Real talk: The south Florida music scene is changing.
Influences are being muddled -- those playing to a specific genre these days are likely to fall to the wayside, and while it's never easy to coordinate even a handful of bands for one show, Block x Blog soared over the weekend by hosting thirty genre-bending bands over three stages in support of Record Store Day 2013. Though it wasn't exempt from a few hitches, Block x Blog brought together the most creative and diverse group of musicians yet this year. With Holy Ghost! as headliners and (much needed) reinforcement like Jacuzzi Boys, PLAINS, Suede Dudes, Killmama, and Gaps, it was going to take a bit more than a few late starts to scare us away.
While the rest of Black Locust Society was dominating the stage at America's Backyard, Gaps found his way to the Revolution stage, where his tracks were hitting the bass so hard stage props were coming apart. If you weren't careful, you'd find yourself vibrating right out of your shoes. The youngest member of BLS, Gaps is articulate and well versed, fortifying his set with tracks produced by Mike Astrea (of trip-hoppers Astrea Corp--currently in the process of recording their next record). Though the stage at Revolution isn't the biggest stage ever, it can be daunting for just one man. But Gaps had a grip and with his stage presence was able to fill the stage and the room with his sound.
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At some point, the event seemed to be running about forty minutes behind, leaving some confusion about who was playing at any time. Then suddenly, sets were cut short, like in the instance of Killmama, in order to save time and get things back on schedule. When Block x Blog happens again next year, the half-hour set times would be a solid contender on the docket for review. Thirty minutes is about how long it takes for a band of four to five members to comfortably set up (optimistically, with no distractions, 15 minutes can also be considered average). With distractions, dim lights, and other band equipment in the way, it didn't seem easy for some of these bands to set up, play long enough to find a groove, wind down, and then pack up. The whole evening seemed a bit rushed when it didn't really have to be.
As an example, if each band has 15 minutes to set up and a half hour to play, that leaves audience members time to go check out another band while that one sets up. If the time slots are staggered well enough, a lead could be achieved in which a ticket holder to the event could definitely catch at least one or two songs from every band. The annual All Good Festival is a shining example of this -- no two sets ever overlap.
Next up was PLAINS on the Revolution stage, whose set was also cut short in anticipation for Holy Ghost!, the designated headliner for the evening. Releasing a 7" in honor of Record Store Day, PLAINS approached their set with no nonsense. The sound was clean, the songs were structured and in our opinion, the event could have benefitted from another song or two from them. If the rest of the line up could be rushed off stage to find time for Holy Ghost!, Holy Ghost! could have sacrificed some time for our local heat as well.
Suede Dudes took the stage at Green Room just as PLAINS hit their last note at Revolution. That sort of seamless transition is key at an event with so many acts. Small things like that next year will just blow this year out of the water. The amount of energy that Suede Dudes brought to the Green Room stage was right in line with the other raucous garage sounds that permeated the Green Room atmosphere. Killmama fit that garage bill as did Rebel and Boxwood (who also shared the Green Room stage). Suede Dudes, currently working on their first vinyl release, were meant for that stage (it really does just have perfect dimensions for performance). Their murky alternative sound translated well, and although time was a scarce resource, they were able to execute the melodic breakthroughs that define their sound, which can only sometimes really work based simply on the time a band takes to make their way to those breaks. The Dudes were one of the only bands that didn't seem to feel the pressure to rush through their set.
The much anticipated Jacuzzi Boys took the stage, continuing the sonic garage theme of in Green Room. The place was the fullest it had been all evening. People were constantly coming and going, and even though walking through Green Room was the only way from Revolution to America's Backyard, the room was packed. No one was just passing through during their set, and rightly so because Jacuzzi Boys killed it.
Next was Holy Ghost! at Revolution. While the rest of the event had most of the crowd scrambling to make it from stage to stage, there was about a 45-minute gap between Deaf Poets's last tune and Holy Ghost!. By the time the DFA act hit the stage, there was a small group ready with glow sticks.
Around the rest of the venue were the wilted remains of those who spent the entire day raging Record Store Day. Folks were dropping like flies -- even the amped up glow stick wielding front-runners began to fade away after about twenty minutes. It might have had everything to do with Holy Ghost! not really taking action until about 2 a.m., but it might have also had everything to do with the two dudes on stage not really raging so hard themselves. They lacked half the energy Jacuzzi Boys or even Gaps provided to the scene.
Nowhere near a wash though, Block x Blog was packed with all of your favorite people milling about like bees in a hive, one stage to the next. Those in attendance were the stars of the show. But ftting snugly within the vinyl/cassette tape revolution that is sweeping the scene, it was a night where the South Florida take on post nineties garage grunge stole the stages. When Philip Roffman of Subculture talks about his inspiration for tackling a huge show like this, he doesn't hesitate to answer confidently that "growing up we had two places to buy music, CD Collector and Borders. Any chance I get to show support for more independent and alternative media retailers in my city, I'll be there."
In its inaugural year, Block x Blog was a courageous undertaking for the 22-year-old Roffman. A shining example of how our music scene is changing for the best, and it starts with people like him and the warriors who set out on Record Store Day to drop Benjamins. I don't think anyone walked away from Radio-Active Records spending under a hundred dollars on some seriously needed wax. The whole night showed what happens when a scene works in anticipation of a great time and Block x Blog, minus just a few nagging timing issues, got it right. And there's no doubt that every year after this will surpass the one prior.
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