Author Archives: Shelton Hull

About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

Sweet Theories: Pocket of Lollipops are the flavor of every month

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Franco Carmelino/Pocket of Lollipops/Rickolus/J Chat/Vowls/Jayel

Jack Rabbits, Saturday, February 11; $10

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Maintaining a successful band is hard. Being married is harder. Doing both simultaneously usually ends in disaster, but Pocket of Lollipops has made it look easy for years now. Singer/guitarist Maitesojune Urrechaga and vocalist/drummer Tony Kapel are no strangers to Northeast Florida audiences, nor are they strangers to each other. The band is a true labor of love from two people who love the labor—and odds are beyond decent that you’ll love it, too.

They’re playing Jack Rabbits in support of their third album, 2016’s Thanks Theo, the follow-up to their universally accepted Letters to Larrup EP and one of the best albums of the year that was. So thanks, Theo, whoever you are. The band’s sound can confound even the most descriptive scribe, but there’s one word that formulates first: “Fun”. It’s jangly, propulsive pop, laced with joy and good humor, like ice cream for your ears. With a name like “Pocket of Lollipops”, that could mean almost anything, but for the Miami-based duo, it’s a rare case of truth in advertising.

It’s not just that they sound like candy; they sound like candy that you bought earlier and put in your pocket, then forgot it was there while you went about your business—work, a concert, rioting, whatever—and it melted a little bit in your pocket. You forgot it was there, until you got home later; you felt the bulge and reached in, with the kind of mortal terror one only gets when there is melted candy in the pocket of your favorite pants. But it turns out that the candy was wrapped up so well that your pockets are completely clean, and you’ve got this warm, kinda gooey mass of sugar and pectin that still retains the essence of its original shape, and instead of stressing about ruined pants, you fall asleep with candy in your mouth—and no one dares wake you up, because it’s just too cute. Real talk. (For me, it’s blue raspberry Blow Pops, but to each their own.)

Likewise, upon first listen, you might think you’re being assaulted with random noise generated by the diddling of dilettantes, but you quickly learn that the chaos is organized better than the Strategy of Tension. At first glance, you might think they’re insane, and they may very well be, but they know exactly what they’re doing. Do you? Nope. Okay, then.

11703058_10153143254734317_5703198835468273890_nsheltonhull@gmail.com

Southern Discomfort: Idle Bloom brings the new Nashville sound back to Duval County

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The last time Idle Bloom was in town, working the Shantytown, they were known as Fancytramp, and their CDs were covered with glitter. Two years and one name-change later, and the band returns in support of the ten-song debut album Little Deaths, which isn’t even officially released until the 17th. The Nashville-based quartet delivers a fresh variation on that now-ubiquitous indie sound, which has allowed them to thrive in one of the world’s most competitive music scenes.

“Technically speaking, Fancytramp is a different band, just has two of the same members,” writes bassist Katie Banyay, by way of correction. Singer/guitarist Olivia Scibelli leads the group through a torrent of tightly arranged fuzzbox fantasia, alongside second guitarist Callan Dwan, harmonizing over top with bassist Banyay while drummer Weston Sparks pushes the pulse forward like an offensive lineman in Flying Wedge formation. The band has grown closer and more confident during their hiatus; now they’re coming for theirs, and failure seems unlikely.

“‘Idle Bloom’ comes from a poem by Caroline Clive called I Watched The HeavensWe had the name and [Fancytramp’s] last show set up, but needed a new drummer. So Weston Sparks was suggested to play with us from a friend. We clicked instantly and he was such a trooper. He learned an entire Fancytramp set that he’d never play again! Soon after, we found a second guitar player and began as what was truly the beginning of Idle Bloom. The lineup has switched around some with Gavin Schriver being added recently.”

Issued through the Fraternity As Vanity label (FV008), Little Deaths meets and well exceeds the promise of their 2015 single Fare Fumo, a split 7” with Churchyard, yet another fine Nashville band (whose self-titled album from 2015 is a steal at $5). “Little Deaths differs from the EP (Some Paranoia), mainly by two things: I think it has a bigger sound and was planned out more thoroughly,” writes Banyay.

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”With Some Paranoia we had the intention of it being a full length. It was recorded in our friend Shibby’s grandma’s basement. We were all anxious to release something. It was very ambitious of us to want to start off with a full length, so once we had all of the songs finished, we chose the best performances from that session and turned it into an EP. The songs we didn’t add to Some Paranoia, we ended up rerecording with Kyle Gilbride (plus other songs, one recorded with Joe McMahan) and those are on Little Deaths. So we had all this extra time to rework the songs and figure out exactly what we wanted our sound to be. I’m really proud of all the hard work and time we put into this album.”

Joining them at Rain Dogs will be Terror Pigeon (one of the greatest band names ever), Totally KAROL, from Tallahassee, and Ruffians, who could be called local legends about as surely as anyone working today. Bonus: Free t-shirts from promoter Big Dunn, auteur of the infamous “Smoke Meowt” line, which completely took on a life of its own last year. He’ll be starting his birthday month out in style—and so will you, if you get one of them dang shirts, for realsies.

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com

Friends of Flint: Kemetic Empire leading water-drive

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flint

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan has quickly captured the attention of the entire country, and pushback has been coming far and wide. Graphic pictures of brown water, laced with lead and other toxic contaminants, sparked immediate national outrage, to the point that President Obama declared a state of emergency for the entire city of 100,000-plus people, of whom over 9,000 children have already tested positive for lead exposure.

Activists and citizen groups have been collecting drinking water for the people of Flint, with their efforts being bolstered by celebrities like Meek Mill, Pearl Jam, Cher, Diddy, Mark Wahlberg and Michael Moore (whose classic film “Roger and Me” introduced Flint to a national audience in the 1980s. Some are donating water directly, while many others (like Jimmy Fallon) are providing cash to buy water.

Northeast Florida has plenty of water to spare, of course, and some of it will be heading to Flint this Friday, January 29, in a caravan being organized by the Kemetic Empire and Urban Geo-Ponics. Diallo Sekou co-founded these organizations several years ago to help highlight the political and economic disparities affecting the urban areas of Jacksonville, while drawing attention to the practical solutions being developed in response.

For him and his colleagues, the situation in Flint only reinforces concepts that he and his colleagues have been stressing locally for quite some time. “The community has to play a more important and vital role when it comes to day to day business of their lives,” says Sekou. “For poor people there are several issues affecting us all. starting with our own self-interest and not wanting to operate as a collective to change these types of conditions. Ownership and control of our areas is the key to shifting the paradigm.”

Water and supplies can be dropped off at the Ethio Discount Store on Main Street and 16th, or people can call Sekou or Ishmael Muhammad directly. All donations are tax-deductible.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1693550497589311/1693558050921889/

http://www.thekemeticempire.com/operation-flint-get-clean-water-to-the-people/

https://www.gofundme.com/dyy8spt8

Nixon in the Rear-View: Three newish books offer three fresh perspectives on our 37th President

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The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority, by Pat Buchanan. New York: Crown Forum/Random House. 392 pp, illustrated.

Nixon’s Secrets: The Rise, Fall and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate and the Pardon, by Roger Stone, with Mike Colapietro. New York; Skyhorse Publishing. 661 pp, illustrated.

Pat and Dick: The Nixons, an Intimate Portrait of a Marriage, by Will Swift. New York: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster. 447 pp, illustrated.

Nixon ad

The year 2014 was an important one for the friends, family and fans of America’s infamous 37th president, who died 20 years ago this April. August 8th marked the 40-year anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, followed by his dramatic exit from office the following day. It was the beginning of a long journey back into America’s good graces, a process that continues to this day. This country and the entire world have changed a lot since his death, and time has rendered a different judgment of Nixon than the one rendered in his lifetime, as old information combines with new developments to clarify old perceptions.

These anniversaries have triggered a small flood of Nixonalia into the marketplace, and each project wrestles with a central problem: Richard Nixon is not a man who can be spoken of objectively. The nature of his work forces all those who study it to make their own decision at so many different points. Let’s keep it real: His enemies called him “Tricky Dick”, and even his allies would concede how utterly appropriate the nickname was—more so than maybe any president since Andrew Jackson, aka “Old Hickory”. HBO released “Nixon: In His Own Words”, an excellent 75-minute mashup of audio clips and video footage spanning the scope of his career. It’s an ideal introduction to one of the great character studies of the entire 20th century.

Richard Milhous Nixon cut one of the most unique swaths through our nation’s political history, and that influence persists today, a generation after he took leave of this dimension. As President Obama lurches toward the anticlimactic end of his administration, recent scandals have proven that, despite whatever early pretensions he may have had to the legacy of JFK, history will regard him as the closest thing we’ve had to Nixon since Nixon himself—a cold-blooded pragmatist, driven by inner tensions that he can hardly articulate.

Each of the three books tends to center on specific aspects of Nixon’s story, and will be of varying appeal, depending on the reader’s views of the subject. Two of the authors can be considered partisans: Buchanan and Stone were both recruited and trained in part by Nixon himself, and both went on to work for Reagan, as well.

But just as Nixon’s worst enemies would allow for the man’s obvious ability, his key supporters will readily own up to his major flaws—and, seen in its totality, the Nixon Legacy seems like something that could have never gone any differently than it did. Although Nixon himself would later own up to his many mistakes, it is unlikely that, given the opportunity, he would have never corrected them, because Richard Nixon was, by all accounts, pathologically incapable of admitting weakness. The whole debacle involving the infamous “Nixon Tapes” is a case in point. Even as his presidency was lurching, slowly and painfully toward its inevitable conclusion, he retained the power to save his presidency by simply burning the tapes.

Of course, veteran GOP operative Roger Stone, who started working for Nixon while barely out of his teens, posits that Nixon was set up for scandal by his own underlings, through a combination of incompetence and outright corruption, and that even he may not have known exactly what was up until the end. By the time his resignation was a fait accompli, the old man (who aged prematurely, like they all do) had already pivoted into plotting his post-presidency career. Stone argues that the affable ax-man Gerald Ford was selected to replace Spiro Agnew with a mind toward the pardon that he would eventually grant the fallen Nixon; he further argues that Nixon secured that pardon essentially through blackmail—specifically, his knowledge of Ford’s crucial role in whitewashing what became the Warren Commission Report. And that is the axis around which his narrative rotates.

Only in recent years has it become common knowledge that many of the people closest to the situation—Bobby Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and even Fidel Castro—had all privately admitted extreme skepticism of the commission’s findings. Note that the latter three frequently turn up in conspiracy theories related to the real architects of the assassination; for what it’s worth, Stone fixes the blame squarely on LBJ, as he wrote in his previous book, and one may assume that his views were influenced heavily by Nixon’s own.

During his presidency, Nixon was known for making frequent references to “the Bay of Pigs situation”, particularly as the Watergate investigation began to pick up steam. Although he never spoke to the point directly, it was always widely believed that the phrase was a reference to the murder of JFK, but Stone makes this theory explicit: In his telling, Nixon as Vice-President was deputized by Eisenhower to plot the removal of Fidel Castro, in conjunction with the CIA and members of the mafia who’d been alienated by the Cuban regime. This effort, called “Operation 40”, led directly to the ridiculous failed assassination plots run by Bobby Kennedy under his brother, which then led directly to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, which many (including Stone) led directly to the tragedy in Dallas in November 1963. (Add Stone’s name, also, to the list of writers who have alleged that other assassination plots had been in the works prior to November 1963.)

What made all this relevant to Nixon’s interests is that A) JFK was, at one point, a friend of his, and, having survived attempts on his own life over the years, he was deeply disturbed by the idea of any president being killed; and B) Nixon knew that several of the people thought to be involved in the murder plot—including people like Frank Sturgis, Felix Rodriguez, Santo Trafficante, Johnny Roselli and the infamous E. Howard Hunt, who confessed membership in the conspiracy shortly before his own death—were veterans of Nixon’s Operation 40, and as such he knew he could’ve been implicated in the conspiracy himself, even though he presumably was not. The fact that Hunt and Sturgis both went on to be part of the original Watergate burglary team is a historical anomaly that, in Stone’s telling, led directly to the Plumbers’ apparent failure, and the end of their boss’ tenure.

Stone’s book “Nixon’s Secrets” is probably the most must-read of the three books. It’s loaded with insider dirt, rendered by an author whose dirty-tricks credentials are rock-solid. Stone’s book is kind of a throwback to this writer’s personal favorite Nixon book, Anthony Summers’ infamous biography The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon (2000), a tome crafted and marketed as an epic takedown that, as so often with aspects of Nixon’s blowback, backfired.

In a country that glorifies gangsters and anti-heroes of all stripes, it makes perfect sense that Richard Nixon is arguably more popular now that he was at any point in his life, and his fan-base is built heavily around people who weren’t even alive during his presidency. Their views of that era are colored by their living memory of all the (for lack of a better word) shenanigans that have transpired in the 40 years since Nixon’s resignation: the Iran hostage crisis, Reagan getting shot, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, Lewinsky, the Drug War, the Patriot Act, two attacks on the World Trade Center, two Iraq wars and countless skirmishes and incidents elsewhere, leading up to things like the NSA and TSA today. It is frankly hypocritical for Americans to pretend that the 1970s elite consensus regarding Nixon remains valid in today’s world, given the men we elected to succeed him as president. At least half of those six may have eclipsed Nixon, in terms of pure ruthlessness, and maybe all of them.

For today’s GOP to attack President Obama for using Nixonian tactics—which he does, no doubt—creates the kind of bitter, cynical historical irony that only Nixon could appreciate. And when one considers that the three most successful presidents since Nixon (Reagan, Clinton, Obama), all basically came up from nothing, with fathers who were either absent or insufficient, and all grew up with chips on their shoulders that they carried into the White House with them, along with the attendant defense mechanisms, creating a psychological component that directly influenced their own presidencies (for better or for worse) it could well be argued that we are still living in the Age of Nixon, because they all worked variations on a theme that he established in the larger narrative of the presidency as an institution. The only difference between he and them is that (as every Nixon scholar seems to agree) Nixon was never able to check his darker impulses, which eventually consumed him. But then again, Nixon never had Nixon’s example to draw upon.

As time has passed, and the principals on all sides have grown older, passed on and left their (always selective) memories behind, Nixon’s controversial run has come to be seen in a broader context. This process was initiated by Nixon himself during the David Frost interviews in 1977, his Oxford Union gig in 1978 and the publication of his memoirs that same year. While Nixon did not invent the concept of “revisionist history”, he was without question the all-time master of its use in American politics, and the broader culture. It’s hard to think of another public figure in our nation’s history whose posthumous reputation is more different than their reputation in life, and certainly not in a positive way. Again, this was probably Nixon’s plan all along. Only he could have understood what honest observers would now concede: that the historical value of keeping the White House Tapes would transcend the disastrous short-term effect that it had on his presidency.

Even after he resigned he left behind the framework for what would become a winning coalition for Reagan and Bush that later gave his party 12 more years of power—or 20, if one counts George W. Bush, a very different type of Republican, no doubt. Buchanan’s book goes into great detail on the process of triangulating between two parties that were both in transitional phases; he shows how, at all points in the 1960s, Nixon was working toward an end-game that most of his peers were unable to figure out until it was basically over. Nixon was consistently ahead of the curve when it came to almost everything, except his own career; he consistently sacrificed his short-term interests in favor of long-term legacy concerns, culminating with the fateful and fatal decision not to destroy his tapes, and it’s only now, long after his death, that we can appreciate that calculation

Time has leveled a sort of equilibrium to Nixon’s legacy, in that casual observers will remember him mostly for perceived misdeeds that history has given context to, in not exactly validation. On matters like Alger Hiss, the escalation of war in Indochina, the Pentagon Papers and even the Oval Office tapes themselves, time has led more people to believe Nixon simply made the least-disastrous choice in a number of lose-lose situations that were often not of his doing.

The present era of global chaos makes some nostalgic for the man who engaged Communists in China and Russia, reached out to Arab moderates while strengthening America’s relationship with Israel and managed to pass a wave of progressive social policies while ratcheting up the war on drugs. Nixon had a special kind of hustle that we will likely never see again on any level of the business, and that in my opinion is to our permanent disadvantage.

Hillary Clinton (who might not have met her husband, at least not have met her husband, had the two young rising Democratic stars not shared a common enemy in Nixon, but that’s another story) once defined the difference between politicians and statesmen thusly: A politician thinks of the next election, while a statesman thinks of the next generation. Nixon was both, in spades, but 40 years after his final disgrace, more and more Americans are coming to recognize that his disgrace was not really not that disgraceful after all.

Swift notes that Pat Nixon always suspected that her husband’s undoing may have related to willful shenanigans by members of the Watergate burglary team acting at cross-purposes—a hypothesis that Stone makes extensive effort to verify in Nixon’s Secrets. He implicates Alexander Butterfield, who installed Nixon’s taping system and then revealed its existence to Congress—unprovoked, in his telling—while also calling out the incompetence of key functionaries like Bob Haldeman, John Erlichmann and John Mitchell, who were all key to Nixon’s political rebirth but whose personal flaws contributed to their boss’ undoing, and their own eventual imprisonment.

Stone reserves special venom for John Dean, whom he places at the center of a conspiracy to undermine the president for self-serving ends, and whose own multiple versions of the story are painstaking elucidated. Their feud has only burned hotter since the book’s release; it would make an interesting debate. Stone also hits Alexander Haig, while alleging that he was among the sources for former Navy intelligence operative Bob Woodward, whose seminal reporting on the scandal was, in Stone’s telling, largely specious, if not transparently false. He flatly rejects the idea of Mark Felt being Deep Throat, suggesting the character was merely a composite of several people.

Stone has obviously given a lot of thought to Watergate and related matters, and his views are useful addendums to the established narrative. (Stone and Dean had a brief, but vitriolic verbal battle at the Austin Book Festival; their dispute may ultimately have to be settled in court.) Stone’s next book, due later this year, focuses on the Clintons, and promises to be potentially even more explosive than Nixon’s Secrets. And with a potential run for US Senate in the works for 2016, with Hillary Clinton seeking the presidency in the same year, there is no reason for him to hold anything back, and no reason to think he’d even consider it. Because, after all, he is a Nixon man.

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Shifting Into Summer: john Shannon’s newest project debuts in Florida

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The Shift

Jack Rabbits

Thursday, June 11

“7th Direction” is an impressive debut EP from The Shift, a New York-based trio whose show at Jack Rabbits this Thursday comes at the end of their first-ever swing through the Sunshine State, amidst a tour that’s taking them from coast to coast. “The tour has been great,” says lead singer/guitarist John Shannon, writing in from the road. “Our starter went out on our van the other day in Alabama but luckily there was a bowling alley with a bar across the street from the mechanic.”

I’ve known Mr. Shannon for nearly a decade, having met through mutual friends at his old Brooklyn loft back in 2006. Our party watched “An Inconvenient Truth” at the Sunshine Theatre one night, with Questlove’s afro partially blocking the view. I first saw him perform a couple nights later, at Manhattan’s venerable Jazz Gallery, playing guitar in the sextet backing ace cellist Dana Leong; it remains one of the ten best jazz sets I’ve ever witnessed, anywhere. He was then leading his jazz group Waking Vision Trio, which put out a couple of excellent albums a decade ago.

From that first initial meeting through the week spent pacing the circles he runs in, he made an immediate and impactful impression on me, not just as a person, but as one of the most prodigious musical talents in a dense, dynamic scene that was then just beginning to be branded as the borough we know and love (and kind of envy) today. His current group, which includes bassist Ben Geis and drummer MJ Lambert, is his newest and most polished vehicle on a musical journey that has already taken him around the country, more than once.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1980, John Shannon’s released three albums under his own name: “American Mystic” (2008), “Songs of the Desert River” (2010) and “Time Was A Lie” (2012). Critics have compared his work to masters like Tim Buckley, Nick Drake and Paul Simon; the albums have earned praise in places like Rolling Stone, Minor 7th and Time Out NY. His credits include sideman work with Bob Reynolds, Ben Harper, John Mayer, James Maddox, Lauryn Hill and Hiromi Urehara; he’s also recorded with Gary Go and Sonya Kitchell, whom he also backed on tour, as well as composed music for the FX show “Louie”.

In many ways, The Shift represents the present culmination of careers cultivated throughout the 21st century, a syncretic smash-up of the members’ traditional training, processed through years of long nights working club gigs in one of the most competitive commercial markets in the world. The album was recorded in less than a week, using a mixing board in Brooklyn that had once been used by George Martin to record the Beatles. Shannon writes the lyrics, while his colleagues build the music together.

The New York of their generation is simply not a place where you can last for long unless you’re good, and all three have put in practically a decade, ample time earn the confidence that comes through so clearly on the album. Shannon’s voice evokes nothing so much as mid-70s Robert Plant, while the clean, crisp tonality of the instruments gives it a prog-rock flavor, with the kind of tight, dextrous articulation that one would expect from three alumni of the Berklee School of Music—a school so prestigious that using the word “prestigious” to describe it is practically a cliché in music journalism. “It’s kind of a microcosm of the future music business when you’re there that seems to than move out into the real world—at least it has for me,”  says Shannon, who randomly encounters fellow alumni on a regular basis in his travels.

“If you know you have something strong, unique and a band willing to persevere,” notes Shannon, “you end up in more of a relationship/competition with time than with other bands. If you can use that inevitable pressure involved in the process of getting recognized to be more creative, resourceful and alive, then you are already winning.”

http://shiftwithus.com/

https://www.facebook.com/shiftwithus

http://www.johnshannonmusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/john.shannon.9047

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Shannon_(musician)

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!