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Backstage: Concert Venues Gone but Not Forgotten

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: The Flick Coffeehouse and other old haunts I can't remember quite so well.

There's something to be said for déjà vu... and music haunts that once bustled and now have faded from memory. I experienced both recently, and both those occurrences collided in an uncanny sort of way.

I took an impromptu trip to a combination bar and

restaurant called Titanic, located adjacent to the University of Miami

campus, just across the street from Mark Light Stadium. Albert Castiglia

was performing with his trio, which for me was reason enough to make a

special trip. When I attended  UM in the

early '70s, the place wasn't called Titanic, but rather, it was known

as the Flick (there is an extensive online forum here).

Aside from the fact that Castiglia's a dynamic performer, given to all kinds of pyrotechnics and amusing stage antics (I've seen him actually walk off the stage while still playing, then amble outside and stroll down the sidewalk, his guitar still raging through the speakers), he's an exceptional musician. This may verge on hyperbole, but I'll say it anyway -- when Castiglia and company ripped into a couple of Jimi Hendrix covers, he sounded every bit as adroit the man himself, no small accomplishment when you're setting up such a formidable standard.

Back in its prior incarnation, the venue's stage wasn't located at the front of the house and near the entrance like it is now but positioned near the rear. Instead of being a watering hole catering to an older clientele, it was a folkie coffeehouse that drew the nearby college population. It also featured some impressive names, including local luminaries like a then-fledgling Jimmy Buffett, folk singers Vince Martin and Fred Neil, and a risqué comedian aptly named Uncle Dirty, all of who claimed an inkling of national notoriety but were better-known as regulars around Coconut Grove.

David Crosby had ties to the local scene as well, due to the fact that he used to anchor his sailboat in the Grove -- and on one particularly auspicious occasion, actually happened across a then-unknown Joni Mitchell who was playing at an inconspicuous local nightspot (more on that here). One night, Crosby himself showed up at the Flick and, of course, drew a huge crowd, making it literally impossible to get in. 

Other name artists made the Flick a regular stop as well, although honestly, most of those who played there have faded from memory. Blame the distractions of the times, I suppose. I do recall seeing Jerry Jeff Walker, the man who penned "Mr. Bojangles"; and a singer/songwriter named Rick Roberts, who initially came to prominence when he joined the Flying Burrito Brothers, the pioneering country-rock band that boasted former Byrds Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and the great Gram Parsons -- known as the original "Cosmic Cowboy." Roberts took Parsons' place in the group and contributed to their self-titled third album, penning a song called "Colorado," which remains one of my favorite tunes to this day. The reason I remember Roberts in particular is because, like many of the artists who performed locally and at UM especially, he hung out for a couple of days and I got to know him by talking music, hosting him at our house, and partying plentifully. So when he played at the Flick, we were seated front row center as if it were a private show.

Strangely enough, there were a number of shows I saw in obscure and out-of-the-way places that came and went so quickly that I remember them more for the shows I saw rather than the names of the locations themselves. So if anyone reading this column can refresh my memory about the sites that match the sounds, I'd be much obliged. For example, I caught Poco in the Dadeland Towers near the mega Kendall shopping center of the same name. I believe it was a corporate function, but I can't be sure. The great British singer/songwriterJoan Armatrading (who has a terrific live CD/DVD, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, out now, by the way) played a private record-company gig at a studio in Fort Lauderdale, a searing set performed for an intimate audience. Likewise, I remember seeing Ian Hunter, the former frontman for the great British band Mott the Hoople and now a superb solo star in his own right, playing at a beachside dive in Fort Lauderdale with David Bowie's former foil and Hunter's later partner in Mott, late guitarist Mick Ronson. 

As previously mentioned, the shows made an emphatic impression, but the venues are vague at best. 

Sadly, most of South Florida's once formidable concert sites of that era are now things of the past. I saw an incredible show at Miami's Gusman Auditorium with Genesis, back when Peter Gabriel was in the fold, and I still remember the stunning explosion of laser lights. Catching a young Bruce Springsteen and the wacky Steve Martin (when he used to wear the arrow through his head) at the old Jai Alai Fronton were two concerts that I'll never forget. I can also cite memorable moments at baseball stadiums located in Miami (separate occasions with the Who and the Stills-Young Band, minus Young, who had bailed the day before) and Fort Lauderdale (an Irish fest featuring that great outfit from the Emerald Isles known as the Saw Doctors). 

Nowadays, it's so easy to wax nostalgic, considering the innocence and excitement of those times. But I have to admit, it's even better when I actually recall the details.

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Lee Zimmerman

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