Best Ensemble 2009 | Ambar Aranaga, Erynn Dalton, Monica Garcia, and Phyllis Spear for Claire Chafee's Why We Have a Body | Arts & Entertainment | South Florida

Why We Have a Body is a zany impressionistic play that ought to be monstrous fun for the actresses who tackle it. And indeed, the actresses of the now-deceased Sol Theatre seemed to be enjoying themselves last summer as they juggled Claire Chafee's endless witticisms with her bottomless reflections on the natures of gender and fate. Ambar Aranaga, Erynn Dalton, Monica Garcia, and Phyllis Spear were fast-moving and quick-thinking, tearing through Chafee's script in an athletic way that somehow suggested they were trying to achieve liftoff. Momentum was nurtured and sustained, from Aranaga's lusty portrayal of a quirky, incurably violent, and gun-toting history buff to Spear's infinitely dour turn as her mother, boating in reflective solitude down some primeval canal in the Yucatan. It really was like juggling: a mass of words and ideas kept afloat by nothing but sheer enthusiasm, losing not a single watt of its energy as it passed from actress to actress. Why We Have a Body featured the kind of punch-drunk interplay that comes around only every few seasons, and we'll probably have a good long wait before we see its like again.

True musicians cannot be tethered. They can't be made to sit still on a stage and dutifully blend in. Besides, that's not what you're looking for with live music: You want danger and experimentation. You want Kenny Millions<. A proven player of many instruments, Kenny refuses to settle for just one. He prefers to have several, from saxophone to guitar to clarinet, strapped to his person at any time during Radio-Active Record's monthly experimental night, PunkJazzNoise. He is also partial to fondling them all, in unison, while twitching and pawing his way through the crowd. Creating cacophonic dissonances of spastic proportions didn't happen overnight for this musical maniac. He got his start in New York's bustling early '70s gig scene. From there, he traveled to Europe, kickin' it with even more of the world's great players before putting down roots in Hollywood in the late '80s. You can catch his jazzier side on weekends at Sushi Blues Cafe, the swank sushi bar owned by Millions and his wife. But to see this man's most cheese-grater-to-the-ear experimental side, you'll have to dip into PunkJazzNoise on the third Thursday of every month.

Kenny Millions live at Radio Active Records in Fort Lauderdale in May 2008:

It's easy, when confronted with Boynton Beach-based electro-glam trio Kill Miss Pretty, to get wrapped up in the group's theatrics. Taking a page from the Bowie how-to book, the band makes each of its shows a costumed spectacle. The three have performed dressed as a ringleader with circus clowns, a race-car driver with pit crew, and a cop and muggers — to name just a few get-ups. The musicians even appeared in their birthday suits on a recent New Times cover. What all this might distract from, though, is that frontwoman Alicia Olink boasts an enviable set of pipes. On the group's latest album, Permission for Strange, Olink slithers through one slippery range. She might move from a bratty schoolgirl sing-speak to a subdued coo to an all-out wail. It's as explosive as her onstage antics and just as exciting.

"Drawing Pictures of Haunted Houses with You" from Kill Miss Pretty:

As in-house curator at the Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale, Jorge Santis brought more than 30 years of curating experience, not to mention his own story as a Cuban exile, to bear on this thrilling survey of Cuban art, and it showed. No other South Florida museum show this year had the historical and political sweep of "Unbroken Ties." Not even MoA/FL's own "Breaking Barriers" exhibition of Cuban exile art a decade ago could compare. Santis' secret was to include the work of artists still living on the island alongside that of their exiled compatriots — a move no other South Florida museum would have had the cojones to attempt. The move paid off with a rich three-act saga that captured, in roughly 80 works by 60 artists, the breadth and depth of the 20th-century phenomenon that is Cuba.

Raised in the Boogie Down Bronx, the MC born John Joseph Cullen left his gritty native borough for the sunnier climes of Coral Springs in 1993. To our benefit, he brought his hometown's reverence for true hip-hop culture and dove into the break-dancing scene at now-defunct spots like the Sugar Shack and Club Boca. He soon discovered, though, that his real gift was for rhyming — he scored his current nickname in honor of his easy-gliding delivery. Eventually, around the turn of the millennium, one of his demos landed with Maseo of De La Soul. That led to Butta V's closest thing to a big break: a guest spot rapping on De La's track "Oh No" and a release of his 2004 debut album, Brand Spankin', on Maseo's Bear Mountain Recordings imprint. He's continued a steady grind since then, and if a quality hip-hop act has rolled through town — KRS-One, Boot Camp Clik, Wu-Tang Clan — Butta Verses has probably opened for them. A follow-up full-length, Reality BV, followed last September and raised the bar, showcasing Cullen's slow-burning narrative technique, crafty wordplay, and a flow as smooth as... well, you know.

"Work" off of the debut album "Brand Spankin'" from Butta Verses:

Born in rural Wyoming, ramblin' singer/songwriter Jesse Jackson got his start around Miami Beach, busking on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall and charming the pants off anyone who crossed his path. Several years and more than a few one-night (musical) stands later, Jackson brought his show a little north to Broward and Palm Beach counties, where he has recently and frequently held court at Dada in Delray Beach on Thursday nights. Though his actual music is based on the best, time-honored traditions of the Great American Songbook, everything else about his live show is unpredictable. Perhaps Jackson will invite a friend to play tuba. Perhaps he will invite several friends, some of whom might play even more seldom-seen instruments like the sousaphone. Perhaps it'll just be him in one-man-band mode, singing, strumming, and keeping rhythm however else he can. Whatever happens, no two Jesse Jackson performances are ever alike — and none is less than spell-binding.

"If Wishes Were Horses" from Jesse Jackson:

For a while there, Charlie Pickett's story was one of South Florida's greatest tales of almost-was. In the '80s, the Dania Beach native was a local powerhouse, playing all over South Florida as leader of his punky, roots-inflected outfit the Eggs. Eventually he and his merry band toured from coast to coast, gaining a cult following and critical respect but never really reaching national liftoff. The frustrated Pickett gave up music and became a lawyer and now maintains a practice in Palm Beach County. Still, in ensuing years, thanks much to the internet, Pickett's star slowly rose until he was hailed as one of the unsung early heroes of the so-called alt-country movement. A retrospective reissue, Bar Band Americanus, was released on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records last year, and Pickett hit the road once again. What's all the fuss about? Largely, it's his slightly rough, blues-polished croon with dashes of Chuck Berry, Johnny Rotten, and Lou Reed. Pickett's singing style is slightly flat and wavering but swells with a distinctive, bittersweet emotion, an appropriate instrument for professing undying love before telling you to kiss off.

"Overtown" from Charlie Pickett & the Eggs:

Is Poison the Well a surprise pick by any means? No, but it's time to give credit where credit is long overdue. And while Miami usually claims this band (frontman Jeffrey Moreira reps Hialeah, hard), the rest of the members hail from towns across Broward and Palm Beach counties. Poison the Well sprang from the same fabled anything-goes, late-'90s South Florida hardcore/punk scene as fellow success stories Shai Hulud and New Found Glory. PTW has reached the same cult level of underground/overground success (even releasing one disc on a major, Atlantic). But unlike its peers, the band never switched its original home base. No, Poison the Well deserves props for touring the world relentlessly, playing to frothing American and European crowds of thousands, and then returning home to joltingly sunny South Florida. What's more, PTW puts the same level of balls-to-the-wall energy into its decidedly more intimate hometown gigs, playing for scarily rabid longtime fans at places like Churchill's Pub. Further, the band has continued a path of out-there musical innovation, melding its hardcore roots into spaced-out, experimental workouts that work just as well on a home stereo as at a show. The band's latest album, The Tropic Rot, was released digitally last month through Ferret Music. The physical release is this summer, and it comes an impressive ten years after the group's debut full-length, The Opposite of December. Happy anniversary, guys.

"Slice Paper Wrists" by Poison the Well:

The sudden cancellation of the Langerado Music Festival this year was one of the sadder events of the local scene. Critics, however, would say it was expected. Long ago (well, in 2003), Langerado began as the brainchild of hometown promoters Ethan Schwartz and Mark Brown. In its earliest form, it was an informal jam-down at the small-ish Young Circle in Hollywood. By 2005, it had blossomed into a two-day event at the larger Markham Park in Sunrise. But it was still more or less an informal jam-down based on communal camping and dancing till the wee hours to tripped-out sounds from the likes of Umphrey's McGee and String Cheese Incident. Later years saw the festival grow even larger in attendance and length (three days) and more inclusive in its musical lineup, inviting a host of indie-rock (Vampire Weekend, the Walkmen) and even hip-hop luminaries (Beastie Boys, the Roots). The jam-band crowd, however, fretted that the festival was losing its original soul, and all message-board hell broke loose when organizers announced that the 2009 edition would take place in downtown Miami. There would be no camping, and the lineup would be decidedly less jammy — its headliners including acts like Snoop Dogg and Ryan Adams. The result? Poor ticket sales — so poor that Langerado pulled the plug on itself barely a month before it was set to go off. It remains unclear whether it'll bounce back in time for a 2010 edition. Langerado, we hardly knew ye.

Matisyahu beat-boxing live at Langerado in 2007:

Look, everyone knows about the Broward/Palm Beach holy trinity of venues for mid-sized touring acts: Revolution, Culture Room, and Respectable Street. But what about hyper-local spots that nurture homegrown talent, especially the kind that can't legally get into most other venues? For the cream of that crop, we give you the Talent Farm, nestled in a shopping center in the far reaches of Pembroke Pines. Sure, it's so far west it's practically in the swamp, but it's the hub of a very thriving microscene of mostly young bands whose names often form complete sentences. The place will give almost anyone a first shot at playing live, but at the same time, it boasts a more professional stage setup and sound system than most bars back on the beaten local-circuit path. And the Talent Farm is more clued-in about the internet than most local venues: It streams all its shows online for free, recognizing that will draw more of a crowd in the long run. Further, for a small fee, during off-hours a house engineer offers simple demo recording services. Nurturing tomorrow's local favorites today, the Talent Farm truly lives up to its name.

Shoreline Vista at The Talent Farm:

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