While Fourth of July celebrations all across our nation have been hijacked by hot dog-eating contests and superpotent fireworks displays that leave American suburbs buried under ash, the meaning of the holiday was not lost on Audio Junkie's Independence Day Bash at O Cinema.
Outdoor speakers blared, announcing to the streets of Wynwood that independence wasn't just about a historical fight against tyranny, but that independence also meant maintaining the artistic integrity of a close-knit local music scene in the face of looming cultural homogeneity.
The party started at 3 p.m., and thankfully, the forecasted rain showers didn't show up. Sunlight warmed the crowd. And nestled inside a small garage area just to the left of the entrance of the theater, The Anthropologists of Nosy Mangabe played pleasantly for sweating fans who watched the band play through a rainbow of differently colored Wayfarer sunglasses.
Inside the cooled confines of O Cinema, Audio Junkie's Episode X was screening. The film starred The Anthropologists themselves, playing nude in the Sunsport Gardens nudist colony.
The audience cheered at the wonderfully brave display, the girls baring their breasts in the middle of a clearing that could only be found in wildest parts of Florida. Most impressive was the band's keyboardist playing a ukelele fully nude, cock bouncing during the strongest strums. It all caused middle-aged men to giggle with discomfort.
As the screen went dark on the dangling dong, The Astrokats began their set. The three-piece tore in and out of dark chugging riffs and repetitive instrumental breakdowns hypnotizing the crowd into a false sense of musical security. Forefathers from the '90s like Dysrhythmia or Drive Like Jehu would've been proud.
After a short break featuring The Anthropologists and their Audio Junkie episode again, Maskera played on the inside stage. The four girls coupled with a lone male guitarist turned down the pace with an onslaught of sonic simplicity coupled with complicated lyrics on subjects ranging from nerdy boyfriends to schizophrenia.
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Between sets Audio Junkie's DJ Benton spun outside, while naked Anthropologists continued to jiggle on the screen inside. Then Arboles Libres took the stage. Lead singer Nacho looked like an extra from a telenovela. And on the opposite side of the stage, lead guitarist Eddie Spaghetti was hunched over a hollow body electric guitar.
And they tore it up. They tore it up like their parents were in the audience. In fact, Arboles Libres may have been the best part of the evening, imploring onlookers to get out of their seats to provide standing ovations or spontaneously start three-person mosh pits.
The free beer continued to flow, though it seemed like few were interested in the donation-only hot dogs on the grill.
Outside, aerial fireworks were launched from homes with boarded-up windows by partiers totally unconcerned with Miami-Dade County ordinances.
And meanwhile, Benton was beginning to bring together small groups of dancers by bringing down the house with The Velvet Underground.
Inside another band prepared to play. And the emcee of the evening, Greg of The Jellyfish Brothers, announced them.
"Toad Eyes is next, motherfuckers!" he yelled into the microphone as lead singer, keyboardist, and drummer Chris Dougnac changed into a dress in the background. Oddly, dude looked a lot like a young Gary Oldman.
The group of guys were accompanied by The Anthropologists' Virginia de las Pozas. They slipped between funk and Oingo Boingo as easily as they swapped instruments or changed band names. If they only had a saxaphone, they could've easily been mistaken for musical time travelers from 1987.
They pulled together a wild mob, only bested later by Deaf Poets, perhaps due in large part to the giant bottle of Jameson that was eagerly passed between thirsty partiers.
Dino Felipe and Ricardo Guerrero took the stage next, trading drum duties to play as either This Heart Electric or Dino Felipe. Heads bobbed to guitar strums. And even though the vocals were nearly inaudible, it didn't matter because the crowd already knew the songs.
By this time, the sun had already fallen behind the concrete Miami skyline, and rumor had it that the Audio Junkie bash's organizers were rushing to get the last bands onto the stages.
Deaf Poets took the inside stage, while the final bands began packing into the small space. The guitar-anddrum duo could easily and lazily be compared to icons like The White Stripes, Black Keys, or Eagles of Death Metal.
But like finding an awesome little hole-in-the-wall restaurant whose lunch special can be eaten every freaking day, Deaf Poets play a well-known and imitated style the exact right way. And the crowd felt it. They fell into the drum set, stepped on mike cables, pushed musicians into amps.
When the Poets finished, Dyslexic Postcards began to set up outside. And inside, Plains began to play. These bands are polar opposites on the rock spectrum. Nonetheless, each is a testament to the versatility of the Miami live music scene.
Dyslexic ended up playing so hard that the power shut off, microphones imploded, and garage doors broke. Just another day at the office for Joshua Xmas and his gang. Plains, on the other hand, managed to bring down the intensity of drunken revelers with a little pop-driven rock.
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After eight hours on the O Cinema grounds, it was time to leave. There were only a couple of bands left. (Sorry, Snakehole and Rat Bastard.)
In the patio area, cheap fireworks were lit, launching into the air. And outside the gates, a girl hiked her skirt up to her hips and peed on the sidewalk. The neighbors in the apartment complex next door bobbed their head in time to the loud music pouring out of O Cinema.
This was a Fourth of July celebration that made Miami proud. And it was all thanks to the guys and girls of Audio Junkie.