To see it from Birdman's eye view, the sparse crowd for his Friday-night set recently at Churchill's might signal a lack of appreciation for the veteran rocker's special brand of music, a sort of southern Florida culture on the skids. But maybe it was just the shitty weather.
Either way it didn't stop the lanky frontman for Clambake 2000 from strutting his stuff, cruising from a ching-a reggae rhythm to wailing guitar riff, warbling a falsetto for added emphasis, throwing back a shot midsong, and then using the empty glass for a slide guitar solo. It was all part of the fun of the Eighth Annual Hialeah Festival, highlighting the good things from that beleaguered section of the county where Miamians loathe to tread, and part of the monthlong celebration of Miami's Seventh Annual Rock Festival, which began at the end of August and runs through September.
The Hialeah Fest featured twelve bands (all presumably with connections to Hialeah) playing twenty- to thirty-minute sets with a quick changeover between each act -- just enough time for a beer and a cigarette. Friday's action kicked off just past 10:30 p.m. with the heavy-metal screed of South of Sanity, complete with screaming vocals and reeling guitar solos loud enough to be heard by their friends in Hialeah.
Churchill's, 5501 NE 2nd Ave.
10:00 p.m. Thursday, September 20, through Saturday, September 29; Cover ranges from $3 to $10. Call 305-757-1807.
From there the music shifted gears slightly with the half-female punky sound of newcomers Squish, a.k.a. Go Cat Go, led by singer Katea, a natural in just her second performance with the group. As the room started to fill, the tuneful rockers Nuevo Riche took the stage and played like all the bands over the weekend: fast and furious with a sweaty intensity that drilled the tight sounds into the spine of the audience.
As good as the Hialeah weekend was, the best may be yet to come, beginning with noise band the Laundry Room Squelchers on Thursday, September 20, for a CD-release party AND the last stop of the Phi-Phenomena on Wheels tour through the eastern United States. As one of ten bands taking the five-year-old festival mobile for the first time, Rat Bastard and Company were packed into an RV with the rest of the roster for twelve days, hitting fourteen cities from Chicago to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Those cramped quarters were matched by Phi-Phenomena's lineup, which packed ten five-minute performances separated by one-minute breaks into an hour of power. Fortunately the Squelchers probably will not be limited to such a tiny window of opportunity during Rock Fest, allowing the Bastards to get back to their usual twenty minutes of improvisation. Rat will be sharing the bill with Amanda Green, Mr. Entertainment and the Tiny Show, Dopee Francisco, and Rob Elba.
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On Friday, September 21, the brothers Camacho, Jim and John, with their respective bands, will be joined by roots-rock master Charlie Pickett and his Psycho Daisies.
All bets are off on Thursday, September 27, when surfer punks Agent Orange arrive. The L.A. trio, which assaulted the SoCal hardcore scene back in 1981, rose from the dead with 1996's Virtually Indestructible. Also put to the test that night will be Me First, Lonely Kings, and Corky.
The Rock Fest ends gently on Saturday, September 29, with Rocking Horse Winner and Remedy Session leading into the poetic reflections on the troubles of love and living by Madison emo trio Rainer Maria. One of the better emoters that emerged in the mid-Nineties, the loud-soft dynamic and catchy tuneplay of Rainer Maria's 1999 Look Now Look Again is a testament to the best of the heart-wrenched sound. Rainer Maria's smart lyrics -- set against the play between guitar, bass, drums, and the dueling vocals of Caithlin DeMarrais and guitarist/singer Kyle Fischer -- never get mired in sentimentalism.