Eric Garcia has his fair share of issues with Miami. Like so many of us who call Dade County home, the lead singer and harp virtuoso of the blues band Juke has a love/hate relationship with our city.
Fortunately for him, he’s one of the lucky ones who’s found a healthy and legal method of dealing with it — through his ever-evolving gang of blues brothers, Juke.
But Garcia, who contributes to New Times music and recently wrote about the issue of live music in Miami and the recent closings of some of this city's best venues, can see the bright side of Miami too.
“You know, I hate myself for saying this, but as much as I try to hate Miami, I’m starting to like it,” Garcia says. It's not the easiest thing for Garcia to say aloud. But his complicated relationship with the city makes more sense when you know what brought him here. Unlike the Russian billionaires or Eastern European models who flock to Miami for the promise of sunburnt excess, Garcia moved to the city to help tend to his mother while she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. These days, Garcia still finds time for Juke and music, no matter how frustrating it may be.
Juke's latest EP, The Jungle House Sessions, is the band's third studio effort and is due out on September 19. It could very well be Garcia's most artistically satisfying project thus far.
The EP's title refers to his own home, which is stashed away in a surprisingly secluded section of South Miami, surrounded by palm trees and mangrove canopies. It was also where the record was recorded. The do-it-yourself recording style of this EP is a deliberate departure from an overly polished studio approach, which — in the past — has failed to capture both the band’s electric live show energy and Garcia's skills as one of the best harmonica players in South Florida.
For some singer/songwriters, frequent alterations in band membership would lead to crippling artistic fatigue, particularly if their band’s lineup had changed even since the recording of this EP. But when he says “Shit, half of Miami has played in Juke,” it sounds like Garcia has learned to take his band’s constant evolution in stride.
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In fact, aside from the reluctant departure of guitarist Evan Lamb immediately after following the Jungle House Sessions — whose partnership he clearly misses — Garcia looks upon Juke's entirely new lineup as a challenge to be met head-on. “I love the constant change," he says. Garcia couldn't be prouder of Juke's current iteration, which consists of Danny Hayoun on guitar, drummer Brian Lange, and bassist and keyboard player Max Farber. Evan Lamb will be flying in for Juke's show on the 19th as well.
While some Miami patrons know Juke only as a bar band, its significance in parts farther north is much larger. This band, which is still struggling as a blues act within the 305, has become a regular on several festival circuits, including the panhandle’s Wanee Festival, where thousands of blues, rock, jam band, and Americana fans gather to watch them onstage. Dozens often pull Garcia aside after the show to share their own personal stories about dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
But despite it all, Juke is here to stay. And if you haven’t gotten to know the band before it finally goes off to find greater appreciation elsewhere, it'll be your loss.
Juke's EP Release Party. 9 p.m. Saturday, September 19, at Blackbird Ordinary, 729 SW First Ave., Miami; 305-671-3307; blackbirdordinary.com. Admission is free.