In this land of palm trees and Tommy Bahama shirts, the fact that the monthly Auteur Explosion has survived thus far is impressive. Thank dynamo event organizer Dawn Dubriel, who's teamed up with Underlab Studios, a production house that's proven tremendously supportive of local artists. Together they've put together 11 of these events at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale; the most recent edition came this past Saturday. The event brought its usual array of visual artists, jiggling belly dancers, short plays, short films, and, of course, live bands.
We arrived at the beginning of experimental funk trio Soma's set. In stark contrast to the muscle relaxer with which the band shares its name, this Miami group's propulsive groove had the crowd gyrating. Brothers Jehan Maheswaran (guitar and vocals) and Kail Maheswaran (bass), along with drummer Tom Gilfoy, dished out a set of transcendent post-funk. The sound ranged from dubby rhythms one minute to squelching improvisational rock the next. On "Funk You," Kali displayed the kind of nasty bass plucking that would make Primus' Les Claypool proud. At one point, his low-end thud even knocked down a couple of Rhee Polhamus' little tubby alien sculptures on a nearby table.
In a strange segue, next up came a couple of MCs, Tag and Sage, from South Florida's experimental hip-hop collective Ill. Their only instruments: a pair of microphones and a sampler/drum machine the size of a PlayStation 3. It sounded like the two had some glossy production in the background, but it was mostly inaudible through that limited sound system. Sage seemed to be the stronger MC of the two, throwing down rhymes with greater ferocity than Tag, whose flow is more mellow.
The Shutter, a trio from Hollywood, ended the music portion of the night with pop-punk tunes. Helmed by guitarist/vocalist Kim Drake, the band is made up of three friends who met in photography school (hence the moniker). Drake's got the instant charisma and silky-smooth vocals that could win anyone over. On "Frenemies," she even demonstrated a bit of ax swagger as she whipped out some impressive choppy guitar licks. Make no bones about it, she's the main draw of her band and was a fitting performer to wind out the party with a bang.