By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
Last month Jahsun and his housemates inaugurated what they call the All You Can Art Buffet, billed as a "smorgasbord of culinary arts, feature and independent film, live music, and literary works." The event revived a tradition established by housemate Grieco, who hosted the famous Agape Parties featuring live music, dance, and visual arts in the big house she used to live in a few blocks north. For the new incarnation, the household erected a stage in the back yard, graced in turn by neighbors, Latin rock band Moxy,the Grateful Dread, and Grieco.
Not all the neighbors are thrilled with the musical occupation. Some long-time residents who like to sleep at night have vowed to move out. During Grieco's performance, after midnight at the All You Can Art Buffet, an angry man yelled across the back fence: "Shut up, I'm going to call the cops." Grieco yelled back an emphatic "NO!" then belted out the chorus, "I have to change the world," before taking off on a sustained note at the top of her register.
"There's always some mayhem going on on this street," says drummer Neil Osam, a frequent couch-crasher at Grieco's house. Energized by the performance, he gushes, "Wouldn't it be great if ten years from now this could be the next Haight Ashbury?"
For Katy Tasso and Josh Sonntag, the neighborhood is more like the next South Beach, specifically the next Michigan between Fourth and Fifth streets. "The same community that lives here used to live there," says Tasso, Moxy's post-Shakira lead vocalist. "Then the rent got too expensive." The Edgewater houses offer more space than the musicians could ever find on South Beach at any price. "Plus we don't have to pay for a place to rehearse anymore," notes Tasso. Their band Moxy is in the process of finishing a new CD in their home studio, even shooting the cover photo against the walls the musicians painted bright red.
In the three months since Tasso and Sonntag set up in their white three-bedroom Florida house, they have been followed by their bass player Falcon, as well as members of the hardcore Argentine band Tereso and Gardis drummer Rivera. The two count other musicians living in nearby apartments. Standing on his front porch, where the couple barbecues rain or shine, Sonntag smiles: "The whole area is turning into something really cool."
"We were the pioneers of this movement," boasts Tony Laurencio, frontman to jam band Smurphio and keyboardist to bands including Oski Foundation, Richard Marley, Ragamuffin Soldier, and Volumen Cero. His girlfriend Terry Cooper, a cocktail waitress at Wet Willie's on the Beach, moved in to the four-bedroom house in November 2000. "I go [to the Beach] and I make money," says Cooper. "Then I come here where there's parking and a yard. We're called the Pharm House because we have so many animals."
"This is the shit," crows Laurencio. "This is the best block." He runs through the roster of musicians he knows on the block, adding transient trance DJs Gavin and Cole, the drummer from The Druids, and his next-door neighbor, an accomplished church pianist. The big house allows the big-Afro'd enthusiast to record in the bedroom he calls "Smurph-land Studios" and to host raves and drum circles in his back yard.
The neighborhood has even inspired Laurencio's compositions, leading him to pen a song called "The Village." He explains, "I wrote it because I live next to The Village and [my village is] totally the opposite." Although Laurencio doesn't say exactly what he objects to about the treatment facility, the trippy-happy track pays tribute to "one big family" of singers and musicians.
In some ways living next to the facility suits the Smurph man. "We have drum circles at four in the morning and [our neighbors at The Village] can't do anything about it," he explains. "Nobody can complain, because they don't have phones."
If the neighborhood is noisy at night, drummer Pelu Rivera, who lives down the block from Laurencio, slumbers in peace. "It's a neighborhood of musicians here," says a groggy Rivera, who opens the door late one afternoon wearing only boxer shorts and a sleeping mask. "The best thing about this neighborhood for musicians," he says, "is that you can sleep during the day because there is no noise."