Before the floats and stilt walkers. Before the riot police. Before one Starbuck's window is smashed with a brick. Before all the antiglobalization hoopla that will come with Miami's FTAA meeting, the "Tell Us the Truth Tour" kicks things off Wednesday with a concert at the People's Gala for Global Justice, held at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre (corner of Biscayne Boulevard and NW First Avenue, Miami) from 7 to 11 p.m. An inclusive umbrella of artists covers the usual salsa and Caribbean bands endemic to concert festivals in Miami, but the highlight is the Tell Us the Truth Tour. The tour includes Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Lester Chambers, and Tom Morello.
These folks need no introduction to the antiestablishment crowd, but for the rest of you, here's this: Bragg was the folk hero of the 1980s and early 1990s with albums such as Talking with the Taxman About Poetry and Don't Try This at Home. He came back into the spotlight by teaming up with alt-country darlings Wilco to record two albums of Woody Guthrie lyrics coupled with Bragg music, all with the Guthrie family seal of approval through the thumbs up of Woody's daughter Nora. Mermaid Avenue, volumes one and two, passed the Guthrie folk-hero crown on to the British troubadour in many ways.
Chambers, a member of the 1960s psychedelic soul outfit the Chambers Brothers, has gone on to establish himself as one of the best soul singers alive today. His 1960s hippie cachet lends him some authenticity with the antiglobalization neohippie crowd.
Earle showed his true colors with his most recent album, Jerusalem. After bringing alienated country fans back into the fold with a mid-1990s comeback that included plenty of country and even a bluegrass album, Earle pissed them all off with songs off the 2002 release, including "Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)" and "John Walker's Blues."
And finally, there's Morello (above), he of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame. Given his status as a Rage alumnus and his statements in interviews, Morello's leftist antiestablishment cred is completely without doubt.
Best of all, in the beloved tradition of the power-to-the-people movement, the concert is free. Call 305-358-7550. -- Dan Sweeney
Insert Warm Fuzzy Feeling Here
In the verdant sonic pastures of South Florida, bands bloom and wilt faster than you can say "side project." Blame it on the heat or blame it on the rain, but singer and guitarist Keith Michaud, formerly of Maypop, decided to take matters into his own hands. "I conceived Summer Blanket after self-releasing a demo to friends and to audiences at shows," he says. "I wanted to have a real band project where collaborators would add to what I'd already written, and it happened that an enormously talented musician named Jon Wilkins [Summer Blanket drummer and member of See Venus] was interested in pursuing the same type of project." From there, Keith and Jon started recording with fellow musicians Matt Cohen of Whirlaway and Chris Moll of See Venus. "It's Jon and me full-time, then a bunch of musicians playing with the two of us live and sometimes sprouting a few solo acoustic songs, much like the album." And Summer Blanket's debut CD, Charm Wrestling, stretches those heart-on-your-sleeve confessionals (and not the Dashboard type) over a big comfy bed of acoustic guitar. Check out the release party at 9 p.m. at Respectable Street, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-9999. -- Audra Schroeder
Climb Every Mountain
Mountain of Venus combines improv rock with a wail of a singer
Mountain of Venus provides one enigma right from the outset: Founded in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 1999, the group sounds as if it has been together for at least a decade. A move to Boston a few years ago may have been the impetus for that, as the newly formed band was forced to get real good real quick to compete in the flooded music market of Beantown. Perhaps the highlight of the group is female lead singer Tanya Shylock, who shares vocal duties with Jody Cohen, also the band's rhythm guitarist and songwriter. Should MOV gain a more mainstream notice, Shylock may go on to be regarded as one of the better white female soul singers out there today, even though she sings in a rock 'n' roll band. See for yourself as Mountain of Venus plays Alligator Alley (1321 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park) Thursday at 10 p.m. Tickets cost $5, and the show is limited to age 21 and older. Call 954-771-2220. -- Dan Sweeney
Opening Night at the Opera
Yes, the blistering hot months of summer and early autumn are behind us, and that means more of just about everything. More tourists, more traffic, and more glass-shattering high C notes. That last bit, of course, because opera season has come around once again. The Florida Grand Opera kicks off its season Saturday with the opening of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata at the Miami-Dade Auditorium (2901 W. Flagler St., Miami) at 7 p.m. Further shows include November 18, 21, and 29 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on November 23. La Traviata comes to Fort Lauderdale at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (200 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale) on December 11 and 13. Tickets cost $19 to $135. Call 800-741-1010. -- Dan Sweeney