It's no doubt too soon to start yammering about the rebirth of South Beach as a mecca for live music, but things in the glitzy, neon-soaked district may at least be on an upswing. Two club owners have somehow found the courage to open their doors to local, national, and international acts. Scott Garrett, owner of the South Beach Pub (717 Washington Ave.), has been hosting rock, funk, Latin, and underground bands for about a month now, while Temptations (1532 Washington Ave.), operated by Desiree Gonzalez and Mohamed Chalal at the former site of the ill-fated S.O.B.'s, has featured an impressive lineup of salsa, merengue, and reggae acts. Temptations' grand opening weekend at the end of January featured performances by Puerto Rican salsa whiz Frankie Ruiz, Jamaican dancehall king Mad Lion, and Miami-based merenguero Gaby L.
Temptations is hoping to draw what Gonzalez describes as an "upscale" audience of Latin music fans, and he adds that the club is filling a gap that exists not just in South Beach, but in all of South Florida. "There really isn't an upscale Latin club in Miami," Gonzalez contends. "All the clubs here are pulling younger crowds -- kids in jeans and sneakers. We don't do that. You have to have a tie or a gown on to get in here. This is an elegant Hispanic nightclub."
Temptations features live music every Thursday through Saturday, and at least one of its upcoming shows should make it worth knotting up a tie or climbing into some taffeta: La Sonora Ponce*a, the legendary Puerto Rican orchestra formed in the mid-Fifties by Quique Lucca, will be performing at the club on Saturday, February 10. Also, on February 23 Temptations will host merengue hitmakers Jossie Esteban y la Patrulla 15.
Scott Garrett, meanwhile, is trying to make his South Beach Pub as musician-friendly as possible: He covers the cost of the P.A., and he's letting Sean Gould of the Miami group Brothers of Different Mothers take care of lining up the live entertainment for the cozy stage area. And the bands have full control of the door, meaning they set the cover charge and they keep whatever money is generated at the door. "I'm looking to make my money at the bar," notes Garrett, who's operated the Pub for nearly three years. "The bands basically get ownership of the room when they play there. I pay the sound man and I advertise the shows. That's the commitment I put forth."
Like Gonzales at Temptations, Garrett says he's filling a need in Miami's music scene. "I saw musicians being manipulated and taken advantage of by club owners because there just weren't enough venues. And with Sean dealing with the bands, you have a musician working with musicians, so they understand each other. Being in a band is like any job: If your employer's a jerk, you're gonna hate the job, but if you have someone you can work with, it'll be a better experience for everybody."
The club is open seven nights a week, but currently features live music on Fridays and Saturdays only (Garrett hopes to expand the live lineup to include Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays). Local acts who've performed at the Pub include El Duende, the Baboons, and Raw B Jae and the Liquid Funk; New York City-based pop experimentalist Azalia Snail also played there late last month. This weekend's lineup features Amanda Green (Friday, February 9) and Carnival and Brothers of Different Mothers (Saturday, February 10). Recent Island Records signee Arlan is also slated for an upcoming appearance.
"I love live original music, and I think if you work hard and have a good product, people are going to support you," Garrett states. "If you cater to locals, I think they're going to ultimately support you. If they feel like you're taking advantage of them, though, they aren't going to come back."
The Boca Raton-based label Street Street Music, home of such speaker-splitting bass artists as A.C. AuFunkster and Bass Dog, is branching out into a new arena they call "South Coast Rap," which is A duh A rap and hip-hop created by South Florida artists. The five-year-old label's first releases in its new division are by South Side Pride (Hi De Ho, which includes such skull crushers as "Rough in My Ghetto" and "Right Hand in the Air") and DJ Nasty Knock (Sex, which, appropriately enough, is packaged with a handy-dandy latex condom).
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"This is a natural growth process for us," says Street Street media director Robert Roundtree II. "We started out with bass stuff aimed toward kids who have $1000 car-audio systems, and once we built the company from that standpoint, we wanted to move in a more artist-oriented direction. And we're trying to generate some respect for South Florida rap. When most people think of South Florida, they think of booty-type bass music, but we're trying to take things to another level. We'd like our artists to be appreciated on a national level like Dr. Dre, Method Man, and L.L. Cool J."
Amid the usual idealist sloganeering and profiles on bands you've never heard of, last month's Maximumrocknroll had an interesting article by Bob Suren of Brandon (located outside of Tampa) on old-school Florida punk bands, whose long-gone singles are currently fetching three-figure sums on the punk collectors market. Among the groups mentioned are Zephyrhills' U-Boats, West Palm Beach's Teddy and the Frat Girls, and Gainesville's Roach Motel.
Suren gives the most space to Miami's the Eat, whose two self-released seven-inches on Giggling Hitler Records -- 1979's "Communist Radio" and the God Punishes the Eat EP from the next year -- have supposedly sold for as much as $200 a pop.
If you're interested in hearing such Eat classics as "Doctor TV" and "Kneecappin'" but don't have a few hundred bucks lying around, don't fear: Songs from both singles are scattered across several volumes of Killed By Death, a bootleg series devoted to rare and forgotten songs from punk's heyday. You can maybe track down those discs at Blue Note Records in North Miami Beach, or Yesterday & Today's SW 57th Avenue location. I've seen them at both places.