It's after midnight and, three songs in, the ButterClub has mesmerized the outdoor crowd at a local music festival. Before the next selection, singer Rhett O'Neil asks the technical crew to turn off the stage lights. "We're all friends here," he says. For the next 90 minutes a couple of hundred of the band's friends stand like trees, engrossed, a few mumbling, "These guys are amazing" to no one in particular. Through two stunning albums and plenty of magical live performances, the Club, which employs two guitarists and a hard-hitting percussionist to go with the singing and the rhythm section, has perfected its trippy, trance-inducing rock sound even while carrying the onus of the inescapable Rolling Stones comparisons. Like the Stones the ButterClub is composed of edgy, intelligent rockers. Unlike the Stones the members of the Club disdain pretensions and are far from retirement age. More notably the ButterClub is relevant. It's time for them to come out of the dark.
Singing since age three. Playing guitar since age eleven. Writing tunes in her teens. Pursuing her dreams of rock and roll stardom in Los Angeles. Becoming a wife and mother. Retiring from music. Relocating to Miami to start a new life. Picking up her guitar again. Wowing them at her son's preschool talent show. Performing at open-mike nights. Getting gigs. Getting divorced. Getting encouragement from friends. Writing more songs. Winning the songwriter competition at the 1997 South Florida Folk Festival. Recording Songweaver, a full-length album of dazzling pop-folk tunes. Persevering to attract new fans and delight old ones. Those are a few highlights from the Amy Carol Webb story. Passionate, perceptive, exceptionally gifted, she sings to the listener's soul.

Best CD Recorded At Miami International Airport

Miambient Volume One

If the opening montage on this compilation of chilled-out groove artists sounds like it was recorded inside Miami International Airport, that's because it actually was. Coproducer Mark Christopher plays it coy when asked just how he persuaded a ticket attendant to do a terminalwide broadcast over the airport's PA system for "Miambient voyagers -- destination South Beach." But he freely admits to standing on the tarmac with an outstretched microphone to capture the roar of a landing plane. It all adds up to the perfect intro for this cool collection of mostly local, dubbed-up and dreamy, laid-back electronic beats.
Some local musicians pitch a fit about the lack of a live music scene. After arriving from Los Angeles last year, pianist Arthur Hanlon set out to create a scene. Hanlon's monthly gig at The Globe in Coral Gables, where he jams with a quintet of outstanding local Latin players, is one of the most spirited Saturday night parties in town. Weeknights Hanlon can be found stroking the ivories in the Gaucho Room at the Loews Hotel, where he performs a mix of his original works (which he describes as "Motown blues with a Latin flavor") and piano-bar perennials. The baby-faced 32-year-old also released a CD of his Latin-tinged jazz, titled Encuentros, this year. Hard work never sounded so sweet.
The Balloon's pop lifts the better elements of late-Sixties songcraft (they even cover a Kinks tune) and incorporates them into a driving, urgent approach that leaves all the sissified alternacrap on the radio facedown on the ground. Tommy Anthony has long been one of South Florida's top songwriters, and he has the voice to carry his hooky-but-never-smarmy tunes to lofty heights. A listen to the CD Real will suggest that it was recorded at a major studio by a top-gun producer, its production values best described as glossy yet thick. In fact it was recorded by the band in Anthony's bedroom studio on consumer-grade equipment. The quartet's exhilarating live act takes those tunes to the next level. Anthony's front work receives immaculate support from guitarist/keyboardist John Allen, bassist Michael Quinn, and drummer Omar Hernandez (who backs Raul Di Blasio as well). If the group's sound reflects the late Sixties, so their career strategies embrace grassroots hippie ideology. No big-label deal. No video. No flavor-of-the-day hype machine. With nothing more than placement at the listening booth, the CD sold out at Tower Records in Chicago and Minneapolis. Miami, too, knows what time it is: New Times readers chose them as Best Rock Band last year. While waiting for the Balloon to take off nationally, Anthony tours as a guitarist for Jon Secada, a Four O'Clock fan. Now that's pop.
No surprises here. WDNA's nightly Latin-music marathon owns this category for an obvious reason: Latin music, especially in Miami, must include Cuban music, and WDNA is still the only area radio station consistently playing material from the island. That said, Fusion Latina deserves extra credit for airing a variety of Latin sounds as well as the viewpoints of its DJs; for playing the latest independent releases before they hit the streets; and for keeping listeners up-to-speed on the pan-Latin scene while teaching listeners about the evolution of Latin music through strategically programmed classics. Nightly from 8:00 to midnight, WDNA is the only Latin music outlet worth listening to.
After five years of kicking it locally and fathering some considerable buzz, The Artist Formerly Known as Trick Daddy Dollars has ridden his easy-swinging beats and hard rhymes into the Billboard Top 10. His first LP, Based on a True Story, cracked the R&B Top 100; his followup, www.thug.com, has pushed even higher, with the single "Nann Nigga" rising as high as number five on the rap chart. That tune's rude and riotous exchange between Trick and female rapper Trina is as nasty as Luther Campbell ever wanted to be, but Trick's sound features slower beats, slicker raps, and more melodic flourishes than Luke's brand of booty bass. Other standout cuts are street anthems "For the Thugs" and "Hold On," and the Blowflyesque "Suckin' Fuckin'." Trick, born and reared in Liberty City, achieved national airplay while on the locally based Slip-N-Slide Records, which has since inked a distribution deal with Atlantic. That means Trick Daddy's next release should soar to an even higher level.
From 1998's "Best Solo Musician" item about Midon: "... Hear him quickly before a major record label snaps him up." Snap. Now that Raul Midon is signed to BMG US Latin, you might think success has changed the long-time Miami resident. But the only thing that's changed is his name: The multilingual artist now goes simply by Midon. His debut CD, Gracias a la Vida, a collection of Latin classics, hit stores in January. Even so, our urging was a bit off. His busy gig schedule still allows for plenty of local shows in varied venues in various configurations (trio, solo, sitting in for jams). The flamenco-style guitarist's performances soar beyond the confines of a CD, with Midon adding skittering scats, surreal improvisations, and his signature trumpet tone (created vocally) to boleros, jazz standards, and bluesy originals. A man, a guitar, limitless musical accomplishment.

Prolific conductor and composer Michael Tilson Thomas is so in demand he often needs to appear in two places at once. On any given Sunday he can be found at the Lincoln Theatre in South Beach conducting an afternoon performance by the New World Symphony, where he's artistic director. Just a bit later, there he is on the other coast, wielding the baton at a San Francisco Symphony concert broadcast at 9:00 p.m. on WTMI-FM (93.1). What's even more amazing than Thomas's apparent faster-than-the-speed-of-sound feat is the amount of advertising during this two-hour broadcast: Commercials run only between works. An unusual approach for revenue-hungry WTMI, which has resorted to playing more movie soundtracks and hackneyed orchestral versions of hackneyed show tunes in an effort to widen listenership. Apparently on Sunday nights some things are still sacred.
With song titles such as "1 Horse Town" and "Cowboy Ways," the Holy Rollin' Hellfires are a little bit country, but a bootload of rock. After a series of rhythm-section changes, the Beach-based Hellfires solidified, released an eponymous CD, and can now be found detonating their yee-haw ya-yas from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys. The dinner-plate-size belt buckles worn by singer W.D. McKelvy (a.k.a. Billy Velvet) and the preponderance of cowboy hats among fans have more to do with Reverend Horton Heat than they do with Garth Brooks, while the stompin' cow-punky tunes about drinking, driving, and women strike that universal chord in male American rockers, spurring bouts of drinking, driving, and chasing women.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®