Live: Blank Dogs on Record Store Day at Radio-Active Records, April 16

Live: Blank Dogs on Record Store Day at Radio-Active Records, April 16
Photo by Monica McGivern

Record Store Day

With Blank Dogs, Merchandise, Axe and the Oak, Jacuzzi Boys
Radio-Active Records, Fort Lauderdale
Saturday April 16, 2011

View our full slide show from Record Store Day here.

Better than: Any other free show at a Fort Lauderdale record store featuring world-renowned bands. Wait...

Radio-Active Records' Record Store Day 2011 took four months to plan, and it showed. The accompanying live show was tightly scheduled, the sound crisp, and the crowd hailing from all over our fair three counties -- even with a large Sweatstock event competing in Miami. In that vein, much solidarity between the two stores was expressed, and a volunteer collecting raffle tickets announced that it was a good idea to leave Radio-Active for a while and buy some stuff from Sweat and help them "not get robbed six days a week down there." An hour or two between each of the evening's bands meant that sets were long and full of breathing room. And while it seemed like much of the young audience were there to see the Jacuzzi Boys, Blank Dogs -- who has never toured Florida as a band -- was the star.

Merchandise, of Tampa's Drugged

Conscience label, was a fitting start. A three-then-two-man band with a

lot of synth, it belted out vocals hovering somewhere between postpunk

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and hardcore and occasionally employed a harmonica. 24 Hour Party

People had been playing on a television nearby, and its main title screen

seemed suited to the band's set. The crowd, unfortunately, was sparse, but

this was due to an inevitable afternoon lull -- Radio-Active was

bum-rushed early in the day and later in the evening, and the afternoon

was for stragglers who, having missed the morning goods, had a mission

to scrape out what was left.

The Axe and the Oak, local purveyors

of dark, surfy twang, had that Americana

influence reverberating more loudly than ever -- perhaps because it just released an

album. It is the first vinyl release by Radio-Active Records and perhaps the

beginning of what will become a legitimate and homegrown label. Here's a choice

local act that's been around for a while releasing something on a label

connected to a choice local store that's been around for a while.

Live: Blank Dogs on Record Store Day at Radio-Active Records, April 16
Photo by Monica McGivern


Boys have developed a local reputation for their energy and for

frontman Gabriel Alcala's cheeky banter with the audience ("Who fuckin' loves

melons?") and their ability to enliven a crowd. A mosh pit in the

immaculate Radio-Active was almost humorous but exciting enough to

render Gabriel's observation about one of their songs -- "That was

sluggish" -- totally incorrect and tongue-in-cheek. As mentioned

previously, these guys might've been the proverbial fishing reel, as it

seemed so much of the crowd was there for them, and the crowd size was

noticeably different after they finally dipped out, sweaty and giddy.

The audience was quick to filter back in later, midway through Blank

Dogs' set. Plenty's been said about the

former obscurity of Blank Dogs frontman and Captured Tracks label founder

Mike Sniper. He finally revealed his identity and played a live show in

2008, long after he'd released a catalog of skuzzy lo-fi LPs and

cassettes, most of which he made available for free download on his

website. None of the warbled vocals and drainpipe-y synth that has

characterized all of his work could hide the fact that it was melodic,

blissed-out pop -- albeit muffled by dark, raw fuzz. Recorded in his room

on four-track for years, Blank Dogs did not see the light of day until

the aforementioned show in a Brooklyn gallery, and still, it was a set

played in Chinatown the following night that was deemed the official

debut. Your humble reporter was in attendance and watched him and his

band, then a four-piece, play in a converted fire station, surprisingly


Some years have passed, and the confidence Blank Dogs

has developed as a band is clear. Sound check was a tad confusing --

Sniper stated in the middle of the set that "It sounds like a cat

crawling out of a bag underwater up here" -- but this was not audible to

the rest of us. Craig Mileski's modulator synth resembled a Rube

Goldberg machine with a Theremin-like antenna and colorful wires that

curved above and through one another and appeared to have multiple,

perhaps secret, purposes. It was enticing to watch and well-manipulated,

its sounds creating that distinctly fuzzed-out veneer that is so Blank

Dogs-specific. Pam Garavano-Coolbaugh swayed, seemingly entranced, over

her keyboard and guitar, but the vibe of the audience veered toward the catchy aspects of Blank Dogs' sound as opposed to the dark parts.

Critic's Notebook

Personal bias: As mentioned, I saw Blank Dogs' first (technically second) show and have been a fan for years.

Overheard: "It isn't over! Wait!" --a clueless adolescent in regards to Blank Dogs' set (see below)

The crowd: Teenagers, Miamians worn out from Sweatstock or getting ready for it, Fort Lauderdale residents, parents, babies.

By the way: After

Blank Dogs finished their set, Craig Mileski continued to mess with his

synth like a madman, cuing some overly excited fans to stick around

with hopes of an encore, even as Mike Sniper continued to unplug all of

his equipment.

Editor's note: Radio-Active Records' Facebook page got deleted during the weekend but is now back up and running and ready for you to "like" again.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.

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