Fear and Loathing on South Beach

Miami Rocks takes the fifth, but people are talking anyway

I don't know whose idea it was to lock Doc Wiley (Washington Square), John Tovar (band manager), Sandra Schulman (Sun-Sentinel, XS), Lisa Cillo (WKPX-FM), Laura Regalado (WVUM-FM), Ariyah Okamoto (Snatch the Pebble), Curt McIntosh (Long Distance Entertainment), Glenn Richards (latent axe murderer), and me in a room without adult supervision, but whoever it was, I want to thank them. The pre-panel discussion was easily the most entertaining part of the whole Miami Rocks weekend. Here's a behind-the-scenes peek:

Tovar (accusing): "So why doesn't the Square book bands from Broward?"
Doc (defensive): "We do book bands from Broward."
Tovar (angry): "No, you don't!"
Doc (rebellious): "Yes, we do!"

Richards (conciliatory): "They book alternative bands, they just don't book hair bands."

Doc (defiant): "We have hair bands!"
Richards (flustered): "I've been there when you've made comments about poseurs and Broward County! When you've said, 'This ain't Broward County,' like it was a bad thing!"

Doc (stubbornly): "We welcome bands from Broward County. What they don't understand is that when they play a club in Dade, they don't have a following. Nobody knows who they are. So they can't come down here with this attitude like they're established stars. Sometimes they don't understand that and there are problems."

Tovar (skeptical): "You just don't like hair bands."
Doc (more defensively):"We play hair bands. We don't put up with shitty attitudes."

Richards (disbelieving): "But I've heard you say ..."
Doc (conciliatory): "Okay, hair bands suck. Some hair bands. Our audience is an alternative audience, not a hair band audience."

And on and on. You haven't lived until you've seen Doc and Tovar lock horns. It grew really ugly when Tovar picked up Sandra Schulman and Doc grabbed Laura Regalado and they started beating each other using the two unsuspecting women as bludgeons. Luckily, I was packing my Glock. Tovar and Wiley are big guys A I'd have felt more secure with a .357 A but I fired two quick rounds over each of their heads and they came to their senses in time for everybody to wash off the blood, replace the torn clothing, and apply makeup over the claw marks. We went out there in front of the public and did our panel shtick without a hitch. The subject of hair bands never came up.

One that did come up, however, is a topic Doc Wiley and I are in complete agreement on: Glenn Richards looks demonic with a goatee. No, wait, that wasn't it A it was that if Miami is going to make a name for itself as a hotbed of original rock, to have a healthy scene as it were, bands and fans alike are going to have to start getting off their asses and supporting each other. Think globally, buy locally. MiRox was a perfect example A the A&R people in attendence were getting so bored some of them even came up to me to start conversations. This was a perfect opportunity for original bands to get out there and schmooze, push the demo tapes, meet the press, network. Where the hell was everybody?

Oddly enough, the East Coast Music Forum panels and workshops were reasonably well-attended, though nothing like last year's standing-room-only seminars. The bands deserve better. And Club Nu was so empty at times I felt like a night watchman taking a coffee break in an airplane hangar. It was especially disappointing considering that this edition of Miami Rocks featured the most diverse assembly of talent in the event's five-year history. If a tree falls at Miami Rocks, does it make a sound?

Sparks began flying with the Miami Rocks Out gigs Thursday night. This was not just any Thursday night. It was DJ/promoter/local-music heroine Lydia Ojeda's birthday (one of the big ones that end with a zero). In her honor Voidville laid waste to the Square, blowing away the zealous, hard-partying horde almost as completely as the half-dozen or so shots of tequila purchased for (and consumed by) Ms. Ojeda in less than an hour. Of course, I didn't partake because I was working. Anyway, I went on the record as a huge Diane Ward fan years ago A you young whippersnappers out there, ask me about Bootleg some time A but this line-up positively frightens me. Awesome. Addictive. The scariest part is, Ward had a sore throat (bad enough to cause her to bow out of the following night's opening set). Imagine what the dozens of fans who stood there screaming for an encore as the 'Ville voided the stage would have done if she'd have been on. Can you say bedlam?

Dennis Britt has been around forever A you young whippersnappers out there, ask me about Watchdog some time A and he's probably gone through more musical personas than anyone this side of David Bowie. Along the way he's acquired a reputation as a temperamental genius. Britt has thrown away more good songs than most of his peers will write in their lifetimes. Where someone like Frank Falestra works hard to stay ahead of the pack, Britt does it intuitively. His latest band, the Beat Poets, flash back to the psychedelic rock of the late Sixties, filtering that through a Nineties cynicism. On Thursday night, they took a dissipated post-Voidville crowd on a magical mystery tour of their own. Somewhere out there Ziggy Stardust and Jack Kerouac were smiling.

Over at the Cactus Cantina, Little Nicky and the Slicks were doing a little nicking of their own. Originally a blues band A you young whippersnappers out there, ask me about Fat Chance some time A the Slicks have gone around the rock bend with encouraging results. It's always a pleasure to watch pros at work, doubly so when they take a new musical direction and make it their own. My only fear is that one of these days, in the heat of the moment, Nicky will unwittingly break into "Margaritaville" in the middle of her set. (See, she's been on tour with Jimmy Buffett, who wrote the song A oh, never mind.)

As for the "official" MiRox showcases, I'll leave the reviews to my esteemed colleague, Ganja Baker. I was too busy filching chocolate-covered strawberries in the VIP lounge and searching for Leonard Pitts, Jr., to offer a complete assessment. I thought every band sounded fabulous, and I will soon be mortgaging my house to help Baker sign them all to contracts. Except Natural Causes, who will probably already be gone by the time this article appears. More entertaining than the music, however, was much of the on-stage patter. Perhaps emboldened by the spaciousness of the venue and the dearth of a crowd to fill it, song intros were refreshingly candid.

"This is dedicated to my aunt who was born without fallopian tubes," said Michael Kennedy of Rooster Head at one point.

"Hi, we're Miami Sucks, Too!" screamed Bobby Johnston, lead yelper for Loud. (What? It's L-o-a-d? Are you sure?) "Shiver me timbers and blow the man down! Only on the weekends! For Christ's sake! All you people are lame as fuck!" spumed Johnston, clearly shortcircuiting before my very eyes. The band made me feel like the doddering old fart that I am.

"Todd, I'm twenty-four, and they make me feel old," said Eddie Darling, lead singer of Broken Spectacles, in an attempt to comfort me that had the exact opposite effect. Twenty-four? I have concert T-shirts older than that. Thanks a hell of a lot, Eddie.

WMBM-AM talk-show superhost Jim DeFede brought to my attention one trend that distressed us both A the appearance of skirts and dresses on male musicians. Hey, I saw The Crying Game, and I'm not ashamed to admit I found Del (Dil? Dale?) quite attractive up to a point (a pretty important point, as points go), but I can't say the same for Rooster Head drummer Mike Vullo. And while I Don't Know frontman Ferny Coipel is a little shapelier and once tried to bribe me with a canary-yellow Twist Bozoon (you just don't hear enough good rock kazoo these days), the moustache is a definite turn-off. As DeFede put it, "Whatever happened to the good old days when rock stars just wore their dresses around the house?"

I'm no arbiter of haute couture, but if I see XS music writer Jeffray Hirrall in a skirt, I'm movin' back to Ohio.

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