By Rebecca Bulnes
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In a smoky, dimly lit room filled with a waiting audience bundled up in winter gear because of the seemingly frigid Miami air, two musicians took the stage at Churchill's for the last time for a long time.
Awesome New Republic affectionately known as ANR celebrated its going-away party on a recent Sunday with a couple hundred of its nearest and dearest, along with local acts Jesse Jackson and the Dead Hookers Bridge Club.
During 2005, Brian Robertson and Michael-John Hancock took the local scene on an adventure to unfamiliar musical territory. The group began with the two of them, grew into a full band with several musicians, and then returned to a duo. Now Robertson mans the snyth and keyboard, with Hancock behind the drums and doing vocals. The hometown twosome is packing up its gear and heading north.
"There are a lot of reasons we're moving up north; the primary reasons are personal we're not really hating on Miami or anything just personal life relationships and things like that," Hancock said.
Hancock recently got engaged and is moving with his fiancée in March. Come June, Robertson will join them in New York. With the move, ANR is also evolving by means of expansion.
"We're going to be expanding to a big band," Hancock said. "It's hopefully going to be a ten-piece; there's going to be a three-part horn section, female back-up singers, two drummers. I'm going to not play an instrument, most likely."
They'll be reunited with some other relocated Miamians, including members from Pencilgrass and the drummer from Hancock and Robertson's first band, Empirical Mile.
"We're kind of trying to become a more studio band in terms of live sessions and writing charts for the players, sort of like Steely Dan or Motown," Hancock said.
Sunday night at Churchill's, keeping true to their reputation of every live show being different, the ANR bandmates treated the crowd to two sets one acoustic, the other traditional rock.
Lolo Reskin, co-owner of Sweat Records, released two recordings by the duo on her very own label, Sutro Music.
"[ANR] is undeniably talented musicians; they're not just some band they actually make music. Every live show is different. Their music contains so many styles, but all are done so well," Reskin stated.
ANR finished its set with the crowd wanting more. No one made for the exit, and all cheered loudly for an encore. Hancock and Robertson chugged some water and played one more for the road. It ended with Hancock toppling his drum set.
"Miami has provided all the experience and knowledge and personal friendships and relationships that one could ask for. It's been really awesome," said Hancock.
"I think they're moving to New York for the right reasons love and personal relationships; it's not to get famous. Miami will always be special to them. This is not the last ANR show ever; they'll definitely be back. This is just a going-away party," Reskin commented.