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The politics of slam-dancing: Thoughtful fun visited FU*BAR in Fort Lauderdale on April 5 when Boy Sets Fire, a rather intelligent punk-rock act from Delaware, showed up to play an all-ages show with locals the Agency and Poison the Well. The small crowd -- maybe 150 kids -- got more than they expected. Yes, they received an earful of the band's roaringly melodic punk, which tapped into the same unstoppable energy that got bands like Hüsker Dü off the ground years ago. But instead of just knocking off songs, frontman Nathan Gray focused energies on between-song banter, which alternated between political posturing and pissing off the mosh pit.
After shouting his way through the immensely satisfying "Hometown Report Card," Gray leaned on the mic and addressed the crowd. "I see some of you getting into it, and that's cool. But some of you're just standing there, looking bored, and we just can't have that. I'm sorry," he said with an impish grin, "but if I see you just standing there with your arms folded across your chest, I'm going to have to pick on you."
That continued unabated all evening, with Gray delighting in making lazy patrons uncomfortable. The sheer volume made anyone not wearing protective earplugs uncomfortable, too, though to be fair, this is possibly the most stratospheric punk music to emerge in the last several years. Boy Sets Fire was just signed to Chicago indie label Victory Records, and this tour coincided with the release of their new After the Eulogy album.
Eventually Gray's between-song diatribes began to last as long as the songs themselves, but they also turned more serious. But whereas most bands from this scene aren't capable of articulating exactly why they're pissed off, Boy Sets Fire creates a public forum for debate.
"This punk-rock world of ours is too comfortable," Gray told the crowd. "But we can't isolate ourselves to what's going on in the world outside. We've got to take these words and actions out there!" Of course this kind of polemic did alienate the kids who were there to get rowdy -- "This isn't Larry King!" was heard from the disgruntled more than once. But Gray wasn't about to be silenced. And when he wasn't singing or pleading with the audience to start recycling, he could count on Matt Krupanski to carry on the lecture from his bully pulpit behind the drum kit.
Not many youthful punk bands, one would imagine, are aware of what last fall's riots in Seattle were all about, much less being able to distill the ethics of the World Trade Organization down to bite-sized nuggets that even backward-baseball-cap-wearing 17-year-olds can chew on. Being purposefully annoying and self-righteously patronizing seems bound to backfire, but Boy Sets Fire has an advantage -- sitting through a sanctimonious spiel is worth it if you know another cathartic, fist-pumping moment is on the way. In a town like Fort Lauderdale, where grassroots political activism is about as popular as snowboarding, Boy Sets Fire was an interesting change of pace.
Imagine a high-speed collision between heavy-metal pounding and New-Age bliss. Sounds frightening on paper, but the actual meeting of the minds may prove otherwise. The Flautist Known as Silver Nightingale is planning a "Sacred Sites Journey," a sort of musical/spiritual quest that requires visiting historic locales in England and France to record some music. Wilton Manors' Nightingale, who goes by Laura Sue Wilansky when she's not flute-tootin', has found an unusual volunteer willing to help generate some fundage for her trip. Pompano Beach's Strych-Nine had already planned a show at the Roxy in Fort Lauderdale this week, and when bassist Stevie G. heard of Nightingale's plan, the group decided to donate the show's proceeds to Nightingale's travel budget.
"She's a full-time, 100 percent musician, she's a friend, and I'm just a nice person," G spelled out last week. "Helping her isn't going to cost my band anything. It'll cost us a bar tab."
On the surface Strych-Nine , whose repertoire includes ditties like "War" (a "state of the art, military-style thrasher"), and Nightingale's Celtic/Native American/classical stylings may clash; however, the participants don't expect a train wreck. "I don't feel that what I do has much in common with what Steve does, but I really do like the band," said Wilansky. "I mean, sincerely. I think they're a great band, and I happen to like metal, which is something people might not know about me."
"Sure, I may like hard rock and heavy metal, but I like classical, too," agreed G. "People might go to see two radically different styles of music and enjoy both."
Wilansky and G. met via the Musician's Support Network, a loose-knit local coalition of musicians, singers, and songwriters that meets monthly. Wilansky began the group to get local acts to cooperate rather than compete.
Wilansky says her support group is based in the tenets of positive thinking and self-actualization, and G. evidently came away with a full dose. "Our band's realistic on this," he explained. "The $25 or $50 -- or even $100 or $200 we get sometimes for a gig -- that's a pittance, a drop in the bucket. That pays for a few drumsticks and a bar tab. This way the money's going to a worthy cause, and it's sparking some interest in the community." As well it should, simply for the attempt to join such diverse forces. "Especially this diverse," laughed G. "I mean, she is totally Celtic!"
Silver Nightingale sounded excited. "They're going to turn me up really loud," she promises.
Expect the show to include a Silver Nightingale warm-up before Strych-Nine takes the stage. Nightingale will sit in on four songs, including a number to be dedicated to Matthew Collins, the Fort Lauderdale guitarist whose burned corpse was discovered two weeks ago.
If it's in your heart to help out with the Send a Flautist to Stonehenge program, get down to the Roxy, 4000 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, for the 8:30 p.m. show Friday, April 21. Seven dollars gets you in the door and helps put Silver Nightingale on a transatlantic flight.
Contact Jeff Stratton at his e-mail address: email@example.com