Social networking is a totally relative experience. And over time, this particular fact of web life will become increasingly intensified as content aggregators serve up progressively efficient ways to provide personalized content based on previous clicks. The thing that's blowin' up your blogroll, news feed, or wall-o-Tumblr could exist, for someone else, in an entirely separate Internet.
Right now, though, if your Facebook account is tuned to the bars, galleries, and artists that populate the Biscayne corridor, you've probably experienced local music festival Summer of Weirds' online assault.
With a long history of employing feverish fandom to hype his various local music pursuits, the fest's curator, promoter, sound guy, and stage tech, Jeff Rollason, has been spending untold hours stalking the social sphere and spreading the Weirds word like Speedy Gonzalez with Wi-Fi.
Summer of Weirds
Summer of Weirds II: 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 19, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission is free.
Asked to comment about Facebook as a platform for pushing his event, Rollason simply pauses, smirks, and says, "Well, there's people on it." It's a dry joke directed at the social network's immediate predecessor: the formerly ubiquitous (though notably cruder and ultimately forsaken) place for friends, MySpace.
For a while, Rollason seemed to be MySpace's figurative last man on Earth, a desperate avatar wandering a digital wasteland loaded with dead profiles, viruses that had spread like vines, and features that never finished loading. But finally he made the transition to Facebook this summer, just in time for Summer of Weirds.
Now in its second year, Rollason's annual festival is a descendent of his now-defunct Night of Weirds monthly showcase. Eclectically booked and often featuring cutting-edge experimental artists, the showcase was Miami's premier freeform live-music experience from 2007 to 2008.
The first Night of Weirds took place in April 2007, and it featured Ed Wilcox, a free-jazz percussionist, vocalist, and regular collaborator of Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen. Also atop the bill: Zack Kouns, known on the experimental circuit for his work with Ohio-based psychedelic noise project Social Junk. The show had a strong turnout. And soon Churchill's hired Rollason to host Weirds the first Tuesday of every month. The event grew quickly, becoming a local experimental-music standard thanks to its consistent, loose formula — short sets, stacked lineups, and no rules.
However, in addition to the noise acts and experimental rock bands generally associated with the Weirds brand, the showcase regularly included non-Weirds — Norms perhaps? — such as DJ Le Spam, indie-pop songwriter Rachel Goodrich, and electro duo Afrobeta. For Rollason, the weirdness is just as much a matter of juxtaposition (say a metal group followed by a country singer and then a vulgar puppet show) as any individually deranged act.
As the project progressed, though, its chief executor soon found himself in what he describes as a "stalemate" with Churchill's Pub over band perks and money.
"The Churchill's policy is promoters keep money from the door," Rollason says. "My policy is I only do free shows." His logic follows that a show without a cover will not only amplify attendance but also leave patrons with plenty of cash to spend on alcohol. "I lose money every time I do a Weirds," he says. "And Churchill's makes a killing. A lot of man-hours go into one of these shows, especially when you factor in all the time spent booking and promoting."
As a result of the dispute, Rollason held Weirds-in-exile events throughout 2009 and 2010 at then-popular spots, including the Upper Eastside Garden, the Tik Tak House, and Harvey's by the Bay at the American Legion. But finally the freak parade returned to Little Haiti's favorite English pub in September 2009 for Weirds Sell Out, followed nine months later by the inaugural, two-day Summer of Weirds in July 2010.
"I still love the place," Rollason says of Churchill's. And he's being sincere. But he's also aware of the irony inherent in decrying a venue that one is simultaneously promoting. So ultimately his conflict with Churchill's booking policy isn't really all-out war. It's something closer to the kind of recurring squabble that distant relatives get into every holiday. It's the same fight, over and over. But everyone is still blood-related. And they all still show up for the next family reunion.
Pressed to identify the headliner for this Friday's festival, Rollason is reluctant. But he cops to being excited about hosting Tampa's Ant Parade, a minimal solo chanteuse who performs ghostly, ethereal psalms and plucky electro-pop numbers.
"You could probably say Ballscarf is the headliner," he says, referring to a noise act (not so much a band per se) whose last performance featured screeching feedback courtesy of visual artist Jay Hines, shrieking vocals from filmmaker Aiden Dillard, and an inflatable bounce house unleashed indoors. "You'll at least know the show has started," Rollason quips.
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But here's the real answer to the headliner question: When it comes to Weirds, any act in any slot has the potential to be the star. And that's especially true in light of this year's eclectic, high-quality bill, which includes twisted postpunk-pop variants courtesy of hahahelp!, This Heart Electric, and Luma Junger. Solo female artist Sharlyn Evertsz will be the evening's noise-improv anchor. And attendees can expect particularly bizarre performances from a cappella R&B sleazeball Passion, experimental puppetry troupe Puppetree, and otherworldly Americana outfit Boise Bob and the Backyard Band.
Another curious corner of the Summer of Weirds II universe will unfold on the patio, where Tweaker Creature Council plans to hold court. The Council is a highly amorphous collective specializing in drum 'n' bass and other psychedelically tinged electronic music. In a way, TCC at Weirds is practically its own event. "They show up and bring their whole crew," Rollason explains. "There are times when I don't even know who's playing."
A final would-be headliner is punky garage girl trio Snakehole, which Rollason admits he's never seen onstage. "I heard them on MySpace," he says. "It was cute."
Asked why a rock band that he's never experienced in a live setting would end up on the lineup, Rollason is quick to exclaim, in a way that reveals the pan-genre excitement and no-bullshit atmosphere of Summer of Weirds II, "Well, I want to see them!"