Shake

Miami's Offline Music Scene

Lopes, Villamizar, and Puerto Rican drummer José Javier (JJ) Freire came to study at the University of Miami back in the early Nineties, then stuck around. "We're a very local band," insists Lopes. "We've played every little club in town for the past six years." The group got tied up for three years in a bad contract with a Venezuelan label and was left with nothing to do but gig around. In Villamizar's mind the band more than paid its dues during those long nights at Stephen Talkhouse, Churchill's, Tobacco Road, and a one-year stint as the Marlin house band. Frustrated by their contract snafu, the trio saved up cash and rounded up friends to record Bacilos at their own pace and on their own terms. "We did it as something to show our kids," says Lopes.

"A souvenir," clarifies Villamizar. WEA Latina snapped up the disc but according to Villamizar warned the group: "If you want radio, we can't work with what you have." Enter Santander, who often had dropped in on his fellow Colombian at the Marlin. "I know what it's like to be an artist, to compose music," says the singer who pursued a business major at UM. "Now we're going to make money. If it's not us, then it will just be another Menudo."His candor makes Freire cringe. "I'm more anti-industry," declares the percussionist. Yet he concedes, "If you have the chance to work with Kike Santander -- we're going to see what he has to offer."

Incredulous that any song on Bacilos can be made to fit the narrow Latin-radio mold, I asked, "What exactly is pop polishing?"

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

Details

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.

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"Oh, they say, “Come in quicker on the chorus,' or “Don't go so high on the verse,'" offers Lopes. "And they tell you it has to be three minutes and twenty-five seconds; that's the length the radio loves." Not that there's anything particularly anti-commercial about the CD. A far cry from salsa, merengue, or ballad, the pleasant laid-back selection of folky songs has touches of Caribbean percussion and South American song form. With English lyrics, however, any one of them could easily slip into the format on Anglo alternative radio. Why bother with all this jumping into the chorus and toning down the verse? Why not just sing in English? The songwriter shrugs, "We definitely will. It just happened that none of the ten songs we picked out for this album were in English." Suddenly none of it seems like such a big deal. "Look, all we're talking about is adding one song, as a bonus track," says Villamizar wearily. "Two weeks later we'll be out of here."

Does that mean Bacilos has left Miami behind? The songwriter perks up again. "This is an American band," he smiles. "How else are you going to get a Brazilian, a Colombian, and a Puerto Rican playing together? This is New American Music." And it could not have been born anywhere but here.

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