By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Despite a relative lack of rock clubs, enterprising Bay bands have found ways to play live. "There are maybe three or four clubs," says Factory Black singer Brian Merrill. "But we have alternative venues. We rent theaters where we put on our own shows and we use regular concert venues." Nonetheless Merrill supports the general view of the Tampa scene's tangential factors as superior to Miami's. He says the two AOR stations are "open and supportive." And, he adds, "The Tampa Tribune and its insert, Tampa Bay Times, mix in local stuff. The St. Pete Times has more than your [daily] paper probably, but not as much as we'd like. We always want more." In fact, both daily papers allot section fronts and double-page spreads to events such as the Tampa Bay Rock Awards, Max Borges's other annual event. The Miami Herald has in the past provided some, but not much, coverage of the South Florida Rock Awards. New Times has provided almost none.
However, New Times adopted in the very beginning a policy of covering local music in the same way that it covers national acts -- if the music is good, the music is good, major-label backing or not. For four years this newspaper has published as many articles about area music as about any other topic. The Miami Herald's former music critic, Doug Adrianson, hopped on that bandwagon and became a key player in the local scene because of it. The paper's current pop critic writes almost exclusively about national topics, but the daily has, much to its credit, initiated a weekly feature spotlighting area talent, written by Mario Tarradell.
"The guy at the Tribune patterned a column after one I do called `Music Menu.' He does `Club Calls' and it's pretty similar. The same time all this started, Players magazine didn't really exist. It came out about two years ago and did all this local-music stuff. Then the Trib started. The Times runs some record reviews and an occasional feature. The scene here is doing pretty good for itself. The big problem is getting the national people to take it seriously."
Spotlighting local talent can have its drawbacks, according to promoter Borges, who otherwise wallows in publicity, both for his events and for the bands. He says helping bands gain popularity and financial backing is the driving force behind his awards shows, but adds, "One thing I wonder about in Tampa is that with all this media support, I don't know if it's doing any good or if it's a case of people hearing so much that they don't care any more. We have a lot of big events, benefits and such, that have local bands. The same ones. I mean, you only have so many good bands to choose from, and you can only exploit one so much before the public says, `How about a new one?' If Miami got as much coverage, that could happen there."
Most of what John Tovar calls the "movers and shakers" in both cities have a vision for the future that could solve whatever problems exist in both scenes. For years Miami was ignored by national touring acts who thought it wasteful to travel 600 or 700 miles into Florida for the sake of one appearance. The concert promoter Bandman Productions solved that problem when it formed in the mid-Eighties. It established offices in both areas, and booked acts in both locales, thereby making a southbound jaunt more worthwhile. By working together, in various ways, the two cities might be able to help one another get that much-sought national attention as well.
At least two of the bands scheduled to appear at the next Miami Rocks, Too! showcase are from Tampa -- Factory Black and the Catherine Wheel. "We felt it would strengthen the event," says Rocks co-organizer Georgina Vidal. "It's still Miami Rocks because the focus is on South Florida bands and the event takes place here. Our position is to choose the best bands, whatever category, that can strengthen the event and help the area. We don't view Miami bands and Ft. Lauderdale bands and Tampa bands as a competition thing. I think the thing with Tampa is that being a little smaller, they're more community minded."
Charlie Logan, the program director at WYNF who competes with Austin Keys's WXTB, adds, "The reason Tampa Bay plays local music is that you have a program director at our station and at the other rock radio station that give a shit about the local rock scene.