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"I have to have a job by next week," Steve Rullman says matter-of-factly, slumped in front of a computer in his kitchen and flipping through the pages of a yellow notebook. The Delray Beach resident dabbles in all areas tangentially associated with music -- performing, producing, promoting, publishing, captaining various radio shows -- but mainly he spearheads a Website, theHoneyComb.com, designed to provide South Florida listeners with electronic access to what's cool and underground.
The site's motto is "Music That Matters."
"I guess I decide what matters," Rullman admits sheepishly. As a tastemaker in his late 20s, he's hard to fault; good taste in music, however, doesn't guarantee a steady paycheck. Today, he's wondering what he can do to make some cash to help pay bills, so he looks over his laundry list of possibilities: Working in a school of the arts would be cool. Bars opening up around town might need advice about music. "I could get a job at Borders talking to people," he figures. The Kravis Center or Mars Music Amphitheater may need his help. Maybe taking over the now-defunct Boca Pub would work. "Or I could just get another credit card," he says with a grin.
Finding work when your credentials basically add up to Signifier of All That Is Hip in Palm Beach County poses a problem or two: What can you put on your résumé: Impresario? Supreme Arbiter of Style? Just a few years back, Rullman worked for Fantasma Promotions as assistant to the special-events coordinator. Doing what? "A bunch of crap," he mumbles. For the past few years, he's worked behind the bar at Respectable Street, the 15-year-old nightclub that anchors Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. "I was the worst bartender in the world," continues the extremely soft-spoken Rullman, adding that the job provided him with "forced interaction with people." Not because he's shy, he clarifies; it's simply that "there's just a lot of people I don't want to talk to." In September 2001, he and Respectable Street owner Rodney Mayo started up a glossy magazine devoted to culture and politics, with both a national and local slant. After a high-profile start, Closer is still published monthly, but Rullman's duties have shifted.
"There were no guarantees," he spells out, "and one day you find out you're not doing as much." But the inaugural Closer included perhaps Rullman's crowning achievement: a 17-song CD, Soaking Up the Good Florida Sunshine, a compilation of noteworthy acts graced with a colorized photograph of his grandfather enjoying the titular activity. Although having to obtain a "real job" represents a rather sucky turn of events, since for so long he's been able to coast on his coolness, Rullman almost seems excited by the challenge. He even returned to Respectables to see if he could reland his old position at the bar. "Couldn't get it back, though," he says, "which is fine."
Only a few blocks from the center of downtown Delray Beach, where a man has climbed a ladder to string lights atop a towering Christmas tree, Rullman wiles away the afternoon in his duplex. The apartment is just a hop-skip from his frequent haunt Dada, another Mayo-owned nightclub/restaurant, where, as at Respectables, he books shows. Slouched on a couch, the goateed Rullman continues to ponder one timeless question: "How can you make money without going to work for SFX or Clear Channel?" That leads to further discourse regarding "the struggle" to foist coolness on the unenlightened, "and," as he muses, "if there is an ultimate payoff, what is it?"
The Beaches of Delray and Boynton have always been Rullman's home, save for the two times the big city (Atlanta) beckoned; on both occasions, he found himself quickly yanked back home by job opportunities. At first, he recalls, "I was a preppy kid." Later, in high school, he sang for bands, including one with a predilection for Rush covers. "I had to hit some really high notes," he winces.
Bringing punk bands to Palm Beach County as a young entrepreneur includes cherished memories of 200 kids cramming into a shopping plaza in Lantana for the Crumbs. AM radio shows followed in the early '90s, often in conjunction with partner Stephen Ballard. He helped manage a West Palm Beach record store, the Wormhole, which hosted infrequent performances, but with the Internet's possibilities, Rullman had scoped out the future and his alternative-music role within it.
When he began theHoneyComb.com Website in 1999, it was crudely homestyle. "The first versions were so raw, I wish I had screen captures," he reminisces, but the site has matured to include streaming audio and Internet radio, becoming perhaps the best source for on-line information about the South Florida music network. Last week, theHoneyComb.com unveiled a completely revamped site, with free classified ads, event listings, directions to clubs, links, news, and more. Finally, during this past summer, Rullman launched a record label as part of theHoneyComb.com monolith, with two local bands, Remember the Ocean and Pank Shovel (see Bandwidth), on the roster so far.
Clad in a black-sleeved baseball jersey, olive-green shorts, black socks, and black sneakers, Rullman can't resist mixing records even at home, fading the dubbed-out pulse of Sub Oslo into the static-ridden drone of Pole. He was wearing that same shirt -- or a reasonable facsimile -- when he arrived in Hollywood at the City Link Music Festival about 2:30 a.m. later this December week, taking pictures of Pank Shovel and lamenting the unscheduled absence of Remember the Ocean, whose singer was unable to leave Tennessee for the showcase.