Duke It Out
One of the more fun music-related things to do this hot, slow summer has been to check out the one-off events surrounding the Museum of Contemporary Art's excellent show, "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967." Besides the exhibit itself (which demonstrates, among other things, that artists seem to have an unhealthy fixation on both Neil Young and Throbbing Gristle), there have been parties, film screenings, and, most entertainingly, a recurring Battle of the Bands series. Once a month, a few acts duke it out on the pro-quality stage on the museum's patio, vying for the ballots of an audience lubricated by free beer and Vitamin Water cocktails. The winners of each event get a free Gibson guitar and a day of recording at JamRock studios in Hollywood (Florida). At the end of the summer, the winners will compete among themselves for a day of recording at the storied Hit Factory/Criteria studios in North Miami.
The first edition took place last month, and despite a spotty sound system, there were some interesting moments. The performances ranged from intriguing (the dark psychedelic sounds of This Heart Electric) to middling (the meat-and-potatoes alt-rock of Lemon Hill) to cringe inducing (the screamy, wannabe-art-noise of Captain Speedbanger — or was that a total put-on?). Before the event, I predicted the winners would be Down Home Southernaires, for their strong local following, high-energy show, and unmatched tropical-rock-mashup sound. I was right. So riding on my psychic success, I'll try to handicap the July battle, which takes place Thursday night.
Old Wives Tale: I've never heard of these guys (girls?), and they've got a practically un-Google-able name. Next.
Treasures: I kept reloading this act's MySpace page to see if some content would show up, but all I got was a bunch of empty yellow boxes floating on a turquoise background, punctuated by a photo of some coins and flower petals. That, combined with the self-described genres of "crunk/experimental/idol," along with the one-word plural-form name, leads me to believe it's going to be some more bedroom-produced noise-fuck stuff. I could be wrong, but I would be willing to bet a small-denomination bill that I'm right.
Minimal: You should pronounce this mee-nee-MAL, because this quintet sings en español. However, like many of their local scene peers these days, they take a page from the electro-tinged Anglo book. Think lots of hushed, pensive vocals over tinkling, Radiohead-Kid-A-type beats. This will go down like the tastiest bittersweet candy for fans of wallflower-angst electropop acts such as The Postal Service, The Notwist, Lali Puna, and so on.
Psycho Daisies: I was pleasantly surprised to see that this band — one of the true shoulda-made-it-big treasures of Miami's scene past — was playing together again. They offer a reservedly garage-y swamp stomp, tempered by a psychedelic thoughtfulness and reedy, captivating female vocals. Kind of like if you took the Pixies' song "Gigantic," gave it a Valium, and fed it some Byrds records on the way to the Everglades. This band was among the local frontrunners in the Eat/Charlie Pickett/Holy Terrors era, and its music highlights how sorely we're missing local quality fuzz rock — especially the kind featuring kick-ass women. I'm hoping the early hours of this show will persuade enough old-timers to shuffle out and vote, and that everyone else will recognize quality rock from a time before "indie" denoted a fashion sense.
The Hongs: A possible dark horse, the Hongs play a muted, my-emotions-are-killing-me jangle-pop of a dreamy variety rarely heard in these parts. Maybe it's helped along by that particularly Gallic stoicism, for half of this band seems to hail from France. Songs such as "On Ice" are the perfect antidote to those Sunday-morning bouts of existential angst, and let's hope they'll play live more often. As such, the band's elusiveness on the local scene means it probably won't have the pull to score a winning number of votes at MoCA.
My prediction: If justice prevails, the new jacks will give the old school its due and pick the Psycho Daisies. However, Minimal is a quality act with a strong following among the rock en español set and an appealing sound that crosses language barriers. It's a tossup that will depend on friend turnout and the steadiness of that complimentary Grolsch supply. You'll have to attend to see for yourself.
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