If 2004 proved anything to anyone, it is that this damn city can still rock. And we're talking rock in its many forms.
Some young kids picked up guitars, but it was the old guys who came out on top. Decade-plus-strong quartet The Crumbs opened the year with a pair of discs, Last Exit and Hold That Shit Right. Even though all of the members are over 30 and holding down day jobs, that didn't seem to stop the racket. Neither did the four years since the last Crumbs record. But while scene veterans such as Bling Bling and Against All Authority were leading the charge, there were a few noteworthy upstarts, too, including Stay Hitt, AC Cobra, and No Peace at All. These bands have promising futures and are young enough to not have the same touring restraints as their elders, many of whom have families and other responsibilities.
This year also saw a pair of albums released that must be on everybody's wish list. First, the Chickenhead/Los Canadians complete discography, Mutiny in Miami, was made available on Recess Records. And almost eight years after their self-destruction, The Stun Guns' ...And There Was Nothing We Could Do About It finally made it onto a vinyl-only release via Oakland, California's Shut-Up! Records. It compiles the band's two seven-inch records and a few extra goodies, including a brilliant cover of The Eat's "Communist Radio."
At this point it saddens me to report that two legendary drummers passed away this year: the Stun Guns' Andrew Powell and The Eat's Christopher Cottie. The latter tragedy is tempered by exciting out-of-town interest from Jello Biafra and his Alternative Tentacles record label, which plans to release the complete The Eat discography during the first half of '05. Another fallen comrade was All Hell Breaks Loose's drummer, eighteen-year-old Joe Lamadrid, who passed away in Tampa this November after a concert.
Let's face it: South Beach has become a complete shithole, and an expensive shithole at that. Downtown Miami and the Design District are two pretty good alternatives, though, thanks to rock and roll clubs such as I/O and Soho Lounge. Guys such as Alex Caso (Poplife) and Ben Carrillo (Revolver) put in good backdrops for hops-fueled, debauch-oriented evenings.
Meanwhile, Miami finally got a shoe in the hillbilly swamp music scene via The Van Orsdels and their metal-tinged psychobilly. Formed by scene veteran George Graquitena (of Fuck Boyz and Fay Wray fame), The Van Orsdels put out an album, Ain't Life A Drag?, finally found a permanent drummer, and look forward to more performances next year.
Many a fan has complained that we'll always remain a step or two behind other metropolitan areas in the nation because of our geographic isolation. 2004 proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that while the glitz and glamour belong to the hip-hop heads and mainstream Latin musicians, Miami still retains its seedy, gung-ho resilience.
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Those ex-polka punksters in Humbert released a fine album, Plant the Trees Closer Together, of extremely well-arranged pop gems. This attention to detail leaked out to other bands such as The Brand (Grenadine) and the Number 3 Pencils (Delicate Subjects). Churchill's continues to thrive in Little Haiti as the only place in town where you and your band can get a chance. Many Miamians, rock and rollers and not, were sad to see Hialeah's Diamond Lounge get knocked out in favor of a baby store. Juan and Omar from The Brand made a good run at the Lounge with their extremely r & r Plaid party. Miffed, but not defeated, they have joined forces with the guys from The Alley to create an über-rock club named The Door in the same area. Look for The Door to have a grand opening next month.
There even were a few national contributions! The Stop Motion went from solid popsters to bona fide TV darlings, thanks to some Internet voting deal involving Garnier Fructis and getting its songs played over the end credits of Fox and WB shows. The Heatseekers rocked New York City as a competitor in Little Steven's Underground Garage Battle of the Bands.
The one area where our local bands lagged, however, was in touring. There were a few exceptions: Glasseater, who toured the U.S. and Japan (thanks to support from Victory Records), and industrial goths Formula Redux played a few dates in Puerto Rico. Most, such as The Brand and Humbert's Hialeah Attack tour, concentrated on minitours within the southern panhandle and select East Coast cities.
While the DJ must spin music to entertain the crowd, the year flew by with local bands shunning national trends. Who needs The Donnas or Sahara Hotnights when the Secret PE Club rocks out with plenty of femme fatale gusto? Who needs to remember Nirvana when a couple of homegrown bands finally get the posthumous recorded legacy they deserve? I'll tell you what we need: We need fan support so our bands can cram themselves in a van and shuttle across the U.S. of A.!