By Natalya Jones
By County Grind
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Fort Lauderdale is perhaps better-known for its nickel slots and three-for-one drink specials than for its cultural pursuits. But you could have fooled the hundreds of people who attended Friday night's kickoff party for the multimedia extravaganza that was the Red Eye exhibition, held at Broward County's ArtServe space.
In its fourth year, the annual Red Eye show has become the 954's underground art tour de force, showcasing a diverse range of work, from lowbrow to surrealistic. There was a film room reeling movies about wastoid ducks getting high on weed and spoken word hosted by omnipresent open-mic host Renda Writer. There was live graffiti and a full-on mariachi band complete with its own troupe of folkloric backup dancers. There was even a "Zen room" with live music from Yanni-style New Age players.
But our focus was on the bands set to perform in the auditorium — local acts Dooms de Pop, Astari Nite, and Confused as Ever were slated to provide the music for a fashion show by local designers. This could have been either intriguing or profoundly revolting.
Fort Lauderdale's own Dooms de Pop kicked things off with a boisterous set of spunky power-punk as models donning colorful botanical fashions strutted their stuff down the catwalk. The trio's gallivanting drums and crunchy guitar licks provided a dramatic contrast to the ladies strutting by, who resembled floral arrangements.
The center of attraction, however, was not the model with the banana-leaf blouse but rather the band's mustached bass player, Barnaby Wile. Every band needs a showboat, and Wile was up to the task, hippity-hopping across the catwalk. Lead vocalist and guitarist Garo Gallo strained his guitar licks through various foot pedals. Dude's a wizard with the wah-wahs, that's for sure.
North Miami Beach's Astari Nite was the ideal fashionista choice to take the stage next. The band's androgynous lead singer, Mychael Ghost, filled the room with just enough melodrama as models now paraded around in creations such as a wedding dress made of garbage bags. Ghost's delivery is uniquely Anglophilic; he ends verses with a particular British snark.
Bass player R. Furey, the quartet's female answer to Interpol's Carlos D, did an adequate job holding down the bass rhythms. But it was guitarist Albert Grey who dazzled, demonstrating a deft ability at nailing those darker chords that make post-punk so satisfying.
With gigs listed at the St. Petersburg date of the Warped Tour and at the Hot Topic store in Aventura, we'll 'fess up to making presumptions about Fort Lauderdale quartet Confused as Ever. (Teeny-bopper emo-punk, oh no!) Much to our surprise, the final group of the evening dished out a cohesive set of poppy, metal-tinged rock.
The band's pint-sized lead vocalist, Elana Meair, demonstrated a remarkable range — think Evanescence's Amy Lee but rawer. When Meair struck one impossible octave on the bombastic "Subtle Difference," we overheard one discerning art connoisseur whisper to another, "I'm sold." And so were we.