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There's always a debate raging about underappreciated live music in Miami. One day, it's commercial radio rock that's getting the shaft. The next day, it's all bands, indie rock or not. But talented local artist Robert Elias posits a new twist: Musicians unafraid to wave the pop flag are the ones who have it the worst in this city.
"For some strange reason, people are afraid of pop music and what it means to be labeled a pop artist. But I've always been fascinated by it," says the 20-something Elias, who recently self-released a solo album titled Magic City in homage to his hometown.
"What makes it difficult is trying to convince some of the newer bars, promoters, and booking agents that a pop show can be a live rock show that fans want to come see. It's ironic, because the biggest-selling acts in the world are pop acts. It's almost as if, because you are doing pop music, you can't be indie or cool enough for these venues."
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Elias's childhood idols included David Bowie and George Michael, along with late-'80s and early-'90s R&B and dance music. That translates, in 2012, to an artsy yet crowd-pleasing style that ranges from catchy guitar-driven ditties ("Come On Over") to torch-song-style soul ("Saved") and pulsing, new-age-like disco-pop ("Night Calls").
"I created a band, the Revenge, because venues were less judgmental of the music if I had a cool band name," Elias explains. "And we've been gigging a ton. Usually it takes someone who is willing to take the chance."
One venue taking a chance is the Clevelander Hotel, where Elias will perform this Wednesday. "As of right now, I am my own manager, promoter, and booking agent. And thankfully, I am not living on the streets. I'm making a living doing music only," he says. "If that's not what an independent artist is, then I don't know what is."