It's not easy being a musician in Vice City. The geographical challenge alone is enough to make any band go crazy.
Miami may never be called a musical epicenter. But when Radioboxer's Jota Dazza put out the call for fellow musicians to take part in the Florida Music Get Together, the local music community responded enthusiastically.
The event took place this past Tuesday at The Annex in Hialeah. Miami musicians, venue owners, promoters, and label bosses crammed into the small space to discuss ideas and solutions to help Miami's local live music scene grow and thrive.
The night started off casually, as a lot of familiar faces caught up while sipping Yuenglings and PBRs, or reading strangers' nametags. Around 9 p.m., Jota called the meeting to order.
Notable figures in attendance were Churchill's Pub owner Dave Daniels, local Miami legend Rat Bastard, and Forward Motion Records' Fernando Perdomo as well as The Annex and Humbert's Ferni Copiel and Tony Landa.
When the group finally came to attention, Jota hopped on stage to an explosion of applause and cat calls. He didn't speak long. But this was his main point: "There are people interested in seeing things come together."
The fact that the turnout was so large and so full of enthusiasm to improve "the scene" is a very positive sign that people are ready to pull themselves together to achieve a higher goal.
After Jota, Michael Mut of Electric Piquete grabbed the microphone.
"Newsrooms are shrinking."
Even though there were some shouts from the audience proclaiming that different news sources "suck," Michael provided some perspective, pointing out that there isn't the manpower in the news industry to cover any- and everything anymore. While there is a lot of alternative media, particularly blogs, it's unrealistic to expect journalists to be able to saturate the scene.
Following Mut, one of the meeting's most anticipated participants, Fernando Perdomo, got up on stage.
"We're not getting out there."
Perdomo, who tours nationally, finds that people in the rest of the country have no idea what's going on in Miami. He suggested watching the movie Hype, which shows how the Seattle music scene grew by bringing down out-of-town media people to cover local bands.
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"Why are there no marquees? ... We should stop being treated like second-class citizens."
Drawing from his experiences working and traveling around the rest of the country, Perdomo has noticed that clubs in other cities put the names of bands on big signs outside their venue. Of course, most people pointed out that Miami laws and ordinances are the main reason that venues are unable to promote in those ways.
Of all the speakers at the Florida Music Get Together, none held more weight than Dave Daniels. He has not only made a massive impact on Miami's music industry. His experiences go all the way back to his days in England where he worked with music icons like Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath, and Chuck Berry.
"Play as much as possible."
Dave spent a lot of time talking about the attitude bands have towards playing shows in the old days versus now. Nowadays, bands are hard-pressed to play more than two or three times per month. Whereas before, in England, a semi-professional band would play 20 dates per month, and professional bands would play over 30 dates per month, including an evening show and a late-night show. A lot of bands in Miami turn down gigs, even opening spots for national acts, if they have another gig the week before or after.
"It will cost money to do what you do."
He spoke about paying Eric Clapton 50 pounds to play or Black Sabbath between thirty and forty pounds. Playing music will mean bands have to take the chance of losing a lot of money chasing their passions.
"You'll probably have to leave Miami to make it."
After Daniels got off stage, several other people spoke, covering a lot of the topics and reinforcing what the previous speakers brought up. Steve Malagodi, formerly of WLRN, spoke on the fall of media's community responsibility, and Rat Bastard made sure the entire room understood that "you gotta be good" and told everyone in the room to stop self-promoting.
Other speakers included Meagan Tarantelli of White Wings, John of Jolt Radio, Ferni, and Kyle Pineda of FIU's Radiate FM.
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Overall, the speakers were on their best behavior, not resorting to the usual negativity or complaints, except for a brief moment when someone in the crowd called out to "fuck" a certain promoter.
It was disappointing that none of Miami's bigger local acts like Rachel Goodrich, Awesome New Republic, Surfer Blood, Jacuzzi Boys, or !Mayday! made it out to the event. Maybe it was the informal nature of the gathering. Or maybe it was because they didn't even find out about the event. Either way, it would have made an impact to hear their perspective on making it in Miami.
Of course, the Florida Music Get Together won't be judged by the meeting itself. But rather, if it had any long term impact, it's still a promising sign that Miami's local music scene continues to fight to be become bigger and better, especially in the face of nearly impossible odds.