The Down Home Southernaires were rightfully beloved around town, with a truly multiculti blend of sounds that drew in the usual hipsters as well as other curious global sonic tourists. The group tackled swamp-rock, Afrobeat, gospel, soul, and even country with equal aplomb. It boasted the kind of catchy, sing-song vocals that could recall New and No Wave greats such as Talking Heads. Still, nothing gold can stay, and eventually the band, which had become a regular fixture at nearly every show at places including the now-defunct PS14, fizzled. Or so it seemed. What they were really doing was devising a master plan. The band was quietly reborn late last year as Animal Tropical. It's basically the same lineup, but with a new name and a new, sweeping ambition. Animal Tropical is now officially based in both Miami and New York, flying back and forth between cities in the hopes of playing more shows. It seems to be working. They have played local events such as Cinema Sounds and Sweat Records' five-year anniversary party. So consider it not a breakup but a breakthrough.
Sweat Records
Paolo Santosuosso
Sweat Records' five-year anniversary, dubbed Sweatstock, was certainly cause for celebration. In a city that hardly rewards independents, the continued success of the little-record-store-that-could is a symbol of hope for both the music retail business and Miami entrepreneurship. Thanks to the store's constant booster efforts for the local scenes, everyone has only good feelings about it, and every micro-scene converged on Sweat's fifth birthday party, held in the short, closed-off block adjacent to the store. For one day, crust punks, bicycle nuts, dance club hipsters, underground hip-hop lovers, freaks, and squares alike enjoyed a relaxed day of the best in local entertainment, fueled by cheap beer, cheap food, and a peaceful vibe. Things got progressively more rambunctious as the evening wore on, though, capped off by a set by the visiting punkish L.A. duo No Age, which incited dancing so feverish that various wires came unplugged every few minutes. It was a gleeful in-your-face to all the naysayers who write off the city's possibilities for live music and community-building.
Two years ago, jazz aficionados were aghast when WMIA dropped its jazz programming and changed its format. The new slogan: "Move to the Music." But since then, WMIA has turned itself into the Willy Wonka of local radio. It's an unapologetic dispenser of kitschy pop. When that afternoon lull comes around, DJ Sama pulls out enough saccharine to trigger an amphetamine-like rush: Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart" bleeds into Britney Spears's "Toxic," which bleeds into Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff." The jazz snobs might scoff, but who needs jazz when that cheeseball sonata comes on? During the rest of the day, the DJs flit between Gaga and Miley, but they really hit their glorious confectionery stride when they monkey-wrench the expected Top 40 playlist with some weird classic like "Relax." Keep it coming, WMIA. We want candy.
South Florida's airwaves are full of quality Caribbean music and cultural programming. You can catch brand-new choons, hours of reggae classics, Kreyol language broadcasts, and early-morning bashment music across the dial. But the premier station is 96.1 Mixx. This is where you'll find the streets of Miami, a gladiator school for Caribbean music DJs, and the dancehall/soca party circuit's headquarters. It's the very station where a young DJ Khaled made his Miami debut. From Cancer Hi Power's Warbeezy to Jah Stream, to Springer, Fergie, and Walshy Killa, Mixx's roster of daily spinners keeps the air horns blowing.
Run by a tiny rock chick named Nicole Irizarry, this local booking-slash-whatever agency made its debut with last year's first So Raw Festival. It starred peeps such as the Jacuzzi Boys, Melted Sunglasses, and Lil Daggers. Since then, Irizarry and her coconspirators have brought free beer and scuzzy garage punk to the Miami scene on a bimonthly basis. The whole thing culminates June 18 with the So Raw Fest. On the eve of this big moment, New Times spoke with Irizarry about party philosophy, piñatas, and pizza.New Times: What was So Raw created to protect?Irizarry: Fun on the cheap. We wanted to bring attention to the local music scene and show off everything we love and hate about Miami. If we had to protect something, it would probably be fritas and tallboys. NT: Can you recap the So Raw season so far?Irizarry: We've put on seven shows since the first festival. Because every show has been at a different venue, it's been pretty hectic. We've had all the bands cancel 20 minutes before the show. We've had fights. We've also had piñatas and a mummifying contest. All in all, it's been awesome.NT: What will So Raw Festival Part II look like?Irizarry: The truth for the 2010 scene is that we have a temporary store this year for the months of June and July, so we're gonna be able to represent even more music through record sales. We'll also have snacks and coffee. As far as the rest of the year, we've got more shows and more free stuff coming along. If we had to be clairvoyant, we'd say we would have our own venue/gallery space with unlimited free drinks and pizza, a pool table floating on top of a real pool, and one of those giant pianos you play with your feet, like in Big, in front of a light-up mural of Tom Hanks.
Boxwood (AKA Jose Ferrer) says he almost exists as two separate entities. There's the contemplative songwriter, at home in his warehouse space turned loft/studio, laying down each track of each song and penning thoughtful and often poignant lyrics that probe various aspects of the human condition. An examples is "There a Fire," in which he sings, "And I know these things are going to have to wait/By the time you wake up they'll be gone." And there's the artist you see at his captivating performances, where he constructs songs from scratch; the guy is a one-man band relying on an array of instruments and loop pedals as well as his own ingenuity. He's reluctant to become known for the latter, preferring to focus on his content. But to the outside observer, it's just more evidence of an incredibly creative and inventive songwriter and musician.
For the past couple of years, the solo musician born Eric Lopez-Zareno quietly built his presence on the local rock scene. For a while, he was known mainly as a journeyman player in any number of the low-fi, garage-inflected bands firing up along the Biscayne corridor. At the same time, though, he was perfecting the sonic brew of his own solo act, a usually one-man show that traverses rock, atmospheric psychedelia, and movie-score-style sounds, all steeped in an ever-present, creepy synth. And that's about as much as you can generalize about Teepee, who prides himself on never playing the same show twice. Some are straightforward solo affairs, in which he runs through shambling ditties with actual song structures. Other times, he aims squarely at left field, losing himself in wandering psilocybin jams. And sometimes his friends join him, when he circles back to shambling, three-chord, feel-good fuzz-rock. What he is, every time, though, is entertaining and unmatched in creativity by the usual boring acoustic-guitar strummers who otherwise crowd the "solo musician" field.
Local neo-folk act Raffa & Rainer's quirky, insightful, and downright haunting ditties of life and love leave little room on your palate for anything else. Comprising vocalist-guitarist Raffa Jo Harris and guitarist Rainer Davies, this duo has a sound that's delightfully campy and evocative of other idiosyncratic folk artists such as Kimya Dawson, Kate Micucci, and SoFla's own Rachel Goodrich. The foundation of their music is earnest and heartfelt songs crafted simply and beautifully. Check out last year's release, No Mercy (a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, considering their style), which includes "North Carolina Boys," "Umbrellas," and "Long Way Home." The album benefits from four well-worn years of experience, during which time locals have seen the band everywhere from Wynwood Social Club to White Room.
When naming the leader of the Latin jazz explosion in South Florida, look no further than Sammy Figueroa. He has played on myriad records, providing the rhythmic structure for several mainstream hits. Born in the Bronx and discovered at age 18 by legendary jazz flautist Herbie Mann, he relocated to South Florida in 2001, where he discovered a rich and diverse group of Latin jazz geniuses. The next year, Figueroa and his Latin Jazz Explosion band made their first appearance at the Hollywood Jazz Festival. Blessed with a smooth voice and extensive familiarity of jazz, Figueroa has also found a calling as a radio host. His show, Latin Jazz Quarter, airing every Friday afternoon on WDNA-FM (88.9), is one of the station's most popular. Figueroa not only plays Latin jazz but also allows listeners to experience the musical stylings of African drums, Middle Eastern folk, and Native American chants. At the end of 2008, he put together a band called Sally's Tomato, an ode to the music of Cal Tjader. With two Grammy nominations and appearances with Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Miles Davis, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie, Sammy Figueroa is truly jazz greatness.
Competition for top honors in this category was fierce. As the informal capital of Latin America, Miami-Dade has an ample assortment of música del sur. But Conjunto Progreso makes a hell of a strong case. A Cuban jam band through and through, Conjunto offers sumptuous son that any of the masters might envy. With multiple vocalists, guitar, bass, piano, bongos, congas, trumpets, tres, clave, cowbell (for which we have a fever — the only cure being more cowbell), and guiro (which actually has nothing to do with Jersey Shore), Conjunto is a full-blown orchestra. And the band sounds like it. Much like Tula leaving the candle on in her room, the descargas they throw down at all of their frequent local gigs could be deemed a fire hazard. They seriously light it up.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®