Love’s Labours Lost

Love’s Labours Lost – August 30th, 2001

“Where they love they do not desire
and where they desire they do not love…”
– Sigmund Freud

I love music. I will say that again. I love music. I would give my life for music, not that it’s mine to give and that’s highly selfish of me. It is The Lord’s body, but I do as I pleases sometimes and that’s very, very selfish of me. And might I have the strength, if challenged by razor, bullet or chomping dog, to choose Life over music, O Lord. Because all I know today is that if some motherfucker put a gun to my head and screamed madly “Stop playing and listening to music or die!”, I’d scream back “SHOOT ME!” Meanwhile, since this is my extreme scenario, I’d have flipped out my wrist-blade and filleted him like a tilapia johnny-on-the-nickel. Pull a gun on me. Fool. I once pulled a hunting knife on Tony Nittoli of “The Wonder Years” and spent the night in a North Hollywood jail, drunker than Elvis. And after I told my side of the story, even the detectives though he was an asshole and gave me my knife back. The one I bought from the renaissance faire in Long Beach. Pretty thing. I met a girl who was a poet in a bar and didn’t know it but I’d tell her just to run away and hide. Before she caught a glimpse of what I was inside. Bad or good, it all depends on enemies, families and friends and the beating, thumping sounds of stupid pride. Calling outside, can you hear this? I’ll watch with grim amusement as another thousand seconds tick away.

I don’t know who’s directing this week, the ongoing screenplay that someone’s having a grand ol’ time with, the one that I get starring role in. And I also get the hack job of re-writing it all, passing it through filters and applying it to the here and now. Be damned that I wasn’t born an Immortal. Then I too could see a hundred loves grow old and die, recall first-hand glimpses of the ruin of man throughout time and carry a nifty broad-sword sharp enough to slice sound, spouting weighty phrases like “there can be only one.” When it comes to love, you have to choose your battles and always consider the velvet glove of said love. We love as we are; giving and needy and selfish and selfless, imaginative, playful, sober and meditative. Abusive, in love? True, it can happen, just as obsessive in love, desperately in love, hopelessly in love. You love as you live, love is a filter of who you are. And though love can change you, it can only move the clay so far from the base as the apple falls only so far from the tree. Thanks to the muse, I love her too. I love obsessively.

I love music. Period. I love for much else in this life, but it all comes back to sweet, sweet music. Every kind, any kind. There’s not a speck of music in the world that I can truly say “I hate that, what is that? Turn that off!” because not all experiences should be good ones, are we in some agreement? Love is not always easy to handle, it opens a body up to all manner of signs and wonders. Music is the ultimate transportation system. In the future, where languages fail and the need for trade becomes a world-wide effort, we will speak in music and all will understand and be united together. The walls between genres will blur like the lines of color fade from the faces of Earth’s races. Music has consumed me all through this wondrous life and it continues to thrill and confound with each new cycle of the sun and the moon. The fact that I’m still struggling to speak the language makes the journey even more mysterious and daunting. Like a war photographer, I’ve been learning the perils of active duty while crawling the front lines with local Florida bands. Prior to 1997, my local music experience was nil; I relied mainly on national artists and the occasional turn-on by a friend to get my music jones.

Now, who’s got time for that crap? That pap they smear all over the radio waves, the pay for play puppetry and propaganda, over-produced, manipulative, shamelessly calculated, way-hyped, synthetic and processed pablum for the masses. In the past couple of years, I’ve collected over 1000 individual releases from bands in the state of Florida, all independents, at least 80% of which are excellent in an above-average way. Most of these CD’s and CDR’s are the fringe benefits of writing freelance local music reviews and knowing a lot of enthusiastic musicians who are proud of what they do; eager to display their wares. It’s hard to keep bands happy with their songs during the recording process because if you play the shit out of a set, by the time you go to play and support the CD, you’re tired of the same old songs. Getting a CDR fresh from a band member is usually pretty exciting because it represents the latest and greatest that the group has to offer. WWRR has been back on the pipe now for a couple of weeks and it’s still a free-format show showcasing the diverse styles and flavors of the Florida underground. Every Tuesday night from 10 pm to 2 am ET on M4Radio I produce and host the show, working the sound board and selecting the playlist from a rotating stock of Florida indies. I’m joined by Dani The Weather Chick and Butch The Faggot Cowboy, on-air interns that help keep in contact with our listeners through ICQ and other multi-mediums. The focus is on the music, so there’s no attempt to be a Real Radio 104.1 FM knock-off program, but you can expect uncensored reality during the breaks, ayuh. It helps when you’re not FCC regulated and have three very different opinions to draw from. Though the playlist reflects all of Florida, our reviewing of local events tends to stay centered in the central region of the Sunshine State, mostly in and around Orlando. Love kept me busy this past week. C’mon lumpkins, let me show you what I am talking about.

Musicians’s Appreciation Night
August 23rd, 2001

Lost & Found nightclub in Longwood threw this private shindig for “anyone and everyone who has played Lost & Found” and one guest. R.S.V.P.’s were necessary and strictly enforced at the door, due to the clubs relatively small capacity. Within the first hour, the teeming interior seemed to point towards an impressive turn-out for this first-time event.

Granted on any given night in Orlando or its periphery, you’ll find audiences mottled with appreciative fans, lushes, befuddled tourists wondering how they got there and stoic musician-types (you can usually tell by the hair and rigid stance, arms folded, chin-up, looking cool and unflappable) who seem to be scouting the competition rather than enjoying the show. Not so on this night. Here in this hazy throng made up mostly of band members, the atmosphere was loose, groovy, funky-friendly and laid-back. A sumptious buffet of victuals beckoned from a hot-line not far from the venue’s ample stage, pecked at by the first wave of malnutritioned rockers. A triad of wicked-looking amps anchored MC Ben Shader as he welcomed everybody and announced the all-night jam concept. A sign-up sheet passed through the crowd and all were encouraged to leap up with abandon in celebration of mutual jams.

Perhaps the two for one specials hadn’t taken the desired effect yet and catapulted anyone into a mindless state of “wha’ fu’?” Or it could’ve been the incredible shortage of weed that was reported to be an issue early in the evening. Either case, folks were shy about approaching the stage. Now I ask you – a goodly chunk of Orlando’s musician community is in a bar not bigger than an Acura showroom and there was a weed shortage? Sounds like a boat got stopped somewhere this week, that happens every now and again. Then suddenly, Captain Mary Jane arrived and rumors of special brownies began to circulate. And before anyone could click their heels together and fart, the stage was filled with jamming, smiling, peaceful players. Among those that stood out, Cazzy, a bald, bespectacled cat whose hippie-speak and loquacious ramblings on the Orlando Weekly music message board have made him a high-profile character. Cazzy’s electric lead licks and bluesy vocals lent serious weight and creds to the murky, burbly 60’s grooves that floated off of the stage and into the blissed-out crowd. Midst Of Zool bassist Andrew displayed tasteful chops and melodies and Lloyd from Throe gave soul and all during his short time bashing the drums in the mix.

Of keen interest to many in attendance, Karisa of the band SWET. She blew away the throngs of drooling metal-heads who had more than likely suspected she was just a great piece of ass. Borrowing Cazzy’s guitar, the short, spunky blonde fired up a solid set of pipes and laid justice to that axe rightly. The crooner with the Rolling Stones t-shirt on was named Jim and when he let loose, the attention of the bar was electric, crackling in his soulful wake. But as the rotating band o’ blues types shuffled through various covers, the awkward-seeming singer (looking like the confused son of Bill Murray and Ed O’Neill) could only stand there and glance over hopefully at the MC, who apparently knows every song ever recorded. Jim stood up there, just holding the microphone and watching the action on-stage until he finally handed it to someone and walked to the back of the room. Most of the people who had just come in wondered what they had missed.

At some point however, Shader said “later” in order to pursue a pristine piece, and someone drunkenly declared “anarchy!” Just as mellow acoustic singers like Susie Cool, Chuck Culbertson and Michele Lane showed up, the on-stage jams had begun to take a turn for the hard-edged as bands like Drencht, Throe, Chokehold, Midst Of Zool, Indorphine and Kiva began to show up in force. Members of Dirty Barby were kicking around with a group of their punked-out entourage, but nowhere to be seen was the outrageous Puce Glitz, the band’s makeup-smeared mouthpiece. Waiting till the last minute, perhaps?
I had been signed up to play after Cazzy, but decided that the levels had increased so much, there was no point in attempting to join in on dulcimer with any of these rockers. The volume had decidedly risen with each succeeding tune. Lost & Found manager Tom was handling the order of what now turned out to be full band sets. It worked for me. I could concentrate on sitting back and watching everybody else jam. I suck at jamming.

Altered State began the full-band convoy and put on an energetic show – the crowd had soaked up a few two-fer rounds and had made a few-fer trips to here and there with not-so-subtle packs of shifty-eyed friends, returning with bigger smiles and smaller pouches – some of the meeker musicians began to slink off as the testosterone wave crested higher. When Mecca from Dirty Barby took the stage with a couple of other musicians, it appeared doubtful that the full band would perform. Then drummer Kyle and bassist Cheryl settled into place and I began searching the room for their freaky frontperson. The band fired up, the room stiffened to attention (mostly guys, two women on stage, rocking out, you’re there) and then this short-haired guy, dressed in black, wearing black shades, leaps on-stage and grabs the microphone. And out comes that high-pitched, shrieking voice and the mannerisms, softly muted, but present in any case. An unprecedented “unmasking” of Puce Glitz, revealing her alter-ego George. The band rocked some originals and put a crunchy twist on the now-seminal “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” before tumbling off the stage and threatening to come back.

“You think you’re hard? You’re not hard. THIS!! IS!! HARD!!” screamed Rob and Brian of Deroot as they joined Kiva for the Headbanging Moment of the Night, Kiva being one of the obvious favorites. It was then, as I sat down with perfect timing to eat some of Lenore’s spicy meatballs, that Tom calls out the next act, “Bing Futch!” he says. There was a big cheer from the drunken throng as I paused the meatball-bearing fork in front of my face and looked at the stage with sullen disbelief. What am I gonna do, some Queen? I sauntered up, plugged in, and after strumming some mellow dulcimer riffs, I planned on bowing out gracefully and thanking them for that word from this sponsor. However, I suddenly heard drums from behind me and it was too late to back out. Launching in to “Black Indian”, I found myself joined by Captain Fat Bastard of Chokehold on two beer bottles that he had drained to a couple of pitches in the song, more or less. Standing impishly in front of the mic stand to my left, as impish as his ample girth would allow, he blew into the bottles as two back-up singers popped up on my right, tempos and meters going everywhere. Soon, some other guys are walking on-stage and it suddenly began to resemble an old Monty Python skit that I’d seen sometime, so I started mugging and ad-libbing words and mercifully, it was all over in about five minutes. When I returned to my bar stool, the meatballs were gone.

I never did get any godddamn meatballs.

The crowd maxed at a stifling point and then slowly began to drain out into the night. Those that were left resembled an assembling of old regulars from The Fern Park Station, 80’s metal madness fueled with smoke and drink, swaying in breezy celebration of the rock ‘n’ roll life. Which is why it was such a shock to the collective systems of everyone present when Dirty Barby returned to the stage, sodden and angry, belching out ear-piercing punk vengeance, knocking over tables and exclaiming “this room fucking sucks.” Whether punk bravado, part of the show or the truth made easier through alcohol, it was a smashingly powerful set that ended the evening on a queer note. I asked George why he had decided to forego the shocking wig and acoutrements of Puce Glitz for the first time and he quietly replied, “I think it’s because I’m drunk.”

There wasn’t much left on the buffet but a smattering of desserts and a huge vat of salad that was being sent home by the pound with the stragglers in Publix grocery bags. Chewing on a carrot stick, my only taking from the bounty that evening, I stashed my bag of salad, bid the crew goodnight and felt like I had just witnessed the start of something new once again. Perhaps more of these “Musician Appreciation Nights” where the musicians start bringing food and serving the staff; it’s been suggested. Any time a bar closes its doors in order to celebrate the acts that have shared in its success is a time to truly stop and admire what a nice music scene Orlando has.

Just a little more variety next time.

“Oh, I wish that God had not given me what I prayed for!
It was not so good as I thought!”
– Johanna Spryi

VONRA at Sapphire
Bodhisattva Social Club Open Mic Night
August 27th, 2001

In November of last year, Vaughn Rhea and his not-so-merry band of musicians vanished from the face of Orlando without so much as a fading blip. The band known as VonRa has been in constant flux since Rhea began playing solo in bars around 1992.
(For a real time-trip on the band, and a funny picture of me in an afro, click here) He’s been through his share of session players and guitarists, a cycle that finally took its toll late last fall.

Rhea scaled back, re-thought the approach to the music and has emerged with a brand new album called “Fame”, produced by Brett Hestla of Virgos. After a wildly successful CD release party at Hard Rock Live! on August 10th of this year, the current incarnation of the band whooped it up for 300 appreciative fans at Sapphire this past week. Getting that many people to show up at 8:00 p.m. on a Monday night was an easy trick for the group, they’ve been sorely missed on the scene. With brother Dave “Boo” Rhea back on-board permanently with bass duties (after a short stint with big-label act Dust For Life and long-time duo partner Dave Smith back on lead guitar, the core of VonRa is once again on the frontlines. From what I could gather, J.D. Charlton handled drum chores and Todd Hackenburg covered the second guitar parts.

A solid sound all around, these guys have definitely left their pop and pop-rock roots in the dust and are embracing an edgier brand of rock these days. Though coated with heavy doses of Creed, the music is still pure Vaughn, the undoubtable conductor of this train. Monday night’s show saw him stepping out from behind his trademark Ovation guitar to grab the mic and prowl the stage for a change. His voice, never a weak point, has matured and is still capable of cooing gently. It’s when he’s working the material, growling and full-throttling his trademark “yeah’s”, the new intensity in Rhea’s stage presence is most evident. “Fame” is a hot record – slickly produced and powerful in its tone. The title track itself deals with the relationships made and broken in the search for that elusive record deal, subjects that seem a high-priority for Vaughn Rhea. Allegations still circulate that Rhea had jettisoned longtime friend and drummer Dave “Tin Man” Tinny because record suits suggested Tinny was “too old” and not pin-up worthy enough. Whatever lies just beneath the surface, it hasn’t seemed to have effected the current incarnation of the band one whit. With a sure-as-gold sound, a freshly re-designed website and a sweet new release, VonRa is poised once again to be the next big ticket out of Orlando.

Perhaps None Other will re-appear next from the hole into which they sanketh. On a side-note, milling about in the crowd, fresh from an international tour, was Pete Sison of Skrape. Looking incredibly well-rested for having just returned from the road, Sison said that the band was just cooling their jets for awhile before heading out with Pantera. Apparently the label has been decent to them, no jacking around, no conflicts. Such a rarity in this unbelievably screwy music business.

“We are ne’er like angels till our passion dies” – Thomas Dekker

On To Bodhisattva

The open mic scene in central Florida is an important one. These are the breeding grounds for future talents. Artists, talkers, plunkers, vocalists, people in need of a Fright Fix, fighting their demons on-stage in a room filled with vicarious enthusiasts and other demon-filled warriors, chasing their fears with coffee, cigarettes and beer. The very hep Susie Cool has been instrumental (pun intended) in organizing an open mic calendar of events that helps to get musicians plugged-in. A tireless crusader for acoustic music on the scene, Cool’s been nominated for a People’s Music Award in the “Best Female Solo Artist” category and is a nice woman who does her best to help educate artists and make introductions when necessary.

Some call it “schmoozing” while some prefer “networking” and both can be linked back to “connecting”. Everyone’s a potential fan, critic, bandmember, future bandmember, multi-millionaire, one-night stand, next big thing, whatever the fuck – one-stop shopping for some people. Stack of business cards, an alert eye, not too many suds, the night is ripe for Getting Things Done. I haven’t played the open mic scene for awhile, periodically popping in here or there for an appearance (and I was nominated for a PMA in the “Best Male Solo Artist” category, how did that happen?) to try out new material, so I’ve been overdue.
Especially since I’ve been hearing about the Monday open mics at Bodhissatva Social Club (23 S. Court Street – 407.872.3136).

Apparently, regular host Jim was on vacation, so the inimitable Gonzo pulled off a double-play of hosting and pouring drinks until regular barmistress Erica showed up. The club is located in a narrow, San Franciscan style building, a small bar occupies most of the first floor and steps lead to the secondary bar in the upstairs lounge. Faded brick with windows out to the city in a cozy space with wooden floors, exposed ceiling beams and the faint, musty scent of history. Red lanterns glow, mirror ball sprays colors, overhead projector throws fruity shadows and two Easter Island icons, three foot tall each, lounge at the far corners. I’d seen bands here before and had forgotten just how quaint and intimate the room was.

Presently, some regulars started to spill in, mixing together with a few second-timers who had fully enjoyed their virgin experiences in front of an audience. And there were the newly-blossomed addicts to the drug, brimming with excitement to be on-stage again and there were the jaded and bitter scenesters who had been trenching the circuit for ages, you could read it on their faces. Still all wanting to get up there and share a piece of themselves. Open mics are like live reality t.v., you can either enjoy what you’re watching or shake your head in disbelief, either way – it’s an amazing pendulum swing between train wrecks and revelations. You’ll get both in any good open mic program.

Crazy little Gus Ryder was there with Carrie Stone of Stone-Ryder, haven’t seen those cats since the days of Java Jabbers where we all did many a wait on the sign-up sheet for Thursday nights. The two were promoting a gig that was set for next month at Bodhissatva, their funky, guitar-blues yin and yang is still in sync, Ryder shrieking and wailing, Stone looking perturbed and whispering into the mic – it makes for an entertaining evening. After their set kicked things off, they vamoosed to do some more flyering while second-timer Brian got up and did some tunes, including one about a stalker that was quite long, but very funny. Spoken-word artist ;Rhoade took the ever-expanding audience on an acerbic riff; a trio called Jade Fox bravely put their best foot forward and then this guy Alex who had “just blown in from Tennessee” came in and proceeded to go off on the guitar with class and style and a rugged voice. Poof, off he went. This will be a guy to look for in the future, if he hangs tough here – his set had people looking at each other with mouths open and eyes wide in respect. He said he was looking for a cover gig, I suggested a few bars. He could be the next VonRa.

I can’t remember all, Gonzo would walk up to the middle of the room and say, “thank you! next is…” and sometimes I’d catch it and sometimes I wouldn’t. One whole band came and went so quickly, I didn’t get any names at all, but they were very good – obviously just slumming to get the name out. Worked well on me, for sure.
As it got closer to my assigned time (which always ends up being much later than the time you signed next to), I un-cased the dulcimer and began walking around with it, tuning up. It’s always a neat way of enticing people to hang out for the set and it worked on ;Rhoade who leaned over and said, “this I gotta hear.”
After getting up there and making like “Hee-Haw” with four tunes, the receptive crowd, now spilling forward and sitting on the floor, gave me a good send-off. Kind of makes up for that Monty Python sketch of a set that I did at last week’s Lost & Found jam. Upon returning to my corner, the acerbic poet stands up and says he thought it was great. “I’ll give you twenty bucks to play that last song at Jack Kerouac’s house,” he says. He went on to explain that he was involved in some sort of event involving the house that Kerouac used to reside in, located in College Park. Of course, I would’ve done it for free, but who am I to turn down twenty bucks? Them’s a lot of Krystal burgers and a full tank of gas.

Out of the rest of the evening came Timb The Enchanter, tall and thin like an Ichabod Crane with bangles and skin-tight colors, dog collars and a sidekick called The Acoustic Jackass. Timb’s rousing “Let’s Play Football” is an irony that needs to be experienced in person. Cool and Stuart wrapped up the evening with sweet guitar and mandolin, harmonies and an irie rasta ending. Unlike a lot of the other open mics in town, the one at Bodhissatva has a much more innocent vibe. Here, there aren’t many snarks and sniffs at those of lesser talent. Here, everyone gets their due props for enduring the fabulously scary rite of passage, enjoying drinks, the vibe, the company. This is one great way to make Monday’s loveable again.

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end” – Leonardo da Vinci

Shows, shows, shows…..

Did I mention that I love music? Love other people’s music, especially when it’s good. Sometimes I’m jealous and get all green-eyed when there’s some cat always being thrown in my face. Like Gene Snowden of The Joint Chiefs. It seems everywhere I go, someone’s looking me right in the eye and saying, “damn, that Gene though – that man can sing!” At moments like that, I sometimes secretly wish that Gene would get hit by a comet, but then I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly. Sing, dance, play brass and percussion – he’s like that motherfucker Prince, someone else who I enjoy but damn! Why do you have to be so good? What an asshole! The Joint Chiefs are better than good, in the parlance of my friend Daniel from Johnny’s Rockin’ Bistro, they are “super-good.” They’re playing this Friday, August 31st at Kit-Kat on Wall Street in Downtown Orlando along with a disgustingly good group of bands including Gargamel!, Le Charm Conspirace’, Imajica, Junkie Rush, Throcket Luther, Umoja and more. Price is $7 and free beer flows from 7-8 pm. It’s the last time you’ll be able to live it up in the ol’ Wall Street Troika before Kit-Kat, Harold and Maude’s and The Globe meet their new owners and their intentions. Across the street and two bucks cheaper is the Hinge Magazine release party featuring The Ox Project, Pilots Vs. Aeroplanes, Ambition’s End, Precious and Choke. Starts at 9, should be a blast to see how Orlando’s newest mag is welcomed into the scene. (Free beer would’ve helped.)

I’ll be rehearsing with Naked Head till 10:30 pm and then popping back and forth across Orange Avenue to kick off this Labor Day weekend, a task made easier by some mid-week homework conducted at House Of Blues and Hard Rock Live!. Wednesday night’s HOB show produced newish band Telephone, the lionized Pilots Vs. Aeroplanes and local darlings Precious. Thursday night’s HRL! roster includes The Ox Project, Unfisted, Holeshot and Lost In Progress. More on them and the insidious nature of love the next time we peek into these darkened corners. May all of love’s labours not be lost on you this weekend.

Pa gjensyn,


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