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Fooled Again

A luscious bitch she is, true. But it's not nice to fool Mother Nature.

— "Red Hot Mama" by George Clinton

You know you're starving for a groove when your mind cross-fades the sounds of groaning generators and dopplering sirens and the meep-meep-meep of reversing sewage trucks into a mechanical pseudo-symphony. As of this entry, the power's been out at the Beat House for a week. That means no records on the turntable and no strobe lights in the den — and believe me, it's tough to do the Electric Slide when FPL isn't holding up its end of the bargain.

Beyond gas, ice, and patience, Wilma has depleted South Florida's normally crammed cultural calendar, forcing a painful number of cancellations and postponements. Some have gone unnoticed — did anyone register that Gallagher was coming in the first place? — while others, especially the nixing of Halloween weekend throwdowns like Moonfest in West Palm and Fort Lauderdale's Nightmare in the Park — have dealt a blow to the collective morale. Add in a wet-blanket curfew and the selective prohibition of alcohol sales and it's clear that we could use the kind of relief that FEMA can't give.

"They stop you as soon as you try to grab a flat-screen TV! I don't know what the deal is," jokes local promoter and mustachioed bon vivant Isaac Alexander. Here's a guy directly affected by the gratuitous curfew — his parties don't usually get started till 11 p.m., when Johnny Law would have us all sitting at home, alone in the dark. Crush, his weekly Thursday-night event, was canceled last week; next week's — which would be the fashionable fete's two-year anniversary — was still pending.

"The thing that bothers me the most is that it seems like the city officials were doing everything to not bring people together," he continues. "All that really happened was the hurricane came through and fucked up everybody's belongings. It's not like someone set off a bomb and we're worried about terrorists killing us all. It didn't need to go to this martial law. When Louisiana got hit, the first concern was to get the entertainment back up and running. They kept the bars open as long as they could and kept people happy. Here, it seems like they did the exact opposite. It's so backwards."

Backwards, of course, being the approach city suits typically take toward the indigenous arts community. There's little priority given to figuring out a way to make important cultural events happen — say, for instance, the popular, long-standing Riverwalk Blues Festival, which would've gone on this weekend but has been postponed until February. This is how we're supposed to return to normalcy?

Alexander's solution was to get the funk out of Dodge — after a friend waited nine hours for gas on Thursday, he took his decks and discs up to a house party in Orlando. For others, like Javid Kosari of Fort Lauderdale's Las Olas Gourmet, the festivities went on as planned. Kosari's weekly winetasting happened by candlelight on Friday, October 28. An unseen generator powered just the barest basics — a refrigerator for the whites and — hot damn! — the store's killer sound system. Gipsy Kings segued into gaudy French house and Brazilian soul as a handful of grateful patrons guzzled Kosari's sophisticated stash. "American people don't know how to be hungry," said the Iranian-born oenophile of the up-in-arms reaction to long grocery lines and food shortages. Thankfully, he wasn't giving any lessons on this night. Food, wine, and the CD changer flowed freely but ended far too soon.

Full-blown musical salvation finally arrived Saturday afternoon. The call came as Beatcomber was stocking up on bottled water, oil lamps, and costume accessories at the consumptive chaos of Wal-Mart: The Heavy Pets are jamming poolside at the Summit in downtown Lauderdale.

This four-man band of transplants from upstate New York is an interesting story in its own right. Bassist/entrepreneur Joe Dupell has been relocating his mates south, one by one, over the past year, setting them up with jobs at his thriving Internet advertising company. When power went out Tuesday at E-Magine Networks' Oakland Park office, Dupell transferred operations to his two-bedroom condo at the Summit. And hell, since there was plenty of electricity to go around, why not, you know, plug in a few amps and rock on out?

"I woke up this morning, and there was no gig," red-bearded guitarist Jeff Lloyd said. "Two hours later, there was a gig. And it was a great scene, man. People were just having fun."

About 50 or so Summit residents and friends of the band took in the Heavy Pets' inaugural South Florida performance. The scruffy, barefoot quartet jangled through more than two hours of material — funky, loose-limbed rock 'n' soul bound by tight vocal harmonies and ace guitar interplay. Kids played in the pool, couples boogied up above in their balconies, and everyone was, for a sweet-sounding moment, taken away from the stress caused by a weak-winded storm that somehow strongarmed into all our lives.

But you know what's coming next: That luscious bitch had the last laugh. By 3:30 p.m., mottled clouds began sponging out the hazy autumn sun. As the first post-Wilma drops fell on the Pets' set, the crowd scrambled back inside and the instruments were quickly packed away. You can beat a curfew, god damn it, but you can't beat Mother Nature.

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