The folks at IRmagazine have a roundabout strategy for boosting readership. "It's a literary magazine," explains editor in chief Ben Carrasco. "We do short stories, poetry, nonfiction. But people like to read about music, so we write about music, too." The only problem is, Carrasco doesn't think there's all that much music in Miami to write about. "The scene's dead," he says. "The punk-rock scene has the potential but no direction. And the drum and bass scene has kind of evaporated." So Carrasco had the idea that IRmagazine could host events that would give music editor Abel Folger more to write about, which in turn would draw readers to the magazine -- and maybe even help cover publishing costs. "Ideally we're supposed to make enough money to pay for printing," says Carrasco, gazing forlornly at the empty ballroom of the Polish American Club at IRmagazine's Tricks or Beats show last Thursday. This is the third and sparsest outing for the "punk versus drum and bass."
The Polish American Club is a good place to be around Halloween. Carrasco and friends hardly needed the cobwebs sprayed in front of the ticket table at the entranceway. The crystal chandeliers suspended from mirrored panels above the length of the worn wooden dance floor and the tiny music-box stage framed with heavy curtains under otherworldly light lend a spooky look; I half-expect to see ghosts peering out of the mirrors along the walls as they do at Disney World's Haunted House. The spirit of punk past thrashes three-chord progressions onstage when I arrive, summoned by the Knockouts. The 30 fans gathered in a small knot up front look like the cast from Ghost World. Self-conscious in all that empty space, nobody is dancing; instead the three-quarter-length shorts-wearing boys and asymmetrically sculpted-hair-wearing girls sway like a crew of zombies. When the Knockouts end their set, they slide as a mass toward the back bar like the recently deceased bound for Hades. Drum and bass DJ Deviant, thick dreads drawn into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, starts to spin a deep bass beat and then stops short. He lopes back to the round table where his girlfriend waits through a punk set by Lose the Rookie, slouching motionless in the dark.
The only sign of life on the dance floor erupts as Lose the Rookie draws to a close is the chant "Corky, Corky." As Lose the Rookie breaks down, DJ Deviant lines up his turntables a second time. A voice from beyond cuts through the chant: "Corky's not playing." "Corky! Corky!" "Corky's not playing!" the voice intones again. Lose the Rookie wavers. "Why don't you guys come up and play two songs on our equipment?" lead singer Julio Pena offers to Corky members huddled on the floor. The zombies applaud. The two tunes that follow prove hell has no fury like a punk band's scorn.
Why the abrupt cancellation? "The bass player had to be on a flight at 3:00 a.m., and he didn't tell anyone," says organizer Folger, who also happens to be Corky's manager. Out in the parking lot, Corky's bassist, Dan Palacios, tells a different story: "They told one of the DJs he could play at a particular time." Lose the Rookie guitarist/vocalist Paul Chase sees logistics as beside the point: "There's no turnout for the DJs." A novel format in a little-known place does make it hard to scare up the audience. As LTR drummer James Miller observes, "They had such a shitty turnout. If there had been a bigger crowd, everyone would have been happy."
The organizers of the Rasin Festival are expecting a record turnout for the eighth annual Haitian roots music event that falls each year on the vodou day of the dead -- even though the theme this year is Lavi pou Ayiti ("Life for Haiti"). Larry Pierre, executive director of the Center for Haitian Studies, which hosts the event, says the concert is meant to be "a kind of a motivation for the people to revive [Haiti] and remains a way to promote the Haitian culture in South Florida."
In addition to the Gedes rising from the graveyard, stage manager Yvon André anticipates roughly 20,000 alive-and-breathing humans will appear, some coming from as far away as Port-au-Prince, Chicago, and Paris. Like all Miami's most successful festivals, Rasin is ever more eager to draw tourists, with host organization the Center for Haitian Studies supplementing local advertising by promoting travel packages.
André has lived in Miami for the past eleven years, but his full-time job is as singer and percussionist for the Haitian compas institution Tabou Combo, based in New York City. Perhaps the best-known compas band, Tabou Combo will perform at the Rasin Festival for the first time this year, a booking rasin purists may view with suspicion. "People tend to separate compas from rasin," admits André, but he is not happy about that distinction. "It all started as a political thing during the '91 coup d'etat. People were blasting compas; they even criticized compas as being music for the macoute. Compas is a dance music, but that does not necessarily mean it's Duvalieriste. Haiti is one nation under God. Whatever type of music you are into, it's Haitian music."
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