Walking down the street in a bustling Little Havana neighborhood on Saturday night, it was clear I was well off the city's usual nightlife track. I found myself passing aptly named "I love Calle Ocho" cafes, and idiosyncratic venues like hookah bars mixed with shoe stores and cabarets. My destination, though, was the Tower Theater, an old-fashioned Art Deco building opened in 1926 that now resides on the Florida National Register of Historic Places.
It was the obvious choice for the latest Roofless Records-sponsored Cinema Sounds event, in which local bands play along, spontaneously, to old movies. A motley crew of hipsters, locals and (my guess) MDC professors filled a theater, many not knowing what to expect of this well-kept secret of an event. Some imagined cult classics like Pulp Fiction being scored -- and boy, were we wrong.
The evening began when the band Slashpine
took to the front of the stage, members' backs to the audience, as the lights dimmed and the movie began. An old, Ukrainian black and white film with English subtitles showed scenes of war as soldiers marched and dead bodies lay everywhere. Horses charged as strong guitar riffs powered through the amps and silent screams channeled these warriors' pain in dying for a revolution. The music actually made the otherwise dated film come to life.
The second performer up was Teepee
, Eric Lopez-Zareno's one-mand band; this evening he played synths. The movie scene started off with a South Asian village shore, with endless wooden boats floating along the water, as Zareno played smooth sounds resembling a mix of Radiohead and Beirut. On screen, women bathed fully clothed and added bindis to their foreheads as men prepped with close shaves for some sort of a ritual. A mass was set ablaze -- later revealed to be a dead body -- but the ambient music made it less disturbing and more relaxing.
was up last. They brought an easel to the stage with a sketch of guitarist Kris Pabon's face and a bouquet of red carnations to show that though he wasn't physically there, his presence was still felt.
The film to which they played along, The Skeptical Operetta
, was less plot-driven, featuring an interview with Jonathan Rose -- half attorney, half poet/local "ambassador" to the arts, resembling Bob Newhart. Once the film segued to a shot of a record player, Animal Tropical's Jose Castello took to the stage, playing piano and singing in Spanish, with backup vocals provided by both bassist Jarrett Hann and a choir of four. The witty lyrics were pure Miami, intertwining images of mangos with stories of suffering.
Soon, the lighting changed and Jonathan Rose himself appeared onstage in a tux, accompanied by a and with a short-haired younger woman. Castello went back to the piano and launched into an old-fashioned jazz standard duet, with Rose and the woman singing and at one point even dancing cheek to cheek. When Rose's duet was finished, the interview on screen again continued. The film's literary antics proceeded for a few moments before Animal Tropical came out in full form for a final number: Hann on bass, Castello on piano and Jorge Rubiera on drums -- with lamps pointed at the easel sketch of Pabon. It was definitely not your average variety show.
Personal Bias: I love music and I love movies, so it seems only fitting to combine them both.
Random Detail: The Cuban club/lounge/bar across the street had a woman in a pink bikini with fishnet tights, flat sandals and fur leg warmers greeting people at the door. I'm not kidding.
By the Way: Umm... what happened to Goatslacker? They were slotted to perform, but didn't show.
-- Christine Borges