Miami'll drink to that!
Having won the Southeast regional semifinals of the Tanqueray Rocks talent contest at the Stephen Talkhouse on South Beach (after a technicality disqualified top vote getter Nil Lara and Beluga Blue), Natural Causes jetted to New York City last week and came back with something fine, something dry: the Tanqueray national title, $10,000, an endorsement deal, and a tour that will take them to five major cities. "It's good to bring it home," says the band's singer-songwriter, Arlan Feiles. "After all the confusion and the mess-up, at least we were able to bring something for the good of the whole local scene. People from all over are going to figure out there's music going on in Miami and that it's time to take a look at it."
This past Wednesday a panel of judges from major record labels, MTV, Billboard magazine, Star Search, and other well-known entertainment-business entities took a look at the band's live set and liked it enough to score the group above two bands from L.A., one from Chicago, and another from New York City.
The finals were held at a club called the Grand, at Thirteenth and Broadway. According to Causes manager Keith Schantz, the band won over audience and judges alike with their first two songs, but those were just a warm-up for "God's Country," a group tour de force. "The place erupted," Schantz relates. "These are people unexposed to the energy. But the Causes were just doing what they've done night after night here in Miami -- play their hearts out."
The band, the third to take the stage, concluded its set with "Something Fine, Something Dry." Not long afterward, event host Dan Cortese walked to the microphone and announced: "A band I've always wanted to sing backup for...beginning their tour next week...Natural Causes!"
"The next thing I know," says Schantz, "I was at a deli eating a seven-dollar turkey sandwich."
In many ways this is just a beginning for the six rockers known for their long, long live shows at just about every venue in South Florida, from the top clubs to bookstores to charity fundraisers. Tonight (Wednesday) they'll play the first show of the Tanqueray tour at Button South in Hallandale. Then the booze company will provide a bus that will take the Causes back to New York City to play the China Club this Friday. After that, it's off to Chicago, L.A., and San Francisco. Natural Causes return to Miami November 13. (The release of the CD version of Bomb in the Shelter has been delayed slightly, thanks to these unforeseen circumstances.)
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Arlan Feiles, born and reared in Los Angeles, says he's especially excited about the hometown stop. "My friends and family out there have never seen me play with a band."
A mere two weeks ago it was virtually impossible to imagine that Tanqueray Rocks (chronicled in these pages in "Tanqueray with a Twist," October 20) might leave a pleasant aftertaste in Miami, despite the fact that all three Southeast regional finalists -- Nil Lara and Beluga Blue, Natural Causes, and Voidville -- are based here. Lara and his group were disqualified for playing an improvised snippet of Pink Floyd in a set that was required by contest rules to be 100 percent original. The violation was brought to Tanqueray's attention by one of Voidville's management companies, State of the Art, resulting in a hangover of hard feelings.
Nil Lara, who had downplayed his dismay about the disqualification, was jamming at the Talkhouse last week while New York was succumbing to Natural Causes. "It's funny, because I was into the music," Lara recalls, "and then I remembered this whole thing was happening in New York at the same time. I told the audience that it'd be cool if we all got together spiritually and sent that feeling toward New York. An hour later someone called [with the news]. I'm happy for Natural Causes. It's a great thing.