Miami Music Festival Wrap-up: We’ll Get ‘Em Next Year

By | November 14th, 2010 | 3 Comments
Cassie Ramone, Vivian Girls Lead Singer

Vivian Girls lead singer and guitarist Cassie Ramone rocking Gemma Lounge for Miami Music Festival.

One of the few acts in the Miami Music Festival with a broad audience, the Brooklyn-based Vivian Girls put on a solid show last night at Gemma Lounge on Lincoln Road. As at every MMF show I attended this year (Cafeina on Thursday night, Tobacco Road and Bardot on Friday night), the crowd was too small for the room and, in this case, too small for the band. But I have already parsed MMF’s issues, and with the festival winding down I am not going to dwell on them much more. If it hopes to join the ranks of SXSW (its benchmark), CMJ, et cetera, MMF must 1) book a headliner whose latest hit was within the last ten years (i.e. not the Spin Doctors); 2) showcase Miami’s best musicians; and 3) get the city excited about (or at least cognizant of) the festival. Accomplishing #2 would go a long way toward taking care of #3. As for #1, this is Miami: I’m sure someone with a career in front of him could be persuaded to spend a weekend on South Beach. (James Murphy seemed to like it here.)

I do realize that, in only its second year, MMF had little chance of achieving greatness. No one should have expected that, and my own asking around suggests that almost no one did. But Miami should expect the festival that bears and profits from its name to get better. That starts with making it part of MMF’s stated mission to showcase more local talent. It starts, let’s hope, next year.

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Miami Music Festival: Day Two, Strike Two

By | November 13th, 2010 | 8 Comments
Fernando Perdomo at MMF

Fernando Perdomo, left, shredding for a sparse crowd at Tobacco Road.

After the Miami Music Festival’s disappointing opening night, my plan was to go to Tobacco Road for a promising Miami triumvirate: Madame Omine, Fernando Perdomo’s Dreaming In Stereo, and Arboles Libres (all signed to Perdomo’s Miami-based label Forward Motion Records).

Perdomo sat in with Omine on the outside stage, his guitar work adding a controlled frenzy to her rollicking roadhouse blues. Probably the foremost pleasure of the night was seeing how much Perdomo enjoys himself on stage. The rumpled man wields a wicked ax and routinely tosses off riffs that give standard chord progressions new life. Perdomo is an incorrigible local (see “I’m Not Gonna Move to L.A.”) who has done more than his fair share for Miami’s music scene, and it was good to see him get his rocks off on stage — his own Forward Motion-sponsored stage — at a venerable Miami venue.

Problem was, I was one of only about 30 people watching (29, if you don’t count Perdomo’s mother). Attendance at the other MMF stage upstairs was even worse. In fact, there might have been more people inside watching the Portland-Oklahoma game, seemingly oblivious that a music festival was underway, than there were at the two stages combined. So Perdomo and Omine gamely sent their musical energy out into an empty night, and in return they got a round of applause befitting a show-and-tell presentation.

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The Miami Music Festival Opens With A Clang

By | November 12th, 2010 | 5 Comments
Pangea Kidz

From West Palm Beach, the Pangea Kidz closed down the Miami Music Festival's disappointing opening night at Cafeina in Wynwood.

When I went to pick up my press pass for the Miami Music Festival yesterday, the MMF staff made a sincere defense against its critics, which include The (Other) New Times, local musicians, and us. MMF staffers told me the fact that many of Miami’s bigger and/or better acts (Rachel Goodrich, Jesse Jackson, Sloane Peterson, Jacuzzi Boys, etc.) are not on the roster is immaterial because the Miami Music Festival is not necessarily meant to showcase Miami music, but rather to present live music to Miami. They said the disparaging comparisons to other, bigger music festivals like SXSW and CMJ are erroneous because those festivals are further along in their respective evolutions — the implication being MMF would get “there” eventually. Finally, they conceded the MMF of today is not perfect, but contended that one could not expect it to be in only its second year.

I agree with this last point. Developing a grade-A music festival doesn’t happen over night, particularly in a city like Miami whose music scene is still wriggling in its infancy. So it was with an open mind and reasonable expectations that I attended last night’s MMF opening show at Cafeina in Wynwood. But even with the bar set low, it was a disappointing night.

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Top Ten Art Walk Events in November

By | November 10th, 2010 | 7 Comments
Francesco Lo Castro Promo

Butter Gallery will present photographs of the work of acclaimed artist Francesco Lo Castro.

With Art Basel around the corner, this saturday’s Art Walk promises to have even more energy than usual. To help you decide which of the scores of galleries to visit, South Florida blogger and artist Misael Soto compiled the following top ten list.

1. Robert Thiele: 8-Four-9 @ Dorsch Gallery

Painter and sculptor Robert Thiele has had a profound impact on the Miami art scene for decades. After hosting a survey of his 30-year career in 2009, the Dorsch Gallery now presents an exhibition of Thiele’s latest work in “8-Four-9″. The Dorsch should be quieter than the rest of Wynwood, which is all the more reason to stop by. If you can find him, ask Brook Dorsch himself for an explanation of the work. (He’s the tall guy in a fancy button-down, jeans, and thick rimmed glasses). You’ll be glad you did. Learn more about the Robert Thiele exhibit HERE, and click HERE for my review of the Nov. 2 ARTalk on Thiele.

2. Xaviera Simmons (Harvest): Any Number of Myths and Stories @ David Castillo Gallery

After a few misses with its most recent exhibitions, one of Wynwood’s top galleries seems to have something special in store for November. Brooklyn-based Xaviera Simmons’ solo show seems like a promising mixed bag of photography, sculpture, text, video, and installation. Learn more HERE.

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Arboles Libres Unroot Crowd at Churchill’s

By | November 4th, 2010 | 2 Comments
Juan “Nacho” Londono

Miami band Arboles Libres at Churchill's Pub

At Churchill’s last night, Arboles Libres did me two good turns. First guitarist Eddie Moreno tracked me down to give me my phone, which I’d left on the bar out back and didn’t even know I was missing. Then, Moreno and his two band mates — guitarist/vocalist/harmonica player Juan “Nacho” Londono and drummer Anthony Genovese — roused the folk rocker who slumbers in my soul with their brand of sincere, crescendoing, simple music.

Like another great rock trio, the Violent Femmes, Arboles Libres combine the raw energy of rock-n-roll with the sonic clarity of a jazz combo. Their music passes freely from slow and soothing to jumpy to raucous as their lyrics flow from Spanish to English and back again. Within a song or two of their roughly 30-minute set last night, they had breathed oxygen into the small crowd (as arboles, or trees, are wont to do) and moved two chicks, drunk on alcohol and tight tunes, to dance on the stage. (It resembled dancing.) Playing between Jesse Jackson and Rachel Goodrich, Arboles Libres injected several doses of adrenaline into the lineup of top-notch Miami talent and more than held their own. Here are some photos from their set and a video of Arboles Libres — one of the few gems on the Miami Music Festival roster — playing “Comienzos.”

Juan “Nacho” Londono
Arboles Libres singer Juan “Nacho” Londono, with dancers at his back

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The 2010 Miami Music Festival unpromises to be good

By | October 17th, 2010 | 4 Comments

Miami Music Festival Logo

The modern music festival presents the music lover with a dilemma. On the one hand, it is a voracious capitalist beast, sucking money out of attendees’ bank accounts and nipping at the heels of corporate sponsors. In the end, organizers rake in tons of cash, the host city gets a cut, and the bands get a little richer. The attendees – here’s the other hand – they get the memories.

In its second year, the Miami Music Festival (Nov. 11 – 14) amps up the dilemma by cutting the bands out of the profit. In fact, musicians must submit a $35 application fee to be considered for the MMF lineup. At which point MMF forfeits its claim to be a festival and becomes a short-term business model with a great name.

Perhaps the $35 non-refundable application fee explains the dearth of known quantities in the MMF lineup. Among the 400-plus acts, only the Vivian Girls have national clout … and they’re from Brooklyn!

Without the allure of national headliners, one would at least expect to see Miami’s musical core beefing up the lineup. But don’t get excited for Rachel Goodrich, Jessie Jackson, Raffa & Rainer, Sloane Peterson, or Harvey and the Buckets. They’re not playing. When I asked Irwin Kornfeld, MMF’s CEO and organizer, why, he turned the table.

“We don’t choose acts,” he said. “The acts choose us.”

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Diamonds In The Rough at the Miami Music Festival

By | October 17th, 2010 | 3 Comments

Boasting only one nationally known band and few local stars, the diamonds in the Miami Music Festival lineup are few and far between. Here’s a guide to help you in the treasure hunt. You can also click HERE to find out why all the bands you’d expect or hope to see in the lineup aren’t.

Thursday

MMF really gets going on Friday, Nov. 12, but there are a few bonus performances on Thursday at Cafeina, in Wynwood.

Mike Mineo @ 11 p.m. (inside) – When Mineo puts his mouth to the mic, make sure to hold onto your pomegranate mojito. Named Best Male Vocalist of 2010 by the Broward New Times, Mineo combines a velvet delivery with a smart, playful approach to songwriting. Mineo’s songs are informed by the classics, showcasing arrangements from blue-eyed soul (“Peaceful Daze”), light jazz fusion (“Easy Livin’”), and classic pop (“Truth Plagues Plato”). mikemineo.com

So Timeless @ 11 p.m. (outside) – Smooth Bay Area big band soul-hop with a blaring horn section and organ grinder. So Timeless is a 20-plus piece outfit, and even if the whole crew doesn’t make the trip from the West Coast, you will be dancing. They perform again on Friday at midnight, same place.

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