Sure, indie rock rules the scene, and a ton of imitation bands are cropping up all over South Florida (with matching hair, trying to become the next Fall Out Boy). But that doesn't mean that any of these cookie-cutter groups actually knows how to play. Locally, the band with the strongest instrumentation and best stage show is Marijah and the Reggae All-Stars. Their blend of Caribbean and West African music is impressive live or recorded; they've mastered instruments from those regions. They've also got incredible timing and lock into a groove that's unmatched by any other act locally. Everyone in the band has more than 20 years of playing experience and gigs frequently with other reggae singers throughout the tricounty area. There also aren't many female-headed reggae bands out there, and Marijah is working twice as hard to stay afloat in this male-dominated genre. What stands out about the group is its ability to get crowds rocking with conscious lyrics and a heavy roots-rock attitude. You don't have to be a lover of Caribbean music to appreciate this band and the reggae-Afro-fusion sound it cranks out live. Just don't be surprised to see that this reggae band is actually headed by an Italian-American woman from New Jersey.
Can a Christian singer really rock? How can a vocalist be powerful and edgy while belting out lyrics like "Oh who am I, this breath of fading mist?/Where do I stand on this speck of heaven's dust?" Nic DiPace somehow balances Christ-like humility with a powerful and expansive voice. He lends emotive realism to Americana-laced guitar work, spilling over into guttural screams during punked-out anthems and conveying urgency and intensity with his moody wails. Just check out the West Palm quintet's Northern Records debut The Skies Pale in Comparison. Even though the band's official statement on the disc is "We just think that The Skies Pale in Comparison to who He is, and who we are in Him," even the godless will be humming along in glee.
As far as hip-hopping and b-boying in Broward County is concerned, there's nobody else with the lyrical dexterity or the street clout of Fort Lauderdale's Butta Verses. He's a member of the De La Soul family and soaked in a lot of exposure touring with them, but he's still got his own rhyming style that's witty, aggressive, and often comical at the same time. On stage, he delivers punch lines at rapid speed and has the cadence and breath control of a veteran. He was born and raised in the Bronx and carries the essence of hip-hop culture in his persona, both on and off the stage. Graffiti work, b-boying, DJ'ing, and MC'ing are all apart of his repertoire, which is what it used to take to even be considered decent in this genre. With those bases covered, he's miles ahead of most of the fly-by-night rappers popping up recently. He's also put out a few stellar mixtapes since relocating to Broward County that showcase his rhyming ability and buttery-smooth delivery. And since hip-hop today, even at the local level, remains saturated with garbage, it's good to see a rapper like Butta V standing tall and hopefully showing the new jacks how to do it.
More than two years of fine-tuning and detail work went into creating this slice of mopey melancholy, and the results speak for themselves. Charting overseas and winning plenty of domestic college-radio airplay upon its February 2007 release, The Postmarks bore as much resemblance to a lowly local release as a cello does to a kazoo. Due to the perfectionism of bandleader and multi-instrumentalist Christopher Moll, every moment of this multitracked tapestry has been polished to within an inch of its life, with ear-pleasing results. Plus, when was the last time a local record was fortified with glockenspiel? Timpani? French horn? An entire string section?! All of which was impressive enough to curry the favor of Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Andy Chase (Ivy), who produced the record. South Florida hasn't exactly been a hothouse nurturing the darling buds of pure pop perfection, but the Postmarks have at least laid the groundwork here. Yes, The Postmarks is delicate, fragile, sort of sad, and twee as all get-out, but damned if it isn't the most affecting collection of songs to come from this peninsula tip in a long, long time. Enjoy while gazing out a raindrop-covered window for maximum effect. Absinthe optional.
Club Cinema
Our inaccessible geography aside, one major reason bands have forsaken us is our preponderance of pathetic venues with nasty bathrooms, bad sound, no parking, and just a general all-around malaise. Part of the problem is that few live music venues were designed as such — believe it or not, we've had everything from Cuban restaurants to Winn-Dixies doubling as rock-concert rooms. Naturally, like everything else in South Florida, Club Cinema is housed in a strip mall. But inside, the swankier-than-thou feel echoes famous rooms like the Fillmore. The lighting, the design, and the well-placed bars all signify class and attention to detail. Now, in these very pages, we've dismantled local politicians and exposed Club Cinema as a business that's very likely more mobbed-up than a Godfather-Goodfellas marathon. But what the heck — if that's what it takes to make audiences feel like they're watching a show in a real goddamned city, we'll take it.
This punk-rock band's members ranged in age from "barely old enough to drink" to "nearing retirement," but they all had a natural don't-give-a-fuck attitude that reminded you of your favorite group of high school misfits who just got a license but couldn't afford a car. So when they broke up last year, it was like losing a first love. They were the unifiers who kept the rest of us young, and their equal-opportunity disdain for anything mature was as infectious as their three-chord melodies. Fortunately for all involved, the boys of Stink started seeing one another again in secret — a small benefit show here, a warehouse show there — until they finally reunited. Who knows how long it'll last, so enjoy it while you can.
Modern metal is the new indie rock, let's just get that straight. Everyone has now officially traded in his Clairol black hair dye for a long, flowy metal mane. And despite this flooded market of mediocre metal, Fort Lauderdale is able to boast a band that was there all along, developing its musical identity, getting famous, and influencing this new generation of head bangers. May we present Torche. Exhumed from the ashes of Floor and Cavity, this four-piece produces an amazingly surreal take on stoner sledge metal. Vocal harmonies bind with slow-driving guitar riffs, while loosely tuned bass strings flail deep into the lowest sonic registers. Despite how much media hype surrounds this band, every time it returns home, it gets back to its roots, trading in larger, out-of-town venues for teenagers' house parties and small clubs like the Billabong. The boys of Torche embrace the energy produced at these shows and flip their hair in time with the music — along with the hundreds of smiling, jam-packed fans. Sabbath would be so proud.
It's not easy to draw out a moment of suspense — those instants when it's certain that something revelatory or horrifying is about to happen. In The Faith Healer, such a moment was drawn out for two hours. Barely a story, The Faith Healer, by playwright Brian Friel, is comprised of four monologues from three people — faith healer Francis Hardy (Stephen J. Anthony); his mistress, Grace (Sandra Ives); and his manager, Ted (Ken Clement) — recounting, in fragments, their two decades traversing the British Isles, healing or failing to heal as they went. What went wrong remains unclear, baffling even to those who were there. All they know is that, through some small accumulation of real or imagined betrayals, their journey destroyed them and in some way forced them to destroy one another. As the three actors tried to explain themselves, suffocated beneath the dead weight of memory, you wondered if the mysterious forces that acted upon them might not be present in the theater, ready to act upon everyone — and whether anyone would recognize such forces if they appeared.
Good directing is like alchemy: It is the trick of taking disparate, unknown elements and fusing them into a whole that not only makes sense but equals more than the sum of its parts. Kim St. Leon did this as well as it's ever been done with Inside Out Theatre's production of The Faith Healer. She had help, obviously — three actors who saw straight through to the soul of the piece — but she's the one who must be credited with the bravery and smarts it required to stake her production's success on the small clutch of intangibles allowed her in the story's anti-narrative. It was the way a pedestrian anecdote was made to seem monstrous through a slight change in Sandra Ives' vocal timbre or the way the slow lift of Loreena McKennit's cheesy synth-Celt muzak framed the last scene, when Stephen J. Anthony's titular faith healer was ready to ascend into heaven but looked ready to burst into flames. An event like St. Leon's The Faith Healer is something akin to a vision: both impossible to deny and impossible to explain. The great mystery isn't what it meant but how she managed to explain it to the actors in the first place.
If you saw Glengarry's original production or the 1992 film adaptation, you inevitably compared Paul Tei's fast-talking, gel-haired Ricky Roma to the interpretations by a young Joe Mantegna or middle-period Al Pacino. Miraculously, in spite of this heavyweight company, Tei suffered not at all from the comparisons. From his first scene, he came on like a cross between John Travolta and Satan — utterly amoral but unflaggingly sweet, too cool to let anything under his skin and too driven to allow anything to deter him from his purpose. When at last something did rankle him, watching the subsequent blowout was akin to looking out the rear window of the Enola Gay. In one of the dirtiest and most flagrantly outlandish roles brought to life on any Florida stage this season, Tei created one of the most complete, naturalistic, and straight-up entertaining portraits anybody's ever seen.

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