Weather or Not

Paradise? Purgatory? In 2005, South Florida music was a little bit of both.

OK, people: No dwelling on that bitch Wilma. And no bitching about your dwelling in 2005. South Florida took some shots, both on the chin and at the bar, during another mercilously hectic, predictably unpredictable year. The real movers and shakers of the music scene are learning — slowly but surely — how to deal with the monumental hassle of hurricanes and the depressing lack of culture. How? By raising the rock 'n' roll banner, pissing off the politicos, and just going their own way.

Something Indie Air.It's a fact: The local indie-rock community really came alive in '05. Warhorse bands like the Freakin' Hott and Catalonia further refined their sound, newbies like Awesome New Republic and Baby Calendar emerged from the suddenly fertile Miami scene, and DJ nights like Crush, Flaunt, and Headquarters were packed to the chain-smoking gills. Score one for forward-thinking music fans. Our prediction for '06 is backlash: as an underground trend segues into a pop phenomenon and becomes less about the music and more about the accessories, keep a sharp stick ready for the clueless indiots who dilute the scene pool.

Signing Bonus.Finally! Proof that all those underpaid gigs at the Poor House and Respectables were worth it. This year saw several long-standing, hard-working locals get signed to reputable indie labels with national distribution. Broward's the Numb Ones took the step onto rock-revering Cleopatra Records out of L.A. Former rodeo legend John Ralston was picked up by Vagrant, home to old friend and admirer Chris Carrabba. From the streets of Fort Lauderdale, rapper Mike West jumped onboard new label Boy Boy Entertainment out of Atlanta, while white-hot R&B songbird Na'sha's debut, My Story, is being distributed by a branch of Sony/BMG. Residents know that South Florida is brimming with talent. Now the rest of the country gets to hear it too.

Hollywouldn't.In 2004, it was Frankel's fatwa on West Palm's Clematis Street that got our goat; in 05, Hollywood Mayor Mara "Vigilante" Guilianti gave the kiss of death to the last nightlife holdouts on Hollywood Boulevard. Well-loved dance club Sonar was forced to close its doors due to Madam Mayor's anti-DJ, yuppie-baiting ordinance, and the budding noise-hop scene at Club M was neutered like a feisty eunuch. As our public servants continue to terminate the youth culture that keeps local arts fresh, ready yourself for an onslaught of crappy cover bands, O'Hara's knockoffs, and the SUV-lovin', six-figure-makin', vacation-condo-buyin' stiffs that demand them.

Sunshine Daydream.With the year-round pristine weather (minus a Cat 4 or two every October) and plenty of open spaces, it's no wonder South Florida is fast becoming a premier locale for major outdoor festivals. Party caravans like Vans Warped Tour, Ozzfest, and Anger Management all passed through the area, but more important is the increasing number of home-grown festivals that are stepping up in size and scope. Miami's eclectic Bang! Festival did well its first time out, and in its third year, Sunrise's Langerado matured into a multiday, national-caliber event. Watch for an even bigger, better version in '06, as well as the inaugural Global Gathering going down at Bicentennial Park.

VMAimless. This August, as Broward's housing market bubbled like Kanye's ego and Hurricane Katrina skirted Florida like George W. through a news conference, MTV's Video Music Awards kept America's perception of South Florida perfectly shallow and glitz-errific. Thanks to intense civic marketing and cozy deals between the city and network execs, Miami is becoming Latino Las Vegas, with South Beach and Pitbull subbing for the Strip and Don Rickles. Gambling comes in the form of the iffy VMAs themselves: who's gonna win, who's gonna show some ass, who's gonna get shot? Suge Knight, of course, was this year's inside bet.

Jack in the Saddle.Before the acquiring of bling and our clamor for glamour, locals reveled in the ramshackle, barefoot funk of Old Florida: Sundays fishing off the pier (get 'er done now before the condos come), cruising lazily on your brother's sailboat, drinking domestic beers, taking in the life aquatic as only a grateful Floridian can. No one embodies that disappearing lifestyle better than head Parrot Head, Palm Beach millionaire singer/songwriter/novelist/friend to the manatees, Jimmy Buffett. When Buffett appeared onstage with mellow manchild Jack Johnson at an August concert in Boca Raton, the elder anointed the younger as the new minstrel to the sun-bronzed masses. In Johnson, the latest generation of Florida beach bums has a new troubadour.

Hard Rock on a Roll. Last year's version of this list found us bemoaning the dawn of the Seminole Hard Rock dynasty; we worried that the corporate-run, Indian-owned entertainment complex in West Broward would siphon partiers away from downtown Fort Lauderdale. Well, we were half right. Today, the two co-exist, catering to different crowds while remaining individually successful. The Seminole also stepped up its game significantly by opening the 5,000-plus-seat Hard Rock Live concert venue. Most bands booked have been of the Branson, Missouri/County Fair variety, but scheduled appearances by Death Cab for Cutie (unfortunately canceled by Wilma) and Tiesto (ditto) proved that the mega-strip-mall can attract real talent. As the place ages, it somehow seems to get more sophisticated, sort of like a fine wine. In a sprawling, neon-and-concrete bottle.

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