folks down front and accidentally dropped an F bomb when a string broke.

“I got lost in the spirit of the Burrito Bros’ version of the Everly Bros’ classic,” he says,  “and probably channeled a bit of Gram’s nastier side. Oh well! ALL IN GOOD FUN and for the love of tampa and music.”

A more ill-suited match-up couldn’t have been made that night. Rademaker was followed by a giant brassy wedding-style band, jamming Gloria Estefan, Chicago and Stevie Wonder medleys. 

My companion for the evening, Diviners’ Soraya, and I were approached by a Sexagenerian tantalizingly opening a can of tuna. He shared that it renergized him for boogeying. Lucky us: He invited us to join him.

Who says there are no available men in Tampa?

After being accosted by the third close-talking hippie, we split for the new Karma Bar, fka Kelly’s Pub. Former co-owner Kelly’s took over the space with a friend/business partner to open the reincarnated Karma Bar.

Art from Artcore adorned the walls and Mediterranean-jazzy nosh nourished between beverages. Speaking of which, still the same nifty beer/ale specials can be enjoyed.

Really missed the giant Pete Townshend poster, I have to say.

 D’Visitors performed a spirited set of world beat flava while the place filled with customers all ages.

So, yeah, food = still no smoking.

But the food is mighty good. Nice balance of healthy and decadent.

After, Karma Bar, we headed to Brass Mug. THE MUG! to witness the reunion of Cumshotte (pronounced coomshottay). Accent on E.  Soraya’s friends were in the band that played its last show in 2004.

It’s weird when your friends a generation younger are having reunions. Does that make me a granny?

But the revamped threesome brought aggrolicious grindcore with wacky song titles and stage props. There was a 12-piece drum kit, for starters.  Frontman Bill Demerest conceived a macho douchebag persona by ripping off his blue Oxford shirt to reveal a white T-shirt with suspenders. He also performed bicep curls and cleaved a log on stage.

Demerest then proceeded to get highbrow on the joint by busting out his TS Eliot anthology and read lines from The Wasteland, The Hallow Men and the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock to a tune called TSOEliot. 

The whole thing came to raucous finale with the Root Beer Enthusiast,  added by a ribald, quite literal interpretation of self-dousing. Friends enthusiastically cheered, waving fists in the front row. 

What a wait beforehand though. Mannnnnnnnn.

The band before (forever to remain nameless) was painfully loud and seriously intense, but I enjoyed one dude up front, whose fluffy and long brunette wavy locks made for a majestic hairwhip. It was like looking at billowy fields of wheat in Kansas during a tornado — but in slo-mo.

The band left a token of their performance: a pitcher of vomit on the drum riser.

So, yeah, sticky floor plus question mark equal a typical night at the Mug.

 

Featured post

The Semis go shopping!

matt_billy_semis

The Semis’ guitarist Matt, left, and frontman Billy, looking like they’re in a special frame of mind.

 

 

Major label bands have riders. Locals have grocery lists.

I semi-jokingly asked the Semis to provide their shopping list during a silly Facebook conversation, and to my surprise, Billy Summer (lead vocals, guitar) and Matt Simmons (guitar) obliged. You’ll find this list chock full of necessities — and perversities (is that even a word?).

By the way, the Semis play this Friday with Doll Parts at the “Ever-lovin'” Emerald, as Summer so sweetly coined it. Cover is a measley 3 bucks.

One of the worlds most sought after secrets is The Semis pre-show shopping list. While some items shall now and forever be closely-guarded secrets, here is a short list of items that are required for a successful night of face melting, some of which can be obtained at local supermarkets, others may require trips to farmers markets, asian gift shops, or bodegas.

 

Fish oil, sublingual B-12, Multivitamin – its important to have the essential nutrients covered on a show day, as part of the pre-show ritual includes substantial fasting.

200
Vermont Original Bag Balm –  absolutely necessary for soothing the various callouses, sores, and abrasions associated with rock and roll.
575 grams of high quality Royal Jelly – known for its natural antibiotic properties, much needed in the houses of disease where rock music is consumed.
12 6oz bottles of siberian Ginseng extract – Forget Red Bull. This is the business.

horny-Goat-weed
24 capsules of horny goat weed – The name says it all.
1 large bottle of Goya-brand manzanilla olives – They’re delicious and go well in Martinis.
1 case of Fiji bottled water  – other brands of bottled water taste hard.
An assortment of gossip mags, including US, Star, OK, and People. – knowledge of all major celebrity gossip is a must before a show. You never know who might show up!

Other needed items may include, but are not limited to, spoons, straws, brillo, tobacco rolling papers, baking powder, isopropyl rubbing alcohol, hair dye (various colors), dog treats, pregnancy tests, catfish, wire clothes hangers, cigs, and wigs.

 

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Will, unfiltered

By Julie Garisto

Below is a transcript of an interview with Will Quinlan on Feb. 19, 2009, conducted when I was gathering information for tbt* Ultimate Local Band profile I did on his band Will Quinlan and the Diviners, which ran in tbt* on March 20.

 

will

I’ve noticed you’ve gotten some recognition on a nation level. What’s the feedback you’ve been getting on the CD?

 

Initially when we sent our record to the Americana Radio Network we did pretty well.  Early December tied for No. 1 for most adds to playlists. It’s been pretty steady since then; been getting pretty consistent airplay. Funny, it’s been mostly in Europe, in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. More plays and CD sales over there than over here. … I wish I could go over there. I may just have to get over there by myself.

 

The reviews that have come back have been really good. Americana UK, a Web site and network in England that pretty much covers all Europe. … I’ve been really happy with the feedback. It’s been really great.

 

Anything specific you remember people telling you about the record touching them a certain way?

 

For one, I’m glad to see the main thrust of the record is coming through to people. It’s easy for them to not only see what it’s about as far as the concept of it being mostly about my mother’s life, her passing, my relating to all that, the fallout from that. … In some of the reviews, they mentioned – It’s hard for me to quote them because I feel like I’m blowing my own horn – but they just have been really complimentary in how they describe how the songs are written, how it’s a difficult subject to write about and not sound maudlin or depressing. One guy, whose snippet I used in a press sheet, said the vocals were the equivalent of the Thousand-Yard Stare, the famous World War II photo from the Vietnam War. He said something about the song (Remember the Beatitudes) had plaintive, expressive vocals and how it reminded him of the photo. It struck me how he related it to the subject matter of the song. I liked that descriptive idea. It acknowledges certain emotional connection. To me, it’s flattering and it makes me feel good to know that the expressed emotion is getting across. That’s a big weight songwriters take. I don’t write things too literally. I smear things a bit, make them slightly vague. That’s always been my style. I prefer the aesthetic of suggestion – something a little ghostly, a little cloudy, instead of something hard and cut in stone.

 

The mood comes through first …

 

Exactly. It’s more about the mood. Read some of the lyrics and it’s obvious what it’s about here and there, but in general, the vibe is suggestive.

 

So you feel like you’ve reached another level of support and popularity?

 

Yes, I think so. Since I’ve been unable to get out on the road, it’s been mostly through online outlets, MySpace and whatnot. I’m starting to feel if I could get out on the road, I could do all right.

 

So you’ve been chomping at the bit to go on tour?

 

Oh, yeah. I’ve always been. Part of it has been that my father’s health was shaky up until the last year. He had prostate cancer and some other issues, and his wife left him in the middle of all that. She tried to take a bunch of money of him. It was horrible. So now it’s a problem I deal with and worry about because I’m pretty much all he’s got, and I’m his support network. But at the same time I have to struggle to try and balance that with moving forward.

 

Do you feel like your personal struggles help you grow as an artist?

 

They have. Have you ever watched that show Northern Exposure? Do you remember the cranky old lady Ruth who lived alone? She was really wise, cranky and brilliant. She had a son who was a musician and another son who was a straitlaced CPA, middle-of-the-road white-bread achiever. The other son was a musician who was always. … She came back from visiting him and was talking about her son and said that artists needed obstacles for their art to develop. You don’t develop certain sensibilities unless you have difficult circumstances.

 

Do you feel like your ability to cope with those difficult circumstances has changed over the years?

 

I cope a lot better now than I used to. All the crap, the fallout of my mom passing away, the way I dealt with it in the first two years was unfortunate. I shut down. I indulged in a lot of self-indulgent and self-destructive behavior, giving into the emotional swings. I was pretty volatile. At the same time, I got really numb and started internalize a lot of stuff. Stress-related illnesses blew up on me in both ’03 and 04. Having gone through that, I’m much better able to deal with it all now.

 

So you have balance now?

 

Yeah, part of what got things rolling with the Diviners was my finally realizing from the illnesses and suppressed emotions that came up that I needed to get back to writing and playing. It was a catharsis. It sounds kinda clichéd but everybody needs that kind of thing. For me, it’s music. I realized that it’s not something I do because I want certain attention, it’s because I need it. Plus, I love it. Having objectives is something you have to prioritize things. … If anything that I’ve been glad about too, since this last record came out, is that the feedback I’ve gotten has made me feel good about the fact that people understand why I’m doing. That’s very gratifying in its own way – to have people like what you do and understand why do it and respect you for it. I struggled for a lot of years to get back the respect that I had lost.

 

I didn’t think you lost respect.

 

Well, I felt like I did.

 

Maybe within the inner circles, with musicians?

 

I was the clichéd narcissistic, self-destructive artist from the late ’90s up through the early 2000s. There was a part of me, that other part of your consciousness, that sits back and watches what you do. It’s awareness on a deeper level of why you’re doing certain things that you don’t necessarily want to admit to yourself. It’s hard to acknowledge that because people repress those things, why they’re doing certain things.

 

Or they pretend like they don’t care.

 

Yeah, sometimes that’s a crutch. And I did that for a long time. It was an unhappy balance. Part of it was I was just what I was. I was indulgent, a self-destructive, pugilistic drunkard. I’m surprised I didn’t get into much more trouble than I did. I was lucky, very lucky. I think that a lot of people understood and were cool to me when it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for them not to be cool to me.

 

Did you feed off your friends and your loved ones as far as the good vibes they gave you, the recognition? Is that been something that pulled yourself up?

 

Yeah. I became aware of it. I was shut off to a lot of things. It became one of those unfortunate double-edged kind of issues. You have to go through that kind of crap to know what you were missing or neglecting. It’s unfortunate but that’s how we learn sometimes.

 

So you’re in a pretty good place now?

 

Yeah, much better.

 

You have a girlfriend; are you dating anyone?

 

I’m dating – sparsely. When it comes to that, I’ve been so wrapped up in the last year with working that it’s been hard for me to take time and it’s hard to find individuals who can understand that. In the past when I had steady girlfriends, my last one was four years ago, it was difficult for her and girlfriends I had before that, to realize that the music is not more important but as important. I’m sure it’s difficult for anyone, male or female, to date an artist. Whatever medium that might be it’s more than a career but a passion for what you do. It’s difficult for some people. They feel like they’re competing. If you have someone who doesn’t understand that dynamic, then it’s not going to work out

 

You have a day job you have to go to that’s not music-related?

 

Fortunately right now I don’t, but I may have to in the future. I have some savings and some income from my family’s mineral rights from tracks in Texas, my mother’s family. It helps me scrape by.

 

Better to live like that than a job that takes you away.

 

I’ve been in a place the past two years where I don’t feel like I need to do that. That’s why I’ve been so manically invested in working – I’ve been working on three projects right now. I have a tendency to procrastinate and be a little lazy, so I have to poke myself.

 

How do you find it within yourself to motivate yourself to do all that?

 

It’s about self-awareness. Some people come to it quicker. I know 24-year-olds who are so self-aware and on the ball.

 

Do you ever feel like the ideas are coming from different directions and you have to find a way to filter them out and narrow them down to a few central ideas?

 

Yeah, that’s tricky sometimes. Like I said, I have three projects right now, and for me sometimes it’s difficult for me to figure out where to split it up. I’m working on a semi-solo project that’s going to be a companion piece to Navasota. I wrote all these alternate versions of several of those songs, and some of them are actually original versions, and they changed to become what appeared on the record, and so I was going through notebooks of all this stuff, ideas and song notes and whatnot.

   I have my own way of mapping songs out. Remember those outlines you’d have to write in English class, in high school? It’s kind of like that. There’s that and there’s the next Diviners record and a side project, the Holy Slow Train record, which has been pushed back and is due to come out in June.

 

So your current lineup still consists of all the folks listed on your MySpace page?

 

Yeah.

 

Any guest players, plans for the new Diviners CD? Where are you going to record it?

 

At the moment, it’ll be just kind of doing the same as had done on Navasota where it was split 50-50 or 60-40 between my house and doing it over at Steve Connelly’s Zen studio in St. Petersburg. We do some of the recording over there and when it’s all done, we do all the mixing and mastering over there. Steve’s great. I’ve known him for a long time, since before I played out. He’s got a great ear for what I do and the way I write. He has a very empathetic ear and response. I could start to describe an idea or a concept for a song and before I’m done, and he’s like, ‘I got it.’ He gets the sonic aesthetic I’m going for – that rangy, dusty sound, organic.

 

Let’s go back to your previous work.

 

Pagan Saints had its embryonic spasms in the early 90s… we were called the Pagans briefly. We were a duo. We found out that the Pagans were a Thai punk band. They had the name and we got a letter from them to let go of the name. That turned into Pagan Saints – the name was coined when were a duo – and went through several revolving lineups. Officially, the beginning was – I’ve settled on 1993, through October 2003, when I pulled the plug on it. I should have done it earlier but it was hard for me to tell what to do at the time.

 

Like being stuck in a dysfunctional marriage?

 

Kinda. I mean, it was hard for me to admit to myself. It was March 03 when we got invited to go to Austin (for South by Southwest) with BAAMO, the first year they put on the Tampa Bay showcase, but the whole band couldn’t do it. At the time, Mark Bustin was playing guitar with us, so Mark and I went. While we were out there, going around to see all these great bands, I realized we were not as good. I mean, we were good but we hadn’t worked hard enough, and it was then that the Pagan Saints bubble burst for me, but I couldn’t acknowledge it. It was this kind of inertia I didn’t feel until months later. I felt it but on a subconscious level, and I didn’t want to admit it. So, we drug things on through the summer of 03 and we played the SMA conference in St. Pete, at the State Theater. When I walked onstage that night, I knew – it clicked – it was a couple days after that I told everybody, ‘That’s it.’ It’s unfortunate it took me several months.

 

That seemed to coincide with the end of the period, for lack of a better phrase, of your lost years.

 

Yeah, my mom passed in 2000. From 2000 to 2003, it was shaky. We had some good moments in there, and there was good stuff we recorded at Panda Studios with George Harris, but I kept dragging my feet and I didn’t know why. The material was good. I still regret not finishing that record. There was just something in me I couldn’t acknowledge.

 

After that, did you feel like you were starting from scratch or were you already delving into your solo material?

 

Part of what took me so long (to work on the solo material) was I was terrified of not having my band. That’s all I had for 10 years – technically a little more than that. I started getting horrible stomach disorders from that and all the other stuff I had been repressing for 2 and a half- 3 years. What’s funny, it was the beginning of October 2000 when we had my mother’s funeral and three years later to the day that I finally ended Pagan Saints.

 

How do people interpret the religious iconography on the Navasota record?

 

Some people think when they lightly listen to it and see the song titles, like the sacred heart on the cover record – which symbolizes my mother, but that’s another tangent – they see me as a religious person. I am not. I have somewhat of a mild obsession with what could be called the mysticism of Catholicism before it got warped. I grew up Catholic, but now I’m more of a secular humanist pagan, a mash-up of all those things. There was an element of Christian mysticism there before it was killed by the church. For me, the problem was with the structure, the hierarchy of the church, which contradicted all the teachings they professed to have this great faith in.

 

 

In my early-to-late teens I started noticing all the contradictions, and I couldn’t stand it and I got away from it. … I think people feel like it’s like opening a big can of worms. They don’t want responsibility for heavy things. They want to put it in the hands of that mother or father figure who’s going to take care of us. It’s a holdover from childhood. … Being Irish-Catholic there’s that guilt. It hangs over you like a black cloud blasting out lightning bolts all the time. We mentioned the Beatitudes earlier. Part of the concept of Remember the Beatitudes came from a debate I had with a really uptight coworker, who was what you could call a new charismatic evangelical Christian. They try and act open outwardly but beneath that there’s this thin veneer of tight-clenching hatred of anything that isn’t what they are. I debated and argued with this person all the time. It got pretty heated. I was almost yelling at him. I started going into this spiel about the Beatitudes – ‘What about the meek shall inherit the earth, blessed are the poor and it’s harder for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?’ I said you people never remember things like that. You just gloss it over and the concept stuck with me. I think I said verbatim ‘Remember the Beatitudes? Or ‘What about the Sermon on the Mount?’ They were talking about all this fire and brimstone, strict conformity. … Jesus was the premier socialist, the complete socialist hippie. If he were alive today, he’d probably be thrown in jail.

 

What was the other personal connection with the song title, with regard to the relatives who died in Vietnam?

 

One was a cousin, one was my brother. They both were like older brothers. They went away when I was 7 and they both were gone before I was 8. The title (in relation to the memory) had to do with a concept of the charity, the truth, the core, the seed about what Christianity is supposed to be about – about accepting and giving. That applies, and that concept came to me in a fated, indirect way. They were the core issues that were contradicted by all these negative horrible things – the push, the brainwashing that got us into that war. It was all tied together in that respect.  The propaganda that got us into that war was the same as the propaganda that got us into Iraq. All these politicians and leaders that got us into Vietnam and Iraq profess to be Christians but if they were truly devout and followed those basic core concepts of what Christianity really is, they wouldn’t be pushing anyone into war. They wouldn’t be pushing for war anywhere anytime. Once again, it’s that contradiction I came back to with “Remember the Beatitudes.”

 

All these realizations seem to have led up to progression in the caliber of your performance. There’s just this sense of a connection you have with the audience now, something resonating on another level, the cohesion of the band and a beauty you’re bringing to the music, I think.

 

Wow. That’s cool. For me, it’s hard to have that kind of objectivity. At times, I sense something that I like, something that feels good. Definitely in the last couple, few years I’ve become more confident in performing on stage. In past reviews, there would be a mention of how I was static and I would just stand there and hug the mic and didn’t move around much. It’s not about jumping around like a wild ape. I’ve seen people stand stock still and bang on their guitar, and it’s amazing. I think there’s room for all of that within one set.

 

Do you feel like you have a certain confidence in your instincts now?

 

Once again, it’s a balance of taking into consideration how people judge things or perceive me and not worrying about that, pushing past it. I still get a little nervous before we play. Specifically speaking of that set at the State Theater (Geri X CD Release Show, Jan. 17), there was a kind of – I hate to use flowery terms – but a kind of joyful abandonment that hits you at some point when you’re on stage and you know it’s going well. I can see it in the crowd and literally feel it. You get high off the crowd. That hits you and you give more and it becomes this continuous feedback and it gets stronger and stronger. The last song we did was a preview to the Holy Slow Train material. It’s called Emmanuel (The Western Line). A bit more – and I am loath to use certain terms more –

indie rock, folk rock. The country elements are pretty much not there. A friend of mentioned that it’s kind of like the Decemberists meets Iron and Wine meets the Shins with My Morning Jacket and something else thrown in there that’s kind of ragged. Maybe Neil Young’s electric stuff. It’s more of a mishmash of progressive indie rock stuff. I’m reluctant to use the term indie rock but it points to an aesthetic people recognize.

 

You’ve always drawn from early bluegrass, folk forms, the kind of music that germinated into what we have now. Is there anything recently you’ve gotten into that’s inspired you in your songwriting?

 

I listen to all kinds of stuff, everything from old bluegrass stuff like you mentioned – Bill Monroe and the Carter Family and stuff like that, up through the Americana stuff like Uncle Tupelo and, of course, Neil Young. If I were forced to choose a favorite artist, it would be Neil Young. There are always rock stars and pop. I’m always surprised that people don’t hear the pop in my music. They hear stuff that I don’t hear at first because it’s different from the perspectives. It’s related to what they know. It’s hard for me to be outside the material. I’m so close to it, but to me, there’s a strong use of melody, which I love and it comes out naturally. Yeah, so there are pop influences in there – Elton John, ELO. … I had a fling with Metallica in the ’80s and I listen to classical music, too.

 

Has your ability to collaborate, your chemistry with others on stage gotten better than in previous years?

 

Yeah, I’m more relaxed. It’s not such a heavy thing as it used to be. At times, I could be a little too heavy or intense for some people.

 

You’ve been more open to absorbing everyone else’s input?

 

I don’t get a lot of it. This is tricky to explain. The individuals I work with now, they came into the band with an understanding – they’re all great people, open, very aware and sharp – they see that I’m writing the songs and I’m directing it, and that’s cool with them and they accept that dynamic. Some bands are like that and some are true total democracy. I used to have a much more difficult time talking about that dynamic, but I do now because I understand and I accept it and I don’t worry about it. I trust it. If I’m true in what I’m doing and I’m honest, and I feel that I am. It’s not about my pride or ego, it’s about what’s best for the song. It’s really a blessing for me to have people around who get it. Some people understand that and can work with it and some people have a problem with it because they want to be in control and see me as being in control. Technically, it’s not about that. It’s about the fact that there’s a group, and there’s a leader, and it just happens to be me. This is my thing. I’m moving forward and I’ve been very fortunate in having over the years, with one or two rare exceptions, people who’ve come on board who got it and came to me and offered their services, especially with all the turnover I’ve had. I still call it the Pagan Curse, a constant rotating door. It always seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. We’d get rolling and the wheels would fall off, somebody would have to leave town. That would happen all the time. But there was always someone there waiting, willing to offer their services. There was a stretch in the mid 90s up until the last incarnation of Pagan Saints, somebody couldn’t play anymore, and within a week I’d be getting phone calls from people saying, ‘I’ve heard you need somebody.’ So on one hand there was a curse and on the other hand there was always somebody there who was really fit and a great person I got along willing to come in and take somebody’s place.

 

You said without misgivings that you are the leader. Was there a time when that Catholic guilt crept in and made it difficult for you to say that? I would think that when you were younger you had some discomfort or anxiety with that.

 

I did. For the longest time, a time in the beginning when it was Will Quinlan and the Pagan Saints. I was so self-conscious about that. I dropped my name because I was so uncomfortable with my name out front. I felt that way until just a little over a year ago. It was December of 07, when I decided to put my name out front, just as we were mixing and getting the record done and getting it out. … Over time, I became comfortable with it.

 

Do you feel like the Pagan Curse is gone?

 

(Laughs) It’s somewhat diminished a bit. A good part of that was me, not letting it have such weight, acknowledging it for what it was and letting it disperse. It’s going away, and I don’t think it’s completely gone. We’re not on the road. If we were, I’d say flat out the curse is gone, but there’s still part of me that’s tense and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

 

Would it be possible for some of your bandmates who have day jobs to take time off to tour?

 

Even take a hiatus, a sabbatical, so to speak. None of them, with exception of Soraya, our keyboard player, none us has a day job now. But she has a really cool boss. I was at a gig and her boss came out to see us and I met him, and I kinda joked with him and asked, ‘Are you going to have a problem when I take her away from you for six months?’ He kinda laughed and said, ‘We’ll work something out.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reciprocation time, folks

 

WMNF is a hard-working mother who toils around the clock to keep Tampa Bay fed and bathed with enlightenment and entertainment, making up for the ways that all of  the other radio stations fall short in taking care of us.

And like our moms, 88.5 FM never seems to get the respect and generosity she deserves but keeps at it, growing and coming up with new fun concert events, armed by the trusty aid of tireless unpaid volunteers who help to bring us an impeccable variety of music styles, public affairs and news.

With Spring Marathon Drive in full effect, it’s time to scrape up some extra cash — your Starbucks, beer money, the bills you use to buy magazines that never get read — and donate a little sumpin’ to this great local institution we’re so blessed to have in the Tampa Bay area. The minimum is only $25 and if you want to donate more, the station can arrange to withdraw from your debit/credit card in installments. Plus, they send you nifty presents like CDs and concert tickets as a token of their appreciation.

Note, also, that if you don’t have the cash in your account now, you can elect to be billed.

With dwindling funds going to cultural nonprofits, it’s really up to us to keep WMNF alive.

Wouldn’t you be sad not to have the Friday night soul party with the D-O-C and all his shout-outs to the bruthas in lockdown?

Or not be able to hear the latest hipster indie pop on Saturday afternoons with Scott Imrich or Grand National Champions Kamran Mir and Alastair St. Hill on Monday late nights; lose touch with local bluegrass hero  Tom Henderson;  miss out on rare Motown hits from Jeff Stewart; or obscure mod-British Invasion nuggets from Laura Taylor; JoEllen’s Schilke Art in Your Ear? The 60s show? Or not get the gentle workweek nudge from the rootsy-twangy Americana monday morning show?

People, the list goes on — that’s just a small sampling of WMNF brings us. We get some of the best news and education shows, from Fresh Air to Counterspin to the scientific explorations of Michio Kaku.

Heck, WMNF News Director Rob Lorei  is one of the smartest newsmen in America and he’s  in our own back yard. He’s a quietly charismatic speaker and listener, measured, objective and knowledgeable while expressing passion about the things that are universally right and wrong. He could easily host Meet the Press or an evening news show. Lucky for us, he never broke the big time in the national mainstream press.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to lose this great programming, and it would make the DJs of the shows above (for schedule, see https://wmnf.org/schedule) feel great to get a donation and shout out from you during one of their shows.

Visit https://wmnf.org/give today.

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Great contest opportunity from Largo friend and music producer

This is from Barb Morrison, a genius musician, high school friend and top-notch producer in Brooklyn. She asked me to pass this along to band friends …

  

ENTER THE “WRITE A SONG WITH SUPER BUDDHA” CONTEST NOW !! GOLD RECORD producers and TOP 5 BILLBOARD dance chart writers SUPER BUDDHA are holding a NATIONAL SEARCH for new talent. How would you like to win a songwriting session with the team that has worked with GRAMMY-nominated, MULTIPLATINUM and NUMBER ONE songwriters such as DEBBIE HARRY, SCISSOR SISTERS, RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, FRANZ FERDNINAND, ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS, LILY ALLEN and BLONDIE ? Send all entries to:

http://www.myspace.com/superbuddha

YOU MUST HAVE A MYSPACE PAGE TO ENTER ! Contest will be judged by the songs on the artist’s myspace page. ( please label all entries “CONTEST ENTRY” to be eligible) The lucky winner will collaborate with SUPER BUDDHA on a song at their DELUXE NYC RECORDING STUDIO ! * Winner must be available on the dates chosen by super buddha to be eligible for the studio sessions. In the event that the chosen winner is not available, the grand prize will be forfeited to the 1st runner up. * Winner is responsible for all travel, food and lodging expenses during the songwriting sessions. * All artists and their families previously affliated with super buddha will not be eligible for entry. * All entries must be received by april 13th 2009 * Winner will be announced by april 27th 2009 GOOD LUCK !

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Palantine, Lush Progress and Greymarket headline another great State showcase

 

palantine

Palantine, from left, are Brian Johnson, Vinnie Cosentino and Jeff Fox.

Feb 20 @ The State Theatre – 8 p.m.
All Ages
$11

by Julie Garisto

   Make plans in advance because next Friday, Feb. 20, Palantine, Lush Progress and Greymarket will play alongside some formidable acts in another top-notch locals-only showcase at the State Theatre.

   Two major reasons to go: to encourage a major venue outside a bar to promote local music and to help local bands land opening slots for national and international headliners by showing evidence of their popularity.

   Many might know that Palantine is among the Tampa Bay bands and artists who rock my personal hall of fame.

   The trio, formed from ashes of Lukali, brings the ampage and sing-along choruses — a sound that marries brains and brawn, melody and mayhem. It’s hard to find a band that rocks so strong and is so catchy and listenable. Palantine is that band.

   Palantine tunes are songs you can move to; they get stuck in your brain. Though there is a distinct evolution in sound across the band’s three LPs, certain stylistic consistencies remain intact. Fans of late 80s- early 90s indie-alternative stuff like Bleach-era Nirvana, early Foo Fighters, Dinosaur Jr. plus proto-metal, garage and British Invasion will especially dig the band named after the senator in Taxi Driver.

   Their recent LP, Melee, offers forth a crisp and even production that expertly balances hi and lo fi. Be sure to pick up a copy at the show.

lush-progress1

   Lush Progress was chosen as a tbt* Ultimate Local Band in 2007.  The academic and accomplished musicians are nice guys who don’t take themselves too seriously. What I especially love about LP is their ability to expand outside precious-boy indie confines, splaying big sounds and dynamics, going from soft to loud, creatively and adventurously, not unlike greats like Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Flaming Lips, who elevated their status to supergroup without sacrificing artistic integrity and experimentation.

   I like how in their promo photo none of them are bearded. How original these days!

   I almost left out Greymarket. Haven’t seen this gifted young duo in a while. So much sound comes from this little band: They’re bold, melodic and dynamic with neato effects and textures that make for epic sweep.

   I will have to check in on Spellbinder, Magic Shoppe (love that spelling!) and Drew Street Mary to let you know about them

mark-21

   I asked State co-owner, Mark Assiff, for some words on the venue’s commitment to promoting music and here’s what he had to say:

   “When we took over the State in ‘Dec 07, it was obvious that the local music scene had been snubbed out of their favorite venue.

   Some of this had to do with the local bands, and some was the fault of the State.

After researching the issue we determined that bands were not taking the initiative to market themselves properly, have strong allegiances with other bands, and realize the difference between playing a venue vs. playing a bar. They are two different animals.  

   That being said, revenues went south.  On the flip side, the venue was not being fair to local bookings by constantly changing local dates in order to accommodate national bookings. Also the local fan base was not coming out to support live music this could have been for any number of reasons some legit some not. But when playing a venue all reasons are pertinent nobody comes to a venue as a regular, it is destination driven the clicker always starts at zero.
      Because of these factors the local shows became more and more obsolete. After a while, the State just stopped booking locals and concentrated strictly on nationals.
     Fast forward. We started to reach out to the local musicians soon after ownership changed hands. We were interested in diverse, organized monthly local showcases. 

   Soon afterwords a 6 month series started with the Loaf that brought in several promoters, each providing a different monthly original showcase sponsored by Budweiser. Along the way we also started a continuous series with a syndicated radio host featuring original local bands called Local Lockdown.

   Currently we have three to five  local events per month. From these shows we place deserving bands on as openers for national acts. This has really worked out well for everyone involved.  We now feel we have a working model that ensures a strong local presence at the State for as long as all involved keep supporting our local bands.

   The key is support.”

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Mogul Street Reserve news

Dispatch from the band:
Tune in to Stage Front Radio on 1490am tonight at 11 because we’re the night’s guests! We’re going to shoot the shit with the hosts and play a few songs LIVE on the air! I believe they allow listeners to call in and ask questions so feel free to take advantage and roast us on the air!
 
Here’s the tbt* Meet the Band interview to help you get acquainted:
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Dukes of Hillsborough have some wild schemes cooked up …

Here is a slightly longer version of the Dukes of Hillsborough profile that ran in tbt* Friday, Feb. 6.

dukes-of-hillsborough

Meet Dukes of Hillsborough by Julie Garisto

 

   Duke boys: Jeff Brawer, vocals and guitar; Travis Malloy, bass; and Phil Stanwick, drums. 

 

   Punk rock royalty: Formed in Tampa in 2001, the Dukes have a no-nonsense and sensible reputation that precedes them, known for their laid-back friendliness off stage and professionalism at gigs. Mention the Dukes to just about any Tampa musician and you get this gaze of idolatry, like you’re name-dropping saints or pre-Steroid baseball heroes. Plus they have a goofy sense of humor.

 

   Their sound: The trio’s high-octane blend of rock, blues and metal is so distilled and deftly combined, it’s impossible to discern what comes from where.

 

   Pastimes: Making up wild hoaxes and titles with twisted puns. They also like eating lunch at Rick’s on the River, where Brawer and Malloy answered questions for tbt* during Super Bowl weekend. Here are some tidbits discussed amid the hubbub of Steelers fans:

 

   They have a long-distance bromance: Drummer Phil Stanwick moved to Atlanta a year and a half ago to be with his girlfriend. He comes down to play gigs, but more sporadically and less often than the once-a-week grind of previous days.

  Says Malloy, half jokingly: “It’s a good thing that Phil was the one to move. Phil’s stubborn. If he says we’ll keep playing, we’ll keep playing. If it were either of us (pointing to himself and Brawer), we would have called it off!”

 

   Brawer’s got a side project: The newish Tampa band Regular Size People Fight.

 

   Malloy’s side project: His 2-year-old son, Hank.

 

   New CD due end of February: Tinnitus Starter Kit

 

   Brawer’s idea for album art: “We were going to put Hank between two giant speakers and crank it to 10,” he explains, “but I don’t think Jamie (Malloy’s wife) will go along with that.”

 

   Scheme No. 1: “We took out a life insurance policy on Phil,” Brawer says.

  

   Stanwick: (By phone) “They keep telling me that we’re going to have a picnic with food and beer. All I have to do is dig a hole, they say.”

 

   Malloy’s retail scheme: University of Florida football shirts that read “Gator Done.” He claims that he already printed 200 and tried to sell them at a UF home game but got a cease and desist order because he didn’t have a license.

 

   New song title: The Gator Done Fiasco.

  

   Older song title: Axes of Evil

 

   Daytime jobs: Stanwick works at a warehouse, Brawer is a warehouse manager and Malloy is an engineer.

 

   Not all fun and games: Brawer, who writes all the lyrics, says he brings aspects of his personal life into his songs, but he shies away from going into detail. “The lyrics on most of the new songs fall somewhat in line with what they have been in the past. There is some personal stuff in there,” Brawer says, “but they are mostly about living
the way we do through all the ups and downs, not asking for much and trying to be content with our lives. There are a couple of songs that veer off that path.”

 

   What else is different? “We’re trying to sound a little more melodic, believe it or not,” Brawer says with a laugh.

 

   What does Phil miss about Tampa? “I miss my friends, the music scene. The scene here is tough to get into.  … I miss living around the corner from good food; I miss the Taco Bus. You can’t get a good burrito here.”

 

   Hear them: Friday 10 p.m. with VaginaSore Jr. and Porch Fire at the Emerald Bar in downtown St. Petersburg ($3) and Saturday at 7 p.m. with Safety, Moose Masseuse and Steady State at the Transitions Art Gallery, Skatepark of Tampa ($7, all ages welcome).

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Rebekah and Ronny get Sirius action during the Super Bowl

flickr.com/photos/dekkerd/)
Ronny and Rebekah in a recent duet (credit: flickr.com/photos/dekkerd/)

 

With the Super Bowl being hiked in our hometown, it seems fitting that Tampa rockers would get spotlighted.

In a perfect world that would be expected.

Since it’s far from being even halfway perfect, I’m proud and excited to announce that Ronny Elliott and Rebekah Pulley, two of our area’s shining stars, are going to be performing live on Dave Marsh’s Sunday radio show (live from the Super Bowl).

Dave Marsh’s radio show on Sirius XM Radio, Kick Out the Jams (on SIRIUS Left/146). 

The co-founder of Creem magazine, Marsh wrote for various publications such as Newsday, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone, and also edited Rock and Roll Confidential, a newsletter about rock music and social issues. He’s considered Bruce Springsteen’s quasi-official biographer, with a total of four books published.

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Skylight on the horizon, seeking drummer and vocalist

Those of you who got a sweet taste of new band Petrograd in Transit in ’08 and are wondering what happened to these promising gents, don’t fret. They may have broken up but they’re re-forming into a dynamic, soothing and soaring rock outfit called Our Skylight Assembly.

The band slickly (but not too slickly) manages the unwieldy balance of sophistication and passion. If you like 80s music, you’ll become enamored with keyboardist Josh Harrington’s pretty, Kraftwerky melodies. Music on one song was mastered byJason Martin of Starflyer 59.

Word is they’re seeking a drummer and vocalist. Let me know if you want to be put in contact with the band.

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A new way for Tampa Bay bands to get their music out

A dispatch from local scene hero Marshall Dickson:

These are truly interesting times in the music business.  The spirit of The Wild West is back, and the playing field is leveled.

iTunes, Amazon, “InsertNameOfYourFavoriteRecordStoreHere.com” and other digital means of media distribution, are the new frontier.
I’ve assembled a gateway to this digital marketplace for smaller labels and bands who are having difficulty getting in on their own, and am putting finishing details on one to expand physical product in the virtual marketplace of eTail (electronic retail), which offers consumers so many more choices of titles than any brick and mortar record store could ever possibly carry.
If you know any bands, artists or labels looking for a foot in the distribution door, please forward them this message and send them my way.
Thank you.
 
  
audio,

Marshall Dickson
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What is your take on local music?

Our relationship with music is as personal and unique as our relationship with our spouses — or God, for that matter. No two people approach it the same way. There’s no right number of records, band biographies, trivia,  name-dropping or snobbery that elevates any one music lover above another. 

More heart, passion and intense thought might go into one song on repeat on a lonely heart’s car stereo than an overly excited DJ downloading thousands of mp3s. Then again, maybe not. Who’s to say? 

The soul-satisfying love of syncopated sounds is the great equalizer and it commands respect.

Heck, maybe that’s what they call God. You never know …

I’m not saying folks shouldn’t be discerning. It’s good to have standards and not blithely and blindly fall under the commands of  media marketeers.

Here, I try to balance accessibility and good taste. I want to support the scene but I want to give a little tough love now and then when need be.

Maybe it’s my unmet maternal urges at play.  Heck, most of the bands are young enough to be my offspring.

And what other role can I play? I’ll never be one of the cool kids. I’m not a musician. I’m not a hottie waiting to hook up. I’ve got a man I love and a sorta stepson at home. Really, I’m just this dorky lady who loves to ramble on about the things that float her boat.

What I’d like to do is help people find local music, help local musicians find audiences and other musicians, and new ways to get their music out.

Let me know what I can do in this regard.

Do you feel out of the loop? Is there something missing that if it were provided, would get you out to more shows? Is there something we could all do to help each other. Is there something more we could do to promote local bands? Let me know what you think …

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Who needs a national headliner, anyway?

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(grainy) photo of Geri X, by Julie Garisto (some more amateur pics at the bottom)

Geri X’s CD release party, with Will Quinlan and the Diviners; Have Gun, Will Travel; and the Beauvilles offered bay area music lovers the real deal concert experience without the Ticketmaster prices and Steroid buffoons in yellow shirts.

Getting out to the show was a challenge. I had been ill for some five weeks with a nasty bout of bronchitis. I was very ill at Christmastime and relapsed after New Year’s.

I’ve hesitated to go out for a big night out since the beginning of December — just little bits here and there.

Once I arrived at the State show I was glad I went. I felt a warm, friendly vibe — as comforting as chamomile tea.  My friend who met me there showed up late and I didn’t care.

The crowd wasn’t scene-heavy at all. The lobby and theater were filled with people all ages. You see, I hang with the Tampa folks and the St. Pete folks, and from what I saw, there was a distillation of both, plus a hundred or more faces I’ve never seen before. I saw 18-year-olds MySpacing on their phone during the Beauvilles show. I saw 50-ish dudes in baseball caps you’d usually bump into at Hooters. 

Creative Loafing editor/writer and former colleague Eric Snider greeted me with a smile at the bar and was thrilled at the turnout. He had gone out on a limb to write a cover story on Geri X. Cover stories on local musicians are virtually unheard of in the newspaper biz. Unless someone’s been maimed, has a rare terminal disease, got signed or is headlining the Warped Tour, it’s difficult to get the green light on an in-depth feature, let alone a cover feature, of local music artists.

It’s really a misconception that people are not curious about local musicians. I think if anything, people want to know who the celebrities are in their own back yards, so they can point them out in restaurants and tell their friends they met them.

Anyway, back to show.

All four acts were superstars, in my book. They played their hearts out, conducted themselves professionally and were just a few minutes behind schedule, a miracle of time management at local music gigs, an observation of Snider’s, too, in his Creative Loafing blog.

Will Quinlan opened the show with his haunting roots-rock ballads and rockers.  His ensemble’s subtle patchwork of rock instruments and old-fashioned strings filled the space with soulfully intricate and passionate folk rock. Quinlan poured a lot of soul searching and heartbreak into his current CD, Navasota. Partially for this reason, his performances of the album’s tunes have resonated more passionately and honestly than in past instances I’ve seen him.

The sound was killer.  Come to think of it, “sound” and “killer” are two words I don’t normally use in a sentence when referring to the State. Cheers to the new ownership. 

The setup did justice to Quinlan on acoustic & electric guitars, harmonica and lead vocals; Scott Anderson’s swoon-worthy lap steel and electric accompaniments; former Sugar Oak Soraya Zaumeyer’s pretty harmonies and keyboards;  Brian Lane’s infectiously thumping upright bass; and Jesse Martin’s meaty beats.

Didn’t spot Diviner Alex Spoto, also of Roppongi’s Ace, on fiddle. Turns out his clutch gave out on the way to the show. Damn.

Beauvilles brought a different appeal but were equally stunning. The shiny light show, from white to black to soft colors, succinctly showcased the band’s big rock presence.

Their rock was voluminous and powerful. If I could encapsulate the Beauvilles sound, it’s what Coldplay would sound like if they didn’t put me to sleep. Let’s just say it’s Coldplay with some ass in it!

And boy what a performance. Frontman Shawn Kyle was like a shampoo commercial in action. If I had a nickel for every hair whip, I’d buy myself a vacation to Europe.

I don’t say that to diminish the power of his showmanship. Kyle is over the top but that’s how he rolls. He’s honestly so. He’s a Rock Star with capital letters.  Kyle’s passionately unique, egoistic, moody, expressive and an animated guy both on and off the stage. He’s dazzling to watch but sometimes too much of a world unto himself. While it’s jaw-dropping and rock-star-tastic to watch Kyle throw guitars around, he could stand to connect with the audience, like taking time to make eye contact with his bandmates and audience. It seemed his eyes were closed the whole time.

The band that had no trouble reaching and grabbing everyone in their midst, the band that took my breath away: Have Gun, Will Travel.

I could totally picture the guys on an Austin City Limits stage, playing to thousands. Their rootsy but poppy rock has an unmistakeably universal approach, meaning they don’t fall on Americana cliches.

I didn’t realize how grabby they are — both literally and metaphorically.  I didn’t get all that while listening to the band’s CD, Casting Shadows Tall As Giants, which is great, one of the best of the year,  but doesn’t translate their visceral power on stage.

Live, HGWT killed it. The audience was roused, clapping and singing along to Blessing and a Curse and its indelible chant. The rousing, Mexican Western-tinged number had the entire audience up and moving.

Frontman Burke strides a balance between modesty and all-out showmanship. He made use of the entire stage and shook hands with audience members, but he wasn’t the only showstopper. 

Sidled up to Burke in a theatrical bromance was viola player Joshua Hernandez, who ran around, got cozy, got raucous and ended the show with a signature slam on the crash cymbal with his bow.

Right after the stupendous spectacle, I passed my friend and former coworker Scott Harrell on the way out to the lobby. I greeted him but was semi-speechless. All I could muster was, “That was some shit.”

He parrotted back, somewhat quizzically, “That was some shit!”

Turns out he didn’t see the performance. He was just on his way in after hanging out outside, debating the sorry state of America with Snider.

Geri X came on with no announcement but a warm audience reception. She seemed genuinely pleased to play to a packed house, flanked by the gorgeous slideshow presentation of Sonshine Ward. Ward says she typed in keywords like Civil War Era, black and white, old photographs, etc. and looked up forest, birds and architecture to find the others. They were images she thought went well with the words of Geri X’s songs.

Onstage, Geri X is understated but enchanting. She has a voice that reaches inside you. It’s young but knowing, naked but protective. Her subtle rasp and dynamic range offers the fragility of Fiona Apple meets the sexy toughness of Kim Deal.

Yes, the stage presence thing could use some beefing up, like Snider remarked, but she’s young, and her introspective tunes might look stilted if gussied up Kate Bush-style. Geri X plus jazz hands. Don’t see it.

Backing up Ms. X were two stellar players, her official band — Matt Bennett, also of Win Win Winter, on drums and boyfriend Greg Roteik on bass.

All in all, the bands were all great. The successful all-locals night was a love fest.

Attending was Ryan Wendell Bauer, who was awestruck by the show’s success, the talent and good vibes. 

The experimental-comedic musician described the whole thing as “heartening.”

Heartening, indeed.

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Into the Night and it feels right

 

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Put a young, enterprising group of blues and roots rockers in the studio with producer/local rock poobah on high Steve Connelly. The end product: An exceptional new CD,  Into the Night, by Roppongi’s Ace.

And what comes inside that pretty package? Crystalline strums, gently seering harmonicas by bassist Jesse Norton, soft vibratos and quiet spaces between. 

Max Norton’s beats anchor the whole shebang, but I personally would have preferred a more pronounced mic placement on his skilled percussion. He’s soulfully tight and the CD would benefit from more  showcasing. That’s my preference anyway. If it were up to me, I’d ask Spoon how they do it, which is pretty much my blanket rule for all non-tribal and non-marching band drum recording.

For the most part,  the new album refreshes with its happy and functional marriage between talent and tech. It’s got feisty variety — some serenading, some hootin’ and hollerin’. 

Alex Spoto — guitar, singer and hooter (or is it hootiner? hootinator?) — has a voice beyond his underclassman-at-Brown years. It’s sweet and raspy, not too precious and not at all overwrought. He just says what he’s thinking and feeling. From track 3, “Found,” to crowd pleaser, “So it Goes,” Spoto goes from heartfelt sweetheart to barn-burning bastard. The lyrics, likewise, depart from a reflective and poignant place to irreverent honesty.

With lines like “Lord, please give me patience to be kind till we have it all figured out,” in “What You Expected,” you don’t expect the singer to have spent a relatively short time getting knocked around on this Earth. Well, that’s all relative, anyway.  

Kudos to these boys with talent and wisdom beyond their years.

Wait. … Please forget I said that, Roppongi’s Ace. I wouldn’t want it going to your pretty little heads and compromising all that earnest striving and inspiration.

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