SoFla, So Good

A look back at the year in music

Call it wet, call it wild, just don't call it dull. 2004 was a year of ups and downs for the local music scene. Plenty of national attention was focused on our golden shores as awards shows flourished, celebs flaunted, and Mother Nature literally tore off the roof. Along the way, some great music happened too. There's no shortage of creative energy in South Florida, and it takes as many forms as there are out-of-town transplants. But if you know where to look, you're guaranteed to find something that'll juice your orange. Here's our top ten highlights of the year in music. (Compiled by New Times writers Deirdra Funcheon, Maggie-Margret, and Jonathan Zwickel.)

1. Making the scene.Tired of complaining about the lack of a cohesive arts community, several groups of enterprising young folks this year take the initiative and create their own. Put together by Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale students and acquainted visual artists and musicians, By the Way brings new life to old Broward County venues. In West Palm Beach, Smorgasbord Sundays at Ray's Downtown Blues keeps bands and fans coming back for seconds. Indie hip-hop gets a big boost from Audio Thrift Shop Records, which has been putting on all-ages b-boy blowouts and fostering up-and-coming talent. And when they say techno is dead (long live techno!), just point to the Euphoria Project, which anchors the local electronic scene with a full calendar of tightly produced 18-and-over dance events. (DF)

2. Rookie of the year.SoFla's go-to combo of glistening beaches and sultry nights is a natural aphrodisiac, but it's nothing compared to the cocoa-butter rubdown that Fort Lauderdale's Urban Mystic lays on the ears. Ghetto Revelations, the 20-year-old mack's debut on Miami's SoBe Entertainment label, brings hip-hop swagger and even a little spirituality back to R&B. His brash, youthful passion is irresistible, and his gospel-talking piety and gritty street smarts help balance his more playalistic tendencies (see the delicately titled "Fuck Song"). Urban Mystic (born Brandon Williams) might have arrived in '04, but by next year, we expect he'll be on top of the charts. (JZ)

3. Liquordale face-lift. After months of construction, Himmarshee finally pulls back the curtain to reveal a pair of promising new venues. Revolution breaks out a few months behind schedule and hosts some kickass shows (most recently the crowd-rocking Mos Def; we'll see you on the Mothership on New Year's). Around the corner, Automatic Slims keeps the drooling Aberzombies vexed by the S&M schoolbabes who sling cocktails while dancing for dollars. See? Something for everyone. And thanks to revamped streets and sidewalks, revelers can now bar-hop without twisting an ankle. (JZ)

4. What the El? Up-and-coming Lake Worth power-poppers Sevens, formerly Nines, formerly Vinyl, are forced to once again change their name. Something about "copyright issues," blah blah blah. The public offered them band name ideas that couldn't possibly already be taken, such as the Pickle Rides at Sundown. Somewhat surprisingly, they settled on El (not to be confused with E.L.O.). We're hoping that they call their first album Dorado or Camino. (MM)

5. Frankel rankles.We're still trying to figure out why West Palm Beach wants to bleed dry its long-suffering-but-still-kicking Clematis Street nightlife corridor. In March, the City Commission, led by Mayor Lois Frankel, passed a streetwide ban on anyone under 21 years old. In an impressive feat of Orwellian doublespeak, Frankel insisted such gestapo tactics were for the safety of the people they discriminate against. That's right, College Boy, you're a threat to the nice, liquor-buying gentry. Up in arms and low on customers, Clematis club owners fought the good fight the only way they knew how: putting on shows every weekend and hoping for some kind of divine miracle to rain Escalade-sized meteors on CityPlace. (DF)

6. Bow to Stern.The Buzz 103.1 pulled The Morning Buzzwith Mark Summers, Jenny, and Dahmer off the air after ten years and replaced them with Howard Stern. Protesters gathered outside the station with signs, but the station refused to acknowledge their pleas for the return of The Buzz. Remind us again: How does a man who talks to naked women whom listeners can't see have the biggest ratings in the history of radio? Pure genius, that's how. (MM)

7. Tuned in.Breath was bated when "The Heartbeat of the Caribbean," WAVS-AM (1170) in Davie, was bought by the Haitian-American-owned Alliance Broadcasting Network for a cool $2 mil. Some members of the Caribbean community feared that the new owners would abandon the all-English, mostly Jamaican format that's garnered the station widespread, grassroots support for 17 years. In the end, rather than alienate old listeners with Creole programming, brothers Manny and Jean Cherubin leave a good thing alone. Their business savvy and the station's continued success ensure that the WAVS profits will stay within the population it serves. (JZ)

8. Battle of the (fake) bands. Billy Boloby takes the stage at the Surf Café in Boca Raton on March 13 in the guise of Vanilla Friendship Bracelet, an '80s hair-metal band complete with costumes, wigs, and stage names. They never make it through the first song due to in-fighting, and a raucous bout of plastic sword-fighting ensues among band members. A few members of the audience, expecting a Billy Boloby show, demand their money back and storm out. (MM)

9. Between the Hard Rock and a marketplace. Clearly Riverwalk, Mizner Park, and CityPlace didn't offer enough brand-named shoppertainment for SoFla's acquisitive set. The solution: the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and its adjacent Seminole Paradise (damn, that's a mouthful) open a concert venue that lures lumbering casino-crowd faves like Hall and Oates, Cheap Trick, and Frank Sinatra Jr. at top-dollar ticket prices. Also on the property, two velvet-roped dance clubs attract international DJ talent. And watch out for the 5,600-seat Hard Rock Live opening in June. The new Hard Rock motto: "Love All, Serve All, Deal Me In." (JZ)

10. Spread the jam.Back in January, Jam Cruise I and II amassed a boatload of national talent and pulled off two successful oceangoing musical extravaganzas. The Langerado Music Festival followed right behind, stepping up with its best, most diverse lineup yet. Expect more fans to come out of the woodwork next year and more bands to make the trek south as the jam scene blossoms in South Florida. (JZ)

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