Cigar smoke, girls in tight Lycra dresses, and Nil Lara without shoes. Just another night in Miami-- uh, make that New York City. Lara's November 30 gig at downtown Manhattan's Mercury Lounge -- part of a recent East Coast tour -- attracted a large crowd that included representatives from Capitol Records, which is set to release Lara's major-label debut early next year.
The record company suits came prepared for the bilingual experience. One A&R exec -- who had flown in from Los Angeles -- showed his affinity for Cuban culture by exuberantly puffing on a Tiparillo. He and a friend were quick to announce Lara's current bass-heavy brand of hybrid rock "important," but another colleague seemed confused: "This isn't salsa!" he exclaimed after the third song in Lara's set. With several Miami musicians in attendance -- and even a few summer outfits spotted among the typically black-clad New Yorkers -- the evening recalled the glory days of South Beach's Stephen Talkhouse.
Feelings of nostalgia loomed again on the weekend when former Forget the Name front man Rene Alvarez and his band Sixo performed at the New Music Cafe on December 2. Alvarez, who has sheared his signature long locks in favor of a Roman bob, now lives in New York, where he seems to have attracted a local following with his strong alternative sound. Later that night at the venerable dive CBGB, fellow Miami emigrant Derek Murphy (formerly of Milk Can and Sixo) played furious drums with the band ICU, whose bald-headed female lead singer stopped screaming only long enough to deposit several large gobs of spit on the stage. (Judy Cantor)
Hark, the Herald Sitar Sings
If this year's crop of holiday-oriented compilation albums from the major labels doesn't exactly float your Xmas boat -- and let's face it, no matter how much spiced rum you pour into the eggnog, the prospect of an ode to peace and joy by White Zombie just doesn't cut it -- perhaps you'd be interested in a more modest effort by local sitarist Stephan Mikes.
A Sitar Christmas is a cassette release containing reverential renditions of such traditional holiday hymns as "Silent Night," "What Child Is This," "We Three Kings," and Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." There's also a Mikes-penned composition, "Season of Wonder," and an instrumental version of "Aarti," a traditional chant associated with the Hindu holiday of Diwali (Festival of Lights). The cassette is available at Mikes's performances and sells for eight dollars; you can catch him every Sunday in December from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at CocoWalk, 3015 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove.