Miami's Offline Music Scene

"We're putting together the online with the offline," booms Yemil Martinez with the enthusiasm of a game show host. The chat events coordinator for proudly sweeps his arm across the panorama of Espacio Latino, the new Latin night inaugurated last Thursday at Club Space. Before beginning their first Miami appearance after their recent U.S. tour, local rockeros Volumen Cero clink beer bottles on the darkened stage and throw shadows across the video screens mounted at the far walls of the club. An hour before, the screens had displayed the band's answers to Internet queries about the four musicians' ages, habits, and recent music purchases ((: Radiohead) typed in by a lovely blond Starmedia employee and posed by fans participating in the site's weekly series of one-hour chats with Latin pop stars called ¡Traeme la Musica! (Bring Me the Music!). "Several hundred people were in the chat room at one time!" Martinez crows, as though I've just won a very big prize.

Bringing together the Internet and live music (a word people over age 24 use for the noise you hear when you go "offline") is one of the motivations behind Espacio Latino, according to Space manager Alejandro Ferllen. All this, he says, "in the function of everything associated with Latin space: fashion, art, culture, and the beautiful Latina woman." The music offered will not always be rock. In February clubgoers can look forward to a Starmedia encore featuring MDO, the grown-up Menudo. And next week, a modest Ferllen hints, the Latin Ballroom dance competition hosted by might even draw his "personal friend, although not an intimate friend," Chayanne. "I can't be sure," he admits, "but he will very likely be here."

While the romantic balladeer may not need exposure at Espacio, Latin alternative bands like Volumen Cero must make the most of Internet airtime, given the tropical and soft-pop lockdown on Spanish-language radio in the United States. Just how stifling the strictures on Latin pop can be is made evident out on the patio where Volumen fans throng the bar, slurping up mojitos until the free drinks stop at midnight. Beneath a white silk parachute strung across the dance floor, the Hammadi Bayard y Doble 9 quintet is executing the kind of exquisite jazz and intricate riffs that the saxman and his brethren never get the chance to play when they earn their keep backing up the likes of Chayanne and Ricky Martin.

Bacilos perform Thursday at Café Nostalgia
Steve Satterwhite
Bacilos perform Thursday at Café Nostalgia


Play Thursdays at Club Space, 142 NE 11th St. Doors open at 10:00 p.m. Call 305-375-0001. Bacilos perform Thursday, January 25, at Caf Nostalgia, 432 41st St, Miami Beach. Cover is $10. Call 305-534-4536. Paulito FG y Su Elite perform Thursday, January 25, at Cristal, 1045 5th St, Miami Beach. Call 305-372-9599.

"I so often play things I don't like for the money," confesses the sought-after veteran of sessions and stage. "I wanted the chance to play what I do like." If you have a hankering for virtuosity, rush to hear Bayard's group while you still can. This is the first of ten guaranteed Thursdays for the quintet's Espacio gig, but the band leader fears he may have miscalculated his audience. "We were pitching the music a little high," he observes of the young club crowd that cleared out of the patio once the mojitos ran out. "I'm going to mount a few more funky numbers, some James Brown," he promises. "We'll alternate between songs that we like and songs that [the audience] will like that we don't dislike," he laughs, illustrating his point with the Cuban expression, "a little bit of limestone and a little bit of sand."

However unexpected the sound of sophisticated Latin jazz at Space, the juxtaposition of Doble 9 with Volumen Cero's driving rock was delightful. Catching Volumen's jagged rendition of "Strawberry Fields" between jazz sets, Bayard's group responded with their own improvised Beatles cover: an expansive interpretation of "Come Together" revved up by the Afro-Cuban percussion of Tomasito Cruz. In the two years since Cruz stayed behind after his band Paulito FG y Su Elite returned to Cuba, the talented percussionist has not hurt for steady work. Rather, like Bayard, he's been looking for something extracurricular to satisfy his soul. His old bandmates will be back in town this Thursday to kick off Paulito's Getting to Know You U.S. tour. The popular island salsero knows a thing or two about the difficulty of breaking into commercial U.S. radio and about the need to mix limestone and sand. Tonight's show will feature material from his latest recording, Por Amor, which has only been released for the Cuban market and only on cassette. Hoping to reach a larger audience outside Cuba, Paulito subtracted much of the sabor of his signature timba and added elements of pop salsa to make his music more radio-friendly to international ears.

"Radio-friendly" is the catch phrase for another local Latin alternative band making good everywhere but here. Bacilos are back in town to regroup between tours in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Spain, Ecuador, and Argentina as they promote their self-produced, self-titled CD that was picked up and released by WEA Latina last year. Bacilos has done quite well abroad. As Colombian-born frontman Jorge Villamizar points out: "We have radio hits in every other country where the record was released." The market they have yet to break is the United States. While here in Miami, the trio will try to change that, returning to the studio with hit-making superproducer Kike Santander to record a new version of the track "Lo Mismo Que Yo" ("The Same as Me"). Pronouncing the borrowed phrase with care, Brazilian-born bass player Andre Lopes calls this operation "pop polishing."

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