"Having a beach in your backyard" is what novelist and New Times contributor David Rolland loved most about growing up on Key Biscayne in the '80s and '90s. It was a time of transition on the then-underdeveloped key. Original Mackle houses were being demolished and McMansions being built. A hint of wild, empty land still existed for curious kids to explore. And kids were everywhere. “It was kind of like Springfield in The Simpsons," Rolland says. "You couldn't go anywhere on the island without recognizing everyone... On first glance, it was an ideal childhood, but when you dug deeper, there were definite dark sides.”
Jay, a character in his new novel published by Jitney Books, The End of the Century, also grew up on the key. The book presents a perfect snapshot of South Florida around 1999 in an addictive narrative. The idea for the novel with a very personal setting came to Rolland while he was caring for his young daughter. "I was doing the most important thing in my life, co-rearing a child," he says. "[It] had me reminiscing about [a time] when I had the least responsibility in my life... It's amazing having that much freedom, but also a little bit dangerous, as Bobby McGee tried to warn us."
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To celebrate his book, the vibes it gives off, and that long-gone adolescent freedom, Rolland set up a '90s cover show with some of his favorite local acts at Gramps. Comedian Brian Kirk will tell topical jokes from the last decade of the 20th Century, and there might even be trivia that includes answers like, "We were on a break!"
Of the lineup, Rolland explains, “We have the chillwave of Monterrey, the rapper MC Jumanji, psych rock from Jaialai and Heavy Drag, and the funk of Xotic Yeyo." When New Times caught up with Xotic Yeyo on the way to Brooksville, Florida, to play Orange Blossom Jamboree, lead singer Stu Sauce said he was “superexcited” about the show. He remembers dancing around to Hanson’s “MMMBop" in the '90s, though Xotic Yeyo probably won’t perform that song Saturday night. “We’re going to play ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’ and Q-Tip’s 'Vibrant Thing.’ I like '90s music. It was simple; it’s just one chord,” he notes. “We’ve known David for a while. We know his style; it’s very Miami. That’s how we chose the songs too. We always want to play songs that really represent Miami. They need to be party songs. This just lent itself to what we do.”
Music is such a big part of the book and Rolland’s life that he crafted an unofficial soundtrack of songs from the '90s on Spotify. “In high school in the early '90s, I got to go to incredible concerts,” he recalls. There was Lollapalooza in 1992; the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, and A Tribe Called Quest in 1994; a Nirvana concert at Bayfront Park in 1993; and Radiohead at Cameo Theater. “The book definitely grew out of my memories of 1999 in Miami. It was a unique time, because with this fear of Y2K, there was the thought that nobody knew what the future would bring us. Would all the computers stop working? Would Jesus come back and save all our souls? Even the most cynical among us had in the back of our heads that maybe something crazy could happen. I also think setting a book in an era before cell phones allows for more dramatic tension."
The End of the Century '90s Cover Show. 9 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Gramps, 174 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Admission is free.