When I first got to Eve after 11 Saturday night, the place was surprisingly uncrowded even for a Miami show. I had a brief chat with ANR frontman and northern transplant Michael-John Hancock about how in no other city do the shows start at midnight. I felt for Hancock and bandmate Brian Robertson, who were celebrating the release of their latest album, Stay Kids. Driven by Hancock’s unabashed crooning and dance-or-die drumming and Robertson’s feverish synthery, the 10-track effort places ANR firmly at the head of Miami’s indie rock scene (and in hefty debt to TV On The Radio, among others).
But while the duo is getting props from as far away as London and scoring opening spots for Animal Collective (another obvious influence), they can’t even pack a medium-sized venue in their adopted hometown for the release of a really good album. What’s worse, ANR has the funk, energy, and hooks to give Miami the party it endlessly craves, but at this point in the band’s career the effort seems wasted on a paltry turnout.
I could indict Miami for its lassitude and stingy support of local music and call it a day, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. After last night — and the many other nights when a local band played a capacity-crowd-worthy show to a half-empty room — I’ve decided that the issue is actually pretty complicated, variables including the venues, the bands, the people, the public transportation system, the layout of the city, on and on and on. In another town, say, Chicago, ANR’s local equivalent would have drawn a standing-room crowd to Eve’s local equivalent. And not only because the fans in Chicago are more passionate or supportive, but also because taking a train to a show is a helluva lot easier than driving, parking, paying the Master Meter in the middle of nofuckingwhere, and hoping no one shatters your windshield for your D&Gs. In Chicago, three inches of snow might have thinned the crowd a bit. Last night in Miami, ten minutes of rain seems to have cut the turnout in half.
The transportation issue alone is demoralizing. (Does anyone think this city’s busses will ever take them anywhere but work?) Despair’s around the corner when you factor in the other issues. You can’t guilt a populace into giving a shit about its own music. You can’t put the responsibility of fomenting a cultural awakening on any one band. And evidently $5 Heinekens (last night’s promo) have limited allure.
At this point, I think Miami’s mainland venues need to take a lesson from their Miami Beach counterparts in hype. I’m not suggesting a glass staircase and getting Jermaine Dupri to host (or Cee Lo for that matter). But I do think the downtown venues need to do something to make their events more enticing. Right now, I doubt too many people get excited to go to a local show. I’d bet in most cases the line between attending and staying in is gossamer thin. Meanwhile, people will buy a goddamn outfit to stand in line outside of LIV. I know the gulf between LIV and Eve is wider than the Biscayne Bay, but the desire of each establishment’s clientele is the same: They want to party. They want to walk into a room with energy and get lost in it.* Getting a good band on stage is simply not enough. Not in Miami.
Again, this all comes to mind because last night seemed primed to be a party. You had a really good band — two actually — cheap beer, entrancing visuals courtesy of Coral Morphologic, and cupcakes (!) … Instead of a party, though, it was a show and a fucking great one nonetheless. Unadulterated indie quartet Little Beard nailed their opening set, and ANR hit every note. Hard. Really, really hard. Eyes narrowed, hair flying, Hancock sang with the intensity of a gambler with a scary amount of skin in the game, while Robertson probably jammed a finger or two slamming the keys.
By the time they took the stage at around 1:30, the crowd had grown to almost respectable, but I’m sure the band wanted more. I was several Heinys in at this point so I could be wrong, but I interpreted ANR’s set as an act of aggression, toward the crowd that was there, the one that wasn’t, and toward themselves in equal measure. In other words, it was one of the best locals shows I’ve been to period. You shoulda been there.
*To this end, Vagabond leads the pack downtown. Ditto for Bardot in Midtown, though in my experience the “Bardouche” nickname is deserved.
All photos by Robby Campbell