Besides tucking a sprig of mistletoe in the waistband of my underwear, y’know what my favorite holiday trick is? Spinning deviant Christmas music. Before sitting down to dinner with your fam, try switching out your parents’ tired Mannheim Steamroller album with any disc in Christmas Rock Records’ Wreck the Halls series. Sure, “Master of Puppets” or “Highway to Hell” may play but they won’t notice, ’cause it’s recorded by a Christmas band to sound like instrumental holiday music, sleigh bells and all. Seriously. Editions feature the songs of rock bands like Metallica, AC/DC and the White Stripes. It’ll have everyone at the table wondering why you’re wearing that shit-eating grin.
In a big week on the home front, one standout – and stand-up – show was the emotional Dec. 13 edition of the weekly Thursday gig by local cow-punkers Big Jef Special at Uncle Lou’s Entertainment Hall. Drummer Brian Maguire was in a serious motorcycle accident the weekend prior and is, as of press time, still in a coma. For charity – and therapy, no doubt – the remaining members soldiered on as a stripped-down duo, though they were anything but alone. In a heartening turnout, mobs of people filled the joint to give both hope and much-needed money to Maguire’s family. The mantra repeated all night was “Brian, wake the FUCK up!” And, on this night, one little bar raised nearly a grand for the scene vet. Not bad at all, guys. You showed your fiber when it counted most and I’m proud of you.
Being the beloved guy he is, a string of benefits is already scheduled, so continue directing your largesse to someone who really needs it. For details, updates and online donations, go to myspace.com/brianmaguirerelief.
The outpouring of support actually spread as far as DeLand Dec. 15, where Maguire received onstage mentions and well-wishes from several acts playing the first annual DeLando Fest at Caffe da Vinci. Masterminded by notable DeLand musician Lauris Vidal, the event is a celebration of Central Florida music and made a very substantial debut by summoning some of the area’s choicest talents, including Orlando indie scene heavyweights like Mike Dunn & the Kings of New England, Mumpsy and Thomas Wynn & the Believers. And with Heather Lee & Jordan Wynn sharing the bill, it was like a Wynn family reunion. Actually, it was the latter who gave the evening’s most enthralling set. With warm folk intimacy and country sweetness, their neo-traditionalist purity was elegant, modest and deeply affecting. The dissolution of the Wynn Brothers Band bummed me out, but now I couldn’t be happier since it splintered into two separate acts, each better than the original, just in different ways.
If you haven’t been out to Caffe da Vinci yet, I simply cannot recommend it enough. A congress of bohemian and Cracker, it’s a bar, coffeehouse, art gallery and antique shop that happens to boast an outdoor show space that’s awfully difficult to match in terms of atmosphere. Take a courtyard that radiates the Southern charm of a place like Savannah, turn it into a beer garden, book bands to play under the Spanish moss and I’m sooo there. Totally worth the drive.
Cool place, good people and top-notch indigenous talent – I can’t think of a better formula for a successful night. With a strong inauguration, here’s hoping that the next DeLando Fest gets the broad regional attention it deserves. Definitely one of this year’s best events.
Be thankful that the renascent Plaza Theatre recently inherited the regular monthly showcases by local jazz legend Sam Rivers and his Rivbea Orchestra, because it’s a marvelous thing to see in a large room, like I did Dec. 12. Even though this octogenarian is old enough to be your grampa, this ain’t yo’ daddy’s big band. No, this is hot-blooded, complex stuff that winds and throbs with restlessness and Gordian grooves. This latest performance affirmed that his music retains a fierce, attacking improv edge. And despite all the talented young bucks surrounding him, he was still easily the best natural player on the stage. Man, what a gift it is to have a star like Rivers in our midst.
FYI: I’m off next week. Awww, I know. But I’ll have an eye-opening New Year’s column for you. Promise.firstname.lastname@example.org