Block Hoppin'

Respectable Street's sweet 19 — Lowebows, octabongs, and love!

There he sat center stage, his long, jagged beard hanging over his guitar, his sock-covered feet busy pedaling the kick drum and high hat. His cowboy boots were on the floor next to him, his railroad conductor's hat still on his head. Audience members danced to his upbeat, bluesy twang. Those who weren't dancing stood at full attention, charmed by the one-man band known as Ben Prestage, the first act I caught at Respectable Street's 19 Years of Oblivion Street Party, the annual, multi-venue shindig along the 500 block of Clematis Street. Prestage had two sets that evening, one on the street stage and one inside Ray's Downtown, which is where I saw him. It was 9 p.m., and I had just arrived, not expecting to be so impressed that early on. But I was, as was my New Times colleague, Jake Smith, who, if he's going to show up occasionally in this column, deserves a nickname. And now that Arthur Vanmoor, the notorious pimp, is back in Holland and no longer haunting the hos of South Florida with his gingerbread-scented nads, I hereby bestow his former moniker, "Big Pimpin' Pappy," on poor Jake.

Anyway, this Prestage character sure held his own, I thought. And if he could somehow work a bass guitar into the mix, he'd be even more complete. Now, I'm not sayin' Prestage is some kind of mind-reader, but just then, he put down the guitar and picked up another instrument. It looked like a guitar, but its body was made from a cigar box, the neck consisted of two dowel rods, and it had four strings — one bass string and three guitar strings. It also had separate jacks for guitar and bass. In plain English: It was a guitar and a bass rolled into one. Prestage managed to one-up himself. And he confused the hell out of newbies like Fats, who've never seen such an instrument.

"What the hell is that?" I asked Pappy, figuring he might know. He plays bass and is big on custom-made gear, but he'd never seen this thing either. We spent the next few minutes analyzing its various parts (a Sharpie marker on the fretboard?), which we later found out is called a Lowebow, after its maker, John Lowe. Normally, weird instruments and experimental sounds don't sit well with Fats; the music that comes out of 'em almost invariably sucks. But Prestage played good music, and I'm glad I didn't miss his set — he was one of a few acts I was hoping to check out. I knew that between Respectables, O'Shea's, Ray's, the Lounge, and the street stage, there was no way I'd see even a majority of the night's 19 performers. So I whittled my list down to a handful of bands I hadn't seen before or, at least, not in a long time, namely Prestage, Kill Miss Pretty, and the (temporarily) reunited Sloppy High-Fives.

Boca Raton's Kill Miss Pretty was fronted by a bouncy, pig-tailed Alicia Olink. She was well-aware of the power her appearance held over the audience — well, except for those who recognized her from other places.

"That's my yoga teacher," my friend Janine pointed out. Interesting, I thought. Olink was dressed more like a Girl Scout than a yogi. But that was the band's shtick that evening — two Girl Scouts and one Boy Scout (though Olink was the only female band member). But that wasn't why I was confused. From where I stood, I couldn't tell where the beat was coming from. So again, I consulted Pappy: "Where the hell is the drummer?"

"What drummer?" he responded. OK, it was a dumb question. I should have known the second the lights dimmed and the smoke machine started that there'd be some industrial sounds coming out of the speakers. And there were. But despite the drum machine beats, KMP's music was, at its core, rock. Not indie, punk, garage, metal, or grunge... just plain rock. Oh, and they had a message.

"Before we start the next song," Olink announced, "I wanna make clear that this song is about a vagina, a dildo, and love — love!" Nothing says loving like a strapped-on 12-inch.

The Sloppy High-Fives wrapped things up inside Ray's around 12:30, playing a one-off reunion before vocalist Mike McFarland headed back home to North Carolina. Given the amount of alcohol the crowd had consumed by that late hour, the High-Fives were the perfect band to close the night — fast, loose, and loud. But for them, the drinking had only begun. Halfway into the set, McFarland walked to the back of the stage and reemerged holding a hat with eight long, tubular tentacles dangling from the sides. And once again, Fats consulted Pappy: "What the hell is that?"

But McFarland beat him to the response.

"Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from Michigan — the Octabong!" he told the audience. A few crowd members joined the band for a group chug, which, thankfully, didn't last long. The music quickly resumed until, just before the last song, a wave of silence washed over the club. In that brief three-second period, seemingly on cue, I heard a bottle break next to me. Lovely. I wondered what ogre was responsible. I turned to my left and saw the broken glass — but not the guy who did it. Oh, shit... it was me. It was 1 a.m., and I'd been there for four hours. I was pretty wiped out by that point, and it was affecting my coordination, which resulted in my knocking a beer bottle off a table.But before I had a chance to hide (or figure out how I could blame Pappy), everyone was looking at me. When the show finally ended, I stumbled down the street in a zombified state, wondering if I'd have been less tired had I stayed in one club all night. But for all my to-and-fro wanderings, I still missed most of the performers. So if (and hopefully when) RSC holds its 20th anniversary party next year, I'll have to do some serious planning beforehand — or maybe just a little yoga in between bands. There's got to be someone there who can teach me.

 
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