Best Singer-Songwriter To Leave Town In The Past Twelve Months 1999 | Magda Hiller | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Best Singer-Songwriter To Leave Town In The Past Twelve Months

Magda Hiller

For the past decade her uplifting artistry could be found all about: at an Irish pub in the Gables, a coffeehouse in North Miami, a bookstore in Kendall, an upscale restaurant in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, a legendary bar in downtown Miami, a park in North Miami-Dade. At venues of all stripes, Magda Hiller and her guitar brought smiles, chuckles, shivers of delight, chills of pathos, and seamlessly raucous folk music diverse in form and consistent in quality. Still tied to South Florida while recording continues on her CD, Hiller now makes her home in the north part of the state. "I love the natural beauty up here," the vegetarian animal-lover says. "And I'm five hours out of state, you know. I'm able to play a lot of places too far from Miami. I find the audiences in places like Chattanooga, Atlanta, Orlando, Gainesville, and Tampa more receptive." She's also traveled lately to Indiana, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The past two trips were arranged as showcases by Warner Bros., for whom she records song-instruction videos. It seems our local heroine is broadening her success, the sort of achievement we applaud. Except we miss her so much.
Could be gourds. Or nuts. Maybe brown-tinted lima beans? Cannabis seeds. Yeah, cannabis seeds. Must be, considering this musically clever band is called the Kind, the same phrase connoisseurs use to describe high-grade pot. (For fans of wordplay, the band's e-mail address is [email protected].) The intriguing photo was composed and lensed by local marine-science photographer Kelly Bryan, who prefers to work subsurface, even when shooting musical stuff. ("Underwater macro lenses actually give better results than regular macros," he explains.) Before a personnel change to the upbeat and often virtuosic rock group, Bryan clicked through a roll of black-and-white portraiture with all parties holding their breath. After the departure of one member, and because this new Kodak moment was dedicated to illustrating the Kind's infectious and fun debut CD, Bryan loaded up for another go. Being a shade underground, and generally indicating support for the lifting of marijuana prohibition in this nation, the fellas floated this idea: More than 100 weed seeds submerged in a Key Biscayne swimming pool, mixing together in a closeup that creates a somehow symmetrical chaos perfectly suited to a versatile group that can light up things with urgent funkiness (the brilliant "Changed My Life"), red-eyed barroom innuendo ("Sloppy Love"), or unpretentious intelligence (the Jaco Pastorius-inspired "Breather"). Bryan says he wasn't trying to make a thematic statement with the picture, which is augmented by calligraphy that forms the band's name into what looks like two Chinese-language characters. "I was just putting it out there."

While attending Palmetto High School, singer-guitarist Jeff Rollason played in a band called Strangelove, which recorded in some long-forgotten local studio. His next band, the underappreciated Mr. Tasty and the Breadhealers, recorded at Who Brought the Dog? studio. Then they broke up. Two years ago he formed Curious Hair and tried a new approach, recording in his home studio. Seeking musicians to join the Hair, Rollason released a remarkable homemade tape called The Curious Hair Is Not a Band, a sort of audio help-wanted ad. For it he created his own label, Evol Egg Nart (spell it backward while rereading the first sentence of this item). Eventually he decided to try a less formal approach, working with different backing musicians such as Jeff the Space Cowboy. "I always wanted to have my own record label," he says.

At the end of 1997, Rollason released two cassettes of Jeff the Space Cowboy songs under the Evol Egg Nart imprimatur. "I wanted to work with other musicians," he says, "and I thought about samplers, compilations. But we'd never get around to recording. You'd have to have ten tracks done before you could release anything." To avoid this he came up with the idea of releasing a monthly cassingle. "If an artist was chosen to be, say, Miss May, we had a deadline," he explains. "I mean, it would have to be finished by May, right?" He recorded the singles on his eight-track analog gear in the bedroom of his Perrine-area home.

Each month of the past year, these little gems, about 100 copies of each, were given away at local concerts, in envelopes with lyric sheets, notes, gew-gaws. Featured artists: local veteran Matthew Sabatella (Broken Spectacles); the legendary Rat Bastard (To Live and Shave in L.A., the Laundry Room Squelchers); Maria Marocka (the Elysian); Amanda Green (probably violating her Y&T Music contract); Joce Leyva (of Al's Not Well fame); Alex Diaz (of Ho Chi Minh); newcomer from L.A. Barbara Ann; former local, now Portland-based Raul Mendez; and Robbie Gennet (Rudy, Seven Mary Three). All these cassingles are now in the hands of music lovers. Which is something Sony can't say about its releases. (Taking matters a step further, Rollason and Sabatella recently compiled all twelve singles on CD and are offering the music free via compressed-sound download at

It's fascinating to watch a high-quality band mature, especially when it's fronted by a talent like Demetrius Brown. As Manchild's singer-lyricist-guitarist, Brown has proved himself a prolific artist, penning more than 100 songs and performing countless gigs since 1992. Because he is best known for his phenomenal guitar incantations, his singing gets overlooked. But D. Brown works his vocal cords almost as dexterously as his axe. He can be a forceful baritone, adding meat to any of Manchild's many rockers, or he can sprinkle on the soul in one of the trio's silky smooth ballads. And during one of Manchild's rare acoustic sets, Brown's honey pipes become the attraction.

Tucked away inside the Marlin Hotel, Tom Lord-Algae is tweaking knobs at South Beach Studios for some of the biggest names in music. He put the leveling touches on CDs by the Rolling Stones (Bridges to Babylon and No Security); Marilyn Manson (Mechanical Animals); Hole (Celebrity Skin); as well as forthcoming releases from Live and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. His large workload keeps him busy while also providing South Florida with a steady stream of rock celebs. (Most of his client bands are at his side as he EQs their recordings.) Lord-Algae could do his thing virtually anywhere in the world, but he chooses South Beach, he says, because of the "fine artistic atmosphere."

The perennial winner of this category could easily have been eliminated from consideration this year if a major label had signed her to a deal and spread her fame beyond the boundaries of South Florida, as should have happened. Instead she iced the award by releasing in February another masterful CD of original rock, move. Like Mirror before it, the new disc showcases Ward's taffy vocals (they stretch but never break), evocative inflections, and razor-cut phrasings. Her latest effort was financed by yet another project, the highly collectible Bathroom Tape, recorded in an apartment studio in Plantation. These recordings stand with anything released nationally, but it's her live performances (with full band, solo, with guitarist Jack Shawde, or in the round) that keep bringing us back to worship at the Ward altar. As for the national stardom that has thus far eluded her, so what? Thanks to digital sound compression and the World Wide Web, people all over the globe can obtain Ward's work electronically, making major labels irrelevant and verging on obsolete. The reason no corporation has been tempted to exploit her sound might be this: It's too nicked and edgy and tough to meet pop standards, and too damn pretty for rock and roll.

Second Best Concert Of The Past Twelve Months

Lauryn Hill

On her debut solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, this Fugee diva-for-the-millennium was sultry without being crass, vulnerable without being weak, and, most of all, grounded and intelligent while still gazing skyward. In one knowing lyrical snap she looked around at her pop-music peers and sang, "C'mon, baby, light my fire/Everything you drop is so tired/Music is supposed to inspire/So how come we ain't getting no higher?" February's Bob Marley Festival in Bayfront Park may have billed Hill as merely a supporting act, but from her opening notes to the audience's ongoing and fervent squeals of "Lauryn!" there was no doubt who owned the night. Backed by a crisp horn section and a very live band, Hill proved she could take it to the stage, strutting and crooning her way through a thrilling set that nodded to the glory days of Motown and Seventies Philly soul, but was wholly of-the-moment. This was the Marley festival, so there was a smoky haze hanging over the park, but it was Hill who took everyone a little bit higher.
The goal: nothing less than the deconstruction and obliteration of rock and roll. The method: noise, a genre awash in dissonance and off-key chaos. Chief practitioners: nationally known local bands such as Harry Pussy and To Live and Shave in L.A. Results: nah. In fact the noise genre, which Miami nurtured and which seemed to be making an impact nationally, has been nearly silenced. In the case of the headache-inducing sound, it's a matter of first ones in, last ones out. Rat Bastard, a noise pioneer, and the Laundry Room Squelchers, an informal amalgam of musicians who typically work in other genres, continue to groan and drone every Thursday at Churchill's Hideaway. The disharmonic convergence is derived from traditional instruments, bizarre electronic gadgets, and just about anything else that might help create some of the most unusual sounds this side of a train wreck. When that brutal cacophony merges into a lucid melody, as can happen, it becomes a virtual squelchtopia for Rat's crew and the brave few who endure.
Lloyd's of London is famed for selling insurance to safeguard singers' voices. Miami's own DJ Craze may want to consider taking out a policy on his hands: Those ten fingers weave just as magical a spell as any set of vocal cords. Cutting and scratching his way through the world of experimental hip-hop, Craze has distinguished himself as one of the world's foremost turntablists, copping trophies and awestruck praise at virtually every competition he attends. Just as impressive as his live theatrics is Crazeë Musick, his debut album, which proves he can take a sprawling world of source elements and flip it into something different and totally his own.

Some know it's there, some hear about it through word of mouth, some are drawn by the sound of the drums and the heady scent of patchouli. For more than a year and a half, with every full moon, masses of people have gathered on the sand of Miami Beach at 22nd Street and Collins Avenue to celebrate the lunar month. Stumble by accident upon this rhythmically inclined horde of young hippies and you're bound to wonder if Phish is in town. Nope, it's just about 200 of Miami's own crunchy granola/henna tattoo/crystal friend set, kicking it new age: beating congas, Grateful Dead-dancing, and lighting incense in homage to the Earth Mother. "Organize" is probably the wrong word to use in conjunction with such a blissfully chaotic event, but Gaia Buhdai of the Synergy Yoga Center does try to keep the circle vibrant each month by making phone calls to some of the talented drummers she knows. "Some nights the drumming is great, some nights it's not that great," she allows. "But you look around and people are swimming, kids are playing, some are dancing in the circle, lovers are making out." A life-affirming, deliciously mellow affair. All hail the Mother Goddess!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®