Cuban-born Jorge Gonzalez Graupera, a.k.a. Jorges, might just be the hardest-working musician in Miami. After his band the Brand, which was founded in 2002 (and was Jorges's first live music venture), broke up in 2004, solo artistry became a necessity, so Jorges picked up his acoustic guitar and began playing on his own, quickly realizing he didn't need anything but himself. "I'm all about simplicity. When you just hear the voice and guitar, you're hearing songs in their purist form." Jorges, age 32, is constantly performing his interesting pop/rock love songs live, usually at PS 14, Churchill's, and I/O. He also recorded an excellent album, Possibly Now!, completely on his own, at home on the computer, which you can (and should) buy at his shows. Jorges's diligence has paid off: His song "Girlfriend," which female audience members mouth during his perfomances, has been played on the hit television shows Summerland and One Tree Hill as well as on various MTV programs. He also tours as much as possible. "When I'm on tour, all I want is to make enough for a $40 room and something to eat. Sometimes it doesn't happen, so I'll sit somewhere with my guitar, put my hat out in front, and make up the difference." Check out myspace.com/Jorges for show dates and times.
Dewey's Tavern
Despite its location amid million-dollar bayfront condos and a bunch of tanning salons and expensive cafés on South Beach, Dewey's Tavern, which is nestled on the corner of Ninth Street and Alton Road, does not wear the fancy pants. Instead Dewey's is a tight, cozy little hole-in-the-wall, one of the few places on the Beach where you won't find anyone wearing a $300 T-shirt. According to the staff, the tavern is rarely crammed with customers, usually just a relaxed local crowd that comes for happy hour weekdays from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. to get two-for-one well drinks, two-for-one wines, or a beer for $3. If you think you're like Paul Newman in The Hustler, you'll love Dewey's $5-entry-fee, winner-take-all pool tournaments every Tuesday night beginning at 6:00 p.m. And for those of you who like to get drunk and embarrass everyone else, karaoke night is every Saturday from 10:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m., and because of Dewey's small size, you can really get the audience involved (in dragging you away from the microphone). Dewey's also has a great little dining menu that includes grilled mahi-mahi sandwiches for $7.95 and fourteen-ounce hamburgers for the same price. Or you could be a cheap bastard and come for the free buffet Fridays at 7:00 p.m.
One of the few local bands that actually has living, breathing groupies -- who aren't friends and/or family -- the duo known as Awesome New Republic (or simply ANR) recently took off to New York City. Fans, however, can keep a little piece of ANR in their hearts and iPods with ANR So Far. With blunt, passionately delivered lyrics and a soul-folk electro beat that keeps the masses dancing, the album received accolades from critics local and national, including the kids at the musical cool table Pitchfork, who gave the disc a rating of 7.9 out of 10 -- indie-rock gold.
Anyone can throw a bunch of random nouns and adjectives together and come up with a pretty amusing band name (in fact there are Websites for that kind of thing), and the number of prostitutes, dead or otherwise, who engage in complicated card games is probably on the low side. But a band is allowed to have a ridiculous, nonsensical name if the music rocks. And rock the Dead Hookers' Bridge Club does. Jack Switchblade, Ace Roller, and Dr. Johnny Thunder do what they like to call "dirty rock and roll," performing songs like "Hung Like a Whale" and "F--k Texas" from their album Fast Cars! Stiff Drinks! Loose Women!. Sure it's all shtick, but then again, the Beatles posed as the Sgt. Pepper Band, and that album was pretty good.

Best Band to Break Up in the Past Year

Vidavox

Some bands break up over raging drug habits; others break up over egos or money. But anyone who's heard the audio-sensory treat that is Vidavox probably wouldn't be too surprised to learn the reason for the group's split: Guitarist/keyboardist/bassist Carlos Vega is heading off to Michigan to pursue his Ph.D. Fans of electronica, jam bands, and plain old good beats will miss Vidavox's formulaic (in a good way), flowing rhythm; syncopated beats; and tracks that simply add up from beginning to end.
The multimember collective known as Locos por Juana -- which includes Itagui, Guillermo "Chamo" Cabral, Carlos "Negro" Viafara, Marc "JC" Kondrat, Marcos "Matatigre" Delgado, Camilo "Tumbao" Sierra, Jonathan "Boricua" Marrero, Javier "Lakambra" Delgado, Emiliano "CheFunk" Torres, Carlos "C-Bone" Avila, Alan Reyna, Claudio, and CALI 3000 -- would never, ever marginalize its music by calling it Caribbean, yet that global term, encompassing the sea and islands from Europe to the Middle East to Africa to the more familiar Bahamas and Puerto Rico -- is a good metaphor for the shifting energies and personalities of Miami's true identity band. This ambitious multicultural mélange mixes salsa, timba, ska, reggae, and cumbia in a wild stage show that is enhanced only by the aesthetically pleasing members. After completely upstaging, in the nicest way, headliner Lila Downs at this spring's Latin Funk Festival, and with a new album, La Verdad, dropping in June, LPJ shows no signs of slowing down or taking time off -- good news for its ever-growing legion of devotees.
Well, it's like this: "Otto Von Schirach is an IDM and breakcore artist from Miami, Florida, of Cuban/German decent. His style is more sporadic and noisy than other artists in the genre, and his visual aesthetic leans on the heavy-metal side rather than electronic. He has released most of his work on the Schematic and Beta Bodega labels, and was featured in the 2002 documentary Electro Dziska. Most recently he worked and went on tour with Skinny Puppy and produced a remix for Miss Kittin." That's from Von Schirach's Wikipedia listing, a listing he made himself, before most people knew what Wiki was (which in Miami means before most people knew what the Internet was). But did you see the last sentence of the entry? The part that says, "and went on tour with Skinny Puppy"? I mean, come on: Skinny Puppy. Even if that's the only thing OVS ever did, it would still make him more awesome than 99.9 percent of other people on the planet, let alone what passes for electronica artisans in most circles. But Von Schirach can stand on his own Korg. He is extremely prolific, having released nearly a dozen full-length works in the past five years alone (with great names such as Chopped Zombie Fungus, Well Suited for General Purpose Audio Work, and last year's Armpit Buffet). And he plays out a lot -- his recent appearances including a set at March's Noise Festival at Churchill's that culminated in cross-dressing and animal costumes. Von Schirach's music is surprising accessible and indescribable, a little of the Puppy's bluster cooled out with the intellect of Cabaret Voltaire, yet wholly original and mandatory for anyone who is into music, either seriously or just for fun, in South Florida.
Jude Thegenius (a.k.a. Jude Papaloko) draws much of his inspiration as a painter and musician from his youth in Haiti. "In Haiti, if you spoke out against the government, the police could come into your house at night, take you away, and you'd disappear forever," says Thegenius. Despite the high risk, Jude and a group of musicians and activists formed an organization called Sunshine and put on performances that were critical of the government. "The music was about revolt," Thegenius explains. "One day the police came in and started shooting." The police continued to put pressure on Sunshine, and in 1986 Jude left Haiti for Miami. Now, when he's not working on after-school art programs for kids in Miami's inner city, Jude plays percussion and does lead vocals for his band Loray Mistik at his art own gallery, Jakmel Art Gallery (147 NW 36th St.). Jakmel moved from its old location on Biscayne Boulevard, where in 2004 it won this paper's Best Place to Slow Dance. The new Jakmel is a warehouse Thegenius turned into a creative cultural center. There is a studio for painting, a gallery, a back-yard area with a small bar for parties, and a performance room with a stage and dance floor that Thegenius built himself. On Mondays at 7:00 p.m., the gallery hosts training for aspiring drummers. The Loray Mistik sound comes from a fusion of Haitian, African, and a bit of Brazilian music, with lyrics that are always thoughtful and politically conscious. Thegenius has appeared on two albums: Timounyo, which he recorded with his band, and Full Moon Energy, which he recorded with the Drum Society, with whom he began the Full Moon Drum Gathering. Thegenius writes all of his own songs, including the beautiful "The Life of the Poor Kids," inspired by "the thousands of poor kids who sleep in the streets of Haiti at night," he says.
LeNard Rutledge, born and raised in Miami, where there is only a handful of truly great jazz vocalists, is usually compared, aptly, to the legendary Lou Rawls. Like Rawls, Rutledge's classy elegance is often permeated by the raw passion of his church choir work. In fact Rutledge still sings with the choir at the historic Saint Agnes Episcopal Church in Overtown. "I'm religious, but not very. I drop the F-bomb when necessary," he says. Rutledge began not as a vocalist but as a drummer, playing in the marching band at Miami Central Senior High, and later making his income during college, in North Carolina, playing at local clubs. He began his vocal career in 1997, when he was asked to join the famed Melton Mustafa Orchestra, whose bandleader, the amazing trumpet player Melton Mustafa, was a member of the Count Basie band for seven years. In 2002 Rutledge was introduced to the music director of Miami's Van Dyke Café, Don Wilner, who immediately recognized Rutledge's talent and began giving him regular spots. "Don Wilner has a reputation of being difficult," Rutledge says, "but that's just because he wants the absolute best. I feel honored to sing there, because it means I'm up to those standards." Rutledge also performs at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and Emeril's Restaurant, and is working on his debut album, scheduled for release in June. For live performance dates, visit www.donwilner.com.
Skampida is as Skampida sounds: a stampede of positive Colombian ska that tramples right over you with energetic horns, rap solos, and pounding punky drums, all salted with traditional Colombian genres like cumbia and champeta. The nine-member band made its grand entrance into Miami last year with a bang of good vibes that quickly led to nightly collaborations with other bands on the Latin funk scene, including Locos Por Juana and Suenalo Sound System. In fact Skampida's openness and camaraderie is exactly what gives the group its unique sound. Back in Colombia, the bandmates collaborated with street musicians on the margins of society, often participating in festivals to help the poor. When they arrived as broke immigrants in Miami, that same commitment to the public paid off here. Skampida went from being a virtual stranger to an overnight success by continually passing the mike off to colleagues and fans as the band members improvised the music in the background. "The universe works for them because they work for the universe," commented Lizzie Easton, promoter of the Latin Funk Festival.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®