By Jacob Katel
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Dave Daniels, the gray-bearded, bespectacled emperor of this realm, sips hot tea -- it's that time of day, even if he left his native England decades ago -- and, between hilarious tales of his wild youth as a promoter in Great Britain's early Sixties music scene, he talks about what he's doing to keep his venue going (plenty), the Miami music scene in 1994 (in case you haven't heard, it's dead), and two remarkable CDs that carry his imprimatur. Daniels doesn't act like what he is: one of the top architects and advocates of original rock in this community, a guru and godfather to countless bands. And Daniels doesn't sound frustrated or bitter by any means, although he has every right to.
"The business here is seasonal," he says. "It always drops off in the summer. It would always pick back up in September, but my base business didn't pick up this year." That's especially surprising in light of the fact that two of Miami's other premier rock clubs A Washington Square and Cactus Cantina -- have closed. Daniels wonders where all those original-rock fans are going now. It isn't Churchill's.
And maybe that's the problem, the reason the so-called local scene is, by most accounts, dead in the water. There are more bands, better bands. More national interest in the area's music. More recordings being released. But fewer and fewer members of the public are taking advantage of this cultural resource.
Daniels has something for stay-at-homes -- the two CDs. And something for everyone -- an opinion.
Bob Marley and Day by the River were, until the second week of December, the two most played CDs on the jukebox at Churchill's. Then Sun Brewed Action Music was inserted and all quarters found a new punchup. Action Music is the second CD recorded at the Church and issued by Frank Falestra's Esync label.
The first was Music Generated by Geographical Seclusion and Beer. Falestra, known as Rat Bastard, and Ralph Cavallaro recorded fourteen bands over two nights in early January 1993, selected fifteen of the songs, and had a sleeve printed with a picture of Churchill's on the front and a picture of Daniels on the back. The resulting CD scored on both sound quality and musical diversity, from the painful (Harry Pussy's "Brown Butterfly") to the even more painful (Load's "Pickin' Dayze/User"). Those bands are supposed to induce psychosis and cause bleeding in the ears, but the album is not just noise. Bands such as Drive Choir, Cell 63, Quit, and Holy Terrors (though furious and loud) also construct smart and memorable tunes. The magazine scrape, which specializes in the hard and smart rock generally known as underground, opined that this CD is an "amazing testament to our city's diversity."
It is that -- Demonomacy's hard-girl death metal and Boise and Moss's stripped-down "Plastic Friend" on the same record? -- but it also serves as testament to Falestra's diverse taste. Geographical Seclusion represents Falestra's choices of bands and songs, while the follow-up consists of music Dave Daniels most wanted preserved for posterity on CD. Once again Falestra perfectly captured the live shows this compilation draws from. Charlie Pickett (one of Miami's true legends and a Churchill's veteran), the Goods, the Chant, I Don't Know, and other top bands are masterfully represented. (In some cases that wasn't easy. One favorite Daniels acts is the Girls. He wanted them to be included but wasn't sure how to reach them. He heard that members of the group worked at the park downtown, so Daniels drove to Bicentennial and searched the area. When Falestra heard about this he immediately went to Bayfront Park, where the musicians actually work, scoped around until he found a building and a way into it, and finally hooked up with the Girls, who ended up with two tracks on the CD.)
Both releases are available at the Church for ten bucks, and a third has been recorded (at the Bored Shitless Music Festival that Falestra conducted at the Hideaway at the end of this past November) but not yet mixed or released.
While those two sonic achievements are the most significant of Daniels's recent undertakings, they are only a part of what he's trying to accomplish at his club. Daniels notes that "a good show always draws a good crowd" and that with the departure of the Square and Cactina he's getting better bookings, but that's not enough. He's also hoping to increase lunch traffic (bangers and mash, the best shepherd's pie on the face of the planet, Scotch eggs, sandwiches and chili and soup) and create a traditional happy hour on Fridays, which is the same day Pan Am Dave barbecues from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the club (a rib eye off the grill goes for eight dollars, ribs and chicken are also available) and a Lotto giveaway. "We put a number on each chair and spin a wheel. Whoever's number comes up gets to play free. If the jackpot is ten million," Daniels explains, "we give the person ten quick picks. When the jackpot went up to $70 million, we gave 70 free quick picks out. I'm glad someone somewhere won that week, because if it'd gone to $100 million it would've cost me $100."