Angsty teenagers think it's cool to be weird, but they don't necessarily understand what it's like to actually be weird. It's not just about dyeing your hair neon colors or wearing lipstick shades at odds with trends: Being weird means you are profoundly socially awkward, part feral, powerfully obnoxious, and, if you're fortunate, also irresistibly talented and lovable. Miami's Jeff Rollason, creator of the long-running Night of Weirds, is all of those things. Since 2007, his wife and Curious Hair bandmate Max Kane have unconditionally supported a community of other gifted and maladjusted experimental musicians as well as their fans.
In this weirdest of political times, Rollason and Kane are set to put on a show in honor of their preferred presidential candidate — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders — at the seedy Biscayne Boulevard gay joint Jamboree Lounge. The Sunday, February 9, afternoon show will serve as a get-out-the-vote event for Sanders, a typical Night of Weirds, and an International Noise Conference postparty.
Rollason says he feels the Bern because "he's honest, a champion of the people, and ferociously anticorruption." Rollason encourages people to donate to the campaign, but "this is not a fundraiser. Unfortunately, we cannot collect cash for Bernie — it violates FEC rules... This is just a party for Bernie. There will be voter registration, change of party affiliation, and honk-and-wave."
The first time I attended a Night of Weirds event at Churchill's Pub long ago, I fell in love with the tongue-in-cheek attitude and irreverence of it all. Being part of a so-called weird community of assholes — in the most loving sense — made me feel at home. The feeling that you can be honest and your wildest self around a larger community that'll continue to accept you despite your occasional indiscretions can be soul-stirring.
Sasha Weisfeld shared a similar sentiment in a 2008 article he wrote for Miami New Times about what was planned to be the final Night of Weirds. "I have been called weird many times before by peers, co-workers, and friends, but never in a way that endeared me to them and never in a way that included me in something," he wrote. Weisfeld used to attend and perform at Rollason's former night at Churchill's, Real Rock. "Jeff Rollason’s nights have always been my favorite," he penned. "He books acts that he likes and he seems to enjoy every show even the ones that are giant train wrecks. I love him. When you played Real Rock at Churchill’s you felt like you were real rock. Night of Weirds is even better because we can just show up being who we are — weird!"
Rollason moved the party around over the years — from Churchill's Pub to the American Legion to the former Upper Eastside Garden for an event themed "Return of the Living Weirds" featuring the duo Tyger Beat. I used to have a dance night at the now-defunct Lester's in Wynwood called Flute Salad. On one occasion, the two parties came together for a night that encouraged attendees to dress up like senior citizens. Musician Ryan Welch — my partner and the father of my child — has performed at Weirds since the beginning and is set to play at Sunday's Sanders-themed party under the moniker Spaced Out, USA. He points out that Night of Weirds is populated by proudly rowdy assholes, which means these shows are generally not everyone's cup of tea. At the aforementioned Lester's event, for instance, I vaguely remember someone was going to set off fireworks as part of their performance. "I'm sure some people dreaded Weirds happening at their place," Welch says of venue owners.
He adds that the spirit of Weirds is bigger than just being deliberately provocative, though. "It's a small underground community that doesn't take itself seriously but is serious about having fun and keeping Miami's music weird," Welch says. "Being friends with these people and doing these shows over the years is a big reason I love Miami so much."
Rollason notes that despite the many changes in the Magic City's landscape in recent years, "Miami is as weird as it ever was."
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In December 2012, I turned 33 1/3 years old, prompting all-time Miami weirdo and International Noise Conference mastermind Rat Bastard to use my not-quite birthday as an excuse to throw a shindig at Churchill's Pub under the Night of Weirds umbrella. A vinyl LP rotates 33 1/3 times per minute, so why the fuck not? It was an epic night for me: The lineup was stacked and included the great bassist Henry Rajan, experimental performer Nick Klein, and Roy Hunter, of the band Ice Cream, on autoharp. Rollason couldn't make it, so Kane dressed up as him: wearing a trucker hat and a red beard.
Many of the acts that performed at the earliest Weirds shows have played a variety of parties under many names since. All of them — such as the prolific Dino Felipe, the late Dan Hosker, Rat Bastard, and Rick "Fantasies" Diaz of Audrey Horny — have helped to shape Miami's underground, experimental scene in ways both subtle and overt. The Bernie Party will include some names very familiar to the Weirds lineups: dreamy duo Dracula; Spaced Out, USA (AKA Ryan Welch); Rat Bastard; No Milk; Rick Fantasies; Wraithaeon, Sweating Pipe; and Doris Day Is Dead. Rollason calls it an all-star lineup. But isn't it always at Weirds?
As he always says to promote his shows: "Free show. Don't go."
Night of Weirds: Bernie Party. 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 9, at Jamboree Lounge, 7005 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-328-9474; facebook.com/jamboreelounge. Admission is free.