People Who Made the Music Scene Great in 2014: Part 1
Steve Rullman is a dedicated staple in our scene.
Photo by Melanie Benson
South Florida has a vast and complicated network of folks who work hard every day to make music and nightlife happen for all of us. They work tirelessly, creatively, and selflessly -- well, for the most part, at least. There is huge reward in giving to others.
Each year, a new batch of fantastic doers, who happen to be the most active in the music scene at that particular time, rise to the top. They may have been crafting concepts and making those ideas come to life for years, or perhaps they're a bit new to the stage, learning as they go. We thought we'd honor just some of the people who've put in a lot of effort in 2014 so that we can regularly listen to, write about, and dance along with incredible live music in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
This list isn't ranked, and it's only part one. We just wanted to say thank you!
- Liz Tracy, Music Editor
Steve Rullman of PureHoney Magazine
By Abel Folgar
Some people get it and some people don't.
Steve Rullman gets it. And he gets it in a way that is pure and genuine and easily understood by anyone who's ever been in love with music.
Some people make fanzines about it. Some people make a living writing about it. Rullman's managed to marry these two expressions of adoration and create an item that is both functional and collectible. His PureHoney Magazine is a monthly printed labor of love that stands strong in the face of extreme digital adversity.
We are continually impressed by Rullman's unabashed defiance toward "print's death" and his ongoing output of a lovingly crafted product that is also a tangible artifact representing that month in music. Each features a foldout poster designed by a local artist and articles about bands coming to town and those who live here. It does an incredible job linking the tri-county area's diverse underground music scenes.
It isn't always easy, but for a little over three years, Rullman has created a relevant and insightful magazine that is at the forefront of good, new music. This year, he even got into the record label game by founding Camp Thunderbee Records and releasing one of the best local albums of 2014, Sweet Bronco's Morning Night.
Courtesy of Woody Graber
Woody Graber of Woody Graber and Associates (Revolution, Fillmore Miami Beach, Live Nation)
By Lee Zimmerman
What the legendary publicist Charlie Cinnamon is to the South Florida theater scene, PR pro Woody Graber is to the music establishment -- one whose base of operations stretches from Miami Beach to Palm Beach, with a host of Broward venues in-between. Indeed, don't let the lengthy ponytail and his apparent easy-going demeanor fool you; the Wood Man is a dedicated gate keeper who ushers the credentialed reporters in and keeps the unworthy away.
As New Times once pointed out in designating him Miami's Best Flack: "You could be the second coming of Hunter S. Thompson, and he would still freeze you out."
Indeed, there's no getting around the fact he's the dean of the scene, having served such late local music locales as the Stephen Talkhouse, Stella Blue, and Woody's on the Beach. After more than 30 years of plying his skills and savvy, Woody's influence in the South Florida scene makes him one formidable fellow.
Ellen Bukstel of Shack in the Back
By Lee Zimmerman
With a list of an impressive list of awards and accolades -- among them the kudos she's received from the John Lennon Songwriting Competition, the New Zealand Peace Song Competition, and the Public Domain Foundation Music to Life Competition -- Ellen Bukstel's artistic aptitude has been recognized.
An avowed activist, she released a song with accompanying music video in 2014, entitled "Who's the Pusher Now?" urging the passage of Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana in the state of Florida. Sadly, the amendment failed, but Bukstel's biting commentary reaffirmed both her talent and tenacity.
That pugnacious attitude is also manifest in her offstage efforts, mostly devoted to running the Shack in the Back, a spacious outdoor venue in Western Broward which offers the intimacy of a house concert and the technical advantages of a traditional showcase. These kinds of settings are in short supply in our parts, which makes Bukstel not only an extraordinary entrepreneur, but one of Broward's more valuable resources.
John McHale's cell phone
John McHale of Breakeven Booking
By David Von Bader
We say it literally every time we cover one of McHale's shows, but the promoter behind Breakeven Booking has now put 11 years of energy, sacrificed sanity, and money into cultivating and nourishing a hardcore and punk scene of which South Florida can continue to be proud.
McHale's prowess as a promoter cannot be overstated: The dude brings down the best of the best in aggressive music, has his finger on the pulse of the national scene, and manages to operate as a soothsayer of sorts in booking a staggering number of up-and-coming national acts before they explode into serious popularity. He also makes sure each and every show runs smoother than a 1990s Uncle Luke trying to talk your girl into coming home with him.
The right people always get paid when McHale's running things and the dude ensures that deserving locals get a chance to shine in opening slots. While McHale can't solely be saddled with the credit for making South Florida's scene what it is, we are completely comfortable saying that it would have died a sad, quiet death a long time ago if not for his efforts.
To boot, McHale's shitty, MS Paint-borne flyers which are littered with inside jokes and comedic prose are fantastic. They should be a lesson to other promoters on how to get their visibility up through a strong flyer ignorance game.
Jacques de Beaufort of Unit 1 Gallery
By Dana Krangel
This list just wouldn't be right without including artist Jacques de Beaufort. The founder of Unit 1 in Lake Worth, de Beaufort has turned the gallery -- which is also his home -- into one of the most important venues for local indie acts.
Actually, one of the amazing things about Unit 1 is the sheer variety of bands that de Beaufort promotes and hosts therein. From the Sunny Devilles to Ketchy Shuby, he has proven to have a remarkable ear for music, not constraining his chill venue to genres.
This year, the artist hosted an "art by musicians" showcase, giving local music-makers the brilliant opportunity to show off another of their creative sides. He even has video production on the list of things he's good at. He's crafted music videos for the likes of Beach Day and even starting his own series, Unit 1 Sessions. It features acts ranging from Sweet Bronco to Mykal Morrison playing live at the space; de Beaufort records them with a little help from friends and then puts out the videos online for everyone for free.
What makes this guy such an amazing supporter is that he is also a fixture at Propaganda and Respectable Street, showing love for other venues and taking pride in the greater scene. In the process, he makes everything bigger and better.
Sharon Kennedy and Greg Aliferis of Culture Room
By David Rolland
Nestled in a strip mall that looks like a thousand others littered along US1, Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room is a reminder to never judge a music venue by its surroundings. Owners and operators, Greg Aliferis and Sharon Kennedy, program a diverse and fantastic line-up of acts that play in their intimate and personality-filled space. Many of you saw your first show at Culture Room and still regularly hit it up to catch beloved acts.
In 2014 alone, they featured everything from chart topping pop princess Charli XCX to the country-rock of Drive-By Truckers to the blissed out chillwave of Washed Out to the science fiction hip-hop of Deltron 3030. Even better, Aliferis and Kennedy go out of their way to make sure the musicians playing at Culture Room make themselves available for interviews, so we in the press can let readers know what kind of sonic treats for which they'll be in store.
Culture Room promises another versatile year in 2015 thanks to these two, featuring live shows by rock legend Leon Russell, the return of punks Against Me!, Bob Marley's old band the Wailers, and Maryland rapper Logic.
Ashley Svarney and Yaffa Mizrachi of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
By Lee Zimmerman
As the two individuals sharing public relations duties for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Ashley Svarney and Yaffa Mizrachi have no small number of responsibilities. With the Hard Rock's heavy schedule of national touring acts and all the constant events taking place on the premises, our love of music and comedy keeps them very busy. These two get you into the seats on time at one of the most popular and prestigious venues in South Florida, staring out at your favorite performers, night after night.
Both ladies have constant smiles on their faces, never betraying any hint of the pressure and stress that comes with juggling egos and providing ongoing information to the local press. They not only do their jobs well, but do them with a gracious attitude and a personal panache. Given the Hard Rock's creed "Love all, serve all," suffice it to say no one could represent it any better.
Courtesy of Mikey Ramirez
Mikey Ramirez and Nat Smallish of Radio-Active Records
By Michael Mut
Mikey Ramirez, co-owner of Radio-Active Records, was born and raised in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Mikey's mother came of age in the late 1960s and both traveled to see many of the era's top acts and ran a bar on Bourbon Street. She took the youngster on frequent trips to record stores where he bought LPs and blank cassettes, then made mix tapes that would serve as the soundtrack at his mom's venue. In essence, he was a DJ before he could shave.
Ramirez now, with a ton of help from musician Nat Smallish (official title: Queen Bee), runs one of the country's best record stores out of Fort Lauderdale. They regularly host local and national acts for in-stores, signings, and DJ sets, providing locals the chance to interact very closely with their current and future favorite artists. With their busy schedule over at Radio-Active, Ramirez still plans to host an even bigger, better Record Store Day in 2015. So mark your calendars.
Rodney Mayo of Sub-Culture
By Nicole Danna
To say the South Florida nightlife and live music scene would be a much more bland and boring place without Rodney Mayo would be a huge understatement.
In the late '80s, Mayo was just starting his South Florida empire, opening the long-established West Palm Beach venue Respectable Street Cafe. His original goal for the place was to create a stage for local bands to showcase their sounds as well as a venue for national touring acts that rarely come to South Florida. Second to that vision was: Destroy the monopolies. He more than succeeded.
Now, nearly 20 years and dozens of other venues and restaurants later, Mayo can lay claim as a godfather of the scene. He's been founder and partner for many of the area's hippest bars with the hottest concepts. Today, that list also includes spots like Lost Weekend and Kill Your Idol in Miami Beach, Camelot in West Palm and Delray's Honey.
Mayo also helped found West Palm Beach-based Decades Records, a boutique label that encourages local musicians by helping them to produce albums, find shows, and get their products to market.
Moving forward, Mayo still has work to do; he'd like to see more European bands come visit Palm Beach and Broward venues -- not just major cities -- as well as more support for the local music festival scene. In good time, we have no doubt he will have a hand in making those dreams a reality, too.
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