Program Notes 35

There is one good thing about this. People can find me. Even if I'm not lost, were that ever the case. I try to avoid righting, or writing, or usually ranting, about racism. Don't believe in it. All blood's mixed.

Stop me if you've heard this one -- so these three African-American g-rappers walk on stage to receive some big music-biz award. The host of the show, Phil "Brains of a Small Rodent" Collins, says "It suddenly got very dark in here," the first of several racist comments last Wednesday night. I thought I was just tripping when I heard this so I called Brother Chuck and made sure. Yeah, racist banter on national teevy. "That should take some of the heat off Ted Danson," my wife offered. The niggaz are coming, the niggaz are coming...that's my brother Ice Cube, who makes sense of it all on his new album, Lethal Injection, a masterpiece.

Yes, I read Danyel Smith's compelling essay in the January Spin, the one that smartly makes a case for never using the N-word again. I'm with that, even though I think the overuse (mostly by dark-skinned rappers of some African heritage) has weakened the hurtfulness.

But yikes and by God, after Phil Collins successfully embarrassed light-skinned people everywhere, I flip channels and there's 48 Hours telling America that if they visit South Florida, young black men will eat their babies alive. So I turned off the teevy and cranked the Cube album real loud and felt much better.

One person that found me last week was Terry Williams. He's my boy A don't get your hackles up, "my boy" has been resurrected as a street term of endearment; I picked it up from Umynd, Chicago R&B groovesters who recently hooked up with Luke Campbell -- man, there's a guy who looks like he must've stolen that nice car. (Actually Luke once had one of his nice rides, a Bronco I think it was, splacked by thieves unknown. Cops bugged on that shit.)

That's my brother hangin' in that tree out there. Natural Causes suck, but we'll get to that in a minute. Skin is my sin says Cube. Buy it. Believe it.

"This is Mr. Big Dick," Terry Williams said when he called, freakin' me out momentarily. He was joking around, reading too much Baker and gettin' too nasty. He's allowed -- me and TW went to skool together about a million years ago, college, I dropped that like a cap off, but not before I got some education. Like when we went to a journalism convention in Orlando. (Total number of panel discussions and seminars attended by me and TW: 0.) It was postmidnight and me and TW -- a big man with an automatic-for-all-people smile, great sense of humor, warm heart, and a distinctly non-Eurohuman exterior -- went to a diner. I was sitting at the counter between TW and some blue-collar Mexican-looking guy who'd been there a while. The waitresses made an artform of ignoring us. The spic wanted a bowl of chili is all, and me and Terry had heavy cash and lots of hard liquor in us. As the one member of this trio for whom I can't come up with a racist slur -- honky? Mr. White? butthorn? A I was the first to receive waitstaff attention. Told the bitch to take the spic's order.

You gotta understand that me and TW ran together. At the diner, though, it was clear how the niggers -- very white people -- behind the counter felt about the opportunity to serve Mr. Williams. I looked at his face in the face of this overt racism. TW grew up Miami north side, if you know what I mean. One morning he went out front to get the paper and found a riot. He came up Miami. Black. Wise. And big as in bad big, he could hurt you if he wanted to. But when I looked at his face I knew that if I did decide to leap the counter and splatter these redneck waitresses, TW, for once, wouldn't be there to cover me. There was no anger in his face. All I saw was hurt.

Epilogue: TW now works in Washington, D.C., for some huge federal something or other, writing speeches and such.

I saw on teevy last week some guy walked around a train in New Yawk busting caps in innocent people he saw as enemies to his race.

Nothin' goin' on but this bomb-ass rap song. Maybe the N-word still means something after all. Action.

So about this honky Ice Cube: best album of the year, Lethal Injection. Begins with a white boy being strapped down for a cold jolt of what time it is, but this is no gangsta diatribe. By combining Luther Vandross richness and Cypress Hill funkiness, and referencing everything that's ever been described as "cool like dat," Cube has dropped the best-grooved, slow-keyed rap-hop album I've heard. Cube's cinematics (hell, he's a movie star) and dog-near-singing vocal comforter even makes us crackers on the mack smile and hold our arms around our shoulders in that palsied way Negroes in baggy shorts do. Do this thing.

Happy tenth anniversary to Bob Slade's Off the Beaten Path radio show (Mondays at midnight on WLRN-FM [91.3]).

The mighty NRBQ (they hate hype so I won't hype 'em) hit the Talkhouse on Friday and Saturday.

Broken Spectacles, stripped down now to a four-piece, are looking for a new keyboardist (call 925-0892) to replace Noodles, who left to pursue her own thing, Nasty Noodles (she's a great songwriter, the Specs's Ed Hale says). Brian Siver, who engineered the band's Aftermath (due out in January), won a big award from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, from which he graduated the other day. Siver collected a two-foot-tall trophy and got to make a speech. He won the award for the Aftermath project. Cool, cool, cool. So I'm talking to Ed Hale about all this and other things. He notes that some blacks are pioneering a new separatist movement (actually two, one for rich blacks, the other for the poor). "And there's graffiti on 95 up here that says 'Riot Now.' It's sad, but who's to blame them?" Once the CD is released give a good listen and you'll hear how the Specs feel lyrically about such things, how it must be changed, the whole world must be changed.

Ever notice how the great bands give back? This weekend two mega shows take place, one to help raise money for homeless people of all colors, the other for kids who need toys. See "Calendar" for details on both.

So I hear Frank Zappa's new album will be called Semi Colon. That's spelled with an apostrophe, not a prostate. I can hear my friend Large, a Zappa fanatic, moaning already. Hey, I think Mr. Z would laugh at my stupid little joke. A long time ago I was working on the national news desk of the Miami Herald when a wire bulletin alerted editors to the fact that a bunch of people in Jonestown were committing suicide by drinking poison. I got up and announced I was going downstairs to the cafeteria. "Anybody want me to get 'em some Kool Aid?"

Big weekend at Cactus Cantina/Coyote. On Friday, Third Wish and the Sixth and the Way play. This Saturday Mr. Twister (with guest Lynne Noble -- who has a new slab for your listening enjoyment -- and opener Phil T. Rich) helps Ms. Linda Lou celebrate another 39th birthday. This Sunday's jam features the Whistling Tinheads.

See, I hate to list names, because I always forget someone important. Last week, recounting the Swelter Records party, I, despite writing three notes to myself as reminders, forgot to mention Randy Ruffner of Johnny Tonite. What the hell, I only hung out with him for about two hours that night. Duh.

Spiderfoot plays tonight (Wednesday) with Baloney Sandwich at Musicians Exchange. The next night Spiderfoot hits Button South.

This sounds promising -- twin brothers Dolph and Tony Castellano on two pianos and backed by a rhythm section, facing off. The place is MoJazz and it's this Sunday.

I heard this rumor (you know I love those) that Nirvana, during its recent show at Bayfront, announced to the crowd that Harry Pussy was playing over at Churchill's Hideaway later that night. I further hear that the members of Nirvana themselves wanted to go to the Harry Pussy show at Churchill's. Someone -- management, security, a 48 Hours producer -- told them it was too dangerous. Hey Nirvana dudes -- you don't know what you're missing.

The Goods play a KISSMass show this Saturday at Churchill's. I hear it'll mix KISS material with Goods stuff in a holiday romp. The members of Nirvana will be there, too.

Butthorn of the week: The Miami Herald, sundry elected officials of Miami (and Hallandale), Hard Rock Cafe, and everyone else who had anything to do with the manufactured nonstory of the Dead German Tourist "band." Miami is not a violent and dangerous place so much as it is a stupid and goofy place. I was going to really rip everyone involved in this nonsense -- especially the Herald for creating the whole pointless thing out of the banal and trivial. But Herald writer Carl Hiaasen pretty much said everything I wanted to in his column this past Thursday. My brother Chuck says the Herald actually had a brilliant plan: "They did that first story so they could generate a bunch more stories." My question: What story?

The media circus: Alternative Press published a truly scathing review of Forget the Name's Stones for Steven. "Forget the name? Forget the album." We all know about opinions. I went back and read a story Suzan Col centsn (who went off to New Yawk to take some high-powered editor's position at some national magazine) wrote for New Times in March 1992. She wrote that "Forget the Name renewed my faith in the purity of music. Theirs, anyway."

Pet corner: No animal news this week, but a report about one of my pet bands. So Natural Causes sucks, huh? I was afraid so when I saw a recent Talkhouse show, the first I'd seen since they completed their national tour. They opened with a great song (like Arlan Feiles writes any other kind), "Bomb in the Shelter." Pumped up, the song would've sounded fine A in Miami Arena. In a cramped and small club, it just didn't work. Oh, no, I was thinking, don't tell me these guys (and gal) are going over to the other side, getting their heads filled and changing (for the worse). Maybe it's just the new equipment. Maybe it's the experience of playing bigger venues. But then they played another song and then another. And it was back. Cleaned up a bit, but still as beautiful and powerful and moving and, um, just plain good. Made me forget about all the racism and violence and evil and hate. Made me remember why I love rock and roll. Because, as Feiles sings so powerfully, that's our brother hanging in that tree out there.

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