Ear Infection

Greetings to our friends and fans, the Passion Seeds would like to invite you to our last show in South Florida. Next month we will be relocating to Boston, Massachusetts.... To all of our friends in the South Florida bands, press, radio, clubs and local scene -- thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support and comradeship.

That e-mail went out to people on the Passion Seeds' mailing list a week ago Wednesday, and South Florida's music fans, pop aficionados in particular, took a disappointing blow. Since mid-1997, the Passion Seeds, winners of New Times Broward*Palm Beach's 1999 Best Pop Band award, have been brightening clubs across South Florida with their sparklingly sentimental, intricately executed pop masterpieces.

The band's debut CD, Release, which came out last year, is a sterling document of the Passion Seeds' pop proclivities that many observers thought might push the band to the level of success of which it's so obviously capable. Unfortunately, in South Florida the conspicuous formulas for success in the industry don't usually work as they should. Put out a great record, relentlessly self-promote it, play festivals and conferences out of state as well as in clubs across the region -- such a plan of attack in South Florida just doesn't yield the same results it would elsewhere.

So for Zach Ziskin, songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for the Seeds, and drummer Steve Scully, the answer is Boston, a town Ziskin's familiar with from his days at the Berklee College of Music. The band recently returned from playing the NEMO Conference in Boston, where Ziskin says the response, from a crowd who'd never heard of the Passion Seeds, was overwhelming. "It's just incredible there," Ziskin says. "There's 200,000 college kids, everybody checks out shows, radio is supportive, the big stations pick up on the local bands. The scene is just so supportive of each other."

Ziskin was also encouraged to make the move by the Seeds' management and attorney, who're shopping around for the long-pursued label deal. "They thought we should move to a bigger market, where you can get a bigger buzz, and also it's a lot closer to New York, so we can hop out and showcase for the labels," Ziskin explains.

As easy as it is to blame South Florida's bands, clubs, and fans for the lack of opportunities here, Ziskin avoids pointing fingers and explains, "The difference is that up there [in Boston] everything is much more compact in terms of the scene; here everything's so spread out. You've gotta drive everywhere. In Boston you just take the T."

Ziskin et al. will be around our region a bit more, until the end of June, but the Passion Seeds' Florida incarnation breathed its last gasp at a Power Studios show last Saturday. With only Ziskin and Scully relocating, the other members will be replaced by some of the burgeoning legions of aspiring musicians in Beantown. To Ziskin and the Seeds: Thanks for the pretty music, and may the passion never leave ya.

Open-mic nights are legendary for their mostly mind-numbingly dull collections of acoustic folkies, second-rate poets, and middle-aged earth mothers sipping decaf lattes. But can the concept work in a rock club, with a punk rocker pickled in Pabst Blue Ribbon as the host? Most would assume that's a rhetorical question, but the Infection shits you not: Exactly such a scene prevailed Sunday night at Home, for Bobby Load's Open Mike & Ladies' Night. The Infection's immediate thought: Open mic seems like a weird idea for a bar that keeps copies of Popular Mechanics on top of the towel dispenser in the men's room.

After we pulled into the west parking lot of Home at 10 p.m., the chances of a balls-out, rock-drenched maelstrom of impromptu performances seemed grim. Under the towering Zeta billboard ("Have a hectic day!"), only one other car sat in the lot. Inside the front door, sitting at the bar, the host of the night's festivities, Bobby Load, frontman of local old-school punkers Load, nursed his can of Pabst and grumbled about the seemingly dismal turnout. Not even his own band members had shown up yet. But the Blue Ribbon had him philosophizing about the ideals behind the conception of the open-mic night. "I want fuckin' punk rockers in here, and if anybody sucks they're fuckin' off the stage," Bobby spouted with a sloppy grin. "If any hippies come up to read any goddamn poems about their cat, I'll kick their ass."

After about an hour, the remaining two members of Load showed, loading the band's equipment in and running through a disjointed sound check, Bobby using his can of Pabst as a guitar slide. After the sound check, the members convened at the bar again, and Bobby regaled a couple of observers with dirty jokes as he watched a small flurry of patrons, mostly friends of the band, filter in. Load took the stage first and busted out a cacophony of the eight-year-old band's patented anthemic punk. The 15 or so people gathered to watch roared their approval, and the band finished with Bobby screaming "Fuck off, baby!" and inviting any taker to step up.

The takers happened to be a friend of the band (who grabbed the bass), Load's bassist (who switched to guitar), and Bobby (who moved to the drum set). Throughout the night this revolving-door trend continued, until the Infection couldn't take any more improvisation and called it a night. The atmosphere of the night was that of a basement jam session at some punk collective house. Home certainly wasn't banking off it, due to the infinitesimal audience, but the "small group of friends" mentality of the night only made it more endearing. Here's to hoping that the open-mic nights continue at Home (every Sunday night) and open up an entirely new outlet for local punk-rock purveyors.

-- Brendan Kelley

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