During Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Frances caused considerable damage, and not only to our unlucky neighbors in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

The interminable storm sparked a flurry of cancellations and postponements of several major concerts. A big Friday, September 3, rap show at the Coconut Grove Convention Center with Twista and Jadakiss was rescheduled for October 9. (On Labor Day, September 6, Twista was injured in a Pennsylvania car accident; it's not known how that will affect the concert.) The Evolver party at Soho Lounge featuring Dynamix II and Kid 606 was pushed back from Saturday, September 5, to Sunday, September 26. Other events, such as the Funkmaster Flex car show starring Fat Joe and a bevy of other celebrities, were postponed indefinitely.

A highly anticipated Saturday performance by the ever-popular Paul Van Dyk at Space, who just played a free Fourth of July concert at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove, was also canceled. "They wouldn't let him fly out of Germany," reports spokeswoman Ardis Robles, who says it was unsafe for Van Dyk to enter South Florida during a hurricane warning.

However, the club did open the following night for a party benefiting Jerry's Kids, a program that helps children with muscular dystrophy. It unexpectedly drew 2000 people. "It ended up that we had an amazing night," Robles says. All the DJs donated their fees for the event, which raised around $24,000. Space plans to split the money between Jerry's Kids and unnamed organizations helping victims of Hurricane Frances.

Meanwhile, across town in Little Haiti, Churchill's Pub decided to party anyway. Since Wednesday, September 1, Churchill's has been celebrating its 25th anniversary by hosting its tenth annual Miami Rock Festival. Unfortunately there was no live music on Saturday night. Some bands called to say they couldn't make it, while others just didn't show up. "With some of them we can relate," says Dave Daniels, co-owner of the venerable rock club, "to the extent that there was a state of emergency."

Still, the club was crowded. It seemed people didn't need an excuse to hang out, since they were already riled up by cabin fever and extreme annoyance induced by too many bogus hurricane warnings and watches. "We had a very busy bar," says Daniels.

He notes that Churchill's booking agent, 10 Sheen guitarist J, is working on rescheduling the Labor Day weekend's performances for the first week of October. There should be plenty to check out in September, though. The Miami Rock Festival currently features 250 bands, and J says he hopes to get the number up to around 300 before its end.

Why bother hosting so many good, bad, and indifferent musicians? "The hardest time for a band to find a place to play is when they first start," says Daniels, who boasts that Churchill's hosts more live acts than any other venue in Miami-Dade County. "When Marilyn Manson first played here, they weren't very good. And now they can sell out stadiums anywhere in the world." Aspirants to Manson's crown include Daniels's favorite, rockabilly veteran Charlie Pickett (September 17), one-man bluesman Bob Log III (September 30), and local indie stars Bling Bling (October 6).

Hurricane Frances (and, as of this writing, maybe Ivan) wasn't the only phenomenon to hit our fair city. When MTV came here for its Video Music Awards at the end of August, Little Havana hero Pitbull was a ubiquitous presence. His Billboard Top 40 hit "Culo" was in heavy rotation on the network, and downtown Miami was plastered with posters trumpeting his debut album, M.I.A.M.I. A week later, following a televised Pitbull appearance at one of MTV's two block parties, M.I.A.M.I. entered the Billboard album charts during the first week of September at number fourteen, the best debut for a local artist in recent memory.

More modest but no less significant was the rise of the Garden State soundtrack, which reached number 25 that same week. (It would ascend to number 21 the following week.) This compilation for a gooey, utterly predictable, twentysomething romance flick wouldn't be worth mentioning save for the fact that it includes a fine cover of a Postal Service track, "Such Great Heights," by local low-fi troubadour Iron and Wine. Finally, just to be a completist, Murk's latest club smash, "Time," is lodged at number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

While Miami artists assaulted the national music charts, Merck, which New Times recently named Best Local Record Label ("Best of Miami," May 13), was cited by trendy music mag XLR8R in its August issue as one of the "25 Best Independent Labels" for the second year in a row. How does Merck head Gabe Koch feel about this achievement? "It's definitely helped get us a little notoriety," he says. "Nothing huge, but that's good for me."

Overall, Koch says, it's been a good summer. In addition to the attention he's getting from the XLR8R shout-out, he's sold nearly 3000 CDs of his catalogue, which now numbers around 40 titles. His hottest seller has been Merck Mix 3, a mix CD of recent cuts by IDM electronic artists such as Brothomstates, Proem, and Machine Drum (who has a new album coming out this December).

Three thousand CDs? Hey, those aren't Pitbull numbers, but it's pretty impressive for a label Koch runs out of his house. Look for a huge Merck showcase at Opium Garden in the weeks to come.


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