The Christmas season has come and gone, but you wouldn't know it by the astonishing lack of new music to hit stores. In fact, beyond a trickling of EPs, soundtracks, and miscellaneous works by relatively unheralded artists, little of note will be released until January 25, making for a very boring start to the new year.
The biggest album of 2005 so far, of course, is West Coast rapper The Game's overhyped The Documentary. His parent label Aftermath/Interscope wasn't sending out any advance copies prior to its January 18 release date, but rap fiends should have it in their hot little hands by the time they read this. I managed to track down an unauthorized copy myself about two weeks before the release date, but to maintain my journalistic caveat against reviewing bootlegs that may not resemble the official release, I decided not to cover it.
So what to write about? Well, the big local news is that Street Weekly has folded. For me, some of its most memorable content included the scandalous cover story trumpeting Nastie's mud-wrestling sextravaganza at Churchill's Pub (which has since moved over to Senor Frog's on Mondays); Jason Jeffers's story on the soca scene in general and Rupee and Kevin Lyttle in particular; Judy Cantor's "La Mezcla" column and her cover story on Spanish hip-hop; and Jessica Sick's "Meet" column, where I first learned about local electronic label Merck.
The details surrounding Street Weekly's demise have been well covered in this paper and elsewhere. It was owned by Knight-Ridder Newspapers (which also publishes the Miami Herald), which started the paper to try and capture young readers, and that tumultuous relationship often affected Street Weekly's ability to produce good content. By late last fall, its editorial quality began to decline noticeably, making its eventual collapse a shock instead of a surprise.
While Street Weekly fell off, The Alley is coming back. After ongoing violence and lack of profits ("Still Alive," September 30) led Richard Larralde (whose family owns the space) to close in mid-October, he reached out to Jason Lobel, who has been booking and promoting shows around town (including Plaid Fridays at the now-closed Diamond Lounge) since moving here from Boston three years ago.
"[Larralde] got in contact with me through a buddy of mine and said he was looking to do something new," says Lobel. "We agreed that we'd give this a shot, to rebuild it and get something a little more positive going over there."
Lobel, Larralde, and a third partner, Leo Valencia, have spent the past several weeks renovating the space, adding carpet and changing the decor, and paying for the upgrades with private parties and their own money. In his review of All Hell Breaks Loose's last show, Abel Folgar writes that several hundred kids turned up at The Alley, indicating that there's still considerable interest in the venue.
The Alley plans to reopen officially by February. The three partners don't want the same crowd, though. "I have a whole list of former Alley troublemakers that are not going to be allowed entry," says Lobel, who wants to move away from the hardcore and punk bands The Alley is known for in favor of less aggressive sounds like indie-rock. "Honestly, the kind of shows that we're going to be booking over there are not the kind of events those people are going to want to come to." Now, The Alley's biggest challenge will be changing its identity from a rowdy hardcore punk hangout to a mainstream rock club that can compete with Churchill's Pub and Tobacco Road.
Last December 15, Danny Dominguez's Counterflow Recordings shocked the dance world when Plantlife's The Return of Jack Splash was named Album of the Year at famed UK DJ Gilles Peterson's second annual Worldwide Music Awards. Plantlife is making noise in Europe, but it hasn't made much of an impression here. To drum up more American support, Dominguez is arranging a handful of live showcases around the country, and he says MTV is assembling a profile on Plantlife for its You Heard It First program next month.
Meanwhile, Iron and Wine's Our Endless Numbered Days has been nominated for Americana Album of the Year at the first annual PLUG Independent Music Awards. You can cast your vote online at www.plugawards.com. The show takes place on February 9 at Webster Hall in Manhattan.
Finally, the Dumbass of the Week award goes to yours truly. In a recent column ("God Body," January 13), I wrote that Assata Shakur was Tupac's mother. But as any historian worth his/her salt knows, Tupac's mother is former Black Panther Afeni Shakur. Afeni's friend and comrade Assata Shakur was sentenced to life in prison for allegedly shooting a police officer, served six years in prison, then escaped to Cuba in 1979, where she now lives as a political refugee and revolutionary hero.
Thanks to Diane Perez for the correction. In her Email, she recommended reading Assata: An Autobiography. I do, too.
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