Program Notes

As mentioned last week, dead is the word for the Rock Box. A decade ago there were few higher compliments than being called a "punk." We were white punks on dope, we were punk rockers, we were punked out and proud of it. But kids today, oh yeah, too many of them are just plain punks, poking and blazing one another in South Beach clubs as if they were real tough guys, which they aren't. And it's not, by any means, a South Beach phenom. Tim Grey opened the Rock Box a year ago in a South Dade warehouse. "I guess I'm the last of a dying breed," he says. "I did this so kids would have a place, and bands would have a place, down south. I think of all the stuff we used to have, like drive-ins. That's all I wanted." And it worked for a time. But Grey also got trouble for his troubles. "Not only was it not profitable, but it got to be where it was not fun," he says. "I told myself that when it wasn't fun, I'd stop."

Grey hopes to launch a new project, which won't be all ages, at a new location, in a few months. You can't blame him, though you might feel bad for all the good kids, the ones that didn't screw it up, who've lost a cool place to hang and headbang. "They'd get intoxicated," Grey says of the loser cliques, adding that he had no liquor license, everything was BYOB. "Ruckuses, fights, I had nine people on security. They got tired of hitting on people. That gets old. Gangs came out, fifteen-year-old kids with nine millimeters, shotguns. In the year we were open, we had few visits from cops. No serious problems, not many police happenings. Things keep getting taken away because kids fuck it up. I don't want to be ultimately responsible for a life-and-death situation."

So what's been shining my shoelaces lately, tapewise? Brenda Lee. It took me a while to dial in, but I finally gave her Warner Bros. debut (I don't boycott Time Warner) a listen. A charming blend of country and pop, beautifully sung by the veteran star. With one killer exception: "Love Is Fair," a Jesse Winchester song with a deep R&B melody/hook that suggests Ms. Lee's soul came under the temporary possession of the late Billie Holiday during recording of the vocal tracks. Of course, I might have produced it a bit differently, dumped the cheese-o-rama synth foundation and maybe replaced the Forester Sisters and the other femme background vocalists with some "black" sounding -- oh, never mind, it's fine the way it is. More than fine. Deadly. Yes, Brenda, you make me laugh if you make me cry.

And another: Rebel Waltz's Rubber Walls. The Waltz is a too-obscure-for-music-this-good band that's been recording and performing and winning awards in their native Wisconsin since the mid-Eighties. I hate these comparison deals, but you might find it helpful to note that Rebel Waltz leavens heavy doses of the sound most associated with early Replacements by adding touches of Graham Parker and the Clash on better drugs than the Clash ever got hold of. Furious and fun. Some club or promoter around here should pursue the possibility of giving some local exposure to these Northerners. Inquiries, including from those who would like to try to obtain the tape -- which I received from a friend, not a hypester -- should be sent to 311 S. Patrick St., Kimberly, WI 54136.

Yes, that was Raul Malo's beaming mug peering out from the top corner of the front page of the nation's McNewspaper, USA Today. The peg on the piece, a package of short album reviews, is "cool country," and how the cited groups represent that concept. Okay, so it's a journalistic reach, but a sweet boost for the Mavericks. Being a South Floridian and a New Times peruser, you know more than anyone needs to know about the Mavs, so the rest is gravy, in this case very rich gravy with lots of juicy lumps. "The best new album of the year," writes David Zimmerman of From Hell to Paradise on page 4D of the June 30 edition. "This is a group that could help save '90s country...." No duh, dude.

Joe Imperato, of the Source and the public defender's office, leads, naturally enough considering his schizo occupations, an adventurous life. Anecdotal evidence: The other day, while assisting an upstart PD on a burglary case, Imperato noticed that one of the potential jurors happened to be Nil Lara. Being as ethical and professional as any attorney can be, Imperato alerted the prosecutors to the fact that they might want to ask Lara if he knew anyone in the courtroom. Even so, Imperato says with a chuckle, the judge said that since the two knew each other only professionally -- from appearing on the same bill at shows -- it was okay to leave Lara in the jury pool. The prosecutors got him out on some other grounds. The Source, meanwhile, is working on an album. Look all over for updates.

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