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At a venue like Churchill's, where hardcore, punk, and death metal bands dominate most nights, the best way to attract attention is by making less noise. At least that seems to be the tactic Raffajo Harris and Rainer Davies are taking with their new Wednesday-night happening, Can You Rock a Little Softer?
Harris explains that the event's inception was partially a reaction to the closing of Cornerstone, another local venue, but also a response to the narrow perception of Miami's music scene.
"When [Cornerstone] closed, I was like, 'Hey, let's do an acoustic night, because we need an acoustic night,'" she says.
After weeks of distributing flyers and adding friends on MySpace, Harris and Davies held the July 25 inaugural edition to a packed house.
"I'm hoping we can keep up that momentum. I knew it'd be packed the first day," Harris says.
The night includes an open-mike session from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m., followed by performances from featured acoustic acts such as Jesse Jackson and Rachel Goodrich. Harris and Davies play together, too, as Raffa and Rainer. There's also curry served at the beginning of the evening, as well as candlelit tables at which to sit and eat while you listen.
"It doesn't feel like you're walking into a place in Miami," Harris says of the cozy atmosphere.
Though the scene certainly stands apart from South Beach's, it bears a strong resemblance to another weekly event at Churchill's: the Monday Jazz Jam, which also includes an open mike.
"That's one of the first places I ever played," Harris says of the Jazz Jam. "That's been going on for seven years or something. There were nights when very few people showed up, but now it's just a staple. We're hoping to have something like that."
After all the promoting she did, Harris wasn't too surprised to find a large crowd at her opening night. However, she was surprised to see she knew only half of the open-mike participants.
"I was so excited about that," she says, "because I know that in a year or less, those people are going to be featured performers, and they're going to be performing around town. And that's exciting, because right now the acoustic scene seems small."
In addition to expanding the featured acts to those still developing their craft, Harris wants to expand geographically, attracting successful national acts.
"We want to bring in [artists] that are going to draw people out of their houses," she says.