BLP brings so much good, live music to south Florida. Thank you, BLP! p.s. It's Destiny Spang, not Sprang; it's Fusik, not Fuzik; and it's The Heavy Pets, not Heavy Pets
By Liz Tracy
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Matt Beck and Destiny Spang are, together, a musical-production powerhouse. As Boca-based Brotherly Love Productions, this couple takes its talent for business and its sharp ears for quality acts and is building a budding dynasty in the South Florida live music scene.
Beck launched the jam-band-centric, full-service, live music production team in 2007 with a Disco Biscuits and Umphrey's McGee afterparty at Cheers in Pompano Beach. Doors closed early at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater, so jam fans made their way down the street to watch the Heavy Pets perform. That was also the night Spang and Beck met through a mutual college friend. So that makes this weekend both the five-year anniversary of their rendezvous and BLP's fifth birthday.
Leading up to this weekend's show, a bartending gig at City Limits (now Pineapple Groove) in Delray Beach offered Beck the momentum to start this sonic kingdom. "They were very familiar with my musical love," Beck says of his bosses at City Limits. He often took weekends off to attend out-of-town festivals. When the bar moved to a new location, those in charge left behind the practice of showcasing only cover bands, changing their focus to original acts. Beck was included with the powers-that-be in decision-making meetings.
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"That's kind of where it all started," Spang says, "where Matt started thinking, 'Wow, there really is a lot of music down here, especially in the jam-band/electronica scene.' There's always an opportunity to use his expertise of just like going to all these shows and start booking shows and getting bands to come down here to Florida."
An internship at the first Langerado put Beck in touch with the festival's founder, Mark Brown, who now heads Cloud 9 Adventures, producing Jam Cruise, Holy Ship!!, and Mayan Holidaze. The first Jam Cruise featured many bands Beck gave Brown the heads-up on.
Nowadays, BLP puts on a slew of its own events in the tricounty area, from the Funky Buddha to the Culture Room to the Stage, and is expanding to more national audiences. BLP has produced three annual, three-day AURA Music and Arts Festivals in Central Florida, hosts a weekly Rockout With Your Cookout at Hurricane Bar and Lounge in Delray Beach, and this year kicked-off Jamtronic Chronic, its first live-electronic showcase during Winter Music Conference at the Stage. The team has joined forces with such artists as Toots & the Maytals, Dead Kenny Gs, Pretty Lights, Perpetual Groove, Toubab Krewe, MSTRKRFT, and the Bright Light Social Hour.
They work with both "jam" bands, live electronic acts, and those that ride the line in between. "The term jam is a polarizing term, people either love it or hate it or don't know what it is," says Beck. "The best way I can describe jam band is improv elements of jazz crossed with other genres of music." For instance, the String Cheese Incident creates a bluegrass hybrid, the Disco Biscuits have an electronic take on the genre, and Phish, well, Phish encompasses a huge mix of sounds that jam fans dig. The biggest draws to the music are both the true talents of the musicians, and the ephemeral performative aspect of it — each song unique.
Spang points out three local acts that BLP supports and the team's unique take on the genre: The Resolvers play a reggae-based jam, Ketchy Shuby keeps it sort of rock 'n' roll, and Fuzik gets funky with it. Basically, BLP likes "any band that jams," according to Sprang.
Beck has supported the Delray- and Boca-based act the Heavy Pets since day one, and, as of February, acts as the Pets' management as well. The band recently returned from Bonnaroo, has played the Jam Cruise, and has performed at sizable festivals like Wakarusa in Arkansas.
"They're all a bunch of jerks," Beck says, taking a breath, then adding: "Just kidding."
Beck continues: "I saw them for the first time before they were called the Heavy Pets. In college, they were called My Friend's Band." Some band members spent their college years in Syracuse. "They moved down here, and a buddy of mine who they went to college with told me I had to go check them out." It was clearly a brotherly, loving connection from the start. Since, some members have rotated in and out, but, Beck says, "Something that makes them so well-rounded is that five of them and three in particular write all the music. That's the reason their sound is so diverse." Each comes from different backgrounds musically, providing a rich sound.
Jeff Lloyd, one of the band's founders, asks us to cue the theme from the film Rocky while reading his words on BLP. Certainly, a dramatic gesture. Beck helped out the Pets before even their first official show together five years ago. "By the time they began using the name Brotherly Love, we had already done a handful of shows together, and they had helped us out greatly not only here in South Florida but were also vital to the success of our earliest shows in Philadelphia — now probably our strongest market," Lloyd says. "They truly love helping others."
He credits the growth of his band's popularity and of the local musical scene in large part to BLP. "They have helped turn South Florida into the kind of environment where touring bands can come and grow an audience," Lloyd says, "and that only means more shows for local fans and more opportunities for local musicians."
The Brotherly Love Productions Fifth Birthday Bash weekend includes four nights' worth of shows locally and a fifth in Tampa. The folks behind BLP wanted to include all the bands, people, and venues with whom they've had relationships. Beck says it's "like a jigsaw puzzle to figure out where and with who to make the most out of the weekend." They kept the affairs Florida-focused. Spang notes: "We've done a lot of shows with national acts and regional bands that come down here, but for the anniversary, the heart of BLP is supporting the local live music scene."
Spang calls this weekend's event a "family reunion." Family is a huge theme for BLP and is likely a significant factor in its success. Lloyd of the Pets says of Beck and Spang, "We are coconspirators in this crazy business, but above and beyond all of that, Matt and Destiny are our family. We are a part of the BLP fam, and they are a part of ours."