Saturday Night: Swamp Stomp Music Festival at Jimbo's

Ben Thacker
Cuci Amador of Afrobeta performing at Swamp Stomp Music Festival at Jimbo's. Click here to view the full slide show.
Swamp Stomp Music Festival
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Jimbo's, Virginia Key

Better Than: The average assignment.

The Third Annual Swamp Stomp independent music festival, under a mystical cloud of weed smoke, joyfully stomped the shite out of the swamp Saturday night. It was a down-home backcountry bait shack stomp-fest at Miami's official fugitive hideaway/fashion shoot hot spot, Jimbo's Place. Hundreds and hundreds of hippies and hipsters, college coeds and retirees gathered deep in the woods to celebrate youth and life and local music, and to drink lots and lots of ice-cold canned beer.

Jimbo's is a special place any day of the year. It's something out of time. Part old Miami, part Bimini, part bootlegger shanty -- anything goes at Jimbo's. Bocce ball, beer, smoked fish, great sunsets and good company are the norm here. Add in an all-star roster of diverse up-and-coming local independent music acts, and a thousand or so of your best friends and you get one rockin' party. 

The evening's lineup started with Ohio-transplant/pseudo-Brasileiro Cleaveland Jones, and his band's brand of smooth organic lounge-butter. Perfect to ease the day away. Next, in the twilight hours, came raw and dirty bad-boy blues dudes Juke, to take the day down to night. Solid grungy funk beats, wailing harmonica solos and raspy jailhouse vocals, these guys mean what they do. As the crowd filled in, the light faded out and the people started dancing.

Next up came local vaudeville reincarnate/neo-folk superhero Rachel Goodrich, who sounded fantastic for her myriad and adoring fans.  "Happy 4/20 everybody," she said grinning, and kicked into another fun number.

The place was becoming a mob scene. There were people everywhere -- on top of and inside abandoned buses and vans, down on the docks, at the bocce court, back in the mangroves, all around the rickety piecemeal plywood stage and up in the overhanging trees...everyone was having a blast.

When Cuci Amador and Tony Smurfio of Afrobeta got on that stage, the scene exploded. Girls were falling over themselves to climb up on stage and hug Cuci. Local (toothless) Jimbo's "staff member" Jamaican Paul was clearly smitten as well, evidenced by his inability to pry himself from the young starlet's side. Crunchy futuristic beats and hypnotic keyboards completely entranced the blissful crowd, pulsing and glowing and breathing in the warm sea breeze. Everyone was dancing, laughing, singing along smiling. No one could get enough.

Next up came culture roots dub orchestra Jahfe, complete with percussion and horn section. Led by their authoritative front-woman Esther Fortune, this band of highly skilled musicians cranked out some real-deal roots reggae, much to the delight of a packed-in crowd. Covers like "Black Roses," "Collie Weed," and even Damian Marley's "Jam Rock" were artfully performed. The people, transformed by the trippy dub sounds and funky bass lines, morphed into a giant mass of Rasta energy, bouncing and swaying and breathing-in the sweet smoke that literally lingered in the air.

The hour was getting late, but the party showed no signs of slowing down, as the final act, UM cover band Tavern took the stage. Slugging through an array of classic rock renditions, the band demonstrated impressive command over a remarkable repertoire. The crowd sang and danced along until the wee hours of the night, not wanting it to end.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Swamp is my middle name.

Random Detail: The breezy night was a blessing, keeping the bugs at bay.

By the Way: Not one single officer of the law was spotted on the premises all night.