Miami DIY Finale: Beezlebub’s Cave

By | October 5th, 2011 | No Comments

As you crouch beneath a half-open metal shutter to descend into Beezlebub’s Cave, an uncanny whimsy permeates. Much like Alice’s multi-stage descent down her rabbit hole, a plain anteroom leads to a large set of double-doors which, in turn, lead to a bona fide metal clubhouse. And much like the inscription Dante reads upon crossing Hell’s gates — Abadon hope all ye who enter — The Cave also has a welcome sign. BEEZELBUB’S CAVE, big and in script, hangs like a wreathe over the entrance, with a small banner draped below quoting Shakespeare: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

Beelzebub's Cave

Like a rock and roll TGIFriday’s stripped of the kitsch and chicken tenders, the wall is a solid quilt of metal interwoven imagery from every variant and sub-genre: heavy, hair, speed, thrash, stoner. The rectangular warehouse space resembles a metal pantheon where the gods have come to retire in their truest format: the glossy, pinned-at-the-corner poster. It’s as though the walls of international metalheads have been pieced together to form a one room metal megalopolis.

A massive pentagram broodingly fills the tile floor, ominously suggesting that at any moment the proceedings at hand may turn sinister, otherworldly, or both.

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Miami DIY Part III: The Snooze Theatre

By | September 22nd, 2011 | 2 Comments
The Zitfest at The Orange Door

The Snooze Theatre took over a blues bar called The Orange Door, which hosted Zitfest in December.

Like so many South Florida musicians, Palm Beach County residents Jimmy Bradshaw, Jordan Pettingill, and Chris Jankow Jr. (known to most as C.J.) found themselves lusting after the urban allure of the great North. Jankow and Pettingill have been friends — and band mates — for most of their lives and linked up with Bradshaw in 2007 to form the first incarnation (then performing psychedelic dirge rock) of Cop City/Chill Pillars. They made their big decision in the parking lot of what would become, a short four years later, The Snooze Theatre, their greatest contribution to South Florida music yet.

“Being the morons that we are, we came up with a plan to be [in New York City] by Valentine’s Day,” Jankow says. “That might have been the first and last time we successfully met a deadline.”

All joking aside, the Pillars found NYC to be less than hospitable.

“New York was an experience, to say the least,” Jankow knowingly generalizes. “Sometimes I don’t even remember it, and I’m not sure if it was a good or bad time, but I can safely speak for all of us that we are happy we aren’t there anymore.”

The corollary is that the trio is happy to be home. The past four years have consisted of non-stop performing in numerous groupings but most notably the aforementioned Cop City/Chill Pillars, Love Handles (a CC/CP side project), and Krautrock-Dub ensemble Universal Expansion. These three projects perform in numerous forms with fluid lineups that sometimes swell to big-band proportions.

This dogged momentum has culminated recently with cult garage label Florida’s Dying releasing the first Cop City/Chill Pillars full-length LP, Held Hostage On Planet Chill. The Pillars currently recall the power trios of yore and the post-punk fixation with contemporary underground music, but they ultimately forge their own distinct dialect: trashy, inescapable grooves; uneasy, atmospheric zone outs; perfectly simple, comically misanthropic lyrics (“There’s a lotta things I got/That you don’t got/There’s a lotta things you got/That I don’t got”) chanted by druggy gang vocals; and a Phil Spector-like devotion to sonic walls, always heavy but never hard.

While Held Hostage finally documents the material the band had been performing live since their outdated “Weird Love/I, Animal” seven inch, released in 2009, The Snooze is certainly the greater testament to the group’s insatiable hustle.

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MIAMI DIY PART II: the end/SPRING BREAK

By | August 17th, 2011 | 1 Comment

Kevin Arrow's 'Sun Ra Listening Session' at the end/SPRING BREAK bewildered and overwhelmed, as intended.

The room was cold and every inch dark, save for the walls, which had been transformed into overlapping, perpetually shifting movie screens. It was a Friday night in late July, and a small, bewildered audience sat entranced by the seemingly non-sequitur progression of images: psychedelic iconography, Jimi Hendrix, symbols lifted from the occult and Egyptology, a giant cosmic baby.

Two films, Space Is The Place (1974) and A Joyful Noise (1980), ran simultaneously. Both rest somewhere between documentary, New Age/Sci-Fi epic, and free-jazz musical, and both take as their focus avant-garde jazz composer Sun Ra. Amid the flashing, morphing imagery pulsing on the room’s eastern wall, the bandleader and multimedia artist stood next to his only equal in freakdom — himself — and played an improv piano jam in each of the films.

The evening’s host, Miami-based video artist Kevin Arrow, called the event, straight forwardly enough, “Sun-Ra Listening Session”, but it might have been accurately dubbed “Sun-Ra Sensory Overload Happening”. The passersby walking to their dinner reservations in the Design District that night probably wondered what was going on in Spinello Gallery, not realizing that the venue had been transformed into an abstract “place” called the end/SPRING BREAK.

the end/SPRING BREAK has existed for almost two years as a mobile locus that founder Domingo Castillo describes as a platform for “people to share information, obsessions, and other things they know about or are interested in” using any media or format they please.

The name switches according to the art season. SPRING BREAK (all caps) is used during the winter months of snowbird migration and the art fair extravagance epitomized by Art Basel Miami Beach, and the end (no caps) takes over during spring and summer, when the art scene is relatively sleepy.

Along with fellow artists Patti Her and Cristina Farrah, Castillo set out to forge a space that broke fresh conceptual ground relative to those he had worked with previously. As a founder of La Cueva, a Little Havana residence and art space turned occasional music venue, and in collaboration with The Division of Human Works, in Brooklyn, the Miami native became captivated by space and spaces, both as theoretical concepts to ponder and realities capable of affecting and being affected.

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Miami DIY Part I: Chum Bucket

By | August 4th, 2011 | 3 Comments
Miami Chum Bucket

In its short-lived honeymoon, Chum Bucket gave Miami the bona fide DIY punk venue it sorely needs.

A recent edition of NPR’s Friday afternoon South Florida Arts Beat program featured John Richard, president of Miami’s mainstream art temple, the Adrienne Arsht Center. He was on to discuss free theater events for public schools, and in the course of the interview the term “world-class” was used more than once to describe the Center and the significance it holds for the city. In his intro to the segment, host Ed Bell called the complex “a convener and a host in a powerful way” and a key tool in “building a South Florida arts audience for the future.”

With its prime real-estate and robust resources set aside for the arts, the Arsht Center casts a symbolic shadow — as immense as the regal structure’s actual shadow — on Miami’s alternative arts scene. Whether Miami is currently experiencing an “Alternative Renaissance” — as local blogger Liz Tracy recently declared in The Atlantic’s entertainment blog, inciting much debate in the article’s comment section — the city is nonetheless lacking in an essential type of venue that is as integral to vibrant underground scenes nationwide as a megahall like the Arsht is to mainstream urban culture. (Full disclosure: In my capacity as co-head of “experimental” music label and show-book agency Roofless Records, I was one of many sources quoted in Tracy’s article.)

As I use it, a “DIY venue” refers to an art (in this case, music) space that provides an alternative to the commercial, alcohol-driven world of nightclubs and bars. These warehouses, galleries, and homes all vary, but they find commonality in a pervasive sense of freedom both social and artistic. Whereas big-rooms like the Fillmore Miami Beach, dance clubs like the Vagabond, and even otherworldly dives like Churchill’s Pub strive to give their customers what they want so they will show up and spend money on drinks, DIY venues, in their infinite iterations, are spaces for free expression, true experimentation, and direct connection between fans and artists. These spaces are also more fun, it should be said, precisely because of their unadulterated intimacy.

It may be too early to tell whether Miami is truly amid an “Alternative Renaissance”. But a few camps are working hard, often in the face of great deterrence, to provide the homegrown DIY spaces that could be their respective micro-scene’s own Arsht Center and have catalyzed other cities’ underground growth spurts. This article, the first of a four-part series, will focus on one such space.

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