Program Notes

Cactus Cantina celebrates this week its third birthday with big shows by Country Joe McDonald (Friday) and blues-blue-guitarist Chris Smither (Saturday). So do we put little candles in the nachos, or what?

I was either here working or smashed out of mind on cheap vodka, so I missed the highly hyped Helmet's show at the Edge. Sure heard about it, though, the rumor being that the band broke up, firing lead singer Page Hamilton and auditioning replacements during their set. "The promoter flip-flopped a couple of dates down there," says spokesman Steve Martin. "But the band just played CMJ, and they're leaving right now for a European tour."

Due to do: Squeeze jamming tonight (Wednesday) with Big Love and Holy Terrors, next week the club features Plastic Nude Martini (glug, glug) with the Bellefires and on November 25 the awesome Zombie Birdhouse flies in from Tally. Mr. Twister lights up Sunday afternoons at the Princess Beach and takes over the pro blues jam each Monday this month at Cactina. And do not miss John Wesley Harding at Stephen Talkhouse next Tuesday.

Lie, lie, lie. Four. And now for winner Jason Block's review of Automatic for the People: "R.E.M. has, once again, seemed to please the faithful while venturing new plateaus. Automatic for the People, the Athens band's new album, is rich with Michael Stipe's dark anecdotes set to a dramatic mix of Peter Buck's patented picking guitar, and the sensational rhythm combo of Bill Berry and Mike Mills. Ex-Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who produced the string arrangements, adds a powerfully mystic surge. `Monty Got a Raw Deal' features Buck's most definitive mandolin performance, while songs like `Star Me Kitten' and `Try Not to Breathe' exhort vintage Berry-Mills dramatic harmonies backing Stipe's morally whimsical lyrics. Once the epitome of college radio, R.E.M.'s sound has transcended to higher experiences. Automatic is a folky rock album depicting the troubles and despair of everyday life, yet they still make it feel like a trip to bountiful."

Butthorn of the week: Anyone who did not write in Ice-T for president. Rap maven, author, flack, freedom fighter, and cool chick Phyllis Pollack called from L.A. to note that she certainly did write in her friend Ice-T, and she wasn't joking. "I couldn't in good conscious vote for any of them," Pollack says. "I didn't want to go out Republican or Democrat or Independent, I wanted to go out Syndicate." Pollack fears that with Clinton-Gore in the White(man's) House, her phone will be tapped and her mail rifled through. She's not paranoid. Tipper the Tripper, she says, has previously threatened to sue her and once pulled strings to have her censored as co-guest on a popular teevy talk show.

The media circus: Cheech Marin, famous doper of yesteryear, competed in the recent celebrity-week Jeopardy! for charity. Anyone opposed to the decriminalization of reefer should note that Cheech easily won as overall champion (of fifteen competitors) with the high, so to speak, score of $12,500. (And Cheech is no Lionel Goldbart.)

Pet corner: Occasionally there are victories. The Publix in Wilton Manors not long ago canceled a planned panther exhibit after the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida explained to management that panthers were not put on this planet to do photo ops at grocery stores. The Miami International Book Fair will not have a petting zoo this year, but ARFF will have a booth -- that's progress. Rabbi Merle E. Singer of Temple Beth El in Boca Raton has agreed that traveling animal exhibits at the temple's nursery school are a bad idea for the kids as well as the animals. ARFF rescued at least 40 nonhuman Andrew victims. Many still need homes -- call 968-7622. The folks at ARFF seem to be doing a great job for the animals. I'll drink to that.

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