Helping fight the good fight is the City Link Music Festival, which moved from Old Town Fort Lauderdale down to the area west of Young Circle last year. The 2001 event stayed sleepy, with the public balking at the $10 wristbands and perhaps at the fact that instead of congested streets studded with crowded bars, the first Hollywood fest made patrons journeying from venue to venue feel like explorers trudging from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Polar Plateau. Avenues felt a lot less empty this year, and the eight bars playing host to local bands each is playing a lot nicer than did their Himmarshee counterparts. Instead of pulling the plug on anything not resembling the Dave Matthews Band or the Doobie Brothers, Octopus' Garden, Club M, Circle Tavern, Cancun Mexican Grill, Shamrocks, Shuckums, Sneakers, and Try My Thai are all to be duly commended for their commitment.
Among the highlights:
Over at Sneakers ("Mommy, it smells like tinkle in here!"), it was nearly impossible to move through the bodies straining to see ex-Load singer Bobby Johnson tear his throat out with a well-worn combo called Suicide Shift. After a bout of primal screaming, Johnson tossed his not-quite-finished can of Old Milwaukee NA to the floor and announced: "All right, I'm through!"
At the corner of South 20th Avenue and Harrison Street, Rat Bastard spent the time between Try My Thai acts cranking out a virulent storm of -- what else? -- ear-splitting noise. At this point, it was pretty easy to separate Music Fest attendees from regular passersby, who picked up the pace, fingers firmly in ears, to distance themselves from the sound of Rat's overamped violin, force-fed through distortion pedals and black boxes of evil and made to sound like a squadron of bombers dragging dying cows across sheets of sharpened aluminum. Through it all, disembodied voices could be discerned, for an even creepier effect.
A certain friend of Rat's -- who earlier in the month tried to have some fun by impersonating City Link's music czar and managing editor, Jake Cline, via some inflammatory e-mails sent from a counterfeit account -- quickly ducked out of one venue when he spied Cline (who appears unruffled by the whole thing) enjoying the show.
At Circle Tavern, Rickenbacker-toting guitarist Earl Coraluzzo went shoeless two sets in a row as his bands New Graduates and Remember the Ocean played back to back; and Pank Shovel's Genny Slag introduced the band's new bass player, conveniently known as Base.
Finally allowed a seat with the grown-ups instead of a card table in the carport were the Mary Tyler Whores at Shuckums, in a smashing bang-up everyone from the Hep Cat Boo Daddies to Raiford Starke kept insisting was the best set at the fest.
The big outdoor stages boasted crowds bigger than last year's total attendees, it seemed. The Boo Daddies, the Curious Hair, Hashbrown, Bling Bling, and the Rocking Horse Winner came with well-crafted moves and goodly amounts of loving fans.
All this action is starting to sound a tad familiar, innit?
The craziness within Try My Thai, for my money (or lack thereof -- this year's Music Fest was free), offered the best value. During Wolfboy and the Fantods' room-clearing set, ex-Ex-Cretin Steve Johnson felt the need to pay homage to departing friend Bobby Baker and his girlfriend, Tamara Engle, by publicly praising their oral-sex techniques. The diners not already driven away seemed to take the comment (and their doggy bags) in stride.
Speaking of doggy bags, Mr. Entertainment broke out some oldies including a wacky, evangelical rendition of "Plastic Dog Doodie Salesman," with Baker adding some uncharacteristically pretty beer-bottle slide guitar. This was Baker's last show with Mr. E; the following night at the Billabong, he presented the final Baby Robots gig, capped off with a teary-eyed goodbye.
Bedheaded Boxcar Timmy, another Ex-Cretin, brought his brand of insanity, at one point "singing" a certain Sade song that (I think) had been altered to "Swedish Tattoo."
Weirdness aside, some not-to-be-missed musical moments transpired outside the range of the festival proper: at the Ginger Bay Cafe, powerhouse reggae act the 441 Band cooked up dubby grooves that mesmerized the multiracial crowd for hours; in fact, at 2:30 a.m., the members finally announced they'd be taking a break. All in all, a nice pace change and a fitting nightcap to a festival sure to give Hollywood a shot in the arm and a knee to the groin -- eventually.