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Free drinks and I'm there. They were pouring 'em strong Saturday, August 11, at the Lounge on Clematis Street as we all celebrated the launch of Closer magazine, a product created by Rodney Mayo (owner of Respectable Street, Dada, and the Lounge) and Steve Rullman (impresario of The glossy yet somewhat sketchy first issue features contributions from usual Palm Beach County suspects, including an art update from Michael Koretzky, a Nate Brazill editorial from Gail Shepherd, a diatribe against Jeb Bush's sinister plan for offshore drilling that recalls Lefty-Jeffty Rusnak at his knee-jerky worst, a fashion spread, event listings, a self-help column ("you are the revolution and you are not a slave"), and more. Far and away the best part of Closer is the 17-song sampler CD that comes with it. Soaking Up the Good Florida Sunshine is a summertime postcard from the edge of the strip-mall containing the finest assortment of local music since Slipstream Presents' 19-song sampler from last year.

In addition to those fine acts you've read about countless times in this column (and will therefore be spared from hearing about again) are tracks from a few heretofore undiscovered participants. The Faint, a band that hits Respectable Street September 21, reveals an '80s fetish on the glam-candyish "Worked Up So Sexual." The West Palm Beach concert is the Faint's only local tie-in; the group is based in Nebraska. The other nonlocal inclusion, Onelinedrawing, a one-man acoustic East Coast lo-fi indie sensation, has a similar connection. The featherweight, self-effacing "Aeroplanes" (recorded last march at Respectable Street) includes a blatant plug for Rullman, which is OK; the guy has done more for the Palm Beach county art and music scene than tropical storms do for the insurance industry.

PBC's ubiquitous Groovenics almost channel the seam-bursting energy of their shows into "Slush Puppy Girl," a ska-pop firecracker. And MindLikeWater, from up the coast in Port St. Lucie, offers an airy take on British guitar rock à la the Mighty Lemon Drops. Breaking Spree's two-minute-long "Section Nine" is surprisingly smart, sharp-tailored hardcore. However, "It Hurt, but It's Over, and So Are We," by the Young and the Useless is only as useful as its title. The rest of Soaking Up the Good Florida Sunshine is golden, poised to deliver our collective inferiority complex a sucker punch. The other 11 acts included here have already been deemed worth your attention enough times to make this collection a necessity, like bread or semisoft cheese.

The visit to the Lounge also constituted our introduction to the Yoko Theory, whose sleek, Eurostyle samples and synths worked in tandem with a whip-crack rhythm section. Very tasty.

Since you went to what's-her-name's concert August 14, you missed one of the greatest moments of divine musical retribution in the history of the world. In a literal and figurative answer to our prayers, Howard Jones tripped over a monitor while on-stage at the Broward Center as part of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band and landed right on his ass. Serves him right for all those awful, poofy haircuts and horrid sweaters he sported in the mid-'80s, as well as for all those songs... or whatever he calls 'em. Yeesh! Things can only get better, indeed. Or not: I didn't have to pinch myself to believe that I was actually in the same room as a real, live Beatle; the soused gentleman next to me loudly reminded his wife of that fact plenty of times as he alienated our entire section. In fact Señor Dickweed made such an unbelievable spectacle of himself that at one point Ringo was actually forced to acknowledge him from the stage. But at least I finally achieved a long-time goal when I witnessed Greg Lake, Ian Hunter, and the guy from Supertramp all play Sheila E.'s "The Glamorous Life." One thing I've never wanted to hear, however, is a dying water buffalo imitate the synth squiggle from the end of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Lucky Man," but, thanks to the near-felonious terror in seat 10-H, I now have. And I am not better for it. Believe me.

That said, things actually did get better. The highlight of our summer so far was the August 12 detonation of luv from local legends the Ex-Cretins at Tavern 213. The liquor-lacquered trio took control of the stage (and the men's bathroom) in a kamikaze-style assault: Our protagonists swapped instruments as if the beat happening never happened, pounding out a joyously sloppy extravaganza that was three, three, three sets in one. And all the food groups were represented: evocative desert-sunset punk rock, furiously messy angry punk rock, and streamlined sing-along punk rock. The last time the Ex-Cretins freshened the Tavern's air was back in December at the City Link Music Festival, a bacchanalian bloodbath for which the group was lucky not to have been banned for life. If these guys aren't cracking their craniums on-stage in a whiskey-polluted frenzy, they're being kicked off airplanes for cracking wise about firearms, which is what rock 'n' roll should be about. Do not, under any circumstances, miss the Ex-Cretins' criminally underrated slop bucket of goodness should it appear again. It's truly one of the best shows in town.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton

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