This space is devoted to musical reportage and commentary. It is not supposed to be an obituary column. Sadly, fate isn't cooperating. I remember nights a lifetime ago watching Johnny "Stix" Galway illustrate what great rock drumming is all about. Often those nights consisted of shows featuring the legendary Bobs opening for Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, for whom Galway drummed. Bob Rupe and Kevin MacIvor of the Bobs didn't have a drummer at the time, so Galway ended up backing both acts, playing the intricate pop rock of the Bobs and the gritty stomp of Pickett in four-hour sessions during which Galway didn't miss a beat. Only Max Weinberg of the E Street Band could match Galway for endurance, power, and timing. Galway died two weeks ago at the age of 38 of complications related to AIDS.
He came to town at the end of the Seventies from somewhere in the Carolinas, a slightly goofy country boy eager to discover whatever punk scene existed in Miami. As Pickett's drummer, Galway recorded and toured; he also worked with other Eggs in an offshoot group called the Psycho Daisies. He later left the scene to take a job as a stagehand touring with Liza Minnelli.
"I grew up down here, and I'll be honest, I was something of a homophobe," Pickett says. "I met Johnny in 1980. I worked in rock pits [quarries] where a steady guy is a common thing, unlike with musicians. But he was a steady guy. Every tour he was the guy who went out in five-below-zero weather to pack the van. Galway never had the fits, and he often made me think that maybe I'm being a jackass. I remember one time in Baltimore, [promoter and band manager Richard] Shelter told some so-called graffiti artist to paint our van, that we'd like that. Well, it was my girlfriend's van, and I was so fucking mad. We had a long way to go [on the tour], and for about two days I acted like Richard didn't exist. Finally Galway says, 'Hey, look it's a shitty van anyway.' If anyone else said that, I would have said, 'It's the only van we got, fuck you.' But from him, there was no bad intent and it was the honest-to-Christ truth. He had a way of putting everything on an even keel."
To nonband members, Galway's diplomatic skills weren't important; his remarkable drum skills were. Pickett affirms that evaluation. "Of our band, you know, Johnny [Salton] was a 75 percent player. I'm 66 percent, Marco about the same. But with Stix, out of 100 shows, 98 he was on. One maybe he's sick and maybe once he'd miss. But night after night, every slap, every cymbal crash, every lick was right there. He played the rim like a tuned instrument. It was like a harmonica, with fade-ins and -outs. Incredible."
The recent Wake Up Miami at Churchill's was reportedly quite successful, raising $1300 toward a compilation CD featuring the bands that played the two-night fest. Expect a first pressing of 1000 copies.
Day by the River, which took its groove-based rock to Athens, Georgia, at the end of 1994, returns home to play one last show at its former favorite homestand, Stephen Talkhouse, tomorrow (Friday). The band has been concentrating on touring the Southeast, mostly hitting college towns, including monthly visits to Gainesville. Their CD, Shimmy, has sold nearly 2000 copies, and their mailing list has gone international. "We're looking for exposure, not a label deal," says the band's manager, Reis Baron. "The grassroots approach has worked well for us." He says the band should be in the studio this summer, with a resulting CD this fall. They have twenty new songs from which they'll choose.
If you don't get out much, this is a week to change your habits. The musical menu is so stacked, even gluttons can overeat without sampling the full range of diversity:
* You want the best in rap fusion? Try Stevo and the Strength of Unity at Lefty's on Saturday.
* You want a mix of top local rockers? Catch Muse, Mr. Tasty and the Bread Healers, and Nuclear Valdez at Rose's tomorrow (Friday).
* To hear the best female singer in Florida (according to Jam magazine) and the best in South Florida (according to New Times in its 1994 "Best Of Miami" edition), go to Magda Hiller's shows tomorrow (Friday) at Tuna's or catch her opening for (and performing with) Stevo at Lefty's on Saturday.
* For a big-up reggae show, we recommend veterans Black Uhuru and local heroes Inner Circle, in town for a Saturday blowout at the Cameo.
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Squeeze is busy this week, with Livid Kittens tomorrow (Friday). Then, on Wednesday, the club hosts its first New Music Night, featuring bands that haven't played there before. Booked for the debut are Suzy Creamcheese, 23, the Reign, and Backwash.
No-b.s. rockers Johnny Tonite release their new CD at Rosebuds on Saturday.
Plan ahead for a big reggae show next Thursday starring Johnny Dread at, of all places, Les Violins.