The panhandle of Florida isn't the first setting that comes to mind when speaking of innovation. But this past weekend, some 50-odd miles north of Panama City, the Founder's Festival marked the official opening of Chipola Music Village. It's billed as a "true live, work and play eco-based community that is based around music and the arts." But just when I thought I caught the faint whiff of patchouli and feet, its website explicitly stated that the Village is NOT a hippie commune. Other things the management says it's not are a trailer park, a Woodstock or a mud pit.
Actually, their master-planned, resort-minded vision is much more in line with punctiliously crafted developments like Celebration or Baldwin Park, only centered around music. Amidst the proposed 165 home sites, 150 cabin/villa sites and 140 RV ownership sites are three outdoor amphitheaters (ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 in capacity) and a performing arts center, among other amenities. One encouraging aspect that might indicate that the community won't turn out Stepford spooky is that they're adopting sustainable practices throughout the site like full-service recycling, composting and use of environmentally friendly materials and organic fertilizers. It's an interesting concept; but it remains to be seen if its remote location allows it to make any impact on the cultural fabric.
Under new management
Back to more domestic affairs, the owners of one of the city's live music venues will be taking over a well-known pub in Winter Park next month. An official announcement has yet to be made and details are guarded, hence my coyness. But the potential of this prospect certainly raises hopeful goose bumps. However, we'll have to wait and see whether this development will actually affect the music scene or just the bar scene.
I've been talking about progress in the local scene a lot lately. But remember a couple weeks back when I cautioned against believing that the skeletons in our closet have been put to rest? Well, here's a small wake-up call to remind you that the modern-rock monkey is still defecating on your back. Last week at the Social, I caught local band 21st Floor, whose modern-rock banality was the rock equivalent of Muzak. Apparently this night was their one-year anniversary, though I'm not sure a medal is in order for 365 days of nothingness. My point isn't that they're the antithesis of art, it's that they're not the only ones out there still dog-paddling in the shallow end of the pool. That scene is laughably démodé, but it's still inexplicably teeming. But habits, especially bad ones for some reason, are hard to break.
Goes for you too
Then again, the indie-minded scene isn't exempt from accountability either. Take the all-local bill at Back Booth last Friday. Boutros Boutros had a whole mess of things going on up there, and their performance was consequently a mess. The stage was crammed with an abundance of both personnel and gear, including a largely unnecessary second drum kit that went unplayed for much of the set and added very little when it was. Their jaunty, folksy pop set was gleeful in a slightly annoying Barenaked Ladies or They Might Be Giants sort of way. It was a spectacle that was elaborate but ill-defined. It's really too bad that their live approach was so unfocused, because there were some decent pop songs underneath all that sonic garishness.
Before them, The Sugar Oaks' set got out to a Jerry Lewis of a beginning, stumbling about clumsily, out of sync and out of tune. It wasn't until about the third song that things evened out, finally showing a likable set of pillowed, porch-swinging music. Though more outgoing live, they maintained a degree of folk sophistication, even showing some of the Southern soul that's recently been made fashionable in the indie world.
Opening the bill was post-hardcore act Watch Me Disappear. They've come a long way as a band and continue to show new evolution. By design, their music is a study in angularity and challenging signatures. But rather than just being all elbows and knees like before, they're progressing to the point that flair and facility is becoming more and more evident in their execution. Drummer Mike Lothrop's technical rhythms, some of the most inventive in the scene, have assumed a new sense of drive, while Keith Mercer's guitar-playing is showing more finesse. New singer Shawn McNulty, however, is hit-and-miss. All's well when he employs shout vocals; it's a headlong counterbalance to Mercer's curt, Page Hamilton-esque growl. But the more conventional singing passages floundered, showing both serious limitations in his voice and incongruity with the band's sound. I'd sort of like to watch those firstname.lastname@example.org