The annual Florida Music Festival kicks off its eighth year tonight, and while it's up in Orlando, more and more South Florida bands are turning towards the multi-day music crawl as a sort of SXSW lite. Billed as featuring 250 performances across 15 stages and three days, the FMF is organized much like other national music conferences. Bands from across the state submit their material for consideration, and if chosen, they play one or more showcases across downtown Orlando. As the thing has gained steam -- some 25,000 fans are expected this year -- industry types are gradually taking more notice. (When I interviewed Interscope recording artists Black Tide last year, they credited their eventual national deal to contacts made at FMF.)
The festival's biggest event tonight is the Florida Grammy Showcase, which, of course, was filtered by an official Grammy panel of judges. Out of the six groups chosen to play, five hail from South Florida. Among those names are several usual suspects, and a couple surprises.
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The other three South Florida performers at the showcase have flown more under the radar. Selena Serrano is billed as a soulful vocalist from the Bronx by way of Opa-Locka, and has sung backup for artists like Pitbull and Kevin Lyttle. Spinlight City is a Miami-based pop-punk quintet who played the local date of the Warped Tour in 2007. And Tristan Clopet & the Juice is one of the local scene's real up-and-comers, standing out thanks to Clopet's sheer wholesome Midwestern-ness, as well as his (locally) unusual predilection for funk and blues.
IMHO, it's silly that Afrobeta didn't make that final cut. Perhaps their very Latin- and electro-influenced idiosyncrasies are too hard for judges in the rest of the state to understand. Well, maybe next time.
If you happen to be reading this from Orlando, the Florida Grammy Showcase takes place tonight, Wednesday, May 13 at the Social, 54 North Orange Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m., and admission is $10.