"Ten working days."
That's been Doc Wiley's mantra for the past three months. Wiley made the mistake of giving me an advance listen to the Live at the Square Vol. II tape in April. Since then I've been on his case constantly.
"Any word on that CD, Doc?"
"Ten working days, Todd."
I wasn't the only one waiting for it. Doc's been playing select cuts from the thing for a few months now, and regular patrons of the club already knew much of the CD by heart prior to the official release party July 5. (They called it a CD release party, but there weren't any CDs to be had. According to Wiley, they were in transit. I didn't ask him how long it would take for them to actually arrive, but I should have guessed. Ten working days later.)
So for a while there, you'd walk into the Square and hear someone at the bar singing "Grape Bubblegum Reminds Me of Nancy" or "Crazy Mixed Up World," and you'd wonder what the hell they were talking about. Especially "Grape Bubblegum." It became a way to tell who was down and who wasn't. If you wanted to test people's coolness quotient, you'd just saunter up to them and say those two words. If they looked at you funny and edged away, it was a safe bet they hadn't been inside the club for at least three months. If, on the other hand, they replied, "...reminds me of Nancy," you'd found a kindred spirit. And the two of you would have shared a South Beach secret even Tara Solomon didn't know about.
But now it's too late. The CD has landed. If there was any justice in this crazy mixed-up world, Live at the Square Vol. II CDs and cassettes would outsell sun visors, baseball caps with marijuana leaf insignias, and the Club auto-security device. Combined. They should offer a class at FIU -- Local Rock 101 -- and use Square II as the text. It's that good. From the crack of the snare that opens "Grape Bubblegum" to the dying strains of David Andrews's "Writing Our Names in Stone" (which is incorrectly identified on the cassette cover as another Andrews composition, "Nothing to Lose") Square II is nothing short of a revelation. (While we're at it, though, let's reveal another typo: Paul Roub's "The Simple Things" is confused with his "Learned My Lesson Well" in the credits.)
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Recorded live-to-DAT over six days last fall, the eighteen-song CD and the 33-song double cassette were culled from the performances of 47 of the area's best and brightest. There were bands who didn't perform because they objected to the concept, seeing it as just another way for a club to take advantage of musicians desperate for exposure. There were others who were too busy, or out of town, or just not interested. Mary Karlzen is not on it, nor is Nil Lara or Quit or Forget the Name. But no matter. It's still the best representation to date of the wealth and diversity of talent plying SoFlo's original rock waters.
Aside from the opening three cuts, the professionalism and artistic ascendency of which should come as no surprise to regular readers of this paper -- how many times have we raved about F.O.C., Natural Causes, and Diane Ward? You were paying attention, weren't you? -- the kicker here is the depth, the surprising performances from bands that have received little press. Burning Tongues comes immediately to mind, as does Foreign Affairs. Then there are reassuring, ear-popping performances by scene veterans who have been partially overlooked in the rush to latch onto the Next Big Thing, folks like Dennis Britt and the Beat Poets, or the Rockerfellas. The heavenly three-part harmonies on Jim Baumann and Jonelle's "A Break in the Action"; the straight-up funk of this area's answer to His Royal Purpleness, A.J. and the Stick People; the aural landscaping of Snatch the Pebble -- Square II has something to please and offend nearly every taste.
And I haven't even mentioned Cell 63. Holy Terrors. Love Canal. Drive Choir....
You get the picture. Buy the damn thing. If you don't like it, return it to Doc Wiley for a full refund. In ten working days.