The Worst of Miami

And the rest of the United States. Scraping Teeth grinds to the top of the bottom.

"We used to have a night at Beirut called 'The Noise' where Rat and three other guitar players were in the corners of the club, each facing his own amp, just playing as loud as they could," remembers Doc Wiley, current musical director at the Square and former Club Beirut manager. "There were also a couple turntables and a CD player going simultaneously. A Beach cop, driving by in his car, heard it and it drove him so nuts he came in with his hand on his gun, shouting for them to turn it down or he'd arrest them."

"He was very agitated," recalls Rat. "I was in the sound booth when he came in. He started beating on it with his flashlight, screaming for me to turn it down. The thing was, I had turned it down, brought down all the faders on the turntables and CD. But the guitarists were each in the corners facing their amps, with their backs to everything. He was fuming. He had to tap each one on the shoulder to get them to quit. But within two minutes after they stopped, he'd calmed down. He was the nicest guy. The music made this guy go nuts."

The flatfoot was not alone in his instinctive evaluation. "Another time Doug Adrianson, the Herald's music critic before Leonard Pitts, heard us at Churchill's and started screaming at [the club's owner] Dave Daniels, 'Why did you let those guys go on?' Very upset," recollects the rodent. "He called me the next day and apologized, said he'd never reacted like that to music before." Adrianson went on to learn more about the underground scene and became a familiar face in local original-rock venues.

Perhaps an afternoon in a locked room with Scraping Teeth is in order for Mr. Pitts.

Fifteen minutes into the set, and the gutty 24 are showing signs of fatigue and shell-shock. Their eyes are slightly glazed over, their jaws slack. They are not sleeping, yet it would not be accurate to say that they are completely awake, either. They look like they've fallen under some kind of mysterious spell....

She will not allow New Times to use her name, but she and a group of her friends were at the Cameo Theatre in July of 1989 to attend a Flaming Lips concert. Scraping Teeth, the opening act, had draped a huge white sheet over part of the stage and begun playing, creating an other-worldly ambience. Massive quantities of pot smoke filled the air. Someone announced that Flaming Lips would not appear. A few women, friends of the band's, led by former performance artist Tina (of Dirty Girl Revue fame), began dancing naked behind the sheet. Tina began droning, "Where's my ball? Get my ball" over and over, possibly referring to a beach ball near the stage. The young woman relaying the story to New Times swears the combination of smoke, Teeth, sheet, and repetitious chanting hypnotized the entire audience. Falestra says it was all unplanned, but he does not deny the possibility of the crowd's collective arrival at an altered state.

Drummer Dimthingshine has been a Tooth for several years and has seen it all before. But the bassist this Wednesday night is Demonomacy guitarist Jamie Avery, who has never played bass before. Ever. She is bewildered at first, perhaps intimidated by the wailing wall of sound erected by the Rat's idiosyncratic, antimelodic guitar work. Maybe no one has told her that this is how the band's first gig went, too, no rehearsal, no beginnings, middles, or ends. Occasionally drummer Dim will hold back, shift gears, give her a chance to catch up. But soon Avery's cutting loose, more than holding her own, pitching out her share of ideas and shaping the polymorphous, evolving sonic assault with her own distinctive input.

The Rat Bastard smiles. Briefly. Enigmatically. Like Dylan A just a flash and then it's gone so quickly you can't be sure whether you saw it or imagined it.

Scraping Teeth do not play songs. Some would say they do not even play music, but that's an ignorant cheap shot. As Falestra is quick to point out, the Teeth probably grind out more hooks per minute than any other rock band in the world.

The Rat is as much a visual treat as he is a sonic one, thrashing about in his black specs, T-shirt, knee-length shorts, New Times hat, and white socks that rise to mid-calf. Falestra punishes guitars, flailing at them more than strumming, his right hand a blur of frenetic picking, his left a tangled knot of unconventional chordings.

No rock guitarist, living or dead, has a higher broken-strings-per-show ratio than Falestra. But even more amazing than his propensity for breaking so many strings is his habit of simply incorporating the broken strings into his playing, rather than pausing to change guitars or restring. During this Wednesday night's performance, Rat: A) breaks his high E string 30 seconds into the set, B) wedges a screwdriver between the fretboard and the strings to give his guitar a more psychedelic sound, and C) eventually breaks all but the middle two (G and D) strings of his ax with no stoppage of playing. That's nothing. He once snapped the neck of a Gibson SG because of string tension brought about by one of his bizarre alternative tunings.

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