The Fest-Laid Plans

The City Link Music Festival goes south, and Bandwidth sheds a tear

Because people down here can be right nasty -- pocketing money promised to families of dead firemen or feeding false information to the public about West Nile viruses running roughshod at fun-filled street festivals -- it's a miracle any good gets accomplished at all. That's why the annual City Link Music Festival is about the most looked-forward-to event of the year, musically speaking. It's reliable. It's a blast. Momentarily, it makes it look as if we don't live in a gawd-forsaken, strip-mined, culturally desolate hellhole. This year will similarly chase away the ennui, but don't count on the old standby to play it safe, as the music fest is uprooting from its long-time home on Himmarshee Street in olde towne Fort Lauderdale in favor of a more hospitable (and much closer to Miami) home: Young Circle in the heart of downtown Hollywood.

Changing the location is certain to alter the flavor of the famed festivities, but it's also a slap across the cheeks of Fort Lauderdale's City Commission, which, back in the summer of 2000, organized a witchhunt on nightlife and ostracized the 18-to-21 age group. They're still threatening to roll back last call across town. Thanks to the whims of the blue-blooded old-fart tribunal that decides what's acceptable fun for tourists and locals alike, Fort Lauderdale's bars and clubs won't make a dime during this street bash; instead, Hollywood's will.

But the businesses are unlikely to care. Five years ago, Himmarshee was old- fogeyville, in desperate need of the cash the festival pumped in. Now, the street is lined with self-sufficient nightclubs and bars that gradually came to view the throngs as a nuisance.

In the past, the street-crawling bash suffered from congestion that worsened each year. Parking and movement in the area were virtually impossible, but that just added to the feeling that the event had relevance and raw power. And last year, there was the matter of several Himmarshee watering holes acting like poor sports when it came to hosting a few of the region's more challenging performers, rudely curtailing already short sets because some boneheaded bouncer was worried that not enough Bud Lights were being sold per hour -- in direct violation of the Geneva Convention. And remember, this rampant capitalism was in effect far before our local economy had been ravaged.

We'll miss the Himmarshee location and doubt whether Young Circle will be able to duplicate the zoo that downtown Fort Lauderdale became. Being shoved around while drunk and needing to urinate while music pumps from all directions is what being an American is all about. And we'll miss paying only $5 for a wristband -- it's going up to $10 this year, which will weed out some of the fence-sitters and probably turn the event into more of a yuppie block party than it already is.

Which brings us to what now must be admitted as a Bandwidth faux pas of almost incomprehensible proportions: Yours truly came down hard on the management of Tarpon Bend last December in an uncharacteristically shortsighted and knee-jerky fashion. See, this middle-of-the-road venue, which usually caters to unsuspecting tourists (or locals who suspect but aren't sharp enough to know better), stopped a few bands in midperformance at the Music Festival because they were reportedly driving away customers. In the spirit of solidarity with all oppressed people in general, I lambasted employee Chuck O'Connor in particular for being such a douchebag to the bands Trash Monkeys and Neptune B.

Bandwidth hurled invectives at O'Connor, drawing unflattering comparisons between him and Chuck Barris, while defending Neptune B as "quirky, angular, but far from strident or dissonant." That far-too-favorable assessment was based on the band's eponymous CD sitting in a drawer at work. Last year, I had never seen Neptune B; I wish I'd never written a word in the band's defense, because now I've seen the band twice, which is at least two times too many.

Bandwidth's most recent and most awful run-in with Neptune B was November 9 at the Fusion Art Exhibit held at Fort Lauderdale's historic River House. This past summer, I had also witnessed Neptune B and, distracted by a barrage of shots and nudity, I don't remember the trio being so actively bad. Then again, I don't remember much at all.

This last time was different. I remember an outlandishly mediocre trio that wouldn't know a dynamic if it clubbed them over the head and dragged them home. What Neptune B is trying to do, or what they think they're trying to do, is utterly beyond me, but it sounds like one big, shouted, incomprehensible, indistinguishable clamor.

So now, with a major-league mea culpa, Bandwidth must acknowledge an egregious error in doubting O'Connor's taste in music and taking him to task for what now turns out to have been a most judicious censorship indeed. Although no one should ever make the mistake of entering Tarpon Bend expecting to be served anything of quality (the place is, after all, a glorified Bennigan's, except with more stuffed sea critters), inflicting Neptune B on patrons or passersby is cruel and unusual punishment indeed, and it's now obvious Tarpon Bend was actually performing a public service that evening.

 
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