There's something oddly relaxing about listening to the roar of aggravated metal vocals backed with the rumble of pure evil. Sure, at first, your shoulders tighten to your ears. You're facing the deep, pounding speed that comes from the stage when Broward death-metal act Beastplague performs. Yeah, your blood pressure shoots up until the blood vessels in your eyes burst and you're punching the person next to you. But if you give it a minute and just settle into the experience, you will fully enjoy the intensity and talent of this three-piece. As bodies beat bodies into a frenzy, you can simply allow the tension to melt away. Your muscles will unwind, your head will hang, and it will bang. And you will feel the true allure of this genre through Beastplague. Just last year, these dudes of grindcore mixed and mastered their full-length release Manifestation in just ten hours. It gained a bit of attention on metal blogs around the country that likened them to Napalm Death, Exitium, Magrudergrind, and Mother Brain. They also put out a song on Anvileater Records' compilation Eaten Alive Vol. 1. The band has performed some gigs this year that don't ooze with doom and darkness of the underworld, like Sweatstock in Miami and Speakeasy in Lake Worth. But that doesn't take away from Beastplague's brutality; it simply brings those sunny venues that much closer to Beelzebub.

With the diversity that Black Locust Society has brought to Broward County, there is no shortage of talented 20-somethings making music of all kinds and certainly no shortage of the hip-hop sound within the confines of a group. Though there is one that stands out above the rest this year, and while the hunt for Best Hip-Hop Act grew increasingly more difficult the closer to deadline, Gaps (Ricardo Tejeda) gave a performance a notch above at this year's Block x Blog festival that sealed it for New Times. With rhythms that break tradition and soar beyond delay and feedback, Gaps has been refining his sound for the past ten years here in Broward. Currently working with Pax (Astrea Corp), who is lending a hand in the production of the next Gaps release, Tejeda's influence is as selective as it is diverse. "I really enjoy performing with my BLS crew, obviously, but love to branch out with other artists like Iron Ora, the Goddamn Hustle, Suede Dudes — cats like that. Anything that will keep it interesting for everyone involved."

The guy with the gaunt face and freestanding black hair that you see all the time as you slink through the aisles of Radio-Active Records is Richard Vergez. He's the creative director there, but making the store's website is definitely not all he does with his time. Vergez is a musician who gets dark and synthy with Mothersky and totally atmospheric and experimental with his electronic solo project, Drowning the Virgin Silence. For the latter, he creates surreal music — influenced by Stockhausen and Daphne Oram — under a title taken from Federico Garcia Lorca. He uses analog equipment and creates loops from splicing cassettes to weave soundscapes that are tense and relaxing, complex and ambient. Under DTVS, he's opened for former Harry Pussy guitarist and singer Bill Orcutt, brought his brand of dreamy electronica to Churchill's annual International Noise Conference, and worked with dancer Ana Mendez to offer a sound installation to enhance her intensely emotional Joe Meek tribute. His upcoming tape with this project will be out on New York's Goat Eater label. An artist working not only with sound but also with visuals, Vergez composes images with feeling and place for each of his releases and is showing all over the world, from London to Chicago. DTVS elevates sound art, making it something you'd want to hear at home, at the pool, by the ocean, or in your car.

Like you dipped your whole head into a vat of liquid acid. Like someone you truly love and trust massaged your eardrums, bringing them to the heights of orgiastic pleasure. Like your brain cells took the shape and colors of Sesame Street numbers, connected by taut, then vibrating, guitar-string synapses. This is the effect Cop City Chill Pillars' 2012 album, Hosed, has on the body. "Hosed," band members say, means to have bad luck. But there's nothing unlucky about this release, their second LP on Orlando's Florida's Dying label. It's sent them playing around the country and alongside the Jesus and Mary Chain and Swans at Calgary's Sled Island Festival this June. The sounds of guitarist Chris Jankow Jr., drummer Jordan Pettingill, and bassist Jimmy Bradshaw are experimental and psychedelic; they are slow, they are solid, and they will mess with your head and weigh on your heart. There isn't a queer subgenre that suits this Lake Worth band neatly, but Hosed needs no defining. It is a crazy, unexpected embrace you can't struggle your way out of, so you lie back and enjoy the feeling.

You take one more shot at the bar and you're basically ready to sing your favorite song in front of a crowded room of strangers. Then you turn back for another. Just because. OK, now you're totally ready to belt it out — you're going to morph into Madonna up there! You are the Material Girl! You grab the mic and grab your crotch and say, "Come on! Vogue!" At Gaby's in Pembroke Pines on Thursday nights, you're not alone on the karaoke stage. And we're not talking about the 20 of your best friends yelling the lyrics into your ear; we're talking the band Boys Night Out, bringing Rockstar karaoke to this strip-mall staple. This live act plays instruments while you stumble drunkenly through the tunes of Metallica or Usher or Evanescence. And when you can't rap along with Biggie, Merv Thompson, Erin Hagerty, Wayne Hood, and David Bertok are there to help pick up your slack. These guys have been around for about a gazillion decades, or maybe like three, so they know what you're trying to say, and they'll sing it for ya. Ladies drink free till 1, so no doubt you'll be nice and lubed for your big moment in the spotlight. Now, sing!

Nope, that wasn't an earthquake. Those shaking windows and shivering chandeliers, that was Latrice "Mother*$@#in'" Royale's booming voice rocking the whole of Wilton Manors. You can just hear the supersized mama yelling "The shade of it all!" while flapping a Spanish fan in front of her big, brown, lacquered face. Latrice Royale. She's a woman, but she's more than twice your size. The dazzling drag queen, born Timothy Wilcots, was a fan favorite on season four of RuPaul's Drag Race and RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race. A longtime Hollywood resident, the divine diva spends her time, as Royale'd put it, "showin' off my curves 'n' swerves," in the heart of gay Fort Lauderdale. You can find her taking over (and up!) the stage at the Manor, Boom, and Bill's Filling Station. But before the glamour and stardom, Wilcots was just a little black boy growing up in Compton, and prior to ruling the airwaves, she spent a stint in the slammer for a drug-related crime. But a star is identified by his, or her, ability to shine brightly through the darkest galaxy, and that is exactly what Ms. Royale does best.

A local music festival was born on April 20, 2013, in a whirl of tattoos, plaid skinny jeans, guitars, turntables, and dancing feet. This bouncing baby was named Block x Blog. It swept through Revolution Live, Green Room, and America's Backyard on the international day of stoners and Record Store Day, bringing with it a barrage of admirers. A particularly ambitious effort, the festival was given life by Subculture, Revolution Live's 3J Hospitality, and the force of all the other most powerful cultural players in the Fort Lauderdale scene. And by ambitious, we mean, 30 local acts playing original and quality music, all in one night. Block x Blog brought down DFA's Holy Ghost! from New York to get buzzing butts to the dance floor. Revolution bumped with bleeps by many electronic acts, including Afrobeta. Green Room was packed with live art, Mario Bros, and rock 'n' roll by bands like Jacuzzi Boys. Black Locust Society brought its enduring, hip-hop-tinged party Swarm to America's Backyard, turning that motherfunker out. Unlike huge festivals with mostly out-of-towners, like the former Langerado, Block x Blog takes a homegrown, and thus successful, approach to concert planning. It's planted the seeds, the music grew tall and strong, and the people grazed. They all left full and fueled for the next big Broward party.

Candace West

The thump of the bass is making your teeth shatter. You're smashed between the sweaty pumped pecs of a beefy Italian on one side and the sequins of a drag queen's dress on the other. Your arms sway to the sounds as rainbow-colored confetti falls lightly on your wet shoulders, sticking to your hair. Your drenched tank top is shoved into the pocket of your pants. Who the hell needs a shirt when you have the Manor? Chandeliers and disco balls hang mostly pointlessly as laser lights shoot through the dense air, thick with beats and human heat. The best decorations in the room are the go-go boys flexing and pumping the air. From the DJ booth, Kidd Madonny, or maybe it's Tracy Young, spins and strikes poses. The only cool thing in the room is the fog machine, which makes it even harder to see the dude you're grinding up against. Your boyfriend and your bottle are waiting for you at VIP, but they'll still be there when you're done with this song and maybe the next one too. This is the most fun you've had in years. Nothing, not even love, will drag you off this dance floor.

Residing on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach since 1987, Respectables is the longest-running nightclub in the southeastern U.S. — and for good reason. Not only does RSC feature local and nationally known DJs to curate dance-floor shenanigans throughout the week but it's also been a hub for some of alternative music's most crucial musicians. With a simple stage sitting about four feet off the ground, the view is perfect from anywhere in the venue, and the understated hardwood floors are perfect encouragement for sound quality. When the weather is on its best behavior, there is plenty of room on the patio for alfresco tuneage along with an auxiliary bar, so you never have to wait too long for a drink. Lining the walls are plenty of opportunities to kick it and relax if you don't feel up to getting down on the dance floor on nights when the venue hosts parties, but if you're looking for the full RSC experience, you'll want to head out on a Thursday for the weekly edition of Flaunt. There, you'll get to take advantage of drink specials on the basics while the spotlight turns to local music. Two or three bands every Thursday from as close as Lake Worth and as far as New York play Respectables, and after the bands are packed away, the DJs are ready and waiting. Respectables is known for its theme nights (cheesy '80s prom night!) and often hosts cultural events where art and music meet. RSC is truly a melting pot on any given night and a staple in the South Florida music scene.

"Techno and tacos" are two things DJ Donnie Lowe loves in this world, along with making people dance, of course. Resident DJ at Gryphon Nightclub, located at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Lowe has been spinning records for the past five years. What sets Lowe apart from a lot of young DJs is that he spins wax as opposed to working straight off of a MacBook. "My mentor Matt Spector showed me how important it was to run vinyl exclusively. He wouldn't let me switch the record until the mix was perfect," he says of honing his art. One thing is clear from Lowe's sound: He has respect for his predecessors, especially those he's responsible for opening a room for, understanding the delicate balance of setting the stage and stealing it. You can find Donnie Lowe spinning at Gryphon, where he started as a promoter and shows genuine appreciation for his workplace. Humble and talented, Lowe isn't worried about everyone knowing him as much as he wants to ensure he's doing what he can to evolve as a musician. His first recording was released in 2012, and there's a lot more where that came from. If you have a taste for blowing off steam and shaking that ass, Lowe can help you with that. "You never know when someone's had a terrible day, but all it takes is one minute of mixing to get them dancing and you can see them just putting whatever it is behind them," he says. Keep an eye out for him this year, as he's got a few things lined up for release. He's all over SoundCloud, and you should be all over him.

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