Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Before April of last year, the Fort Lauderdale Saloon was just another cinder-block and plywood rat trap on Federal Highway. Sure, the place had charm (and a laundry machine), but it was of the "let's go slumming" variety, hardly a draw to anyone other than aging drinkers and long-time regulars. Then during spring and summer of last year, a tiny but significant renaissance occurred. Affable owner Walter Ciuffini partnered with local promoters By the Way to bring favorite local acts into the joint -- bands like AC Cobra, Humbert, and Southern Flaw. Soon, it became clear to all that good shows bring hip folks, and hip folks drink a lot of beer. Eureka -- there's money in that there music! BTW has moved on, but Rock Bottom Hip-Hop Nights have taken its place on a nearly weekly basis. Now Friday nights mean breaking b-boys, graffiti in the parking lot, and rappers from all over South Florida strutting their stuff. All this killer music, and the Saloon still offers cheap beer and chicken nuggets. Now that's true South Florida culture.
If a list of recent shows at your art museum includes retrospectives of Miró and Nevelson, to say nothing of a startling arrangement of thrift-shop clothing by an artful duo called Guerra de la Paz, you've had a good year. Samantha Salzinger, curator of exhibitions for the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, is bringing the once-unremarkable museum into the artistic mainstream.
Salzinger's favorite art is, yes, kind of carny. A 2003 show, Pamela Joseph's "The Sideshow of the Absurd" (last year's Best Solo Art Exhibition), drew heavily on carnival culture and freak shows. "Joseph had an interesting take on what she called freaks," Salzinger says. "They're like someone in a fairy tale who's gone through a test in life. The rest of us all walk around fearing something terrible will happen to us. They live with it."
Photographer Diane Arbus had a similar vision. "Her pictures of a midget," Salzinger says, "are more about him being a man than a midget."
Yes, we've said it before -- this time last year, in fact -- but we'll say it again: The Boca Museum continues to dazzle. Some of the newness may have worn off the big, beautiful Mizner Park headquarters it moved into nearly four and a half years ago, but the programming has lost none of its luster. After the grand inaugural Picasso show, the museum has steered away from blockbuster exhibitions and emphasized variety. The payoff has been substantial: photography ranging from Roman Vishniac's documentation of Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the 1930s to Steve McCurry's images of contemporary Asia; Haitian paintings and voodoo flags from a local collector's stash; paintings by American expressionist Charles Burchfield as well as by Uruguayan visionary Ignacio Iturria; jewel-encrusted art objects from Italy's Buccellati family of goldsmiths; and the just-ended retrospective of the career of legendary American realist Andrew Wyeth. Any gaps in the schedule are readily filled by the annual "All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition" and an ongoing series that highlights selections from local private collections. Throw in a respected art school, special events such as a film series, and one of the best permanent collections in South Florida and you have a full-service art museum that's hard to beat.
By the time he turned 40 last year, Enrique Martínez Celaya had a decade of exhibitions under his belt. His work -- which runs the gamut from paintings and drawings to photographs to sculptures and mixed-media installations -- is in demand among private collectors in America and Europe, and it has found its way into the collections of major museums such as the Met and the Whitney in New York and L.A.'s County Museum. So where does the Cuban-born Martínez Celaya set up shop? Why, Delray Beach, of course. That's right. Last year, the world-class artist -- someone for whom the world is his oyster -- chose Delray over not just Miami but also Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Berlin... And guess what: He's still a hot ticket. It's good to be Enrique Martínez Celaya.
When Revolution opened its doors last September, hopes were high that the new club would break the apparent curse that doomed the building's former occupants -- the Edge, Chili Pepper, and Star Bar/Venu (the latter having shut its doors faster than you can say, "What a dumb name for a rock club!"). But Revolution gets many of its acts from Clear Channel, and if there's one thing the communications giant is good for, it's bringing in the bacon. And that it has with a bevy of big names that run the musical gamut, from hip-hop (Snoop Dogg, Mos Def) to punk (Social Distortion, New Found Glory) to funk (George Clinton) and metal (Atreyu). A year ago, many of these acts wouldn't venture south of Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach. And if they did, they'd go straight to Miami. Sure, Revolution got off to a shaky start, canceling its Wednesday-night local shows and Friday-night Pulp event. But with plenty of star power on its roster every month (Papa Roach!), Revolution might just beat the curse of 200 W. Broward Blvd. Let's hope that if a new venue wins this category next year, it has a different address.
Yes, the band that New Times chose as Best Band to Leave Broward/Palm Beach in 2000 is one of the few bands that hasn't made New York City its new home. Though guitarist/vocalist Derek Hyde and drummer Eddie Brandt took a stab at relocating to the Big Apple, Hyde moved back home in 2001. And we can thank the rock gods for that, because this is one of the few local bands that truly knows how to rock. There ain't no shoe-gazing here, just pure entertainment. The Creepy T's balance song and shtick, whether it's Hyde's manic meltdowns or the band's catchy, B-movie-inspired tunes with amusing titles you're not likely to find on the next Franz Ferdinand album. Try "Tiger with the She-Bitch On" or "Fire Gods of the South Pacific" -- quite a bit more interesting than songs about heartbreak and cheating girlfriends. Then again, Hyde's not big on following the whole indie hipster trend; he's more likely to wear a hula skirt than denim and Converse. And while the vintage farfisa sounds of keyboardist Thomas Dementrius place the Creepy T's in garage territory, the band operates outside that genre's hipster image as well. But if you doubt the T's rock cred, check out their new gig as backing band for King Coleman, the legendary "Mashed Potato Man" himself. Indeed, the Creepy T's carry the torch of rock 'n' roll like a South Pacific fire god -- hula skirt and all.
Topnotch drumming has long been associated with jazz and blues musicians, from Buddy Rich to Gene Krupa, whose fans mostly view rock drummers as brutish rogues -- one-trick ponies who lack real musicianship. Of course, rock and metal fans don't care; they're positive that their guys are the best, whether it's Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, Rush's Neil Peart, or Metallica's Lars Ulrich. So when someone like Chris Maggio embraces both styles of drumming and succeeds, not even the most musically ignorant dipshit can deny that he's in the presence of greatness. While Maggio occasionally plays blues gigs around Fort Lauderdale, it's his stint as drummer for the hard-rocking AC Cobra that raises eyebrows and tweaks eardrums like a latter-day Keith Moon. Hearing Maggio's recordings is impressive enough, but only by watching him perform does one understand the intense kinship that can exist between man and instrument. Maggio doesn't just play his drum kit; he worships the damned thing -- and it responds accordingly.
While others just bitched about their jobs, Reece, an assistant manager at Brooks Brothers in Palm Beach Gardens, turned his workplace laments into literary gold with The Clerk's Tale. In 2003, the poem was awarded the prestigious Katharine Bakeless Nason Prize for poetry, and the New Yorker ran it on the magazine's high-profile back page. But what makes him a standout are his observations of the Sunshine State from his Lantana home. In Florida Ghazals, Reece's words ooze with revulsion and fascination about this weird place we call home:
Down here, the sun clings to the earth and there is no darkness.
Down there, the silence of the sea and the silence of the swamp seep into our muscles.
Florida is a frontier built by escapees.
We electrocute men. No one's past is certain.
Florida has no memory besides the monarch butterflies who remember everything.
The sea glitters, fish disappear like keys. 0, this land of exits. This land of forgetfulness.
In the days just before the 2004 presidential election, a sense of possibility and hope still prevailed. Shortly after the opening of Fort Lauderdale's new über-club Revolution, which single-handedly resurrected downtown's rock cred, Canadian industrial powerhouse Skinny Puppy treated a packed house to a punishing audio-visual onslaught that left no doubt what political platform it advocated. Highlights of the Puppy theater of pain included singer Nivek Ogre donning a gas mask and spewing its contents (green Jell-O) on the crowd; masked doppelgängers of Bush and Cheney receiving just desserts; a man in a keyboard-cage pumping out insanely inhuman sounds; and video-screen imagery that all but equated Dubya's reign with the Third Reich. Only a week later, we were disappointed by the results of another disastrous Election Day. But our ears were still ringing.
What, you thought Marilyn Manson was going to win this one just because the band once called Broward County home? Yeah, you could argue that, in terms of current significance, Manson is more relevant than a group of retired rappers. But the key terms here are local and all time, and 2 Live Crew wins on both counts. Lead by gold-grilled front-man Luther Campbell (a.k.a., Luke Skyywalker), the Crew fought the law and kicked its stuffy, tight ass -- right here in Broward County. The group took on not only Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro but also stuck it to Florida Attorney General Jack Thompson and Judge Jose Gonzalez, who banned the Crew's album As Nasty as They Wanna Be. When the decision was overruled two years later by an appeals court (and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court), Gonzalez's efforts proved to have backfired, as 2 Live Crew ultimately sold more than 2 million copies of the album. So Manson can keep his self-promoting TV appearances and Michael Moore film cameos (and all that horrible music as well). 2 Live Crew did it first, they did it best, and they did it here.
The Music Factory? Wasn't this club once called the Metal Factory? Sure enough, after dropping the metal in 2003 (when New Times awarded it Best Turnaround in Clubland), the Factory added the more open-ended music to its name a year later -- just to ensure no one confuses it with some low-rent Hessian hangout. But the Music Factory is more than a venue to occupy aspiring emo bands waiting for Vagrant Records to pick them up. 2004 saw the club reeling in plenty of international punk and ska acts, from long-time staples of the underground (the Subhumans, the Bouncing Souls) to local faves (Against All Authority, the Agency) and even a piercing-studded cabaret show (the Suicide Girls Burlesque Tour). Oh, and don't be fooled by the naked chick on the Music Factory's website or the ads for "Sexy Ladies Night" on Wednesdays; the club hasn't gone all Coyote Ugly on us. It's still a rock club, and that includes the occasional metal band. What other venue would bring to town a Guns N' Roses tribute band like Ohio's Paradise City? It's about the music, man... and the mullet. Yes, you can have it all.
It takes more than silver-plated pipes or a bloodcurdling scream to really soar as a rock singer. If you're going to make your listeners feel anything deeper than horny or pissed-off, you gotta have a sense of subtlety and a range of vocal expression. Listen to El's self-titled 2004 release and you'll hear vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Clark stagger through longing, float with elation, and simmer in regret, all while maintaining a sense of earnest vulnerability that helps make this Lake Worth band one of South Florida's best. Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, gave Clark a unique inflection and worldly musical sense that comes through in the band's sophisticated yet simple songwriting. The trio is currently working on a new album that will combine Clark's Latin leanings with European influences like the Cardigans, U2, and Radiohead. With Clark at the helm, you can be sure the music will take you places.