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.

Straddling the line between high art and unadulterated, lowbrow, cover-band fun, Fort Lauderdale's Hashbrown appeals to hard-rockers, hip-hop heads, and fans of Parliament-style funk. The quartet is adept at kicking down a thickened, spicy, funked-up, urbane rock that's guaranteed to make your booty move and your mind follow. But the dance floor isn't the only place to enjoy Hashbrown: Plenty of the Velcro-strength hooks on tracks such as the rambunctious "HOD" and the silky "Over & Done" from their new Fuzzy Logic CD have the staying power of an all-day lollipop. Bassist-singer Jay Spencer is fully in charge of the nonstop hip-hop 'n' roll. Guitarist Duncan Cameron serves up obtuse, jazzy chords to add a bit of a professorial air. Drummer Rick Kanner dishes out never-ending, party-style beats. And DJ Boogie Waters is Hashbrown's secret weapon, piping a stream of vinyl samples atop the groovalicious funk. Catch the band at the Poor House most weekend nights or at the Surf Cafe in Boca Raton.
Boca Raton resident Chris Carrabba is a newfangled hybrid in the acoustic singer/songwriter mold. Though he uses roughly the same approach Woody Guthrie employed during dust bowl days, he's updated the formula slightly. Using the name the Dashboard Confessional, Carrabba strums unplugged, emo-punk anthems that connect on a gut level with his teenage and twentysomething audiences. The new Dashboard Confessional full-length CD, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, delivers the heart-on-the-sleeve, poignant lyrics with which his fans often sing along, as in "Again I Go Unnoticed": "So what's another day/When I can't bear these nights/Of thoughts of going on without you." You can find Carrabba touring the nation with the likes of Snapcase or Face to Face or witness him in stool-perching mode at Ray's Downtown Blues.

The Music Lesson dismantled the myth that good drama must arise from a dramatic situation. In this play by Tammy Ryan, a couple of musicians, Irena and Ivan, take refuge in Pittsburgh from war-torn Sarajevo and end up giving music lessons to American children from a broken family. What made Florida Stage's production exceptional was the acting, featuring the talents of Maggi St. Clair Melin, Jessica K. Peterson, Joris Stuyck, Elizabeth Dimon, Amy Love, Ashton Lee, Craig D. Ames, Eddi Shraybman, and Ethel Yari. The alienation and suffering these characters felt moved through the audience like slow ether, emanating from their simplest gestures. In fact the play is a gestural masterpiece, with all the action centering around an invisible piano. More than a metaphor, classical music becomes a tangible character, so that The Music Lesson is not just another account of human tragedy desensitized by a flood of overt emotion and sentimentality; it is a moving account of people trying to rebuild their lives.

We laughed. We cried. We begged for more. Then we saw Muvico Parisian 20 and realized we could never go back to another theater. While the trend-setting Fort Lauderdale-based theater chain's other South Florida multiplexes -- its Egyptian-themed temple of film in Pembroke Pines, its salute to the '50s in Pompano Beach, and its palatial tip of the hat to Addison Mizner in Boca Raton -- are impressive, its Parisian 20 in CityPlace is truly the pièce de résistance. Originally sold to the public as a French opera house, the theater has been described in the company's recent press releases as a movie chateau. Whatever they call it, this place is as eye-popping as anything on the silver screen. With sweeping staircases, intricate molding, and sky blue walls adorned with white columns, wainscoting, and hand-painted murals of Rubenesque cherubs, the lobby is nothing if not stunning. Popcorn in this theater? Au contraire. While it is on the menu, theatergoers can feast on things besides the usual snack bar fare, including quesadillas, shrimp, and, in the upstairs bar, sushi and pan bellos. But the real treat comes not from hearing, smelling, or tasting a thing but, when the lights dim and you sit back in a comfortable rocking chair with plenty of leg room, from realizing no one's head is in the way. As they say in Paris, ahhh.

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