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:

Playing live around town for less than a year, the shadowy character known as Panic Bomber has already developed some minor lore. Legend has it that once upon a time, Richard Haig was a local rock musician who got fed up with the grind of being hustled off stage in time for the night's main event — a DJ. So he turned to dance music himself, supposedly in some kind of act of defiance that's explained, sort of, in a treatise on his website. Whatever. The music he makes, regardless of the reasoning behind it, is slick and dance-floor-friendly, working up to a funky electro-house groove that's rough enough around the edges to belie its creator's rock roots. And unable to fully relinquish a band's spectacle of performance, Haig's devised a pretty sweet light-up costume to boot. Look out for him at a more discerning — hmmm, some would say "hip" — dance club near you.

Panic Bomber live at The Vagabond:

Last May, just as our nation's most visible political performers were turning into caricatures of themselves and making strawmen of their enemies, Florida Stage unleashed Ordinary Nation: a political play that made a mockery of categorical political definitions. Plenty of people forgot it the moment it was done with — it was subtle almost unto quietude — but others, it haunted. The story of a lefty academic with a bookie dad, a gambling-addict daughter, and a wife who is cheating on him with a GOP senatorial candidate, Lewis' play showed us the profound ways in which our politics inform our lives. And then, in the play's final half-hour, it showed us politics' limits. The heart, as it turns out, has its own ideologies that don't respect party lines.

The thing about Oswaldo Guayasamín, an Ecuadorian artist who died in 1999 at age 79, is that he takes you off guard. First he hits you viscerally with full force — painting human flesh, for instance, with such rawness and immediacy that you want to recoil. Then, once you've had a chance to learn a little about the origins and context of his imagery, he engages you intellectually, stirring up your sense of moral outrage over such things as poverty and torture and the coolly bureaucratic machinations of war. His work is not for the fainthearted, and not surprisingly, it went largely unshown in the United States for more than half a century. That's why it was such a coup for FAU's little Schmidt Center Gallery to snag this small but significant retrospective of Guayasamín's paintings, drawings, and prints, which are just as relevant today as ever.

All actors in The Seafarer were excellent, but Dennis Creaghan was un-fucking-believable. A recently blinded alcoholic Irishman — with a big, affable spirit and a bounty of deep, personal pain — he captured your heart and imagination within the play's first five minutes and never relinquished them. His performance was largely a collection of tics and habits: a stutter as he groped to find the proper profanity with which to respond to a given affront to his dignity; the way he raced to think of an innocent-sounding way to ask for a fifth, sixth, or seventh refill of his whiskey glass; or the way his reedy raconteur's voice filled with gaiety as he lambasted his loser brother — just to let the assembled know it was all in good fun. He was a remarkably complete character, as affecting and full of soul as any of the season's leading men, and you should probably know that one local critic went to see his performance on three separate occasions, just to see if the thing was a fluke. It wasn't.

For good Darwinian reasons, we remember trauma with more clarity than pleasure. This, perhaps, is why tragediennes win more awards than their comedienne counterparts. Last year, Nanique Gheridian turned in a memorable performance as Sheila, the frightened, mousy wife of razor-witted Colin (played by Todd Allen Durkin). Abused, afraid to speak above a squeak, and seemingly incapable of articulating an opinion about anything, she spent the whole play trying her best to disappear. She seemed to grow smaller each time Durkin opened his mouth. Her laughter, always nervous, became ever more tremulous until it was just a tickly flutter — a shamed little spasm of the tonsils. Her character was a woman embarrassed to be alive, and she made her embarrassment our own. Many thespians could have done likewise, but Gheridian went further by making us see the woman her character could have been. When her eyes shyly appraised her feet, they were wise eyes, full of intelligence. You could read in her face the thousand cutting things she'd love to say to her husband, if only she could open her mouth.

The Seafarer is a big play set in a little room. Comprising nothing more than the banter of old friends (and one diabolical houseguest) in an Irish basement on Christmas Eve, it warmly and humanely paints its characters' portraits as completely as any play can: their histories, flaws, world views, and most private pains. Its playwright's eternal muses are grief, guilt, and redemption, but The Seafarer goes much further. In a sustained moment of uncharacteristic kindness, McPherson wrote his Christmas story as an ode to unconquerable fraternal love — a love that remains strong even when battered senseless by (literally) the forces of hell. It would be difficult to imagine McPherson's script brought off more beautifully than it was at Mosaic Theatre last fall. If you went, you experienced mirth, dread, joy, sorrow, and a kind of moral clarity that you might call "enlightenment" — a stuffed-stocking bounty of thoughts and feelings greater than any piece of art is obliged to supply and which Mosaic nevertheless graciously proffered.

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