Strangers in the Night
New Times Broward-Palm Beach fell victim to an elaborate ruse when we published a go-see-it blurb in our Night & Day section for the Necrophiles for Sunday, July 6. When Tavern 213 staff confirmed that the show was indeed to take place that night along with local acts Shortstack and Steamroller, a few eyebrows raised suspiciously; among them was the pair belonging to infamous Fort Lauderdale bassist/scenester Dr. John. He's now plying his surf/goth stuff under the name Marauders ("Fear Factor Three," May 3, 2003), but his previous project was, of course, known as the Necrophiles. As rumors circulated about would-be pranksters possibly borrowing the band's name and old songs, nobody seemed certain what to expect at the Tavern that Sunday. Impostors? Mirror-image doppelgängers from the lower fourth dimension? Name thieves?
As late as 11:30 p.m. on the evening in question, no one knew the answer -- or if they did, they weren't talking. While Steamroller, an entertaining outfit featuring a beanpole dude and a half-pint chick, vaporized its set list, Dr. John and his bandmates, Shamus and Rich, tried to get some answers. Shortstack's singer, Vanessa Diaz, was also in the dark: "I heard about the Necrophiles drama," she said later that week. "They said someone was using their name and songs. That's messed up."
"I don't know anything about it," the blond behind the bar that night told Dr. John. "There's supposed to be a band from Pennsylvania called the Necrophiles coming down to play. That's all I know. And we don't want any trouble, OK? If there's any trouble, you're going to have to leave."
Since, at that point, the most provocative behavior exhibited by the good doctor was wearing a black Necrophiles T-shirt, her response bewildered Bandwidth. Our beloved Marauders/Necrophiles were forced to cool their heels outside while waiting to see who the diabolical interlopers were. As it turned out, no one at all played after Shortstack, so the perps behind the hoax haven't been located.
A banner week for live-show debacles continued Friday, July 11, in West Palm Beach, when only about 60 people turned up to witness Jim White and Vic Chestnutt at Respectable Street. That's about 240 fewer than should have been there for an amazingly intimate night with two of the more eccentric and idiosyncratic singer/songwriters of our age. Pensacola-born White narrated songs like "Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi" and "God Was Drunk When He Made Me," his dry wit leaving the tunes crackling with intensity. He cut costs by accompanying himself with samples and a drum machine but rankled some doofus at the bar who yelled out "Ditch the Casio!" and then, like a chickenshit, ducked out of sight.
"Doorknob Pistachio?" laughed a confused White. "Don't know that one."
Jacksonville-born Chestnutt cruised the near-empty club in his wheelchair until four friends hoisted it to the stage. His pained whisper eked out lovely songs one had to strain to hear, and his occasional jokes and self-deprecating stage patter were almost lost in the dark room. By the time some Clematis partygoers began stumbling in after midnight, their laughter, ringing cell phones, and clinking glasses were a welcome respite from the constant shushing of the audience.
Just three days later, an unfortunately scheduled Monday visit from '80s retreads General Public suffered a similar fate at Respectables. "It was a lot of fun, although only 100 paid and we lost money," promoter Steve Rullman reports. "They want to make it up to us in the future on a weekend and blow it up."
The same weekend down at Churchill's, the bang-up Fuzz Fest was typically chaotic, with a horde of punk bands descending on Little Haiti with the hopes of fitting their songs and equipment into an ever-shrinking window of opportunity. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," said Chuck Loose, drummer with the Heatseekers, one Broward band scheduled to play the two-day event. "The whole thing was just total disorganization from the get-go. None of the bands were sure what time, or in some cases, what day, they were supposed to play, and even during the show, set times kept getting switched. Serendipitously, the Heatseekers got a killer set time on Friday night (before midnight). But I felt really bad for the Porch Ghouls and the Fleshtones, two really cool bands who didn't even get to play full sets because the club was closing."
Indeed, it was mostly the out-of-town acts (the actual headliners of the festival) that ended up receiving the royal Churchill's shunt treatment. With a start time of 2:50 on Saturday morning, the Fleshtones had the plug pulled just two songs in. Despite outrageous sets from the Tirades and Black Lips, scores of patrons encountered less-than-gruntled participants, and Monday-morning quarterbacking seemed uncharacteristically nasty. Can you say clusterfuck? Sure you can. Try it on your mommy. Did she slap you? Then you said it right.
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