Beatcomber

... With an Achin' in My Heart

It was recently brought to my attention that there's a strong element of ambivalence in the stuff I write. Not of the apathetic variety but the kind that's anxious with powerful, contradictory feelings pulling in opposite directions.

Right on.

It's been my goal to use this space to genuinely validate South Florida's music scene as both a supporter and critic. The only way that's done fairly is by weighing the good and the bad side by side. I've been generous with praise, but I've been generous with scorn too. Hell, at least I'm generous.

And I'm not gonna switch streams now. This is the final Beatcomber you'll find in this scrappy rag; I'm heading to the trembling vistas and fantastic burritos of San Francisco to follow my fate. I look at that fact with the same ol' anxiety — I'm happy to move on but know this place is still crawling with untold stories. My successor, lifetime South Florida resident and rock 'n' roll major-domo Jason Budjinski, is certainly up to finding them.

Since I was a teenager at Suncoast High in Riviera Beach, I never understood the treatment South Florida gives its creative community. We want this place to be a cultural hub, a sophisticated destination, but that desire extends primarily to mass-produced, MTV-sanctioned entertainment. We like the idea of homegrown talent but do little to nurture it. This place is so rife with contradictions, it's no wonder long-timers have developed a love/hate condition that's almost terminal.

A few that come to mind:

Our concert crowds are some of the most enthusiastic in the country, and locals go especially nuts for open-air shows. Which is awesome. What isn't so awesome is when beer-fueled yahoos forget that there's actually a show happening. Settle down, Duffman. It's Wilco, not Spring Break '84.

One of our greatest assets is the abundance of Caribbean radio programming, both legal and pirate. Lynks FM is probably the best reggae station in the United States, and you can find plenty of other Jamaican, Creole, and Hispanic music all over the dial. So, OK — I know it's a cultural thing, but why do Caribbean DJs have to turn down the music to holler patois over it, blow canned airhorns over it, and generally kill it with disrespect?

The versatile, stylish crown jewel of Broward's live music scene, Revolution is nearly a world-class venue. Culture Room might be in its shadow, but that keeps it firmly, powerfully underground-oriented. Unfortunately, both places sacrifice serious vibe points by packing in fans so tightly that breathing becomes a luxury. Revolution's weak outdoor sound system doesn't help either.

Whenever someone asks what the hell was wrong with the local scene (which was way too often), the best answer I can give is the lack of venues. You can count on one hand the real live music clubs between Hollywood and North Palm Beach. I'm not talking sports bar/Irish pub/coffeehouse/storage unit-cum-venues with no stage and a borrowed PA but quality rooms dedicated to music. Without TVs. With no physical hangouts, there can be no physical scene to support. But there is something supercool about seeing punk rock at a hotel swimming pool.

Years ago, when I was learning to surf, it was explained to me that South Florida's ocean conditions are so temperamental, the waves so crappy, that if you learn here, you can apply your skills anywhere. It's the same with the music scene here — raise yourself, your band, your weekly live music night up out of the muck despite the gravity pulling it down into obscurity and you've truly succeeded.

Many have, and they deserve serious props:

Judy Blem, Rocker Mom. Garo and Yvonne from BTW. Dominic Sirianni, maybe the most voracious music fan I've ever met. Sharon and Greg at the Culture Room and Jackie at Revolution. Desmond and Ital-K, reggae ringleaders. Jasper and the Audio Thrift Shop crew, plus Paul and Duncan, artists who move butts. Mike at LoFi. Russell and Roland at the Bamboo Room, who established Lake Worth as a roots music hot spot, and Mike Jones who made it a landing pad for jet setters. Tiki Kiliki ignited tiki fever. Steve Rullman, hub of the scene since before the millennium, and Rodney, the man who rebuilt Clematis. Ethan and Mark, true local success stories. The Brothers Alexander, Oakland Park players extraordinaire. The Brothers Esposito at Backbone and Lolo at Sweat. He's a joker and a smoker and a midnight toker — he's Jared Cole. Abel and Omar, the Miami brain trust. Jason Cabello, don't give up. You too, Flanzbaum — that shit's gonna blow. Sweeney and Piccoli, who faithfully document the scene, and Dave Lebo, who paints it. Thanks to the Poor House for keeping it real and to Kilmo for keeping the pork pulled and the music crisp.

And thanks for the music, Humbert, Urban Mystic, ANR, the Freakin' Hott, the Heavy Pets, El, Pluzwun, the Remnants, NRWO, Efon, Brendan O'Hara, Uncle Luke, Crease, Friendly Fire, Wrek, Fresh Air Fund, the Numb Ones, John Ralston, Keith Michaud, Ed Whitty, Odd Man Out, Two Story Double Wide, the JeanMarie, Osiris Rising, the Lee Boys, Catalonia, Torche, Slip and the Spinouts, Boxelder, Scott Putesky, Shawn Snyder, and Matt Sabatella.

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