All GUTS, All Glory: Alachua’s finest femmes, planting their flag in Duval’s urban core.

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Summer Goodman/GUTS/Mouth Mouth/Flat Land

Underbelly–Wednesday, April 1

Courtesy Medusa Productions

Back when I was a college freshman, attending the University of Florida, way back in the Year Of Our Lord 1995 (it wasn’t that long ago, really, but it feels that way sometimes), the best band in Gainesville was called the Crustaceans, but there was nothing crabby about their sound. It was a trio playing guitar, bass and drums; they switched instruments and lead vocal duties repeatedly during their sets, seamlessly. They were a garage band in the true mattresses-on-the walls, un-ironic-clove-cigarette-smoking kind of way.  Their leader was Samantha Jones, already a local legend long before I’d ever palmed my first bottle of Boone’s Farm.

Samantha Jones was the very first girl I ever met with a tattoo on her arm—just ponder that, for a moment—and her energy lit up the room like Magneto running through airport security. From those first bars, at those first bars, her voice installed itself in my permanent Top 5, all-time, anywhere. Her swag was prototypical, and now, with a quarter-century’s experience in upwards of a dozen bands, all of which were good, she is an established leader in the Gainesville community.

Jones married her colleague in Crustaceans, became a mother, massage therapist and yoga teacher, but she still wields a voice more soothing than shiatsu, and she has aged even less over those years than I have. All the while, Jones maintained her presence in the music scene; her band Cassette recorded several nice things for Bakery Outlet Records and played the old Lomax Lodge back in the John Peyton era. The Crustaceans were my introduction to the deep and dense indie-rock scene here in Florida, the first music I bought from people I actually knew, the first of thousands in almost every conceivable medium—but I lost their recordings 12 years ago, and have never been able to replace them, which irks me to no end. (But it’s ok, because I memorized it all.)

But the good news is that my the singer/guitarist for my favorite Gainesville band back then, in 1995, is also the singer/guitarist for my favorite band working that region today—the fabulous female foursome GUTS, whose debut in Duval County debut happens at Underbelly during the First Wednesday ArtWalk, as part of a free show that also includes Flat Land, Mouth Mouth and Summer Goodman, all of which can be counted among the new generation of indie acts rising out of the Sunshine State.

Jones and her colleagues—bassist Kara Smith, guitarist Rebecca Butler and drummer Kentucky Ultraviolet—are touring in support of their debut album “Lucky All Over”, released last December. Their sound is spare, a sensory delight, all shimmering guitars and multi-part harmonies, anchored by one of the signature voices of the modern era. If Jones’ singing sounds like others you’ve heard, bear in mind that she was first—and, if the new stuff is any indication, she will also be the last. It’s happy, refreshing music, rendered in fine detail, translucent and stocky at once, like Rapidograph on vellum. The video for “Sugar”, recorded at Medusa Studios last year, was my introduction to their work. It’s still my favorite track, but songs like “Lucky” and “There’s a Chill” are standouts, as well.

The Duval connection was formalized just recently when Tomboi worked a bill with GUTS at A Space on March 1. Their singer, Alex E. Michael has a resume similar to Jones’, in that pretty much every band she’s in is really good, from Tomboi today to Ritual Union, Wild Life Society and the legendary Fruit Machine. When Jones noted on Facebook that “Tomboi’s gonna be the NEXT BIG THING, mark my words”, that’s about as close to definitive as an endorsement gets in this region.

Such is Alex E’s reputation that Underbelly’s tasked her with running their new gimmick for ArtWalk, where they’re always busy, by default, like most venues around The Elbow tends to be. It starts with open-mic for singers, poets, magicians etc. earlier in the evening, followed by a free keg at 9 and featured band thereabouts, with free admission throughout. The venue, the night and the audience are all ideal for GUTS’ arrival in the River City. The only April Fools are those who miss this show.

Notes on the 2015 Elections in Duval County

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#kayfabe

It’s good to hear that so many took advantage of the early-voting. Analysts have been projecting the usual pathetic turnout for this spring’s elections, and with fewer than three in ten registered voters projected to show up, it’s pretty much impossible to get anything better than politics-as-usual. I didn’t early-vote; I always prefer voting on Election Day. I love the ritual of getting a coffee, then standing in line talking to fellow voters, listening in on conversations, etc.

That said, I’m writing this on Monday, the 23rd of March, the day before Election Day. Assorted friends and readers have inquired about my thoughts on the election, but aside from occasional posts on social media, I have mostly refrained from writing about these elections at all. I’ve probably done less writing about this election than any since 1996, on any level, and that was not by accident. After running for City Council myself, four years ago, and pulling about 1,300 votes in a district with 41,000-plus voters, the experience changed my perspective on how the business works. Is politics corrupt? Of course–deeply, madly, inextricably so. But while we can go on all day about the failures of elected officials and the weakness of new candidates, the bitter reality is that it is the people themselves who are the weak link. Their laziness and passivity creates the broader context in which our leaders can underperform because, deep down, they know they can get away with it. They know the people have neither the courage nor the character to facilitate change, no matter what they say. So, I figured, why bother covering a rigged game–especially when no one wants to get into the exact nature of the rigging, and there is no possibility of being paid for it, anyway? Nah. Let the elite play politics, and let the people pretend to care, and the beat goes on and the beat goes on…

With the first round of elections coming tomorrow, a number of the more interesting candidates this year will be eliminated, because fresh thinking is not really appreciated here. Indeed, we’ve seen a number of instances in which the harshest reactions have come directly at those trying to think outside the proverbial box in which political orthodoxy is housed, fortified like the bunker under the old courthouse. For the amusement of the handful of you reading this, and for the sake of promoting my appearance on WBOB AM600‘s Election Day wrap-up show (Tuesday night, 7-9pm), I offer here a rough glance at the people I’ll probably be voting for tomorrow, and why. These are not endorsements, nor recommendations; I refrain from all that. I have no dogs in these fights; I cannot conceive of any way that any result in any of these races will impact on my life, but that is certainly not true for the vast majority of Jacksonville’s citizens, many of whose lives and livelihoods depends on the decisions these people make, or fail to make. You can view the full slate of candidates online, and all the special-interest groups have made their endorsements as well. And so…

Mayor: Bill Bishop (R). Alvin Brown has been an excellent mayor in his first term, in my opinion, but he’s had a very hard time making that case effectively in this campaign. Despite his overall success, his handlers have manipulated him into a series of disastrous political mistakes (most notably the HRO debacle) that are the only reason he’s had any competition at all. If he’d done things even slightly differently, he’d be cruising like Delaney in 1999 or Peyton in 2007. Instead, he’s fighting for his career against two other strong candidates, Bishop and Curry. I’m voting for Bishop not because of anything he says, because it doesn’t matter what any of them say; they will do what they’re told, and what that will be is beyond my pay-grade. I like the way he’s run a new-style campaign, embracing disparate elements of the electorate in a way that presented a real threat to the local leadership of both major parties, both of which are played-out, mediocre and ineffective. The fact that Democrats and Republican elites basically joined forces to try and shut down Bishop, by any means necessary (including all kinds of dirty tricks that we’ll just not mention), speaks to his potential, as does the fact that nothing has managed to slow his momentum over the past couple of months. Lenny Curry is a nice guy, but he’s a functionary, not a leader; he represents a bunch of bad people who pushed him into launching a fusillade of negative mailers that did him no favors. Brown deserves to be reelected, and when he makes the run-off he’ll probably get my vote. But if he is to be defeated, Bill Bishop is the credible alternative.

Sheriff: Ken Jefferson (D). The dirty secret here is that local Democrats are so weak, Jefferson will probably lose, but through no fault of his own. He pulled good numbers against outgoing sheriff John Rutherford in 2011, despite local Dems assiduously underfunding him, for reasons probably more about tactical incompetence that any kind of bigotry. All seven candidates are talented veterans of the department, and in theory any of them would be good at the job, but Jefferson’s media skills will be useful in representing an organization that will probably be under continual FBI investigation for the rest of this decade. Rutherford has endorsed Greg Anderson, but Jimmy Holderfield looks strong. The real question of the 2015 elections is why Rutherford didn’t run for mayor himself, but I’m sure he had his reasons. There are lots of issues that needed discussion in this particular race, and many questions that needed answering. But all of us in local media made the spontaneous and unrelated decision to stand down on all of it, by popular mandate of the audience. In fact, this is probably the last time I will ever mention the police department in print, in any capacity. It’s just not something to be discussed, and maybe that’s for the better.

Property Appraiser and Tax Collector are crucial positions in city government, and the fact that those spots will be won outright by longtime professional politicians (Jerry Holland and Michael Corrigan), Republicans who had no opposition at all, says all you need to know about how this city works, not to mention how the Democratic Party fails to work. You would think there’d at least be some kind of quid-pro-quo for laying and conceding such key spots to the opposition, but that’s not how they do things. They just lay down, because winning has not been a consideration for them for an entire generation. Brown’s victory in 2011 had nothing to do with his party; it was about his own skillful manipulation of a fractured Republican base (because the only real priority in 2011 was stopping Audrey Moran, for reasons that make no sense, but which I’m sure Bill Bishop can empathize with these days) and his ability to win support of a handful of wealthy powerbrokers.

City Council Districts:

1: Joyce Morgan (D). I’ve often noted–in all seriousness–that our city would immediately and dramatically improve if all our elected officials were fired and replaced with local news anchors. This is a chance to prove that.

2: Lisa King (D)

3: I don’t care. When I say that about these council races, it’s not to be taken as an insult to the candidates. It’s just that I’m not a fan of the city council, in general, and I think their collective role in local politics over the past decade or more has been overwhelmingly negative. So, in certain cases, I happily support people whom I think would be great councilfolk, but by and large I don’t think it matters.

4: Ramon Day (D). One of the most talented candidates running this year, on any level. If he loses, that’s an embarrassment to the city–which, of course, means he will probably lose.

5: I don’t care. Lori Boyer (R) runs unopposed.

6: I don’t care.

7: James Eddy (D). Eddy is one of the many candidates who have expressed support for an inclusive HRO, and one of the few who isn’t lying when he says that. But it’s all academic, since the HRO is most likely dead forever. This is what happens when you don’t stand up to bullies.

8: I don’t care. In this singular case, I say that because there are several good candidates, so it’s almost impossible for voters in District 8 to make a bad choice, which speaks well of a community that doesn’t get a lot of good publicity.

9: Glorious Johnson (D)

10: I don’t care.

11: I don’t care. Danny Becton (R) runs unopposed, so it’s whatever.

12: Abner Davis (D)

13: I don’t care. Bill Gulliford (R) runs unopposed.

14: Jason Tetlak (D). Incumbent Jim Love beat me in 2011, but that’s fine. He’s a good guy, a skilled politician and he will surely stomp Tetlak tomorrow–which is too bad. Tetlak brought it on himself by refusing outside contributions; he probably thought that would endear him to the electorate, but he was wrong. The last either party wants is for someone to succeed who is not on the take, so wrecking him was important. He has a future in politics, but it doesn’t start tomorrow.

City Council At-Large Districts:

1: Anna Brosche (R). A lot of people hate incumbent Kimberly Daniels, which I find ridiculous, but whatever. It’s another case in which progressive interests are best-served by voting Republican, because the Democrats are just so caught up in their losing-on-purpose gimmick that the real political debate in this city now occurs among factions of the increasingly (and refreshingly) fractious GOP.

2: John Crescimbeni (D). Controversial? Yep. But it doesn’t matter. The incumbent will walk away with this election, and has a strong chance of being mayor someday, unless someone pays him not to run. Whoever wins the mayor’s race will need to put a priority on keeping him happy, for their own sake.

3: Tommy Hazouri (D). Mincy Pollock is cool, and I had a couple of friends who tried and failed to run for this spot. But at the end of the day, you don’t vote against Tommy Hazouri; the mere thought is laughable.

4: I don’t care. But the LGBT community endorses Juanita Powell-Williams (D) over Greg Anderson (R), and so that’s good enough for me. This is a good place to make a note: The LGBT community has been ruthlessly used, abused, exploited and extorted by all sides, such that their own political power is shadow of what it could have been. Blame starts with the leadership, who chose personal gain over protecting the interests of their constituents. The HRO debacle was largely of their making–first, by allowing transgenders to be thrown under the bus, in hopes of getting a watered-down version passed, and second by actually believing that a watered-down HRO was going to pass. All it did was show the trans community that their own political leaders view them as a separate class within the constituency, and that their rights were a secondary concern. It also showed the bigots and hatemongers that the LGBT community could be bullied into submission. The mayor double-crossed them, and now they have no actual champion, which sucks.

5: Michelle Tappouni (R). Ju’Coby Pittman (D) is a longtime family friend, but Tappouni is a personal friend, so that’s that. Good luck to everyone, candidates and voters alike–you’ll need it!

Notes on Lobo Marino

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Lobo Marino/Joseph Shuck/Jesse Carole Montoya/Swamp Trees/Charlie Hunt—Rain Dogs, 1045 Park St.

Friday, January 30, 8pm; $5

Spirit Animals

Lobo Marino, and their subcontinental drift.

“Lobo Marino” means “Sea Lion” in Spanish—in this case, specifically, the Pacific Sea Lion. Hailing from historic Richmond, VA, Lobo Marino’s national bonafides were certified through relentless touring over the past couple of years, much of which has been documented across the full spectrum of social media. The thermodynamic duo of Laney Sullivan and Jameson Price have certainly built a solid following—wide-ranging, diverse and loyal—in a very short time, and that is largely due to their usage of technology, which stands in stark contrast to their own personal austerity.

My favorite album of theirs is “Fields” (2013), their second, which is built around field recordings made while on the road in places like Cheffcouan, Morocco; Albujaras, Spain; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Chicago; Butte, Montana; Geyserville, CA. It’s truly one of the most singularly unique albums recorded in the 21st century so far—an absolutely essential document. For Lobo Marino, travel is not a means to an end—it is the end, and that is a crucial component of their brand.

Their Tumblr page, for example, is largely devoted to photographs of the various places they’ve slept while on the road, none of which are five-star hotels, and very few of which are even hotels at all. Guest rooms, living rooms, band rooms, barns; offices, couches, floors, tents; garages, farms, hostels, sometimes even their own vehicle. (While in Jacksonville, the band crashed in Antique Animals’ music room.) It’s a funny, fascinating look at the interior life of a working musician in the modern era, and the logistics involved in carving out a niche in this crowded, competitive marketplace. Hopefully they collect all those pictures for a book someday.

They’ve already established a semi-regular presence in Northeast Florida, having previously performed at Burro Bar and Bold Bean. They’ll be playing three local gigs this week, starting with a two-night stand January 28 & 29) as part of Ananda Kula’s “Audio Ananda” concert series on Wednesday and Thursday. Lobo Marino headlines a stacked bill at Rain Dogs on Friday night that includes two of the region’s top singer-songrwriters, Antique Animals frontman Joe Shuck and the delightful Jesse Carole Montoya, as well as fellow Richmond band Swamp Trees and rising star Charlie Hunt. Both settings make for an ideal matching of artist, audience, and aesthetics. Theirs is a breezy, esoteric sound—music for meditation, and maybe astral projection, heavy on harmony, dense with drone and dulcimer. It’s safe to say that no other group anywhere sounds quite like them, nor could any, if they tried. Singer Sullivan and percussionist Price lean toward older, unusual instruments that don’t get as much use in the usual indie-rock toolkit.

Lobo Marino’s newest video is for “Holy River”, the lead track from their fourth album, 2014’s “City of Light”. The Indian influences insinuated throughout the album reflect the couple’s longtime love for the subcontinent, its culture and its music, which only increased after going there a couple years ago. It was recorded at the Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville in Buckingham, VA, with some sounds recorded in India; all proceeds from online sales go toward their friend’s Vagdevi Children’s Art School, which uses music and arts to help lift children out of unfortunate circumstances.

It’s the best record yet from a band that always makes great records, and it was recorded six months ago. Lord only knows how good the next one will be, but you can be damn sure that it will be epic. The band’s sound has expanded dramatically from their experimental indie-folk roots in their five years together, but they had already grown into their mature song by the first time they worked Duval. “City of Light” points the way forward toward even greater creative evolution. “Radhe Radhe” takes the form to its apogee over nine minutes; it’s like an Indian field holler with bass drum (which Price plays Mo Tucker-style), hand-claps and harmonium. It may be cliché to call it “trance-inducing”, but not if it’s true. Buy it, and play it loud, and then do it again.

http://www.lobomarinomusic.com/

http://lobomarino.bandcamp.com/

http://lobomarinomusic.tumblr.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnTTybYkHtPRBs6TteohYEA

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lobo-Marino/124201317615541

https://twitter.com/lobomarinomusic

http://www.reverbnation.com/lobomarino

http://www.bhadrakali-association.com/

http://www.ananda-kula.com/

https://www.facebook.com/anandakulayoga

https://www.facebook.com/events/324076084457277/

Will Ebola Claim the Obama Presidency?

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For months, as the Ebola virus spread precipitously throughout Africa, American citizens have engaged in the usual rampant speculation that accompanies modern pandemics. Questions were asked about how the disease is spread, how it can be contained and, most importantly, whether nor not the United States was in any danger of it spreading to these shores.

At every step, the official response from medical professionals was dismissive, to the point of smugness. No, they said: Ebola will not come to America. And then they said the odds were simply way too low for anyone to consider. We were told all this assiduously, by men and women whose primacy as experts rendered them incapable of being credibly second-guessed. Whether it was the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or our own Department of Health and Human Services, the pushback against public concern was delivered with the same self-satisfied certainty once used to anoint Wall Street CEOs as “masters of the universe”—and we know how well that worked out.

But now, with the first diagnosis of Ebola on these shores, with everyone that person contacted now in quarantine, and with an NBC crew on its way back in quarantine after their own cameraman tested positive for Ebola, one thing that should be obvious is that the experts were wrong—dead wrong, about almost everything—and that their failure means innocent people are going to die.

A man with Ebola lied his way onto a plane that carried him—and the virus—from Liberia to Dallas, where he then contacted multiple people before showing symptoms himself. Multiple airline officials failed to stop him from getting into the US, even after being warned of what to look for and how to proceed. At that point, doctors in Dallas failed to diagnose him, and the CDC only got involved because people close to the patient made the call, not hospital staff. Even now, with the man’s condition a national story, his family sits in quarantine, along with their neighbors in their apartment building. The man’s contagious vomit was pressure-washed by cleaning crews without proper safety equipment, and his soiled linens remained sitting at home in a plastic bag as this is being written. As with the airlines, established safety protocols were not followed, to devastating effect.

Right now is probably not the time to be thinking in terms of accountability. These failed experts are still the best at what they do, and the priority must remain on containing the disease and doing everything possible to help those already affected. However, when this current outbreak is over, a lot of people are going to lose their jobs, and one of them might be the President of the United States himself. Right-wing conservatives whispering about impeaching Obama have been handed an early Christmas present: Every Ebola diagnosis within US borders makes it easier to advance the case for impeaching a president whose own personal failings made a bad situation much, much worse.

Obama’s sorry handling of the Ebola debacle has been somewhat consistent with his handling of pretty much everything this year, and it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to wonder if maybe there’s something seriously wrong with him. After all, this is the same president who referred to ISIS as “the JV squad” while they were building critical mass in Iraq and gaining a foothold in Syria, and then admitted on-camera that “We don’t have a strategy yet” to deal with them. This is the same president whose underlings allegedly threatened the family of James Foley for being open to paying ransom for him—and then, after he was murdered on video, Obama offered half-hearted condolences with no tie on, minutes before running off to play golf. This is the same president whose Secret Service has been compromised more times than his own principles, with no real consequences.

This is the same president who recently saluted a Marine guarding his helicopter while holding coffee in his right hand, and whose advocates complained about the resulting controversy, which only occurred because the White House released the video themselves. It’s not about the salute; it’s about how one of the most successful politicians of the post-war era has suddenly forgotten how politics works. It’s hard to say what would be worse: that he didn’t know how that would look, and how people would react, or that he didn’t care. Further, not one member of his staff intervened to block the release of the video, and none of them seemed to care at all about its practical effect on the election. He was elected because he wasn’t George W. Bush, and now, five years later, that’s all he’s got.

At the very least, it comes at the worst possible time for congressional Democrats, who already face serious losses in a tight, contentious mid-term election season that culminates just a month from now. Part of any president’s job is to be the leader of their party, and in that regard Obama may go down as one of the absolute worst presidents of the past century, in terms of the brutally negative effect his presence has had on the fortunes of his party, which controlled both houses of congress at the time he took office in 2009. Since then, Obama’s greatest political legacy has been to empower the most reactionary elements of his opposition, which has cakewalked into dozens, if not hundreds of elected offices on local, state and national levels from coast to coast, driven largely by reflexive hatred and fear of a president who, amidst all this, has never offered any real resistance.

If Republicans are able to maintain their control of the US House, and somehow manage to take control of the Senate, there will be nothing to stop them from at least trying to impeach Obama. Nothing, that is, except their own fear, which is legitimate. It’s quite possible that voters will be thrown off by the ugliness of it all, and might retaliate by voting out the principal aggressors and rallying behind the Democratic nominee (presumably Hillary Clinton) in 2016. Of course, the last president impeached was Bill Clinton, whose successor was a Bush. That could easily happen again—assuming that there’s anyone left to actually vote in 2016. As always, time will tell.

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com

October 2, 2014

 

The Semiotics of Dress: Angela Corey for Governor? Maybe…

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Angela Corey, as painted by George Zimmerman

Angela Corey, as painted by George Zimmerman

October 1 was arguably the most important day in Angela Corey’s political career, and future historians of the state may see it as a watershed moment, for reasons we cannot really grasp at present. Angela Corey took the podium following the announcement of Michael Dunn’s guilty verdict in the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis, a conviction she failed to obtain earlier this year.

First Coast News cut their coverage of the presser just as the Q&A session had begun, while WJXT sustained their feed. She looked almost like a different person, in that moment, which makes sense. Any professional of any type can appreciate the feeling that comes after the successful resolution of a long-term, intensive high-stakes project, and can easily recognize that look on another’s face when they are in that moment. All the more so for Angela Corey, who hasn’t had a lot of those moments as our State Attorney. She took power amidst the proverbial firestorm of controversy, much of which was not her fault, and has steadily stoked those flames into a conflagration that many assumed would’ve consumed her fully by now. Without reaching for the obvious Phoenix reference, let’s just say that it appears the exact opposite has been the case. And the question now becomes: What next?

In her green blazer, her turquoise-and black scarf, gold earrings and a phat gold chain with a cross at the end, the city’s lead prosecutor could’ve passed for Iggy Azalea’s mom—and that is a good thing, in terms of politics. No velvet ropes at any bougie nightspot from South Beach to the South Bronx would impede her progress in an outfit like that, no more than the glass-ceilings have so far.

If clothes make the man, then even more so for women, and the message of Angela Corey’s clothes was simple: Even after botching the Zimmerman case and failing once to nail Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis, and with many observers predicting another public humiliation for her office, Corey dressed like someone who was absolutely certain of victory. And certainty is something we see very little in Florida politics.

If Michael Dunn is Corey’s first major trophy, one expects to see more. Whether she has found vindication in the public eye, or simply earned temporary respite from criticism that will never really go away, depends on what she wants to do. Any plans she has for her own future remain publicly unstated; if anyone knows, they’re not letting on. But Corey’s performance today raised an interesting possibility, one that many Floridians would surely find horrifying: Angela Corey could be governor someday.

Florida has never had a female governor, and Florida Republicans have never nominated a woman to hold that position. Democrats, of course, failed to get Alex Sink over in 2010, which has in all likelihood cooled the party on any effort to make history again, for the near future. Indeed, poor Nan Rich got steamrolled by the famously former Republican Charlie Crist, who refused to even debate her. Andrew Cuomo did the same against Zephyr Teachout in New York, and in both cases their state parties essentially went along with that. Whether anyone cares to admit it or not, at no point did Nan Rich ever have any chance whatsoever to be the Democratic nominee, that was plainly obvious six months before the election even happened.

Nan Rich was humiliated, and even if that wasn’t directly attributable to gender bias, it damn sure looks that way. One rarely heard Republicans ask if Florida was ready for a female governor, in part because they knew the momentum for gender equality in state politics belongs to them—a delicious irony that will pay off huge over the next decade or two. Whomever Florida’s first female governor is, she will almost certainly be a Republican—and it might very well be Angela Corey.

Getting the Dunn verdict gives her immediate credibility in the African-American community, which recognizes that Dunn was already set to die in prison on the other charges, but that Corey personally put her own career at risk to “do the right thing” for Jordan Davis’ parents and give them a rare symbolic victory in this bloody year for black youth. It doesn’t negate the damage done by the Marissa Alexander case, but the ball is really in Governor Scott’s court on that. If Corey didn’t get a few photos with Davis’ family and the crowds of black women cheering the verdict outside the courthouse, that would represent a huge missed opportunity.

The Alexander case illustrates that, ironically, Corey’s biggest political weakness right now remains her support among women, in particular the longstanding perception that she soft on issues related to violence against women and children. Given that this particular problem is only going to escalate in the years ahead, she would do well to get out in front on the issue and establish a record of action that can hyped when the time is right. (Her views on DCF, in particular, would be useful.)

Corey’s traditional law-and-order bonafides should be sufficient to keep her competitive in any GOP primary, especially if she continues to rack up high-profile convictions, so there will be plenty of room for her to appeal to elements of a progressive base whose own interests will be more or less ignored for the rest of this decade. The abysmal turnout for this year’s primary merely formalizes the widespread apathy and disgust that the majority of Florida voters already have with the leadership (such as it is) of both parties—a power vacuum ripe for filling. But, again, by whom?

Putting gender issues aside, the reality is that Northeast Florida has not held the top position in state government since Haydon Burns retired in January 1967. Several of Jacksonville’s subsequent mayors were at least discussed, Democrats and Republicans alike, but none were ever nominated. The election of Alvin Brown raised some hope of breaking that drought in this decade, and making even more history in the process, but he’s so far failed to build what could have been a very formidable statewide organization. Between Occupy and the HRO, he had the opportunity to establish himself as the logical successor to whomever wins in 2014, but instead he’s been occupied by defending his spot against opposition he should have simply neutralized from the get-go.

If Brown wins reelection and governs as the forward-leaning centrist his core supporters expect him to be, the governorship is entirely within his grasp. The I-4 corridor has had its run, and South Florida’s traditional dominance in the post-Consolidation era is weaker now that it’s ever been; it would be flat-out stupid for the north not to exploit that vulnerability while it exists. But if he stumbles, or just has no interest, it is imperative that Northeast Florida have someone ready to roll when the time is right. Regardless of who it is, Florida’s next decade should begin with Duval firmly in control. Time, as it does, will clarify these things, but right now Corey’s looking golden. And if the idea of Angela Corey being governor of Florida frightens you, good. You should be afraid—especially if you’re her opponent!

Governor Scott: Pardon Marissa Alexander

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When a judge recently denied Marissa Alexander’s request for a Stand Your Ground hearing, for the second time, the die was cast for her retrial. Odds are decent that she may be sent back to jail, even under terms of a plea deal. While the sentence may not be as severe, those who believe she had no business being locked up to begin with, and whose efforts forced the state’s hand once already, are unlikely to take any satisfaction in that. And so the cycle of acrimony will rotate further.

As it stands, the only person capable of breaking this cycle also happens to be the person who would benefit most from doing so. Ms. Alexander’s mistakes have presented Governor Scott with an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership, and also to show off a compassionate side that not enough people get to see in politics. With one stroke of his pen—well, several strokes—Governor Scott can end this controversy for good by pardoning Marissa Alexander.

Scott’s critics would likely denounce it as an election-year stunt, and he should let them do so, because a pardon could well prove decisive in the governor’s race. It is surprising that Charlie Crist has not made this into more of an issue, and Scott should take the initiative to take that option away from him entirely. With Alexander on his side, Scott could potentially take an unprecedented share of the African-American vote from his Democratic challenger. At the same time, it offers some hope of maybe mitigating what are likely to be substantial losses among female voters. If Scott loses in November, it will be largely due to Crist’s support among women, and there is nothing he can do about that—but if he pardoned the state’s most well-known victim of domestic violence, that would be a good start.

Some would argue that such action interferes with the rule of law, but others would argue that it actually reinforces the rule of law. Bear in mind, Ms. Alexander already spent time behind bars on a conviction that was overturned; the governor is entirely within his rights to say the lady has been through enough, and there is nothing to be gained from spending more money prosecuting her. There can be no serious question of the governor’s commitment to law-and-order, and even those who would object to a pardon on those grounds are NOT going to vote for Charlie Crist.

There is a practical side to all this, as well: pardoning Ms. Alexander would eliminate a major distraction, and it would clear out a cloud that would otherwise hang over his second term. If she is imprisoned again, her supporters may believe that the whole game was rigged against her from the start—and that is a case that already carries weight in national media. Ending this case would remove a big source of negative publicity for all of Florida, while generating large amounts of positive hype for himself, and even die-hard opponents would be happy that it’s over.

Rick Scott is arguably the most controversial governor in America, but in this election year he has shown himself repeatedly to be capable of acting counterintuitively in the public interest, and willing to wager political capital to do the right thing. To pardon Marissa Alexander would be the most dramatic example of that yet. Not only would it be the kind of bold, decisive action that voters respond favorably to, it has the added benefit of humanity. He and he alone can decide whether Ms. Alexander will get to watch her children grow up; morally, and politically, does he really have any choice?

Becca Stevens: On Her Way

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Riverside Fine Arts Series presents: Becca Stevens

Monday, April 27, 7:30 pm

Underbelly, 113 E. Bay St.

$20

For nearly a decade, the Riverside Fine Arts Series has presented some of the most interesting musicians Northeast Florida has hosted in that time. Most of those concerts have occurred in Riverside, at the historic Church of the Good Shepherd, one of the best places in Florida to catch a show. (The Turtle Island String Quartet’s performance some years back remains a personal favorite.)

That process has proceeded full-speed into 2014. Enter Becca Stevens, hailing from Winston-Salem, NC, by way of New York City. Classically-trained in guitar at North Carolina School of the Arts (c/o 2002), she earned a BFA in vocal jazz and composition at the New School for Jazz (c/o 2007) before going pro. Even out of school, Stevens copped credits quickly, in combos led by pianists Taylor Eigsti and fellow New School alumnus Brad Mehldau (who, incidentally, was born in Jacksonville).

By her count, she’s recorded about 25 songs so far. “I have been writing songs since I can remember,” Stevens writes via email from the road, where she’s currently on tour, “and I’ve recorded a lot of original music with artists and bands other than my own, as well as original material that was never officially released.”

Her solo debut, “Tea Bye Sea”, was released independently in 2008. “Weightless” (Sunnyside) followed three years later, bringing her into mainstream focus for the first time. Speaking to NPR that year, Kurt Elling cited her among his five favorite jazz vocalists. A new album is slated for later this year: “I just finished mixing the upcoming album. I’m in the process of trying to find a label for it. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll release it on my own.”

“When we perform live, the music tends to be heavier, bigger, and higher energy than how it was recorded on ‘Weightless’,” she says. “My approach is always changing in little ways as I am as an artist. Also, we are playing mostly new material now, from our upcoming release. This new material tends more towards a heavier rock/pop sound, and is a little more danceable and less moody than the songs from ‘Weightless’.

Stevens is probably best-known to casual fans as the vocalist for Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra, an 18-piece supergroup of New York musicians—who’ve worked for artists ranging from Clark Terry and Ray Charles to Jessica Simpson and Arcade Fire—assembled to perform his original big-band arrangements of Bjork songs. Their 2008 album “Enjoy” was, and remains, an instant classic.

It’s hard to accurately describe music that crosses over so many boundaries; even the artist has some difficulty categorizing the dozens of songs she’s written so far. “I’d say it floats somewhere between pop, Appalachian folk, jazz, rock, and world music,” she writes. “The arrangements are intricate and vocal/harmony driven. The compositions are intimate but accessible, through-composed, and from the heart!”

Stevens currently leads her own band, which she founded in 2005; the group includes Liam Robinson (accordion, piano, vocals), Chris Tordini (acoustic bass, vocals) and Jordan Perlson (drums & percussion). Tordini and Robinson have been in her band since day one, whereas Perlson’s “only” been there five years. It’s a band comprised of friends, who have come up in the business and evolved into their mature style together, which lends a real tightness to the live sets, even as the music itself can be downright laconic.

Stevens is contributing strongly to a rebooting of how jazz is perceived by audiences for whom the music is more often considered a fixed entity, in stasis and currently inaccessible, geographically and aesthetically. It’s no coincidence that Underbelly will also be at the epicenter of the “Jazz After Dark” activities at the jazz festival in May; Stevens’ own band and the Bjorkestra are both prime examples of the kind of acts that should be booked at the festival itself in the future. As for Stevens’ own future, all systems are go. “I’d like to stay on the track that i’m currently on!” she writes. “I’d like to also continue collaborating with likeminded artists outside the music I play with my bandmates. I see myself making music until I can’t make music anymore.”

Having started very early, Stevens (a 15-year veteran) is presently a leading light among the new generation of genre-smashing jazz/pop hybrid female vocalists, several of whom—including Sophie Milman and Esperanza Spalding—have also worked Jacksonville in partnership with RFAS. Although they have worked Miami before, this will be the Becca Stevens Band’s first appearance here in Jacksonville. It will also mark Underbelly’s first time hosting the RFAS. Both those firsts are well worth repeating, as often as possible.

http://www.riversidefinearts.org/concert-series/becca-stevens-band/

http://www.youtube.com/user/beccastevensband

https://www.facebook.com/beccastevensmusic

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com

April 25, 2014