Formerly known as Ed Matus' Struggle, the recently rechristened Disconnect is one of the area's most popular rock bands. Occupying a niche in the psychedelic/shoe-gazer/emo realm, the band's surreal, shifting songs allow listeners to lose themselves in an intoxicating haze of swirling guitar. That his band was once briefly dubbed the Juan Montoya Experience is a joke with a kernel of truth at its core: Come to watch Disconnect, and you'll end up staring at the diminutive, Colombian-born maestro of the six-string. Using his Gibson SG and rack of pedals as a sonic flamethrower, the flamboyant Montoya makes a joyful noise; the pleasure of watching him lose himself in the swells of sound is why Disconnect continues to please old fans and rack up new ones.

Some national movie chains continue to shrink, while others focus on constructing mammoth multiplexes. Our Best Movie Theater of two years ago, meanwhile, has survived by morphing into that rarity, a true independent. The Gateway still snags the occasional mainstream flick, but it has become the best bet for such edgy independent fare as Requiem for a Dream, Nurse Betty, and the recent Memento. More specifically it has become a haven for the small but thriving genre of queer cinema. Edge of Seventeen, Trick, The Broken Hearts Club, Boys Life 3, and the Oscar-nominated Before Night Falls are just a few of the gay-oriented flicks that have played there. And a corner of the theater's lobby has become a virtual gay community-resource center, featuring magazines, newsletters, fliers, brochures, and business cards. No wonder some members of the gay and lesbian communities refer to the Gateway as the Gayway.

Elaine Roberts wants to make one thing perfectly clear: K&E's II Doors Down is not a lesbian bar. It's not that Roberts is lesbian-averse. After all she and co-owner Kathy Spatenga have been together -- both personally and professionally -- for more than 20 years. It's just that this is a new millennium and it's time to quit classifying things. "I don't want to be labeled a lesbian bar, because we aren't one. We're an alternative-lifestyle bar. We're a straight bar. We're a gay bar. We're a lesbian bar. We're just a bar. We're for all kinds of people," she says. "What is a gay bar, anyway? Are we running around naked with our wangs hanging out?" Hardly. This bar, which justifiably calls itself the "best-kept secret in Lake Worth," is a classic neighborhood joint -- the kind of place where you walk in, order a $2 draft, and instantly feel comfortable. Located just across Dixie Highway from Lake Worth's recently revitalized downtown, K&E's is often overlooked by those rushing to crowd into upstart imitators along Lake and Lucerne avenues. And if clubbers overlook the bar, it's understandable. Located in an old storefront, K&E's doesn't look like much from the outside. But inside, its décor borders on quaint, including the handmade pine bar, which Kathy designed and Elaine's brother-in-law built, and the small dining room, complete with paisley-print tablecloths, low lights, and framed posters on the walls. Elaine says the bar got its reputation as a lesbian bar because it's the successor to Kathy's Bar, a private, women-dominated club that Spatenga operated from 1979 to 1986. But when Roberts and Spatenga opened K&E's eight years ago, Elaine said she wanted to redefine "gay pride" and attract a diverse clientele. She got her wish. And it's easy to see why: The drinks are affordable, the food is good, and the conversation is lively. What more could any bargoer -- gay, straight, or in between -- want?

Every Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., culture high and low meets and makes out at Marya Summers's poetry slams. Among our favorite parts is lap poetry, the perfect expression of slammistress Summers's sophisticated appreciation of the South Florida sleaze factor. The décor and the crowd at this restaurant, lounge, and coffeehouse are about as cool as things get -- the retro-chic décor reflects the same arch sensibility that co-proprietor Rodney Mayo (who also owns Respectable Street) brings to all his enterprises. An eclectic, adventurous menu, full bar, and reasonable prices only add to the appeal. Pray that Summers gets drunk and some literary enthusiast volunteers to spank her, pour l'art. Or maybe just bring your own Wallace Stevens-like verse, step onto a table, and be brave enough to read it.

The resemblance to Bob Dylan is probably not entirely coincidental. A Palm Beach resident since 1995, MacDonald moved here to care for his aging parents and, it would seem, the small South Florida folk community. MacDonald paid his dues as a journalist, law student, conscientious objector, and traveling folksinger before becoming a major player in the Greenwich Village Fast Folk movement in the '80s and '90s. Today MacDonald is a regular at Palm Beach clubs such as Paddy Mac's and the Coffee Gallery Café, where he often invites local talent to join him on-stage. On a recent night at the CG, he looked as if he belonged, unfazed by passing cars, boisterous teenagers, bikers, and the noisy cover band two doors down. Decked out in sandals, Hawaiian shirt, and shorts, he sang and played his heart out using just "six strings and a hole big and round" (which is also the title of a MacDonald song). The political messages still inhabit his songs, but MacDonald's latest album, 1999's Into the Blue, tempers an angry attitude with songs about the weather, marriage, and nature. In other words he's adapted well to Florida.
Growing up in a suburban labyrinth of faceless strip malls, endless asphalt, and cookie-cutter subdivisions -- instead of Hades, we've named it Davie -- wouldn't seem to foster good music. But that's the hometown of most of the young members of the Rocking Horse Winner. And they've produced one of the most sublime albums Broward and Palm Beach counties have ever heard. From the chiming guitar of Henry Olmino and heavenly vocals of Jolie Lindholm, you'd think these kids were raised on a strict diet of the Sundays and the Innocence Mission. But you'd be wrong; somehow these sweet, melodic songs grew out of a punk-rock appetite. Drummer Matt Crum and bassist Jeronimo Gomez provide the foundation for this collection of some of the most memorable and flawlessly produced music ever to originate from the 'burbs. The State of Feeling Concentration's pastel-hued love songs, such as the lovely "Raspberry Water" and "Sweet Smell Before the Rain," are more than a much-needed respite from South Florida's dance-music/heavy-metal stranglehold: They're nothing less than pure pop perfection.
You won't find Anita Drujon holed up in some musty warehouse living tortured-artist clichés as she goes about producing her work. Sure, she spends plenty of time working in her Pompano Beach studio, a sunny condo not far from the ocean. But she's also actively engaged in the South Florida arts community. She's an adjunct professor at Broward Community College, Florida Atlantic University, and the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she regularly participates in group exhibitions, and a member of a handful of area art guilds. None of this would make much difference, of course, if her work were mediocre. It's not. Drujon, who was educated in Boston and Miami, is one of the few artists who devote themselves to encaustic, a relatively obscure medium that uses heated wax applied to hard surfaces such as wood or Masonite and then manipulated in various ways. Drujon helps keep this esoteric art alive, and she combines it with other media to glorious effect.
In an interview with New Times last year, GableStage artistic director Joe Adler said, "Television, and to some extent movies, is about maintaining a level of mediocrity. This is not the case with theater. It's a much bigger commitment. The audience is a participant." Adler combined his numerous years of film and TV experience with his passion and directorial savvy, turning Popcorn into a dark satire about the movie industry, among other things. With his trademark emotive directorial style, Adler knows how to get the best out of his actors. By pairing Claire Tyler and Paul Tei in the lead roles, he created just the right balance of innocence and evil. Adler consistently shows a keen awareness of the context of contemporary theater. He never makes theatergoers slaves to the stage. And he often uses film, video, music, and sound to propel the play into the audience's imagination. In Popcorn Adler offered a reminder that live theater can offer excitement that television and film can't -- without record, play, and rewind.
Picking out a top local jazzman is easy when he is also one of the greatest of all time. Ira Sullivan was a guiding light in Chicago's hard-bop scene of the 1960s. One of the few jazz musicians equally skilled with trumpet, flügelhorn, and every flavor of saxophone, Sullivan has played with more or less every big name in jazz during a career spanning 50 years. Perhaps the only reason he hasn't achieved the godlike status of Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie is that he virtually refuses to travel and is reticent about recording. In fact he has released only two albums in the last two decades. The last time he toured was more than a decade ago, with Red Rodney, the trumpeter who in 1949 replaced Miles Davis in Charlie Parker's bebop quintet. Despite all this, Sullivan is still recognized as one of the great names in jazz. Nowadays, apart from the occasional trip back to sweet home Chicago, he plays a few places around South Florida, including One Night Stan's in Hollywood the first Thursday of every month.
The six members of the Broward/Miami-Dade combo See Venus like to describe their heady sound as somewhere between Brian Wilson and Stereolab. Damn them, but we can't think of a more accurate comparison. Venus' space-age, bachelor-pad music is at once futuristic and retro, impossibly cool, and uncommonly catchy. Leader Christopher Moll began strolling down the pop path in the early '90s with his band Twenty-Three, but the full-bodied sound of See Venus seems to be what he's been striving for; with six members cavorting about with horns, keyboards, samplers, basses, and guitars, little white space exists on the band's crowded canvas. The sweet vocals of Rocky Ordoñez and Erica Boynton combine and captivate, making the melodious "Shine Like Stars" and the bouncy, Brazilian "Boy Bubble Blue" must-have confections. Find the band creating its magic at venues like Tobacco Road and Respectable Street.

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