The words "folk music" and "Miami" are rarely uttered in the same sentence. There was sadly no sunscreen strong enough to bring Bob Dylan to South Beach. If one tries hard to picture a Miami folk scene, an image pops up of some old guys in pony tails strumming away for a handful of their ancient friends somewhere in a forgotten pub in Coconut Grove.
There is a youthful new trend of folk musicians that seems to be forming a bit of a hive in Miami.
Each with their own distinct style and take on the classic genre, this new generation pens its own message
with the care of a painter.
You can catch them playing with various lineups and and configurations at places like Churchill's, Blackbird Ordinary, and, now, at a monthly gathering at Wynwood's fried chicken paradise, Gastropod. On the first Thursday of each month, Bullfrogs Busker Thursdays brings some of the finest folk in town to Wynwood. It's a great spot to chill outside, chew on some of Chef Jeremiah's delicious creations, and dig into some old-timey music with a young, burning heart.
At the center of this movement always stands Ryan Carney, a bar-backing busker with a vision and proud member of the Miami band, the Barely Damned. He spoke to us about the upcoming folk scene in Miami and how it came to have its home in Wynwood.
New Times: What's all this about Miami having a new Folk community?
Ryan Carney: Well the folk community has been around in Miami for awhile now — wish I'd known about it sooner, really. It feels like I've been accepted into this wide, loving, underground family. It truly is amazing how supportive everyone is with each other, who have also taken this whole DIY approach to the whole thing. You could say this is a new wave of folk music happening in Miami.
Tell us about your band, the Barely Damned.
The Barely Damned started off as fun thing for my bandmate, Bryan Abramowitz, and I to do. Not sure if we really thought we'd take it anywhere besides his living room. Both of us were really fond of lyrical music and writing poetry, so we tried putting some lyrics to old guitar riffs I had. We write the lyrics about 50/50 and Bryan will help with melodies and harmonies. It was a duo for about a year and a half until we recruited our friend Jerry Crisp on washtub Bass and other various instruments, and our good friend Uncle Scotchy on harmonica.
How come you seem to be at the center of this movement?
I don't really think I'm at the center of this. I just handle most of the booking and promoting. I've been an employee at the bar Blackbird Ordinary for three years now and I've been able to meet and work with so many venue owners that's it's easier to bully them into letting us do a folk night here and there. Honestly I think there's two others who are at the center of this with me: Ahmet Hassan of the local band Bora and Jerry Crisp who goes by Babybear Lofi. Both have been doing this long before I came around and have taught me so much about booking, the DIY mentality, and introduced me to so many people and countless other things. I can't thank them enough and can't express how much this is a team effort.
Ryan Carney (left), performs at Churchill's with Bora's Victoria Gonzalez-Bredy, and Babybear Lofi.
Photo by Celia D. Luna
Do you really think folk has a shot of developing in Miami?
I really do think folk has a chance in Miami. The main thing going for this group of artists is just how talented they all are writing a song. We all play really stripped down music so there's nothing to really hide behind, just bare confessions on the stage. There's so much history and culture at the core of the music. That definitely draws people in. Traditional American/English folk and blues is also kind of a rarity around here so it's a bit exciting. Not many people have seen a banjo or just have this goofy stereotype in their head about the music. Not to mention there's folk music all around Miami already, just not the American style. The diversity of this city brings this whole wide melting pot of traditional music from all around. I've especially enjoyed a lot of the Haitian songwriters I've come across and the history they draw from.
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Talk about Jeremiah and these Gastropod shows.
I'm really excited about Chef Jeremiah letting us bring our show to Gastropod. It's a monthly night called Bullfrogs Busker Thursdays, a night dedicated to the time honored craft of busking. Most of the artists that play there have spent countless hours performing on street corners for dollar bills in their careers. We think we really capture that spontaneous spirit with the show too. It's also a great stopping point for a lot of the folk/folk punk/blues artists we know from out of town on the underground DIY scene to come and get a taste of our scene. We're also getting closer to starting a live performance video series in the sweet little pop-up camper on the grounds — just need to think of a punny title for it.
What is your biggest problem with the Miami music scene?
The scene has its pros and cons. There is a lot of talk and no action which is a bit grating and the whole showing up three hours after the show begins sucks. Bands also get this weird sense of entitlement and a large ego very quick. It's good to take this seriously but don't act like you've sold thousands of records before you've even put one out. I just wish that all the scenes in Miami acted the way that our punk, and especially our metal scene acted: very loyal, very punctual, fans support and go out to every show. A lot of the musicians in our folk scene started off in metal and punk bands and brought that mentality with them. It helps.
Bullfrogs Busker Thursday with Babybear Lofi, Victorious Eve, Ryan Carney, and more. 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at Gastropod, 168 NW 26th St., Miami; 786-228-6704; gastropodmiami.com. Admission is free.