Jammed Sessions

How does Miami love its music fests? Let us count the ways

Tanks lined Biscayne Boulevard at noon last Sunday just as the Rock en Miami festival was getting under way at Bayfront Park. New Times reported the week before on some bad blood between local Latin rock promoters, but did the situation really require heavy artillery?

Well, no; last Sunday was, after all, Veterans' Day eve. Although that long weekend mainly served South Florida promoters as an excuse to mount massive festivals on Sunday night, a small group of soldiers past and present paraded down Biscayne Boulevard.

True to Miami planning, no one in the city seems to have considered how difficult it would be for the soldiers to conduct a solemn ceremony while caught in rock crossfire. While local Cuban nu-metalheads Garaje H raged, one of the parade organizers complained to bewildered festival organizer Maria Watson. Watson, who commutes between Buenos Aires and Miami, had never heard of Veterans' Day. She had no idea why the soldier was so upset.

"He asked if we could be quieter," shouted a rattled Watson over the din. "How can we be quieter? He asked if we could stop for ten minutes. How can we stop for ten minutes? Then he asked me, 'Then why do you live in this country?' I don't live in this country. I live in Argentina."

Jamaican-born dancehall DJ Kya-pi does live in the United States. In fact the rising star grew up in Miramar, but he was shut out of the Caribbean Bash 2002 that blew up far from any tanks or commemorative tears Sunday evening. After years of selling out Bayfront Park, the Bash stormed Virginia Key Beach to accommodate South Florida's seemingly inexhaustible supply of dancehall fanatics. The annual showcase of the genre's best has never had much time for local acts. But then South Florida hasn't exactly been a hotbed of homegrown ragga.

Not until last month, when Kya-pi's single "Me U Want" climbed to number three on the Billboard reggae chart, behind the legendary Beenie Man and "Give Me the Light" phenom Sean Paul, both on the bill. So why not make a space for a Miramar lad 'longside the likes of Lexx and Elephant Man? It's all about the timing. When, armed with a copy of Billboard, manager P.V. Floyd asked Bash organizers, "Kya-pi U Want?" the answer was a smile and a promise: "Now he's a year ahead of time to get on the show for next year."

There will likely be a war among Latin lovers to get on the bill for next year's Amor a la Musica concert, the annual benefit song-a-thon hosted by Amor (WAMR-FM 107.5). Sunday night's event filled the American Airlines Arena with more than 12,000 sensitive souls eager to be deeply moved by a parade of some 30 crooners oh-so-sincerely parading down an enormous catwalk.

A 13-piece orchestra headed by William Sanchez -- that swelled to 25 when a dozen strings were sent in to reinforce Mexican legend Marco Antonio Solis -- kept the audience guessing throughout the show: Is it live or is it prerecorded track? In the highlight of the show, Marc Anthony put to rest any doubts (if anyone harbored any) that he deserves his nickname "La Voz" ("The Voice") by dueling himself, singing against his own track, then calling for a cease-fire.

"Stop the music," he commanded, then -- a cappella -- attacked "Preciosa" ("Precious"), his love song to the island of Puerto Rico. He began tentatively, launching the first few lines, then stopped. "I forgot the words," he pretended to the audience. "I need you to help me." Then he set off a series of explosions, his voice building with each verse, until he filled the arena with a passion and a precision not even the most carefully produced recording could duplicate. The battle won, he retreated from the spotlight with a shrug, while the orchestra, proving that it could play too, improvised a slinky, funky version of "I Need To Know."

Meanwhile, at Rock en Miami a block away, several hundred scruffy troops in Maradona T-shirts flailed to Argentine roots-rockers Los Piojos slightly behind schedule, while another few hundred stone-faced fans wrapped in Mexican flags waited impatiently for El Tri, Latin America's oldest surviving rock and roll band, to close the show. By the time Alex Lora pierced the air with his famous nasal whine, the U.S. Marine color guard had long ago retired Old Glory from the Bayside flagpole. But then it would be hard to find a more fitting tribute to the men and women who fought for the American century than the high-pitched scream of an aged Mexican rock idol firing his version of the American dream out of the amphitheatre and over the heads of the well-heeled Amorous crowds pouring out of the American Airlines Arena.

 
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