Free is the new black, and here are two cool new albums you can cop gratis. First, Spin magazine commissioned a well-curated Prince tribute album for the 25th anniversary of Purple Rain featuring respectable acts like Riverboat Gamblers, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Of Montreal and Lavender Diamond. Just follow the instructions at www.spin.com/prince to download Purplish Rain for free.
The second score is from local indie stars Mumpsy. Available at www.mumpsy.com, Mortgaging Our Future for Right Now is a quality, personality-packed collection that consolidates new unreleased songs with assorted well-known tracks like "Left Alone on Christmas Day" (which was a category winner in Sufjan Stevens' Christmas song contest), their incredibly white cover of Murphy Lee's "Wat Da Hook Gon Be" and a nice lullaby transformation of Paula Abdul's ridiculous hit "Straight Up." Note: This giveaway is not to be confused with Posturing, the all-new vinyl album Mumpsy is releasing at their July 31 party (Back Booth with Gringo Star, Vanda and the Dealers).
A new local act that's been making the rounds lately is Death Mites (June 18, Will's Pub). Imagine Gainesville-style anthem-punk walking on the wild side with unusual instrumentation like trumpet, violin and mandolin and you'd be close. The result is a capricious breed of hot-blooded folk, a raggedy, shambolic mess that probably shouldn't work but does. You're probably onto something when you crank out lines like, "Vampire, why do you suck so much?" Besides, you can count me in on any show where a dude in a Slayer T-shirt rocks a theremin.
Another new local entrant is Young Brother (June 20, Back Booth). Artistically speaking, their music ain't fancy, but it's functional. Driven by facile upbeat movement, chiming '80s guitars and an Interpol insistence, their melodic indie rock is the picture of restraint and solid construction.
Eighth Dimension Records just celebrated its 15-year anniversary (June 19, Peacock Room). Producer-DJ Q-Burns Abstract Message, he of hometown provenance but international profile, spun a smart, funky and exotic set, and MC Swamburger dropped his tommy-gun rhymes on top of a classic set by the king of hip-hop finesse, DJ BMF. But think about what this dope little label has pulled off: The local, beat-minded imprint has managed to survive — without compromising its taste — while the various scenes that gave rise to it have suffered dramatic atrophy in both size and intellect. No small feat, that. Keep it up, boys.
The second edition of the Bread & Circuses Music Feast (June 20, Black Box Collective) offered a generous, mostly well-selected bill that was much more adult than the average show at this venue — one featuring a really zonked geezer on the dance floor instead of the usual mob of moshing kids.
Aside from the bottomless, occasionally unnerving awesomeness he provided, the bigger impression left by the event was a reminder of how valuable the Black Box Collective is to the culture of this city. Yes, as a venue, it has very challenging conditions: An unconditioned concrete warehouse at the zenith of Florida summer heat is as close to Hell as I can imagine.
But I wholeheartedly support the BBC as the type of community place that's a critical component of a creative scene. Inconvenience is eclipsed by the expressive freedom promoted there. The rules governing the spot are fiercely inclusive, but it's not for everyone. It's a haven far from the mainstream where art and activism overlap, and it's exactly the kind of place we need if we're to have any depth as a scene.
But it isn't just art in a vacuum we're talking about here. The potential of the BBC reaches much further: Organic, idealistic and daring endeavors of its kind can often cure urban blight with more respect, meaning and effectiveness than government programs. Conservative stiffs may not warm up to the sight of "weird" kids hanging out, but where there once was vacancy and crime there's now life, culture and community.
With walls proudly displaying graffiti done lovingly by world-class artists on the outside and forward-thinking events happening inside, this compound is becoming the urban art experience par excellence and a true downtown alternative.
Some big developments are planned, so stay tuned (www.blackboxcollective.com).firstname.lastname@example.org