On the way to Gainesville the other day, I happened across a signal out of McIntosh on the FM dial by sheer serendipity. Never heard of McIntosh? Me neither, and I used to live in Gainesville. It's a town of about 400 people hiding between there and Ocala and it boasts one great little radio station, WIMR-FM 96.5. The frequency pipes old-time country, folk and bluegrass (some by Florida artists) and radiates with utter authenticity.
Being a low-power station, it's a relative blip if you're passing through on I-75 but it's well worth dialing in. It hums with so much patina that you'll feel like you're further out in the country than you really are. Something real with texture and bite amid all the boring, slick radio formats is a recharging jolt, a thing any road-weary traveler could use.
I headed down to Back Booth July 24 to catch experimental Philadelphia band Genghis Tron and found myself at the weird intersection of grindcore and synth. It's an unexpected union that's no less odd live than on paper, but it yielded some interesting surprises and a performance that was as breakneck as it was nerd-tastic. They even gave a shout out to local electro-dorks Yip-Yip, though they weren't playing.
The night before, I hit the downtown streets with an agenda (column material) but no itinerary, so I started at the Social. At least that's where I thought I went. Where I ended up was Teen-Girl Hell, because the Rocket Summer was playing. There's no denying that the cannily effervescent Bryce Avary, the sun around which this band revolves, is talented, albeit in a completely artless way. Being able to play all the instruments, the pipsqueak's something of a wunderkind. This display of fresh-faced emo-pop, however, was more Noxema commercial than rock show.
Now, there are things reserved for kids and kids only. But kids are stupid. I might risk my rabid following among teenage girls by saying this, but this pablum is just candy-coated nothingness. And you can forget about that Pollyanna act; dude was all too cognizant of the reactions it was gonna get.
In dire need of substance, I remembered Ozone Cypher, the hip-hop sidewalk sessions every Monday night at the vegan hot-dog stand by Lizzy McCormack's. Sometimes beatboxers throw down, sometimes rappers, sometimes both. That night, an MC saved my life. Though a handful of rhymers dropped lines, the proceedings were led by the considerable talents of Midaz (of BlakOut) and AmIAm (of Beat Ministry and Vets of Kin). The rapid-fire extemporaneity required to freestyle makes it the summit in rapping, and these guys spat with water-tight lyrical architecture, rhythm and wit, all without a pause.
Most notable music haps go down in clubs, but not all. Being of the people and by the people, grass-roots movements like Ozone Cypher take things back to the streets. These dedicated, informal gatherings provide the vital topsoil for hungry artists to bloom. Here, it's all about cutting your teeth. No cover charge, no suckers. And downtown's that much better for it. True hip-hop is still alive and it's here on your sidewalk.
Get up, stand up
Last week, First Hit, known mainly as a 311 cover band, played the Social. No, I didn't attend, but it sparked a thought. Now, I can appreciate good covers like anybody else, as my love for crude local lounge duo Los Diggaz will attest. However, it's hard to reconcile both the number and the frequency of cover bands (Appetite for Destruction, Posin', et al.) that run alongside some of the biggest national indie acts on the Social's calendar. The reason is cash, obviously. I can't admonish a business for being a business, but it's tough to see clubs eating cake while the artists on our streets starve for respectable stages to help incubate the scene, something that would pay dividends in the long run.
It's all market forces. And guess what, baby? You are the market. Though some venues do try to make an impact on the scene in positive ways, at the end of the day, it's money that keeps them open. If a quality band is booked to poor attendance and a shit band packs it out, that says something to the club. Luckily, the converse is also true. And that's what needs to be on loop in your brainbox when you're deciding whether or not to get your ass off the couch. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Attendance is activism. Those who consistently, vigilantly come out to support their bands, local or otherwise, will be heard. So who's it gonna be? You or some firstname.lastname@example.org