It's not easy being a hardcore punk band in Miami. Just ask Jason Deucifer, drummer for the local outfit Where Fear and Weapons Meet. "People are scared of us," Deucifer says with frustration in his voice. "We draw 300 kids to our shows but we get no press, no nothing from anybody. It's because our music is aggressive and that turns people off. The radio, the press, big promoters -- they're scared of hardcore. They think it's all about violence, fights, and bloodshed."
Of course it may not be the tinge of violence that turns off both "the press" and larger audiences to Where Fear and Weapons Meet: It might be the music itself. Rather than drawing on the hip-hop elements that have catapulted Limp Bizkit into stardom (and Bizkit's antics at Woodstock show little sign of hurting either their concert draw or prominent media profile), or adopting the pure pop melodies that have garnered Blink 182 play on MTV, Deucifer's band prefers to revel in the aesthetic ghetto of rigidly orthodox hardcore punk. No black influences, no rhythmic nods to funk, no DJ artfully scratching into the mix, just a full-bore, straight-ahead, guitar-string-shredding thrash, with the lead singer practically swallowing the microphone as he screams, "The youths' direction is clear! We're strong, have nothing to fear!" It's like the '90s never happened.
Don't be misled by all that yelling, though. "We're not angry at all," says Deucifer. "But hardcore music isn't happy music. It never was, never will be. If we were happy we'd be singing about getting laid, drinking beer, and getting fucked up. That doesn't appeal to us." What does appeal to the band -- what its members get so fired up about -- is a little harder to pin down. Deucifer's elaboration on his group's lyrical message only produces a homily worthy of a Tony Robbins infomercial. "Be true to yourself," he exclaims. "Be true to your friends. Don't stab people in the back. Don't hold grudges. Go on with your life. Make it count."
The fifteen songs on The Weapon, the group's debut album, speed by in barely 25 minutes -- a spurting, adrenalized rush. But you won't hear any mention of Columbine, Kubrick, John-John, IPOs, South Park, eBay, keepin' it real, or any other topic we're told currently grips society. Needless to say you won't hear any love songs either. Just fifteen anguished cries of abstract teenage existentialism, all aimed inward. It's a replay of Heathers, but this time as a realist documentary, not satire. Which may explain why the band's fans -- and those of hardcore nationally -- remain predominantly at the SAT-prepping age.
The music's largely high school demographic doesn't seem to bother Deucifer. The 26-year old waxes philosophic about his many peers who've since left the hardcore world: "Some of them decided it wasn't worth it anymore. They got jobs, they got married. I don't blame them. When you get to a certain age and you're still at point A, and you haven't gotten to a certain level, and no one's coming to see your band, you have to get on with your life. People just grow out of it."
If there's one telling difference between today's paint-peeling 'core and the thrash of old (as in 1984, when Kulchur was an angst-ridden pup trying to keep his elbows up at a Black Flag show), it's the target for all that frothy rage. Of course for hardcore purists, even a band as notorious as Black Flag was nothing more than effete artistes, even in their police-riot inspiring prime. Too many chords (four, I believe), too many ideas, too much cognizance of the larger world. And so, as postpunkers like Hüsker Dü, No Trend, and the Meat Puppets evolved out of the mosh pit, hardcore remained static, howling away to itself. And yet hardcore was nonetheless part of the punk "family," a blood relative who you rolled your eyes at, but still kept tabs on. Altrock groups such as Sonic Youth and Sebadoh may have launched into tongue-in-cheek covers of songs from hoary '80s hardcore outfits like the Church Police, the Necros, and Reagan Youth (in fact, Sonic Youth's very name was a parody of the latter and their milieu), but dig the subtext: A decade later they still remember how those tunes went. So it's with a mixture of embarrassment and fascination that Kulchur approaches the second-ever Miami show of Where Fear and Weapons Meet, Saturday, September 11, at Rose's on the Beach. Look for the jaded guy hiding under the bar. Music starts at 7:00 p.m.
Living in Miami these days means telling visitors "don't believe the hype" -- at least when it comes to the city's dance-club scene. International jet setters arrive at MIA with visions of the Winter Music Conference in their heads: a sprawling smorgasbord of top-notch techno and house DJs spinning throughout South Beach. While that may be true for the conference week in March, the rest of the year's clubbing choices are a grab bag, with by-the-numbers fromage dominating the bulk of South Florida's turntables. So consider the Saturday, September 11, appearance of Function (a.k.a. David Sumner) at the Gables's Meza Gallery as an early taste of March. If the New York City-based Function's tracks for the Synewave label are any indication, his DJ set should focus on sonically dense, hard-banging techno, a sound that's all too rare in these parts. The evening launches the reoriented Blow Up, a weekly party which now puts the focus on deep house and kindred outré grooves. Residents include nova, the Plex's ps199, and Ghyger Kounter. Here's hoping the night provides a much-needed relief for both truly soulful DJs and locals weary of the Washington Avenue vibe.
If you squinted real hard, you could almost make out Wavy Gravy at the August 28 Fêt Champêt concert, held at Little Haiti's delightfully hippie-esque Earth N' Us Farm. Several roots-driven Haitian bands performed over the course of the day, all to benefit Operation Green Leaves' reforestation projects back in Haiti's countryside. Competing for attention with the farm's goats, peacocks, and swarm of honeybees, were four City of Miami commissioners, all come to fete both the fêt and the politically ascendant Haitian community. In case anyone didn't grasp the significance of their presence, Commissioner Art Teele made it clear in a giddy announcement from the stage: "When four out of the five city commissioners are here ... that's veto power!" The true highlight came during an afternoon tour of the farm's grounds. As the four commissioners stood huddled underneath a tree house, a small child came swinging by on a dangling rope, Tarzan-style, nearly taking out the entire group, and thus finally resolving the city's current charter crisis.
Send your music news, local releases, and general gunk to Brett Sokol at 2800 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Fax to 305-571-7678 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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