By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
I know I don't act like it around here, I know you can't really tell, but I am a trained professional journalist with nearly twenty years' experience. I haven't had many teachers, but the few I've had were the best. Mrs. Murphy in high school taught me the basics. Professor Townsend at Miami-Dade turned me into a pro. Billie O'Day at the Miami News and Mad Dog Kent at the Miami Herald gave me opportunities. Jon Marlowe at the Miami News made me a music critic. And Jim Mullin here at New Times. Those are my main mentors, along with a guy named Bill Cosford. When I say Townsend made me a pro, I mean it literally -- I landed a job at the Miami Herald when I should've been a junior in college. While I was a snotty brat in the Herald newsroom, Cos took me beneath his wing. He wasn't my boss or anything, just my friend, someone who helped me along. Maybe it was because he'd started his career entry level, as a copy boy, and worked his way up by getting the job done and nothing else. Cos walked funny, hitched, as if one leg were six inches shorter than the other. An only child, Cos had acquired the strange gait in youth -- "I started walking like this to get attention." I recall once he came into the newsroom with a radically different haircut and made everyone laugh by announcing, "I'm remaking my image." And when he quit smoking he turned that into one of the most insightful feature stories you could ever read. Over the years we chatted occasionally, usually when I called him for one favor or another. I ran into him a few years ago while visiting someone at the Herald building. "So how are things going around here?" I asked Cosford. "Just fine," he answered, "you know, the same old, everything's great." He paused, looked at me with sparkling eyes, and continued: "C'mon Baker, I'm not gonna stand here and shit you. It sucks. It sucks like it always has and always will." An honest journalist. There are too few of those. And now there's one less. "A standup dude," is what the whiskey drinkers are saying. Here's to it. I'm sympathetic to Bill's family and friends and colleagues at the Herald and the University of Miami and Love-94. But, cold though it may seem, I mostly mourn the loss my profession has suffered.
I'm glad we have Tom Austin and Liz Martinez to keep track of the clubs, 'cause I sure can't keep up. Biscayne Grill begins staging live music under the moniker 901, the South Miami Avenue address of the huge space. This Friday during happy hour (7:00 to 9:00 p.m.) Arlan Feiles plays acoustic. On January 21 a band called Natural Causes takes the stage at 10:00 p.m. (cough, cough). The word is that the club doesn't intend to compete with nearby Tobacco Road, but instead should form a nifty little club triangle (with Firehouse Four) for hopping. Just such a triangle used to make South Beach worth visiting A the Talkhouse, Cactina, and Square were, what, about 50 stumbles apart? We all know about the Square's fate (it's now called something like the Dark Room). And in case you hadn't heard, the Cactus Cantina has closed.
Yup, after four and a half years of staging the finest in local music, and blazing plenty of palates with those incredible munchies, the Cactina is gone for good. "The scene just isn't happening," says owner Linda Lou Nelson, "and I'm not willing to run a disco." She's currently in the process of selling the space. "I'm going to take a vacation," Ms. Linda Lou says, "and when I get back, I want to get the Blues Society on its feet. I hope to have the time to do that. I'll still be involved, produce some events, I don't know. The tough part is all the musicians who considered this place home." Maybe. For the rest of us the worst part is losing one of the area's best nightspots.
Halo plays an all-ages show this Sunday at Plus 5.
I can see for Miles and Miles and miles -- I'm listening to a VUM DJ named Miles and holding in my paws two tapes, one from Miles Hie (of Itch fame) and one from a band called the miles. The former -- Homeless for Christmas -- is not a holiday record. Homelessness isn't seasonal. The album tells the story of Bill, a homeless person Miles interviewed at length. Bill's commentary is mixed with rich acoustic songs that evoke rather than proselytize. The miles -- a young band in every way -- deliver four pop punk tunes on their debut. Heavy on the melody, light on the angst, the miles mix a Peter Buckish (sorry) guitar sound with casual vocals and elegant rhythms to create accessible tunes. Both tapes, and listening to VUM for that matter, are recommended.
Vandal is about to head back to L.A. They'll play a see-ya-later show this Friday at Plus 5 with Skin Tight, Rhythm Duval, and Spiritual Graffiti. The following night the club hosts Collapsing Lungs (recently signed by Atlantic) with Things of Naught, the Niki Taylors, and Erecti Cocktopus.