Why this dopey little, monkey-headed, acoustic-guitar-playing guy is selling gazillions of records is anybody's guess. Is it because he's just so damned likable, with his bare feet and his beach vibe? Or because he's just so damned cool, having grown up in Hawaii and then gone to film school and then made a bunch of surfing movies? Or is it because, in a post-Dave Matthews world, legions of white boys needed something to play?
Jack Johnson, 29, became a rock star by accident. Although he'd been jamming since the age of 14, he got serious about the guitar only because he needed a soundtrack for his 2000 surf documentary, Thicker Than Water, and the one that followed it in 2003, Jack Johnson: The September Sessions. He became friends with surfer/musician G. Love (of Special Sauce fame) and later with one of his favorite artists, Ben Harper. It was Harper who actually encouraged Johnson to get a band together and make a record. "I definitely thought it was going to be a little break from the surf films," Johnson recently told the Associated Press. "And then it grew into something we started doing for the next couple of years, and it's been off and on now for the last five years."
Johnson doesn't take himself too seriously: "It's kind of just feel-good music that's fun to make," he said. His next project is writing the soundtrack for a Curious George movie -- not your typical rock star's raging anthems. Johnson jokes that back home in Hawaii, he comes off as a little wilder: "It's so mellow over there, they actually consider my music to be cutting edge." Unfortunately, Johnson' s Tuesday-night show -- with the Animal Liberation Orchestra -- at Mizner Park Amphitheater (590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton) is sold out... but that's why God invented eBay! -- Deirdra Funcheon
Oh My Tosh!
A Florida Surfer Turned Comic
Sometimes stars do journalists' dirty work for them, letting an embarrassing fact or two slip right into their notebooks. Take comedian Daniel Tosh. This son of a preacher man and University of Central Florida graduate has done the Taco Bell endorsements, the Comedy Central special, the late shows (Letterman and Leno), and Last Call with Carson Daly (even Tosh can use a good laugh sometimes). But check Tosh's website and you'll notice something a little closer to home: a Miami-based, late-night, cable-TV show called Tens, in which the comic "interviewed" (we use that term very loosely) South Beach models. Tosh's method was equal parts ass-kissing (with a glimmering hope of getting laid) and gentle mockery. These days, the comic has turned his attention toward college students, cruising the university circuit and performing at more than 100 campuses a year. His return to South Florida, however, puts the comedian in his natural habitat, as Tosh performs Thursday through Sunday at the Improv Paradise Live (5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood). Tickets cost $12.72. Call 954-981-5653, or visit www.improvftl.com. -- Terra Sullivan
Pullin' the Plug
Hardcore turns softcore
Have you ever wondered what would happen if someone pulled the plug on a bunch of screamo bands? Well, this weekend at Ray's Downtown (519 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) is a return to the era of pre-electric rock 'n' roll, with 32 local bands settling into a chill scene for two days. The matinee show kicks off at 3 p.m. with a hardcore acoustic session in which Skunk Ape, Unstitched, the People Upstairs, and 13 other bands leave their amps at home. Sunday is the best of the South Florida acoustic scene, featuring Side Project, No Ka Oi, Meg Myers, and more. At 7 p.m., the stage belongs to Grateful Dead tribute band Crazy Fingers, which, by band members' estimate, has played more than 2,000 shows in Florida. The event is being recorded for a DVD and a double CD (scheduled for release this winter). So expect to sign a waiver in case your head gets in the camera's way. This could be your big break! Tickets cost $12. Call 561-835-1577, or visit www.toke1.com. -- Jake Smith
He's a Human Being!
Had John Merrick been alive today, the poor deceased soul known as the "Elephant Man" would probably be on a TV special about plastic surgery or a season of The Surreal Life. But Merrick grew up in 19th-century London, where his only recourse was to work as a side-show act, resigned to a life of ridicule. Before David Lynch made Merrick's tale a famous one in his 1980 film The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance told the same story in play form. Starting Thursday, local director Richard Jay Simon offers his own production at the Mosaic Theatre American Heritage Center for the Arts (12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation). 'Tis a sad tale, indeed -- but it's a good reminder that things could always be worse. The Elephant Man runs through September 18. Call 954-577-8243, or visit www.mosaictheatre.com. -- Jason Budjinski