;The fact that the Social is one of the most important independent venues in the region makes it a coveted stage for nearly every area musician. But its national reputation also means that it's not exactly easy to land a gig there, so it holds a semiregular series called Shut Up & Play! for bands who've never performed at the club. It's a good idea and a great opportunity for aspiring artists, but it also often spells amateur hour. Despite that intrinsic hazard, it's a showcase I like to drop in on from time to time to trawl for gold, or at least potential. See, I told you I was an optimist. But sometimes, I'm made to regret my optimism.
;;Awestruck, who ought to consider changing their name to Awful, were an indiscriminate, train-jumping mess. Wiggling all over the musical map can sometimes pass as eclectic. In this case, their confused ball of emo, pop, metal, modern rock and indie dance was the product of a band lacking a defined vision or any original ideas. The only thing the West Palm Beach transplants in Anniston mustered was ball-less melodic rock with bangs. But head and shoulders above what I typically see in this sort of format was The Collective, who turned out elegant indie rock with some degree of authenticity.
;;I even attended a couple of showcases being held for the Surf Expo (maaan, the things I do for you). But I was treated to a remarkable surprise during a performance at Back Booth by Central Florida's Re-Form. It wasn't the band that was remarkable — far from it — it was their astounding drummer Eddie Fields. Even through the thick, mind-numbing fog of hard rock clichés spread by his bandmates, his virtuosic banging thrust boldly to the fore. As surgical as it was forceful, his skill could hang even with the most technical of heavy metal acts. Discovering he was blind only made my jaw hang that much lower. Blessed with an intimidating degree of talent, the dude is selling himself short in this band.;;
;;Thankfully, local indie hip-hop label Nonsense Records assembled a cohesive showcase on the same stage earlier in the week with much more talent and substance. One of the evening's most inspired moments was a microphone-passing freestyle session among an array of MCs with the unshakable beatboxing of Rubox Cube keeping the train on the track. The lean and mean X:144 and SPS kicked up the pulse a few ticks with the wiry tension of their turntablist rap. A model of simplicity and dynamism, the rapid-fire duo is quickly, justifiably becoming one of the label's flagship acts. And watching the decorated DJ SPS (2005 DMC Southeast Regional Champion) on the Technics is like watching a ballet in fast-forward; the shit's just beautiful.
;;There's indeed a vibrant, if small, indie rap scene in this city, and this showcase crystallized that fact for me. Much of that is due to the Nonsense Records crowd. After all, these are the people who till the soil from which the Sol.illaquists of Sound sprouted, and look where they are now. This label is doing for local hip-hop what Floridas Dying is doing for punk rock and Post Records for indie rock. These communities may be relatively underground, but they're the most forward-thinking and artistically rich movements in the scene.;;
;Cattle call to rock
;Soundinoff.com and Hierarchy Productions are bringing back the Raging Addiction competition to AKA Lounge in March. Though, by nearly every outward indication, this appears to be a metal-centric event, the organizers say it's open to many rock genres including "alternative, hardcore, indie, metal, progressive, punk, rock and ska." But take note, bands, this is as much a marketing contest as it is one of talent — actually, more so. The audience chooses the victor, which means the band that mobilizes the most fans wins. Registration at www.soundinoff.com/rage ends February 15. Prize packages range from gear all the way up to an "industry level" press kit that includes studio time, a music video, a commercial bio, a professional photo session (ooh!), a logo design (aah!) and a chance to perform at Earth Day Birthday 14. Personally, I think it's worth a go just to see how totally sweet a photographer who specializes in lingerie and swimwear will make your band look.;;
;Hall of Fame
;;What to say about this year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
;;Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — Well, duhhh.
;;Patti Smith — Ditto.
;;The Ronettes — Hey man, they influenced the Jesus and Mary Chain.
;;R.E.M. — Can we now just put Michael Stipe into a little rocket and shoot him into space somewhere far, far from here?
;;Van Halen — A choice I'm prone to snicker at, though I know a certain music editor around here who's probably firstname.lastname@example.org