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"So this morning, I went down to City Hall to talk to the woman about what it would take to get permits and stuff," Franco says. "It was nothing! I brought CDs and press kits, and they were totally stoked."

The video — a stylish, one-camera, low-budget affair that recalls the weirdo early days of MTV — plays several times on a loop. Ferny circles the crowd, passing out fliers to every enthralled bystander.

"They win the sheer inventiveness award," says one, an indie-label rep from Philly named Jim Moran. "I've been coming to South by Southwest since 1995, and it's three times the size it was then. The question for any band is, how do you cut through all the noise? This," he says, gesturing at the video and the handful of magnetized viewers, "is fucking brilliant."

Hours later, after several laps of Sixth Street and Austin's 2 a.m. last call, the boys score their biggest coup yet outside La Zona Rosa. The Arctic Monkeys — this year's buzziest buzz band — finish their set, and the mobile projection unit is besieged with hundreds of drunken, ecstatic fans. Franco plays the video over and over. People are grabbing for CDs faster than the band (minus Rimsky, who's drunk and passed out in the minivan) can hand them out.

"Oh my God, this is fuckin' beautiful, bro!" Ferny roars to no one in particular.

At this point, pretty much everyone in Austin — including the pop critics of the Boston Globe and the Village Voice, an A&R guy from Hollywood Records, a film crew from Hong Kong TV, and Wayne Coyne — has seen the video. They've all loved it and told the band as much.

Humbert is on many lips. The guerrilla tactics are working.


"I've known Humbert a long time. Eight to ten years ago, they played their very first gig here at Churchill's," says Michael Toms, co-owner of the Miami rock mecca. "As did Marilyn Manson. And the Mavericks." The band was a three-piece then, with Ferny, Tony, and drummer Izo Besares. Rimsky came onboard in '97; Caesar joined after Izo's bum shoulder and unwavering dedication gave out in '03. Says Toms, "I'm tremendously supportive of whatever they're trying to do."

His sentiment is echoed by the more than 20 bands at the Humbert fundraiser on March 4, nine days before the band's departure for Austin. Fort Lauderdale garage rockers the Remnants give props from the stage, as does Leo's band, Humbert's Hialeah brethren the Brand. After his set, Leo can't help but gush about the Humbert mystique.

"There's something magical about how they do things and they way they are as musicians and people and friends," he says. "It's completely natural, and that's where the magic happens. Some bands have to try really hard. These guys don't try at all."

Almost by default, Humbert ends up playing a mentor role for younger, less experienced bands. "I mean, I'm 24 years old, you know?" Leo says. "Those guys, they have some age, some knowledge. They were playing shows when I was in middle school in Miami. That alone counts for a lot. Like, damn, these guys are almost 15 years older than me, but it doesn't come up, because that's how youthful they are."

The night goes on, and Tony begins tallying the door, all of which will go toward gas and hotel bills in Austin. Roughly $1,300 — a great haul. Outside, the twee-rockers in Miami's Baby Calendar take a few minutes to join the admiration. Like them, few people in this close-knit scene realize that Humbert's trip to Austin is actually its second. Tony and Ferny were there in 1994 as part of the band I Don't Know. Since then, Tony has applied to South by Southwest every year with no luck. You have to wonder if there's any professional jealousy among Humbert's peers now that 12 years and 12 rejections later, the band has the green light.

"When you know that someone deserves something so much, you have to be happy for them," Baby Calendar keyboardist Jackie Biver says. "If it was some sucky band, you might get a little jealous. But you just can't for Humbert."


Austin's mild weather broke late Friday night, so Saturday morning, the band awakes at the Ramada to a damp, chilly day and promptly goes back to bed. Most of the afternoon parties — invite-only soirees sponsored by record labels, publicity agencies, music magazines, and other self-appointed bastions of taste-making — have been called off due to rain. Thankfully, only a few hundred fliers and a handful of CDs are left after last night's melee. No whip-cracking today; the afternoon is spent resting, eating, and visiting Austin's famed Waterloo Records.

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Jonathan Zwickel

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