First up on the agenda was Thursday night's Women Rock showcase at the Cactus Cantina, which, after a few beers and/or Cuervo shots, is pronounced "Cactina." Last year, the Cactina was the site of one of the biggest surprises of the Mi-Rocks fest, a searing performance by Kathy Fleischman and Poetic Injustice. Apparently, P.I. forgot to get their anti-breakup shots and succumbed to the dreaded disease shortly thereafter.
Still, it was with high hopes that I arrived (fashionably tardy as usual) at the Tex-Mex venue, and was promptly informed that I had missed the opening set from Jodi and the Hautboys. A couple of H-bums that I ran into outside confessed that things had gone less than wonderfully, due in no small part to sound problems. Bad sound is like herpes to a musician - it might not kill you, but it can flare up and make your life miserable at the least opportune moments. I've stumbled into the Cactina on many a Sunday night, and have found Jodi and the Hautboys to be one of the few area bands capable of making good music and actually enjoying it at the same time. As if the sound problems weren't drag enough, it was also revealed that Ms. Jodi, a native Miamian and a fixture on the local acoustic scene, was about to depart for the nation's capital and a career as a singing bureaucrat. Who knows where that could lead - I hear the Prez has a weakness for C&W. Maybe one day we'll see Jodi and the Hautboys playing the Dan Quayle Inaugural Ball. For the time being, South Beach habitues are going to have to survive their Sunday nights without her.
On a more positive note, I did manage to arrive in time to hear a couple of tunes from Vesper Sparrow, and I am pleased to report that the band, once one of the area's premier acts before undergoing a rash of personnel changes, is back on track and approaching their old form. A reinvigorated Vesper could have been a tough act to follow, but the Wait were up to the challenge. Although all members were dressed primarily in black, there was no mistaking this band for the Wake - they turned the Cactina into a pressure cooker, quickly rising from a simmer to a boil and threatening to blow the lid off the place. The Wait's performance came as no surprise, as they have gradually built a rep as one of Miami's jammin'est, most consistent bands behind the one-two punch of Louis Lowy's songwriting and Diane Ward's heart-rending vocals. They were gracious enough to leave the joint standing long enough for Whig Party to gamely close out the show.
I began to compile a blacklist - a litany of all the people I met or saw at the event sporting the absence of color - partially because I was amazed by the number of folks who opted for maximum darkness, and partially as an excuse in case I got caught staring too long at one of the less conservatively dressed females in attendance. I'd be willing to hazard a guess that better than 70 percent of performers and attendees were attired, in all or in large part, in black. To my chaperone's dismay, many of these outfits were, shall we say, well-ventilated. I found it especially expedient to resort to the blacklist the following two nights at the Button South, where the barmaids wore dental-floss tonga bottoms and the female patrons favored the pumps-and-cleavage look.
I have to admit that I had, back in the days when I was a pathetic, lonesome, slobbering single male (before I found true love and permanent bliss in the state of holy matrimony), occasionally proved susceptible to the animal allure of strategically exposed flesh. I am therefore thankful to Ms. Jonelle, a fetching singer-songwriter who, along with Jim Baumann, performed an acoustic set at last year's Miami Rocks event, and who possesses a great deal of expertise in the field of simple-minded-male manipulation, for an object lesson in the power of T&A to reduce even the most macho of us to quivering masses of hormone-driven genetic Jell-O. I was standing at the back of the bar in the V.I.P. section, trying my damnedest to get the bartender's attention for the better part of ten minutes, when Jonelle interceded on my behalf. Sporting a skimpy black halter and a bare midriff beneath a lacy black bolero jacket, which could be left more or less open depending upon the situation at hand, Jonelle faced the bar and took a languorous drag on her Virginia Slim. Before she could exhale, the male bartenders were falling over each other to fetch her a drink. She nodded in my direction and I had a fresh long-neck in front of me in seconds. I believe that if I hadn't asked the guy how much I owed, he would have forgotten to charge me. Now that's power.