The mellowed-out Texans who make up the American Analog Set made one of their album titles come alive at this West Palm Beach gig. From Our Living Room to Yours summed up the intimacy of the low-key performance, with the band's rich, orange-red blend of warm organ and electric piano, soft-spoken vocals, tender strumming, and wispy bass lines entrancing the small but attentive crowd. The group's minimalism came through in extremely simple arrangements and lushly quiet melodies that evoked a variety of moods, from haunted to joyous to meditative. Touring behind the then-new release The Golden Band, American Analog Set certainly didn't rock in a conventional sense -- instead, the comfortable warmth of their homemade songs was soothing and satisfying. High points included the beautifully textured "The Wait," which glowed like a fireplace, the ambient-folk epic "New Drifters," and the heady, psychedelic drone of "Don't Wake Me." Anyone with low expectations for this lovely low-impact, low-fi quintet came away with a new respect for simplicity, felicity, and taste. Knowing that magical concerts like this don't come around often, Respectable Street added the phrase, "West Palm Beach Gets Show It Doesn't Deserve," to promotional posters for the event.
Some folks label the music of Miami's Ed Matus' Struggle "emo," which is ostensibly a shortened "emotional." But since emotional music, to us, encompasses everything from Edith Piaf to Henry Rollins, can we finally shelve the meaningless term? Ed Matus' Struggle just makes good music, no matter what it's called. Since it refrains from capitulating to trendy electronic-dance fashion statements, the group is often lost against the busy Miami soundscape. You have to sit down and listen to the group's jazz-tinged originals to get a sense of how adventurous this band really is -- Ed Matus' Struggle is a lot closer to the late-'90s art-rock of the Sea and Cake or Creeper Lagoon than the radio-friendly schlock of Third Eye Blind. For the last five years, the band has been playing infrequent live dates and quietly laboring on singles like "Entomological Discoveries With Sound and Vibration" and "Planes That Cast a Gloom." (The titles alone indicate a desire to distance themselves from the pack.) So far, out-of-towners have been quicker to recognize Ed Matus' Struggle than have local crowds: Green Day, Mike Watt, Unwound, Jimmy Eat World, and Trans Am have all called on the group as an opening act, and their material has been included on various national compilations. Maybe Ed Matus' Struggle's undeserved obscurity has finally run its course.

Some folks label the music of Miami's Ed Matus' Struggle "emo," which is ostensibly a shortened "emotional." But since emotional music, to us, encompasses everything from Edith Piaf to Henry Rollins, can we finally shelve the meaningless term? Ed Matus' Struggle just makes good music, no matter what it's called. Since it refrains from capitulating to trendy electronic-dance fashion statements, the group is often lost against the busy Miami soundscape. You have to sit down and listen to the group's jazz-tinged originals to get a sense of how adventurous this band really is -- Ed Matus' Struggle is a lot closer to the late-'90s art-rock of the Sea and Cake or Creeper Lagoon than the radio-friendly schlock of Third Eye Blind. For the last five years, the band has been playing infrequent live dates and quietly laboring on singles like "Entomological Discoveries With Sound and Vibration" and "Planes That Cast a Gloom." (The titles alone indicate a desire to distance themselves from the pack.) So far, out-of-towners have been quicker to recognize Ed Matus' Struggle than have local crowds: Green Day, Mike Watt, Unwound, Jimmy Eat World, and Trans Am have all called on the group as an opening act, and their material has been included on various national compilations. Maybe Ed Matus' Struggle's undeserved obscurity has finally run its course.

Drive-ins are a dead breed, and that's a real shame. There's nothing more American than sitting in your gas guzzler, quaffing a beverage, smoking 'em if you've got 'em, and watching a slightly out-of-focus movie through your windshield. Try doing those things at a mall multiplex. The Swap Shop isn't quite like the drive-ins of old. First off, there are 13 screens, each fronted by a little patch of pavement that doubles as a parking lot during the day. The expanse of asphalt doesn't exactly bring back memories -- as we recall, drive-ins were huge, unpaved affairs with one really big screen. No matter. The feeling is still there at the Swap Shop. And the asphalt stays warm at night, so if you spread your blanket, you can soak up some radiant heat should you catch a chill during what passes for winter around here. Load up the kids (if they're under 11 years old, they get in free); stuff the cooler full of Bud (it's allowed); bring some lawn chairs, blankets, and pillows; and have yourself a nostalgic little Saturday night. It'll set you back only $3.50 per adult ticket.
Drive-ins are a dead breed, and that's a real shame. There's nothing more American than sitting in your gas guzzler, quaffing a beverage, smoking 'em if you've got 'em, and watching a slightly out-of-focus movie through your windshield. Try doing those things at a mall multiplex. The Swap Shop isn't quite like the drive-ins of old. First off, there are 13 screens, each fronted by a little patch of pavement that doubles as a parking lot during the day. The expanse of asphalt doesn't exactly bring back memories -- as we recall, drive-ins were huge, unpaved affairs with one really big screen. No matter. The feeling is still there at the Swap Shop. And the asphalt stays warm at night, so if you spread your blanket, you can soak up some radiant heat should you catch a chill during what passes for winter around here. Load up the kids (if they're under 11 years old, they get in free); stuff the cooler full of Bud (it's allowed); bring some lawn chairs, blankets, and pillows; and have yourself a nostalgic little Saturday night. It'll set you back only $3.50 per adult ticket.
Last fall, the average playgoer had to wonder, Did we really need a revival of Finian's Rainbow? Despite a glut of Broadway revivals in New York, the Coconut Grove Playhouse certainly made a good case for the 1947 Fred Saidy-E.Y. Harburg classic, the familiar songs of which -- "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" and "Old Devil Moon" -- are just two good reasons to revisit this story of a man, a woman, a leprechaun, and a battle against racism. Starring Austin Pendleton, the great Brian Murray, and a ferociously talented chorus and featuring a book updated by Peter Stone, the Grove's Rainbow rose over one of the most exquisite examples of stage design you'd ever want to see. (Kudos to Loren Sherman's rainbow of pastel bed sheets, Phil Monat's effervescent lighting, and Marguerite Derricks' choreography.) It also served to remind us that there's always a place for an old-fashioned musical with a great score and a timeless antibigotry statement. Things are great in Glocca Morra, indeed.
Last fall, the average playgoer had to wonder, Did we really need a revival of Finian's Rainbow? Despite a glut of Broadway revivals in New York, the Coconut Grove Playhouse certainly made a good case for the 1947 Fred Saidy-E.Y. Harburg classic, the familiar songs of which -- "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" and "Old Devil Moon" -- are just two good reasons to revisit this story of a man, a woman, a leprechaun, and a battle against racism. Starring Austin Pendleton, the great Brian Murray, and a ferociously talented chorus and featuring a book updated by Peter Stone, the Grove's Rainbow rose over one of the most exquisite examples of stage design you'd ever want to see. (Kudos to Loren Sherman's rainbow of pastel bed sheets, Phil Monat's effervescent lighting, and Marguerite Derricks' choreography.) It also served to remind us that there's always a place for an old-fashioned musical with a great score and a timeless antibigotry statement. Things are great in Glocca Morra, indeed.
Under a massive tower carrying high-tension power lines sits a Japanese Zen garden with glowing lamps hanging from trees. But the night air isn't still -- it's alive with spinning colored lights and dry ice, reverberating with throbbing drumbeats and the remarkable freestyle vocalizations of MC Millennium Collaborator. Drum 'n' bass emerged from Britain several years ago as yet another twig on the family tree of techno-dance music, but by now the skittery, jittery sound has established itself as the most potent form of dance music all over the globe. Employing dizzying ricochets of spasmodic percussion -- imagine a drum-beating toy monkey hurtling down a steep flight of stairs -- the dense rhythms eventually open up to showcase an awesome array of sound effects, real instruments like guitars and horns, sampled percussion, and more. At Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, a troika of young DJs (Blacki, Phat Phil, and Pan) spins drum 'n' bass and tech-step (another hi-NRG form of electronic disco music) from 11 p.m. till the wee hours, finding favor with an expanding clientele. You'd be hard-pressed to find such an invigorating scene in such an improbable location anywhere.
Under a massive tower carrying high-tension power lines sits a Japanese Zen garden with glowing lamps hanging from trees. But the night air isn't still -- it's alive with spinning colored lights and dry ice, reverberating with throbbing drumbeats and the remarkable freestyle vocalizations of MC Millennium Collaborator. Drum 'n' bass emerged from Britain several years ago as yet another twig on the family tree of techno-dance music, but by now the skittery, jittery sound has established itself as the most potent form of dance music all over the globe. Employing dizzying ricochets of spasmodic percussion -- imagine a drum-beating toy monkey hurtling down a steep flight of stairs -- the dense rhythms eventually open up to showcase an awesome array of sound effects, real instruments like guitars and horns, sampled percussion, and more. At Respectable Street in West Palm Beach, a troika of young DJs (Blacki, Phat Phil, and Pan) spins drum 'n' bass and tech-step (another hi-NRG form of electronic disco music) from 11 p.m. till the wee hours, finding favor with an expanding clientele. You'd be hard-pressed to find such an invigorating scene in such an improbable location anywhere.
Champps Americana
For the discerning sports fan who just can't enjoy the game without a proper repast in fine-dining surroundings, there's Champps. Here the emphasis isn't on the mammary measurements of the help but on the quality of the food and the décor. The huge, split-level dining room is divided by a curved half-wall and dominated by dark-stained wood. A bank of gigantic TVs (each a quartet of four-foot-square panels) is mounted along the back wall above the kitchen, while smaller sets perch at strategic spots around the main room. The sheer abundance of monitors means there's not a bad seat in the house, and no sport gets left out of the mix: Bowling and women's college basketball flash on screens next to pro baseball and NBA contests. On weekdays a few sets are even given over to business news. Whatever's on, patrons are busy digging into gourmet fare, not ballpark food. Sure, you can order up potato skins or nachos with your beer, but you can just as easily go for a $35 bottle of Kendall-Jackson merlot to sip with bites of spinach-and-artichoke dip or bruschetta. Wilted spinach and Greek are among the ten salad choices, and an equal number of pasta dishes is offered, along with such main-course items as shrimp or chicken Creole, New York strip steak, and grilled salmon. Even the sports-friendly food -- pizza (on honey-wheat crust), burgers (one crusted with peppercorns), and sandwiches (some on fresh nine-grain bread) -- is done with gourmet flair.

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