Thanks to Fort Lauderdale's Procrustean city commissioners (Cindi Hutchinson not included), it's a bad time to be 18, 19, or 20 years old in the fair city. This group of politicians is a bunch of mamas who do not dance and daddies who most certainly will never deign to rock and/or roll. On October 3 their final vote on the proposal to ban the under-21 faction from Fort Lauderdale's bars and nightclubs allowed the commissioners' true colors to taint the town. (The following evening the city flexed its muscles at the Chili Pepper, raiding the club and forcing management to put its liquor under lock and key.)
After attending three commission meetings with my actual, physical, corporeal presence in tow, I decided a far better method of enjoying the proceedings would in the company of a sandwich and a beer, on the Bandwidth couch, watching the fun on Comcast's Channel 38. I missed out on the lingering aroma of clove cigarettes, but I was able to indulge in some biting on-the-spot commentary without nasty looks from my neighbors in the chambers.
Local live music may be nonexistent for the young adults of Fort Lauderdale now, but this latest courtroom drama was the best show in town last Tuesday. At the very least, it was better than the massive protest concert held at the Culture Room Friday, September 29, of which I caught a snippet. It wasn't that peppy of a rally, unless you counted those skirmishing in the pit. In the time Bandwidth spent there, the boys from Crease provided the musical high point, continuing their reign as the kings of status quo suburban metal. At the other end of the spectrum was the Still, which seemed to be the standard bearer for some kind of flat-Earth society that believes punk never happened. That band's sorry, fist-pumping spectacle was unbelievable; obviously the Still's members have never seen This Is Spinal Tap. Put another way: The group so traumatized me, I cannot yet adequately mock it.
The best moment (and best moshing) came courtesy of Brutal Mastication, a hideous grindcore juggernaut that singer Todd Ewing described as "the most hated underground band in South Florida." He then went to great lengths to show why: Following a half-decent plea for a massive turnout at the city commission vote, Ewing encouraged the throng to be sure to pack a cooler full of beer and hard liquor for that long afternoon parking it on the courthouse steps. "And a bag of dope," he added.
Before demonstrating a ferocious Dobermanstyle vocal -- and salivary -- delivery, Ewing brought the testosterone level at the Culture Room to a tragicomic peak when he announced, "This is about that wet pussy you all love so much." He then dove into the charming "Dripping Gash."
By contrast those attending the final vote at city hall represented a much more diverse -- and generally less offensive -- cross-section. But that failed to impress Commissioner Tim Smith, who cluelessly suggested that live-music venues simply stop serving alcohol, raise ticket prices to compensate, and allow all ages to enter. Evidently Smith doesn't understand that kids under 21 already cough up $7 to see the Wicked Screaming Squirts at the Culture Room. He expects them to pay more? That's plain heartless.
Well-meaning-if-somewhat-goofy local businessman Alan Forgey has a soft spot somewhere (let's hope it's his head) for the plight of the pierced-'n'-tattooed music lovers and claimed to have received $20,000 in pledges for a nonprofit venture he calls "the Sounds of Young Fort Lauderdale." Snicker all you want, but Forgey appears sincere. Enamored with those cuddly straightedge do-gooders, he thinks bands participating in this scheme should all be "drug-free." How rock 'n' roll is that? Maybe we should just start our own Up With People instead.
And then there's Mayor Jim "Ten-hut!" Naugle, who thinks it's OK to allow under-21 military personnel into these clubs -- perhaps even as an incentive to join up. What an enlistment advertisement that'd be: "Too young to attend that Voodoo Glow Skulls show? Not if you go to boot camp!"
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Although some of the teenage speakers had time to practice and thus came off better during this performance, the clang of the death knell brought out the worst in some young music lovers. Hint: Chiding the commission members for their "yachts and yuppie crap," insulting their passion for Lynyrd Skynyrd and Foghat, and threatening to grow up and vote them out of office someday will not endear you to the old folks. (Then again, being nice also went for naught that night.) And making statements such as "Music inspires me to be a better person and think about stuff" is probably worse than saying nothing at all.
Don't even get me started on the kid who warned against some truly far-reaching -- and far-fetched -- implications. The ban is a bad thing, but I'll go out on a limb here and declare that it will not, as this young man insisted, bring financial hardship upon the guitar-string manufacturers of this country. Can't you hear the talk at the Ernie Ball assembly line? "Shut 'er down, Jed. Fort Lauderdale's done stopped the rock!"
That said, something's definitely wrong with this city. It starts with Mayor Naugle, a knee-jerky conservative doofus who wants to maintain Fort Lauderdale's squeaky-clean-tourist-mecca façade while making it hell on earth for teens wanting merely to get their groove on in peace.
But Smith actually seemed most hell-bent on pulling the plug on fun. Prior to the vote he was hostile, belligerent, and punitive; maybe he should have used the meeting to catch some shut-eye, as did his comrade Gloria Katz. Smith seemed to have been waiting all day for the opportunity to be a smug, sanctimonious asshole, gleefully reprimanding the youths as if he were a switch-wielding schoolmarm in charge of an unruly classroom. If he could've held detention after the meeting, he would have. Smith's lesson for young folks seems to be: Take your community activism elsewhere, because Fort Lauderdale is run by and for the elderly and the wealthy. Raise your voice, and I'll do you wrong. By slapping an injunction on artistic expression under the guise of protecting the public (when everyone knows Atlantis Nightclub is the real problem), he's shown that he represents only the city's elite. Which makes him antidemocratic scum -- yacht or no yacht