Better Than: Anything going on in any other bar in downtown Fort Lauderdale
For at least 10 years, Garo Gallo has worked zealously to keep the fabric of Fort Lauderdale's fragile music community from unraveling. I have vague memories of wandering into his old warehouse at age 16, taking my place against a skinny dark hallway that led outdoors, sitting on something wooden, and having a long conversation with a girl who claimed Mindless Self Indulgence was the greatest band alive. Then I'd watch local band after local band take the stage -- or the non-elevated area designated as the stage.
My teenage memories are a little foggy, to say the least, but one thing I'm sure of is Gallo, along with girlfriend and business partner Yvonne Colon, have come a long way from that warehouse in materializing their vision for the South Florida music community.
Recently they opened the huge artist/music space The Bubble earlier this month. And for over a year, the promoter power-couple has mounted the monthly event Florida? Yeah! on the last Saturday of every month at the Poorhouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. For the event, they've been bringing together South Florida bands of yore, as well as providing a platform for new bands for over a year. Here are brief reviews of the bands who played last Saturday.
A New Start: Pop punk a la Fenix TX and Home Grown, yet emo at its expressive core, A New Start knows it's soft. Straightforward pop-punk melodies and cheesy harmonies drive the band's music, no surprise there. But the problem with straightforward pop-punk is, if you don't have substantive lyrics that are cheeky, rebellious, or insightful, it's easy for the music to go straight to adolescent whine-rock hell.
At one point lead singer Nick Brandt said "I want to cease to exist" (I believe it was the name of the song). Instead of communicating a nihilistic dimension -- I know, I know, there's no nihilism in pop-punk -- it created a sort of pathetic irony for the listener. Sure, memorable pop-punk isn't easy, but the first step is to stop whining. Either that, or see you at Hot Topic!
Boise Bob and His Backyard Band: Before hardcore punk outfit Fleez started their set, lead singer Elyse Perez said, "Boise Bob is the most punk-rock band ever." Although Boise Bob's music could be generalized as a rock/country hybrid, it's imprecise. Boise, who's been playing in South Florida since the 1970s, prefers "psychobilly." I prefer something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre twang-punk.
If American Gothic could be delivered through music, with a wink and tongue placed firmly in cheek, Boise Bob and His Backyard Band would be the result. Donning a nondescript cowboy shirt and hat, Bob connected to the audience through a hilarious drawl and declarative sentences like "All I know is I like livin' in a swamp" and "I like possum meat... good ol' possum meat." Moreover his guitar twanged like his voice, and transitioned to full-out honky tonk jams.
Fleez: Purveyors of fast punk rock, Fleez blends a Voodoo Glow Skulls sound -- sans the ska -- with the Beastie Boys' version of hardcore, topped with Jello Biafra- and Exene Cervenka-style vocals. Fleez's set was an hour of nonstop, kick-you-in-the-teeth thrash, and one of the best punk shows I've seen in a long time -- even though I couldn't understand a word lead singer Elyse Perez said or screamed.
Even my friend, whose musical tastes rarely stray far from the mope-rock of Interpol and the Smiths, was into them, gleefully telling me that she had talked to Perez after the show. Basically, the band plays old-school, adrenaline-shot punk that should leave you with a concussion after you've hauled your bloody body out of the pit. But in a fun way.
The Bikes: Following Fleez is no easy task. The former's high-energy punch in the face makes it much harder to keep audiences with a short attention span interested. Taking the stage around 1:30 a.m., the Bikes brought it down a notch, playing the type of uncluttered alternative rock and roll that defined early REM. One band member continuously switched between playing a fiddle and a mandolin.
But instead of adding a touch of bluegrass or even alt-country, the instruments provided more atmospherics and texture as they reached for the higher notes. They did occasionally bust into country numbers, but the band is more Americana rock than country, slow and melancholy at times, and at other times crescendoing into rock anthems with grungy guitars.
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Personal Bias: I'm a sucker for bad-ass chicks. Elyse Perez is the perfect frontwoman.
Random Detail: Seen in the crowd: a blind man with a walking stick repeatedly hit the nether regions of another man, who had only one leg and was on crutches. The second man became incensed, and a fight almost broke out. You can't make this stuff up.
By The Way: The Shakers, along with Gallo's band Dooms De Pop, will play at the next Florida? Yeah! event, the last Saturday in July.