After self-released versions of Astro Coast floated around late last year, Surfer Blood's statement got solid with an official release via Kanine Records in January. Aside from its nationwide acclaim (and inevitable backlash), Astro Coast holds up when viewed through the lens of South Florida's beach-resort culture. "Swim (To Reach the End)" turns JP Pitts' voice into an invigorating hurricane. His commentary on "Catholic Pagans" smacks of the listlessness of living in a region that doesn't always feel so connected to the rest of the country: "Never could be still for long/And I could never hold a job/Coupled with a weakness for cocaine and liquor/Not much you can do for love." Astro Coast turned out to be Surfer Blood's ticket out — and a peek inside what's possible for everyone else.

"Swim" from Surfer Blood's Astro Coast.

Rumor has it that the devil grew a third horn after hearing this Fort Lauderdale outfit's song titled "Eating Drinking Shitting." Frontman Tom Rampage, who cultivates a serious following as bartender at the Poor House in downtown Fort Lauderdale (see more on this below), bellows with such force that any mullets within 1,000 feet start flapping uncontrollably. "Fuck you, motherfucker" is rarely screamed with this level of commitment and with such a thrust from the supporting cast of badass players. And if it isn't already clear, we couldn't give this honor to a nicer bunch of guys.

"Programmed to Kill" by Murderous Rampage:

Where would you turn if you wanted, say, one of the largest selections anywhere of work by the South Florida-based outsider artist Purvis Young? What if you were out to build a collection of posters from every Elvis movie ever made? Who might supply you with autographed Beatles memorabilia or original tickets from Woodstock? Believe it or not, there's a place for one-stop shopping for these and about a million other items, including original works by pop artist Peter Max and folk artist Howard Finster, to name just a couple more. The place in question is Gallery 721, and it comes with a bonus in the form of proprietor Larry Clemons, who will not only sell you a chunk of art or pop culture history but also regale you with the story behind the art object of your choice. Clemons has been operating out of his jam-packed, 6,500-square-foot warehouse of a space by the railroad tracks since 2001, and he's constantly augmenting his enormous inventory. He has the passion of a true collector because he is one, and he'll help you find just the right work of art or artifact to make you feel truly cool.
There was an amused look that Marjorie Lowe wore throughout her one-act performance as Anne, the wife of Jerry — a character well-known to fans of the original Albee Play, Zoo Story, of which At Home is an expansion. She was exasperated with Jerry and even went through the motions of fighting with him — but she didn't really fight with him. That look on her face belied it all, and it was a look of love. In almost every line, Lowe did a masterful job of communicating her and Jerry's shared history; the words seemed to take on shades of meaning that only the two of them could understand, because of their long years of practice. Lowe's performance was understated, wise, and extremely lovely.
Hallandale Beach's Boise Bob is twangin' about a revolution. And unlike Toby Keith, this type of rebellion is several states outside of the Nashville system. Not content to let his toe-tapping, old-time swamp music roll past without an impact, Boise Bob has social politics on his mind that will be on yours if you give a listen. The raw edges of this country-fried punk cut through the bull with a track like Kmart ode "Blue Light Special." "Every time the blue light flashes, you will see the white trash dash in," he drawls in a voice straight out of the Appalachian foothills. Lest we forget Darnell Hotdog's banjo-chomping, Tex Merlot's washboard-scraping, and Owen Cash's washtub-bass-slapping, Boise Bob's backup crew, the Backyard Band, isn't afraid of a damned thing either. Even if it doesn't inspire a line dance, this music has no shortage of inspiring ideas.
SunFest has literally been doing it longer than Lollapalooza, and it's easy to see why. Every spring since 1982, the West Palm Beach waterfront comes alive with a 280,000-strong, music-filled party that's built on solid-enough business practices to keep it going for years to come. The 2010 lineup, which featured genre-busters like Weezer, Nas, Damian Marley, Sean Kingston, the B-52's, and ZZ Top, showed a commitment to snagging credible acts that have proven themselves to be more than a flash in the pan or just a greatest-hits show. The other big success of the festival: It's dirt cheap to attend. While Coachella and Bonnaroo each run well over $200 per ticket, SunFest attendees can settle in for five days of music for about $60. That, and the place never reeks of patchouli.
Since its 1941 opening, the museum has grown dramatically, more than doubling its size with one expansion, completed in 1997, and adding 75 percent more gallery space with another expansion a mere half-dozen years later. The museum now encompasses 122,500 square feet. The collection has grown commensurately, so that it's now up to more than 7,000 works, with substantial holdings in European, American, Chinese, and contemporary art as well as photography. And although a surprising amount of this art is on view at any given time, the Norton doesn't stint on its special rotating exhibitions either. Of the dozen or so from the past year, five were recently on view at the same time, and their diversity is a testament to the institution's creative programming: "Avedon Fashion 1944-2000," "Habsburg Treasures: Renaissance Tapestries From the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna," "Here Comes the Sun: Warhol and Art After 1960 in the Norton Collection," "Paul Fusco: RFK Funeral Train Rediscovered," and "Reclaimed: Paintings From the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker." In the case of an art museum, bigger really is better — it's a matter of having more room for more art, and on both those counts, the Norton wins.
Gregg Weiner was a goddamned fireball in Dumb Show, frying the eyebrows off his audience every night. As a drunken, drug-addicted, philandering actor who's been suckered by two yellow journalists into revealing every vile little thing he's ever done, Weiner was a jitterbugging mass of frayed nerves and wild, mammalian survival instincts. He tore around the stage like a nihilistic bull, every vein in his head seemingly ready to burst in a shower of coke-tainted gore — yet there was a febrile, calculating intelligence that never left his eyes, no matter how wild he became. There were many virtuosic performances in Broward and Palm Beach this year, but only Weiner's was a force of nature.
Clarence Reid's soulful side is hidden somewhere under that supervillain mask he wears as X-rated rapper Blowfly. When he wasn't composing some of the dirtiest raps known to man back in the '70s, Reid could turn on the charm and play his voice like a horn in Miles Davis' grasp. Even through his current thick rasp, the fella who created hits like "Master Piece" and "Funky Party" is still as dynamic as hell. During an unmasked performance earlier this year at Fort Lauderdale's Monterey Club, the Miami resident bobbed and weaved through a set of his classics with the unhinged intensity of a man young enough to be his own illegitimate great-grandchild. In addition to his own soul creations, Reid has penned tunes for South Florida's KC and the Sunshine Band as well. What we're talking about isn't neo-soul, gospel, R&B, or any other subgenre but just the pure, unadulterated soul of a man — with an adulterated mind.

"Masterpiece" by Clarence Reid.

As umpteen karaoke singers have shown, the artistry of Neil Diamond is impossible to replicate. If you don't get too close to Neil Zirconia, who dubs himself "the ultimate faux diamond," it's easy to pretend that the gravelly warble knockoff you're getting is the real gem. Discovered by an Elvis impersonator — how apt — Chuck LaPaglia has delivered sparkling sets of Diamond classics as the Zirconia alter ego for years. Unlike the real Neil, you're often getting a quality steak dinner and cocktails at fine South Florida restaurants while the man in a sequin-covered shirt unloads "Sweet Caroline, "Cracklin' Rose," and "Kentucky Woman" with flair — and if you haven't gotten enough, the wait for another local gig is always a short one. A thrill so cheap rarely feels so good. A Diamond might be forever, but Zirconia lasts long enough for a night of quality nostalgia.

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