Category Archives: Previews

French, Licked: the Certain Uncertainly of May 7



Having just heard about the tragic passing of Corrine Erhel, a French socialist politician who suffered a fatal heart attack while stumping for Emmanuel Macron on Cinco de Mayo, one’s first instinct is to view her death as a tragic omen for the cause she died in support of. With the final round of France’s national elections wrapping up May 7, the reasonable possibility of an upset win by Marine LePen and her National Front (FN) means that Erhel, who was only 50, may go down as merely the first to perish in the wake of a vote whose results will likely be cataclysmic for her country, no matter who wins.

While superstition is ultimately just that, it’s tempting to indulge such sentiment, given the recent sequence of events. Erhel’s death was immediately preceded by news of—believe it or not—massive hacking of Macron’s emails, the leaking of which was smartly timed to coincide with the legally mandated two-day period of silence before the vote. It’s an interesting quirk of their parliamentary system, one that would be intolerable in the United States, whose politicians can hardly be compelled to shut up, even when they’re asleep.

And they are certainly asleep, figuratively if not necessarily literally, although there can be little doubt that any number of our leading politicians are so heavily pilled-up that they need help tying their own shoes and neckties, to say nothing of reading the legislation being foisted upon them on an almost weekly basis early on in the Trump Era. Indeed, when the president’s controversial (to say the least) health-care plan passed earlier this week, by the narrowest of margins, despite ample partisan cushion, it was attended almost immediately by reports that some members of Congress had not bothered to read the very legislation that their historical reputations are now intractably tethered to. At least one of them actually admitted this on television, which strikes me as something other than the behavior of someone who is acting in their right mind.

The elections in France are being touted as a critical indicator of the trajectory of western politics in the new reality, and while it’s easy enough the parallels to events in the US in Europe, it’s worth remembering that the French are famously unpredictable. After all, the idea of the National Front getting anywhere near the runoff was openly scoffed at, as recently as a month ago. No one in proper political circles would’ve guessed that the hard-right, with all their bluster and bully tactics, would be capable of finishing as strongly as they did, let alone that their momentum would only continue in the interregnum. The LePen family has been flirting with fanaticism for years, with the father put out to pasture by his own daughter, who herself has struggled to achieve even basic credibility.

The struggle is real—at least, it was. Now she’s so credible that the political establishment is having night-sweats all weekend. Tensions are high, and so are the figureheads; in café society, the SSRIs are flowing free like fine wine, with blood soon to follow, perhaps. After watching the police torched with Molotov cocktails on May Day, it’s hard to conceive of any scenario in which the nation is not at least partially in flames within days. If Macron wins, as currently projected, the FN and its adherents will likely respond with violence. If LePen wins, violence is guaranteed. No matter who wins, the majority of French citizens will be not only dissatisfied, but terrified for the future of their country. This is not their first rodeo. They are firmly aware of the worst-case scenario. Good luck to them!

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


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

Jack Rabbits, Saturday, February 11; $10


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.

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


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.”

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


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 Girls Rock Jacksonville Volunteer Showcase (CoRK, 12/15) and “The Punk Singer” (Sun-Ray Cinema, 12/23)


Girls Rock Jax benefit show—CoRK, December 15

“The Punk Singer”—Sun Ray Cinema, December 23

(One of my favorite concert flyers this year…)

The expansion of the Girls Rock Camp’s global brand into Jacksonville two years ago has been, without question, one of the most important local cultural development of the past decade—the proverbial “gift that keeps on giving”, if you’re a music fan. As Girls Rock Jacksonville prepares to enter its third year, with its third camp coming in summer 2014, the process of preparation has begun, and that includes two events scheduled for mid-December at CoRK (12/15) and Sun-Ray Cinema (12/23).

The first is a Girls Rock Jax fundraising event slated for Friday, Dec. 15 at CoRK, which has been on a heckuva run this year. (A number of their resident artists will be just returning from a triumphant group effort at Art Basel Miami Beach, dubbed the ‘#baselinvasion”; a number of Northeast Florida’s top talents were represented there, at the country’s biggest art festival.) The GRJ funder will feature five bands comprised of GRJ volunteers and volunteers, as well as a silent auction with gimmicks and swag provided by local creative talents like Christina Abercrombie, Alicia Canessa, Cherri Czajkowski, Crystal Floyd, Sarah Humphreys and Karen Kurycki, as well as affiliated local businesses, including: Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, Burro Bags, The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Dead Tank Records / Distribution, Deep Search Records, Dig Foods, Hawthorn Salon, Intuition Ale Works, M.A.D. Nails, Original Fuzz, Orion | Allen Photography, Sun-Ray Cinema, Sweet Theory Baking Co. and That Poor Girl.

Swag for the auction, provided by Dead Tank…

The first Girls Rock camps started in the Pacific Northwest, and have from the start been largely inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement that began in that region a quarter-century ago. Riot Grrrl, to an even larger extent than the alternative rock scene of the era, in general, marked the first time that girls were positioned front-and-center in multiple bands, in a truly egalitarian way, speaking directly to matters of relevance in their demographic—and they were good, too.

Of course, a central figure in that movement has been Kathleen Hanna—writer, activist, wife of King Ad-Rock and lead singer of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and the Julie Ruin—one of the most influential women of the 21st century. You can see that all over American culture, to this day, and in ways that are not just latent or nostalgia-based, but active, kinetic and compelling in the present. The network of Girls Rock camps around the world is just the most obvious example.

Hanna with Jabberjaw, circa 1993 or ’94…

A new documentary called “The Punk Singer” tells Hanna’s story in greater detail than ever before, largely in her own words, Jacksonville will be one of the select cities hosting a screening of it at Sun-Ray Cinema, in historic Five Points, on Sunday afternoon, December 23. I’ll proudly note that I was first to call attention to its availability when I saw a posting about it on Facebook, but Tim Massett is the man for connecting with the filmmakers and putting in the legwork to make it happen.

(Kathleen Hanna with the author, Burrito Gallery, November 2011)

Although Hanna herself will not be on hand for the film screening, she’ll be there in spirit. Her affinity for the River City is already a matter of record. I was honored to sit with her, Adee Roberson, Andrew Coulon, Duncan Fristoe and the delightful Mark Creegan for a panel discussion on zines (“The Personal Is Political”) at the Jacksonville Public Library in November 2011. That was followed by a presentation by Hanna herself, and a Q&A session with an audience largely comprised of the city up-and-coming young ladies; after that, everyone adjourned to Burrito Gallery for lunch. Many of those girls ended up being involved in the launch of Girls Rock Jacksonville the following July.

(Flyer for the NYC screenings…)

“The Punk Singer” was released theatrically by IFC Films on November 29, with some 19 screenings in ten states; the screening at Sun-Ray will be the very first one in the state of Florida. (The film will also be showing at the Hippodrome in Gainesville on January 24, 2014.)      As a bonus, the screening will be preceded by a performance of songs associated with the film’s subject, as rendered by a group of girls drawn together specifically for the occasion from the ranks of GRJ volunteers. Drummer Summer Wood is probably best-known for her work with Rice, and now with Four Families. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Alex E. Michael has led some of the city’s most dynamic bands of the past few years, including Wild Life Society and Ritual Union, in addition to her own solo work. She and singer Bethany Buckner were once half of the legendary Fruit Machine, which during its too-short run was, quite simply, one of the best all-girls bands ever, anywhere.

According to the official “Girls Rock Camp Alliance” website, GRJ is just one of 44 Girls Rock camps in eight different countries, with more forthcoming. The volunteers who’ve organized and run the past two GRJ camps include some of the most talented artists and musicians working the region today, women whose own individual achievements are already a matter of public record. Together, they have created something even greater than the sum of its already-valuable parts. They have nurtured, empowered and mentored these young ladies like they were their own sisters, daughters and friends—which they often are, in many cases.

            Girls Rock, as a concept, was born at Portland State University in 2001, and quickly spread to cities around the world. The website offers a glimpse at Portland’s organization ten years on, fully-formed and self-actualized, with ample merchandise to ensure a steady influx of capital. What began, like ours, as a weekly summer camp has expanded into a full-time Girls Rock Institute, with a camp for women, its own Rock Camp Studio, and hundreds of pupils per year; they have received nearly a quarter-million dollars in sponsorship, including a $40,000 donation from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Instructors’ educational experiences have been codified into a book, and an excellent documentary feature was filmed at the 2005 camp. The Portlandians even formed 16 Records to market and distribute music related to the project from talent like Dolly Ranchers, Jack Queen, The Haggard and Pom Pom Meltdown. (Note especially the splendid singer Marisa Anderson, who doubles on keyboards and lap-steel guitar.) No doubt, interest in this material will only increase as these ladies further establish themselves in the industry; the earliest campers are now in their mid-20s, so that process is already well-underway.

For the uninitiated, the GRJ camp is a one-week camp for girls aged 9-16, usually running from late July into early August. Attendees are provided hands-on instruction in a wide range of artistic disciplines—singing, instruments, DJing, arts and crafts, flyer- and zine-making—related to the skills needed for success as a professional musician. Having the lessons administered to girls by girls, by actual working musicians and longtime vets of the scene. The inaugural camp, in 2012, drew 29 campers and 40 volunteers. Camp sessions are run at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and each year’s camp ends with the girls forming their own bands to play a showcase concert at the historic Florida Theatre on Saturday afternoon. (Hopefully, future concerts will be recorded and marketed for fans, parents, etc.)

A cursory glance at the concert listings in Northeast Florida on any given week is a testament to the skills being brought to bear for the GRJ project—and that’s just the volunteers. At this rate, it will be just a few couple more years before GRJ attendees are themselves sharing space with their teachers—on the stage, on the page, online and in the firmament of what is already known as one of the most dynamic, emerging music scenes in the world today. And you can help!

Interview with Maitejosune Urrechaga, from Pocket of Lollipops


Pocket Of Lollipops/Lake Disney/Legs

Burro Bar, 100 E. Adams St.

Friday, November 29; $5

Pocket of Lollipops have quickly made a name for themselves since springing fully-formed from the burgeoning Miami scene a couple years ago. Their music reflects their shared interests in art and fashion, as well as their shared experiences living in a cultural hub. The band is a duo, consisting of singer/guitarist Maitejosune Urrechaga and her husband, drummer Tony Kapel. There is a very kinetic sound, jangly and propulsive; the music practically vibrates, like a wino with the shakes or a kid about to meet their hero.

Opening for Pocket of Lollipops at Burro Bar will be Legs, from Orlando, and Jacksonville’s own Lake Disney, one of the many interesting new local bands of 2013. The band was formed as a trio of electronics (Greg Price and John Lackey) and bass guitar (Kareem Ghori, aka “Special K”), set in a Joy Division/Nick Cave sort of mold, but they’ve rapidly breaking that mold, with epic house-party jams that can last for hours.

Even with the holiday season approaching, and a couple really busy weeks ahead (including performances at Art Basel Miami), I was able to ask some questions of Urrechaga, who was kind enough to respond…

SDH: What does the name “Pocket of Lollipops” mean to you, in the context of the band.

MU: Multi-flavor, the options are endless. We can even be a surprise flavor.

SDH: How did you end up getting booked at Burro Bar? Who did you deal with?

MU: James Arthur Bayer III, we played with him at the Loft last time we were in Jacksonville and he reached out to us this past summer so we set something up. He runs the records label “Infintesmal”.

SDH: How would you describe the band’s aesthetic? What is Pocket of Lollipops about?

MU: When the natural and the dream collide. We are punk kids at heart with a love for the avant-garde. I would say we are the kind of aliens you can talk to and don’t have to fear. Or when you find a unicorn on your bike ride home. We do have a specific aesthetic for how we represent our material. Most of it is DIY; I like touching all the shirts, records etc. I will silk screening some of my drawings for t-shirt designs or for our current vinyl.

Sometimes I make things for our shows to give to everyone. It really depends on the setting and how we are feeling. We also like working with other artists. It is cool to see how they represent you. We currently released our video “Open Pirate”, artist Christopher Ian Macfarlane created it. All we told him was we wanted his style of work, and that I wanted an image of a goat, his family had to be in it someplace, I also told him what the song was about but told him that did not have to be in it at all. So we let him have loads of creative freedom. I love the new video. We also did a fan video for “Shelby Apples” like 2 years ago and fans had to take a mask we made download it and draw on them and video tape themselves. We enjoy that interaction with people.

SDH: How many tracks has the band recorded, all together?

MU: 23-25 tracks for sure. We may have one or two random tracks recorded on special cd’s that we give out at shows or sometimes we give free downloads of things we haven’t released if you win a prize from us. We are really into doing one of kind things.

SDH: What are your songs about?

MU: Some are about the education system/parents. Others are about parties. Running around abandoned train stations; Tony and I still do a lot of that stuff any second we can. Some is about dumb conversations you have with people.

SDH: Is there any one song that, for you, epitomizes the sound of Pocket Of Lollipops?

MU: Tony thinks it is “Sewing Circle”, but I think “Angry Kittens”. I think our fans would say “Shelby Apples”or “Cute Chaos”

SDH: How does the songwriting process play out? Is the band a full-on partnership, or does one of you act as the nominal “leader” of the group?

MU: We are both leaders at different time. I write the bass lines and organizes parts, then I share them with tony then he plays drums and I listen to what he does a bit and vice versa, Then I add lyrics that both of us come up with. Usually the ones I can’t sing are the ones he can sing perfect. After we write the song tony composes some digital violins, space sounds, etc. I just tell him some sounds I like and he just writes things. Eventually one of the digital tracks works with the song we are putting together. If it doesn’t work we save it and use it later. IT is a partnership almost all the time, unless we disagree then I just fight for what I want. I usually win, or he lets me win.

SDH: How long have you been married? How did you meet? Does your marriage pre-date the band?

MU: We got married on 11-11-01 I have a crazy thing with numbers. We meet at a third grade bake sale, but became friends later on high school. Yes, the marriage pre-dates the band, the band started in 2009.

SDH: Being in a band is a challenge, and being married is a challenge…

MU: I like challenges.

SDH: What kind of equipment do you use?

MU: Tony plays a Gretsch Drum set and I play an Acoustic 450 Bass/Combo. I use tons of pedals to create different distortion and other effects. All the extra sounds Tony makes are done on a Mac Computer with synths.

SDH: How long are your sets usually?

MU: 25-30 min…for a bar. For a gallery, sometimes we do 45 minutes-2hours. It really depends on the space and if we are playing with other people.

SDH: What artists have inspired your approach to music?

MU: My approach to music is more how I approach art; I take things I like and start to put pieces together. Tony and I are inspired by so many artists it would be really hard to pick one out. For example, Bjork for the way she can come out in some random outfit, or Brian Wilson how he was a studio nazi, or how Radio Head could sell their cd for whatever they wanted, the rule breakers or makers, whatever you wanna called them. But we are drawn to those who did what they wanted.

SDH: What’s been your favorite music to listen to this year?

MU: Julie Ruin, I just got into and I am enjoying that. Echo and the Bunnymen, Television, Pink Floyd, The Unicorns, Versus, Unrest and Dr. Dre.

SDH: What Basel-related stuff are you guys doing?

MU: We are playing for an opening party for one of the fairs. And I have an art show for a fair that is not a fair, and we are playing it also.

SDH: As a Miami-based artist and musician, what does Basel mean to you, in terms of business? Is it something locals look forward to?

MU: Yes and no. We complain about it and rest before it and always say we won’t do anything that year, and then you feel its presence, and you start saying yes to things, and it’s cool, ‘cuz so many things are going on, and you want to try and see all of it also.

SDH: Do you guys make your living fully through your art and music? Is that something the artists and musicians in your scene are able to do?

MU: Maybe a handful…they may take up an odd job here and there, but some are. But it is a hustle. Tony the other half of Lollipops(my husband) just quit his day job so one of us can put more time into everything we are doing. I also teach high school art for the public school system somehow–I just don’t tell everyone.

SDH: Which is more stressful: being a working musician or being an art teacher?

MU: I tend to look at things pretty positive. I think they both feed off of each other right now. I like going to work with kids; they have a great energy, and it feeds for good lyrics. I would say the stress is when i have a show and I am up till late, and somehow I make it to work the next day ‘cuz i don’t want to be a slack teacher ‘cuz of my other career, and vice versa. I do know a stress: one time we played at some crazy house party, and out of nowhere i saw students in the crowd. That was my two worlds combining. I was not prepared for that.

SDH: Does your status as a musician help you relate to the students?

MU: Yes. They love it. They always ask me why i don’t play our songs in class, ‘cuz i play music all the time with our lessons. I tell them I am there to teach art, not gain new fans.

SDH: What are your plans for 2014, personally and professionally? What do you wish to accomplish next?

MU: We have an artist/music residency in Rhode Island at the end of June at the AS220 Building, so we will also set up a little mini tour on the way. We are releasing another video. Working on a SXSW bill. Making new drawings and songs. Tony is writing another novel, which lends to our lyrical layout. Maybe figure out a way to make it overseas. Make more music and tour some more. I like visiting new places.

[Update: Here’s the video of their set at Burro Bar on the 29th–any video sloppiness is my fault entirely…]

Random links to recent Folio Weekly stories…


Folio Weekly logo

As you know, I took most of the first half of the year away from print journalism, for various reasons best saved for a podcast elsewhere (thanks, Meggybo!). But I’ve been back in the saddle this summer, returning to Folio Weekly, where I’ve been writing on a regular basis since summer 1997. Just wanted to take a quick moment to post links of the recent stuff I’ve done, for the benefit of all my little Hull-A-Maniacs who aren’t in Jacksonville and can’t read the print edition. So, here ya go…

*Canary In the Coalmine (june 26):,5663

*“Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson” (July 10):,5915

*Black Kids (August 14):,6544 

*Mick Foley (August 21):,6681

Notes on Scared Rabbits, PopNihil, etc.


Track list and flyer…

Scared Rabbits/Burnt Hair/Vase/Cyril/Andy Borsz/Vile Wine

CoRK Arts District, 2689 Rosselle Street

Friday, August 9, 9pm

Artist Morrison Pierce has been performing and recording as “Scared Rabbits” for nearly a decade, but Darkness To Black marks the group’s first official full-length release. Although he’s already sold couple dozen copies of the album to friends and patrons, its formal debut occurs as part of an event being held at CORK on Friday, August 9 featuring five other bands. (They will also be doing a release party at Rain Dogs on the 22nd.) I met him there, a few days ago, to listen to the album and talk about its development.

While a number of talents have been involved in Scared Rabbits shows over the years (most notably Jay Peele and the late great Brian Hicks), the current incarnation as documented on the album features Pierce on vocals atop instrumental production by Chance Isbell, who’s been involved in the project for about a year. It’s just the latest multimedia collaboration between the two, both men are visual artists by trade, and both fixtures in the CORK scene from practically its inception.

Morrison Pierce, occupying his studio

The album was recorded entirely on four-track tape, and was culled together from hours of material, which will eventually spawn further albums. Tracks range from 2:21 to 12:44, and the overall noisy freak-out vibe is tempered (however briefly) by moments of genuine beauty. For me, highlights include the opening track, “America Loves You”, a tour-de-force running nearly 12 minutes, built around vocal samples of politicians’ overly sunny spin on what the artists view as a society in economic and moral decay. And then there’s the simultaneously  offensive-yet-funny “Lesbian Chicken”, which is the closest thing they have to a radio single—though really not that close.

Chance Isbell, setting that trap…

The evening also sees the release of new product by the local Popnihil label, whose founder Matthew Moyer will be performing as Burnt Hair with Trenton Tarpits. “The genesis of popnihil was really just a dissatisfaction with the creeping, all-consuming digitization of the parts of popular culture that I liked best (music, books, magazines),” writes Moyer, “and a realization that if I truly valued the physical artifact and truly wanted to stand against a sterile future of mp3s and ebooks, it was time to put my money where my mouth was and help make tangible, physical objects. popnihil began with Jason Brown and I making collaborative zines, and I started releasing cassettes soon after, just to get the music of Keith Ansel/Mon Cul out there. Since then, I’ve released a number of other tapes by Jacksonville-area musicians operating on the harsher fringes of sound. And zines, always zines.”

For Moyer, who spends his days toiling at the Jacksonville Public Library, and certain nights hosting “Lost In the Stacks” for WJCT, popnihil has been a labor of love for the music, and his friends who are involved in making it. The CORK show will function in part as a showcase for that whole scene, a scene whose potency has only increased over this long, hot summer. “The product being released this Friday includes the new cassette by Voids, ‘Burial In The Sky’,” he writes. “Voids is the project of noise prodigy Jon Thoreson, and it’s really his most fully realized work yet. Beautiful, spare soundscapes give way to discipline-and-punish grind. And he collaborated with members of NON, Swans, Chelsea Wolfe, and Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show. No foolin’. Then there’s the debut demo from local garage savages The Mold. They make a mighty, blown-out racket with just keyboard, bass, drums and snotty (oh so snotty) vocals. Fourteen minutes of pure juvenile delinquency on a snot-colored cassette, that repeats on the other side. Just like ‘Reign In Blood’ does. They’re not going to be a local secret much longer. And I need to give another mention to the new Game Show tape, which came out at the end of July. It’s Josh Touchton and Zach Ferguson’s severely damaged hip-hop project. It’s kinda the line in the sand between people who say they like weird music and people who REALLY like freaked out music. Also the new popnihil music zine is coming out, if I can get it together in time. And, of course, the last remaining copies of tapes by Encounters and Beach Party will be on offer.”

So, that’s up to a half-dozen new recordings available that night, not to mention whatever else the other bands bring with them; Moyer “handpicked all the bands for Friday’s lineup,” and is far better equipped to describe them than I: “There’s the aforementioned Voids for starters, as this is the their tape release party. Burnt Hair, my coldwave/goth project with Trenton Tarpits of 2416/MREOW, will play a set. Vase (formerly Mohr) is John Ross Tooke’s project, first show of 2013, and it will be full-on overcast industrial nightmarescapes. Andy Borsz from the noise juggernaut Slasher Risk (and new Jax resident) is going to play a rare solo set, and you never what to expect from him. I’m excited that some friends from Austin are going to play this show as a one-off: Cyril is the solo endeavor of Aaron from Weird Weeds, and it’s just evil electronic hypnosis, and Vile Wine is a collaboration between Aaron and Sheila from No Mas Bodas/Suspirians, and it’ll be total armageddon, for certain. Closing out the night will be cult volume abusers Scared Rabbits. What will they sound like? Who will be in the band for the night? One never knows….”


Show flyer

August 9, 2013

Interview with Alessandra Altamura, author of “Music Club Toscana”


Music Club Toscana: Music time stories, by Alessandra Altamura. Piombino, Italy: Edizioni IL FOGLIO. 192 pp.

"Music Club Toscana" cover

It was mid-afternoon in late March when the postman’s knock interrupted my nap. (Being in journalistic exile leaves much room for napping, and other forms of self-reflection.) The package I signed for had ten stamps on it—five depicting the Terme Di Bonifacio VIII, and a row of five up top depicting the late singer Nino Reitano (1944-2009)—totaling 12.50 Euros, the equivalent of $16.07. Interesting: I hadn’t even opened the package yet, and I’d already learned something! That was to prove a useful omen.

Inside the envelope was a fresh new copy of the debut collection of 22 short-stories by Alessandra Altamura, an Italian-born literature teacher who turns 40 this November and graduated from the Liceo Classico Macchiavelli and the University of Pisa. The contents were pleasant, but of no surprise; I’d been waiting for it for a few days. Altamura, the author, had sent it off from her home in Lucca (near Pisa), in Tuscany in the great historic country of Italy on March 12. Two weeks days to travel across the Mediterranean, the European continent and the Atlantic Ocean seemed quite reasonable.

I was looking forward to seeing it for myself, and I was in no way disappointed. Music Club Toscana: Music time stories is a labor of love in the most literal sense; it combines her dual passions for music and her own native culture. Translated from the original Italian, the writing is vibrant and briskly-paced; the text moves fast over 192 pages. The book’s contents are like its packaging: smooth, compact and colorful. Speaking as someone who no longer makes regular practice of reading much fiction, I enjoyed the book immensely. After reading her book, I got the chance to briefly interview Ms. Altamura via email from New York City, where she arrived to begin her book tour last week.

SDH: How long did it take to write this book? Where did the idea come from?

AA: I wrote my book in a few months, less than one year, but I collected the material for these stories [over] my whole life. The idea comes from my love for music, especially live music. I have many friends who are musicians, also my brother plays the guitar. Other than that, music clubs are full of stories and characters.

SDH: Are your characters all real people, all fictional, or a combination?

AA: Some characters are real, with their real names, some are fictional and some are a mix of reality and fantasy.

SDH: What kind of music do you like?

AA: The first story was born in a club in Florence where my friends usually play, then came all the others. In the book there are many kinds of music, because each person needs a different kind of music. Personally I prefer jazz, the great songwriters and in general a music that makes people meet and think.

SDH: Which of the venues did you visit first?

AA: I visited first the places closest to my town. Lucca, Pisa, Florence. Then I went to the farest, like Siena, Arezzo or Grosseto, just to have a complete vision for my book.

SDH: Which venue in the book is your favorite?

AA: My favorite venue and also my favorite story is the one that takes place at Le Murate, that was the prison of Florence before becoming a club.

SDH: Tell me a bit about the lady who translated the book into English…

AA: Shayna Hobbs is a friend of a friend, who lived some time in Italy and taught me English. Now they live in Georgia and they will host me after Florida. oh, this is a funny thing, because each story is translated from a different friend. So in English there are really many characters and voices. Then a lady read it to see if there were mistakes. Maybe there are still some mistakes, because we did all quickly when I was leaving to London, but the English version is a proof that my friends love me…

SDH: Do you plan to write more books? Have you decided on the topic yet?

AA: I think to write another book, with stories that take place all over the world. In fact I’m trying to travel and know better other countries.

SDH: Who are your favorite Italian musicians?

AA: My favourite Italian musicians are the big songwriters, who are also poets: de Andrè, Fossati, Guccini, De Gregori and others. I went to the concerts of many of them and I liked much, but I’m sorry, because I never listened to a concert of de Andrè, before he died.

[She will be at Chamblin’s Uptown, in downtown Jacksonville, on Sunday, July 21 to sign copies and give a presentation on her work. If you’re into travel literature or jazz, it’s well-worth checking out.]

July 19, 2013

All Up In It: Notes on Mayor Brown’s self-promotional streak


“Hey, how’s 2015 lookin’ for ya, sir?”

As Mayor of Jacksonville, Alvin Brown has gone a long way to get himself over as a Man Of the People. He’s so gracious, in fact, that he routinely gives ammunition to his political enemies, who would have very little to work with otherwise. Case in point: A front-page article in the Florida Times-Union’s May 31 edition, centered around concerns expressed by members of the City Council that Mayor Brown’s gone too far with his trademark self-promotional tactics. Specifically, they claim that he’s monopolizing the services of the official city photographer, and that his name features too prominently on the City of Jacksonville (COJ) website. Slow news day? Yep.

Spoiler alert: Our city council is ridiculous. Are they actual people, or cardboard cut-outs whose public utterances are generated by computer algorithms? Of course the mayor is a self-promoting freakazoid; he was trained by Bill Clinton. The real question, though, is why does the general public never see or hear anything from council members unless they’re trying to block something or shut something down? Brown goes a bit far in trying to generate buzz for the city, sure, but maybe that’s because he’s surrounded by bland, uncharismatic people exuding negativity, always looking for new ways to throw the city under the bus to service their political/business agendas. (Hemming Plaza, Metro Park, etc.)

The City Council has been the weak link in local politics since the Peyton years. They blatantly go into business for themselves, thinking up ridiculous, counter-productive legislation while assiduously blocking the important things. The weakness they showed with the whole Occupy thing (esp. the Dems) was an obvious example. So, in terms of the city’s public image, the choice is between one guy who does way too much and 19 people who do nothing at all. Now, I’m no Democrat, but these people actually made me into an Alvin Brown fan. How the hell?

Fact is, Brown isn’t doing anything that any councilperson, or any politician in general, couldn’t be doing right now. My city council campaign started fairly late and was vastly underfunded, but I was able to be pretty competitive in a tight, seven-person race while pushing an agenda that deviated significantly from the mainstream. That was only possible because of the web, social media specifically. Brown was on that track already, as a candidate, and he’s taken that to a whole new level as mayor. While the techniques may be fairly new, critics who claim that his self-promotional tendencies are somehow unusual are flatly disengaged not only from the history of this city, but from political science in general.

The future mayor as candidate, 2011. Whatever he was reaching for, he got it…

One needs not cite national examples of people like Michael Bloomberg, Ed Koch, Richard Daley, Willie Brown, Maynard Jackson or Adrian Fenty, all of whom used their personal brand to enhance that of their city (and vice-versa); local examples abound, including virtually every mayor Jacksonville has ever had. Are Brown’s critics seriously suggesting that he’s acting inconsistently from his predecessors? Imagine what Tommy Hazouri’s Twitter feed would’ve looked like, or Hans “let’s pose at the city limits with a beautiful actress to promote Consolidation” Tanzler’s Instagram. And one can easily visualize the front-page of the COJ website, had the Internet existed in the Jake Godbold era.

Former mayor Hans Tanzler, doing what politicians do, 1968

The website is centered on Brown because Brown is the only person making an effort to promote positive initiatives in the public sphere. Everyone complains about him putting his name on the jazz festival, but it’s not like the councilfolk were out there mingling with the voters. Why are they complaining about the city photographer when they all have camera-phones, not to mention skilled photographers in each of their districts who’d work for free, just to have COJ work on their resumes? This is simply about people wanting to weaken Brown before the next election, so they can pick one of these malleable stuffed-shirt councilmen to challenge him in 2015. If every local politician made a fraction of the effort to engage their constituents using the power of the web, this city would be cooking with gas.

At the same time, from a political standpoint Brown is doing the right thing. He came into office only because the power structure couldn’t get along with each other; he exploited those divisions to squeak through, then immediately alienated a lot of his base. He needed to take control of his public image before conservatives tarred him with the same brush they’ve used on Obama, and begin constructing a persona that could resonate with people outside the city–in part for politics, and also to help attract business. All this hype about his self-promotion just keeps the focus on him; it’s not like any of his opponents have any vision for the city’s future, or else they’d be talking about that instead of whining because Brown does his job better than they do theirs. There is plenty of room on the internet for anyone who wants to make an impact.

I’d heard rumor that Rutherford might challenge him, which would be an interesting contest. I’m always hearing about this-or-that councilperson who might jump into the race, but that would seem like a step backward. Audrey Moran is his biggest threat; the only reason she’s not mayor now is because local Republicans hate women more than they hate black people (LOL!), plus she has a personal issue with the way Brown dealt with a lot of Moran supporters at city (i.e., eliminating them so she’d have no internal support if she did decide to go after him). But if she ran again, she’d be in a similar position as Hillary Clinton would be if she runs in 2016–namely, of having to spend a year or more kissing the asses of people who already threw her under the bus in 2011. One could understand why she might be inclined to leave the city to its fate. So, unless she runs, Brown walks.

Now, there were a couple points raised in the story and subsequent discussion that do need to be addressed. The first involves the city photographers, whom councilmembers claim are prohibited from photographing anything that the mayor is not actually part of. I’ve not been able to confirm the veracity of that allegation, but it’s entirely possible. Mayor Brown is disproportionately featured on the COJ website, but it’s unclear if that content features so prominently to the exclusion of content generated by the rest of local government. Certainly, Brown superimposes himself in places where his presence may not be exactly logical or holistic, but no one knows if that is true political avarice, or just a misguided need to be seen “making a difference”. Should he do less of this, or should the council do more. This debate has only begun.

And then, there’s the jazz festival. His having added the phrase “Mayor Brown Presents” to the festival’s promotional materials is widely-cited as the most common example of Brown’s perceived tendency to self-promote to the detriment of the city at-large, and it’s hard to see it as anything other than piggybacking an initiative that was not only successful long before he hit the scene, but whose success has virtually nothing to do with him. Of course, the mayor plays a key role in the process: His budgets fund the Office of Special Events, which organizes the festival. But for Brown to append his own name rankles old-school observers who can recall the real and critical work done for the festival by “Big Jake” and, a generation later, John Peyton. They had more cause to append their names, but neither did; they didn’t have to, because their impact was so obvious, it would’ve been like saying “Shad Khan Presents the Jacksonville Jaguars”. Now, would they have done so if they’d known it was possible? Probably not. All previous mayors have happily taken credit, when offered, for the historical success of the festival, but Brown is the first to actively seek that credit, in a vacuum. It’s not what I would have done, but I can totally appreciate why he did. After all, 2015 is just around the corner…

EAUF Presents Brotzmann/McPhee at the Karpeles, June 4


Peter Brotzmann/Joe McPhee, presented by Experimental Arts Union of Florida Karpeles Manuscript Museum, 101 W. 1st St., Jacksonville Tuesday, June 4, 8pm Tickets: $20 (advance) $30 (at the door); http://

Brotzmann/McPhee, at the Karpeles…

Free-jazz is a niche market within a niche market, so all of those involved in making, marketing and presenting such music are engaged in a labor of love—as are the fans, of course. Literally so, in the case of Jamison Williams: The saxophonist, who helped found the Experimental Arts Union of Florida (EAUF) late last year, took a financial leap to bring the pioneering saxophonist Peter Brotzmann to town for a duet concert with Joe McPhee on Tuesday, June 4. Williams spent much of the two months prior to the performance working random jobs to cover his ass in case the ticket-buying public flaked on him the way local media often does with such material. (Although my colleague Nick McGregor did write an excellent article and inteview with Brotzmann/McPhee previewing the show for Folio Weekly.) Thankfully, Williams is used to thankless work on behalf of the cause. This writer has heard him sing the praises of Brotzmann since we were both teenagers in the Clinton Years, building our out-jazz skill-sets via retailers like Stripmine Records, Coconuts, CD Warehouse, and public assets like the Jacksonville Public Library and the one at UNF, both of which maintain boss jazz collections; and one can’t forget the libraries in Gainesville and Orlando—studded with out-of-print titles like precious jewels in brass knuckles, glorious. Trade notes, trade fours, trade mix-tapes, building archives. Being a jazz fan is fun, first and foremost, but it’s also the hardest work in fandom, and Williams embodies that spirit. A former punk-rock drummer, Williams abruptly shifted into jazz over a decade ago, becoming largely self-taught on alto and soprano while founding his own Vantage Bulletin Publishing label to market the music being made within his circles. After years of performing in random bars, clubs and coffee-shops (often as part of the region’s burgeoning “noise” scene), Williams made the jump into opening his own place. +SoLo Gallery opened on Bay St. in 2012, right by Underbelly, and it was a hub for improvised music of all kinds prior to its premature demise that same year.

Photo by Anna Funk…

The EAUF emerged from those experiences, as Williams and his colleagues wanted to devise a more formalized mode of streamlining their collaborative efforts. It may well be that, the less structured the music is, the more necessary it is to organize the musicians, so as to make the most of what is ultimately a limited audience. Williams has shown infinitely more patience in that regard that most could muster, and it is for that reason only that Brotzmann, 72, is coming here from Germany for what may be his only performances in the state of Florida ever. There was no other alternative, no second choice. Williams has gone 180 degrees, and then 360, and then another 180, coming back around to the place he began with Brotzmann: as a fan. “I used to go to the Jacksonville library three times a week, checking out stacks of discs,” he says. “I wound up picking up an album with a great cover, simple, clean, and resonated with me, called ‘Machine Gun’ by Peter Brotzmann.” Recorded in May, 1968, “Machine Gun” is the seminal document of the European free-jazz scene, a commercial tipping-point in both the LP and (later) CD formats. Brotzmann’s sidemen include other heavyweights of that scene like saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Peter Kowald and ace drummer Han Bennink; the music burns with an intensity appropriate for what was, at that very moment, the height of disorder, discord and discontent in the post-war western world, and small wonder that resonated so quickly. Its re-release in 1971 helped put the Free Music Productions (FMP) label on the map, helping to spawn an explosion of this type of material in the 1970 and ‘80s through labels like ESP-Disk, Soul Note, Hat Hut, etc., running parallel to stuff like the AACM in Chicago. The album was first issued on CD in 1990, and ended up at the Jacksonville Public Library soon after; I listened to the same copy Williams did, but it not leave as profound an impression. Today, there is a global network of improvised musicians and labels and venues catering to that stuff, including hundreds of musicians and fans just here in Florida (for whom the EAUF was created), and Peter Brotzmann’s contributions are a very big reason why. “Black Flag is ultimately my rooted source of musical passion, [and] everything Brotzmann said just seemed like a perfect and natural communicated message for my ears. I could listen to ‘Machine Gun’ all day, and I did. ‘Machine Gun’ reminded me of Black Flag, only with horns, and much much bigger. I could understand it. I can appreciate that sound, brute power, acoustically; he makes a non-amplified instrument instantly electric. Listen to his tone, the power, his musical constitution; that is singularly the most powerful projection a horn has ever made; I mean, people talk about [Pharoah] Sanders’ sound, [Albert] Ayler’s and [Ornette] Coleman’s, [but] Brotzmann is a living sonic beast: he is hardcore punk gone jazz.” The Karpeles is a really interesting choice for hosting Brotzmann/McPhee. It’s got a very scenic exterior, sitting just a couple blocks back from downtown—well within walking distance of the jazz festival action. Imposing columns and high stairs lead into big wooden doors; the place was built as a church in 1921 and reborn as the Karpeles in 1992. The building is part of an organization comprising a dozen privately-owned museums working together to house and present key documents and manuscripts from history. With over a million items in the collection already, a steady stream of new materials are rotated freshly through the buildings; other nearby branches can be found in Charleston and Shreveport. The acoustics are great, as you’d expect from an old-school church; voices from the stage can be heard in the balcony, without amplification, and there’s an an in-house piano, which usually sits on the stage and may well come into play—or, shall we say, interplay. The Karpeles has hosted all kinds of events over the years; there was an exhibit of Alan Justiss memorabilia last year, and I helped judge an oratory contest there for the American Legion just a few weeks ago. For years, it was obvious that the Karpeles was an ideal spot in which to present chamber music or jazz, but as far as I know it’s not really happened before; it was the vision of Jamison Williams and the EAUF that finally put that notion into motion. Joining Brotzmann will be Joe McPhee:“He’s a powerhouse, a tentet contributor, and an American asset,” says Williams; “his direct involvement with outstanding historic free jazz figures since the 80’s is unsurpassed: Borah Bergman, Rashied Ali, Evan Parker, [Ken] Vandermark, and Brotzmann.” To call him an “instrumentalist” would be putting it lightly. Born in Miami in1939, McPhee trained on trumpet and flugelhorn, then self-taught himself on a variety of saxophones, as well as valve trombone; Williams cites Ornette Coleman as a rare example of someone proficient on brass and reeds, and I’d add UNF’s Bill Prince to that list. HatHut has released over 300 recordings since 1975—featuring artists like Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Steve Lacy, Sun Ra, Matthew Shipp, Lee Konitz, Max Roach, Mary Halvorson, Taylor Ho Bynum, Clusone 3, John Zorn and Braxton [whose “Eight (+1) Tristano Compositions 1989, for Warne Marsh” is my favorite; bought it at Stripmine Records]—and has now spun off into five distinct labels under a 15-year sponsorship deal with UBS (who’ve also helped underwrite Art Basel operations in Switzerland, Spain and Miami Beach) but the Swiss label was founded specifically to document the music of Joe McPhee. Brotzmann/McPhee are working nine cities in 13 days, from May 31-June 12: Austin; Chicago; Orlando; Jacksonville; Philadelphia; Peterborough NH (a stacked bill with Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley and saxophonist Paul Flaherty); Washington DC; Montreal; and Buffalo. In terms of the cities, and the organizations involved in booking all nine of those events, that’s really good company for Duval. It’s worth noting, also, that Florida and New York are the only states hosting Brotzmann/McPhee twice, and both shows were put together essentially by artist-run collectives. (The Civic Minded 5, in Orlando, is also hosting a free show by the Mary Halvorson Septet on Monday, July 1; more about that elsewhere.)

Poster for Brotzmann/McPhee’s Orlando show…

These two masters of modern music will work duets that night, their highly individual sounds contrasting each other, unadorned by sidemen. Coming just days after the yet another successful Jacksonville Jazz Festival (where Williams led EAUF members in a tribute to Ayler at Burro Bar), this show further cements this city as a hub for free and improvised music, which is proving an increasingly lucrative market. Tickets start at $20 for advance tickets, with some prices at $30 on the day of the show. To say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime musical opportunity puts it mildly; most American jazz fans won’t have the chance to see this even once in their lives.

Jamison Williams at work. Photo by Anna Funk…

“Last Splash” at 20: The Breeders Ride Again


Original cover of “Last Splash”, 1993.

Full disclosure: From a personal and professional perspective, there is no way to overestimate the significance of the Breeders in my own life and career. If music is a drug, and there have been studies suggesting that the two affects part of the brain in similar ways, then the Breeders were my marijuana, my gateway drug—at least, to the circles in which they ran and rotated. As such, I was thrilled to hear that the original lineup—Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim McPherson—was reuniting this year to tour in support of the 20th anniversary of their most well-known album, 1993’s Last Splash (4AD/Elektra).

The "classic" lineup. Front: Jim McPherson and Josephine Wiggs. Back: Kelley and Kim Deal.

The “classic” lineup. Front: Jim McPherson and Josephine Wiggs. Back: Kelley and Kim Deal.

The album, which was a touchstone of the “alternative rock” scene of that era, has been re-released in stunning new form by 4AD’s Vaughan Oliver, who’s been established as a master of album cover design and packaging for a quarter-century. The new “LSXX” version contains 46 tracks, spread across three CDs for a very reasonable price of $23; the same material is also available on a sumptuous seven-LP box set for $90—worth every penny for a serious fan. Both versions of the box set contain not only the entire original Last Splash album, but other key documents from that time, including: the full 16-track Stockholm concert that was previously only available in truncated form through the Breeders Digest fan club; 14 tracks recorded in settings ranging from demos and BBC/Peel sessions to guest appearances on compilations like the epochal No Alternative; and all four of the four-song EPs that came immediately before and after the album—1992’s Safari and 1994’s Head To Toe, in addition to the singles for “Cannonball” and “Divine Hammer”. There’s also a 24-page booklet.

Last Splash LSXX

LSXX, interior…

At this writing, the box-set is in pre-order; the CDs start shipping on May 14, but the vinyl doesn’t go out until June/July. For me, as a longtime fan who’s not gotten my copy yet—although “fan” seems imprecise; the old wrestling term “mark” seems more appropriate—just reading through the tracklist brings back fond memories of not only the music itself, but of the often extreme lengths I once went to in order to obtain this material in the good ol’ days before the Internet, before e-commerce, eBay, Amazon and automated shipping.

For me, a Breeders run usually meant a trip to historic Five Points in Jacksonville, the longtime hub of my city’s alternative/indie scene before the action began diversifying into downtown and Springfield while crossing over into other genres. Last Splash was a hit, so it wasn’t necessary to hit up spots like Now Hear This!, since it could be had at the mall, but I got it from there anyway; it was my first trip to that neighborhood, and I also bought the excellent Copacetic album by Velocity Girl that day, starting a relationship with the area (where I now live) that will always persist in some form or another.

Now, getting hold of the EPs was a chore involving phone calls, special orders and the kind of research I only put now into corrupt politicians or would-be business partners. In the ‘90s, my resource for this stuff was a place called the Theory Shop, on Park St. It was owned by the Faircloth sisters; they also owned the legendary Beaches club Einstein-A-Go-Go, where many of the era’s top alternative bands performed and where a whole generation of artists, musicians, writers, fans and entrepreneurs first met each other, slowly knitting a social fabric that now stretches across most of this country. (A lot of those shows were taped, but sadly I’ve never heard any of it; it probably comprises an indispensable auditory document, and hopefully it sees light someday.) They were geniuses for special orders; if they didn’t have it, they could get almost anything, and usually for far less than one was willing to pay. They had the music, and certain curios that are now almost impossible to find: autographed posters, signed Breeders tube socks, even promo copies of the album on green vinyl.

The 1990s were an especially explosive time in the cultural development of a nation that is always pushing hard toward the future, and a big part of that era was what was then called “alternative music”. The term has fallen out of favor now, even retrospectively, as that music’s pervasive impact ultimately overwhelmed whatever outsider pretentions once existed. But, at the time, it was the perfect description not only of the actual music itself, but also of the intent that drove the many artists, producers, record executives, journalists and fans who were involved in its production and proliferation, starting with the man who was, for a time, at the center of the entire music world: the late, great Kurt Cobain. Had he not existed, a significant portion of the last 20 years of music history would quite possibly have never happened, and that fact is of special relevance in regard to the subject at hand.

Last Splash was officially released on August 31, 1993, but audiences were already primed, myself included. I was 15 back then. I was mostly into jazz and rap music; my tastes in rock and roll at that time were strictly limited to AC/DC, Queen, Hendrix and Guns and Roses; I recall enjoying GNR’s Use Your Illusion double-album, which I bought on cassette, way more than any decent human being should, absurdly, decadently, obnoxiously hyperbolically brilliant as it was. (To this day, I’m still kinda sad that the Axl Rose/Bob Guccione, jr. fight never actually happened; if it ever does, someone please inform me.) The first CD I ever bought was the self-titled debut by Rage Against the Machine, and I enjoyed it, but I was in no way culturally-inclined toward the rock music of that time, not at that point. My favorite rock band then was Led Zeppelin and, as much as I love the Breeders, they remain a very close second.

Many of my peers, of course, came from backgrounds were they were able to experience the genesis of what would evolve into “alternative music” holistically, so the effect of its rise was perhaps not as game-changing as it would be for. At that time, I had no idea what had been percolating in the New York, or Boston, or Athens. Seattle? Other than it being the estranged home of Hendrix, I knew nothing about the rock scene there, or anywhere else, until Kurt Cobain got the big push and methodically began programming names into the collective database of pop-culture. Once he started wearing certain t-shirts, covering certain songs and hiring certain bands to open for his band or sit in with them, I, like most people, spent the rest of the decade playing catch-up to what he had already internalized and regurgitated as the music of Nirvana.

Cobain’s infamous description of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as his failed attempt to write a Pixies song was to the eternally-corrupt American music industry what then-president George Bush’s declaration of “a New World Order” was to geopolitics. It was, in both cases, the start of a new era in mass-consciousness, a new formulation of the context in which we all exist. To be a Nirvana fan meant you had to listen to all these bands you’d often never heard of, because you knew their work was crucial to the development of the stuff you like. It’s like how the British Invasion forced mainstream America to take a second look at the Blues, or how hip-hop helped spur a new appreciation of older black musicians ranging from Clyde Stubblefield to Roger Troutman—or, for that matter, how the “New World Order” concept became the global context in which we placed the many obscure, localized conflicts and atrocities that have happened in the subsequent years. While it is entirely coincidental that Bush made the relevant remarks to a special joint-session of Congress on September 11, 1991—which happened to be the day after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released, it’s fitting.

By the time Last Splash made its big splash, the Nirvana push was almost two years old, and the; Cobain would be dead within seven months of its release-date, but a significant portion of the time he had left was spent in various ways of giving the Breeders the rub. They were one of the opening acts on Nirvana’s last American tour, and they got perhaps the biggest exposure of their careers when they opened for Nirvana on MTV’s (pre-taped) New Year’s Eve special in 1993, playing the two lead singles from their album, “Cannonball” (released August 9) and “Divine Hammer” (released October 25).

“Cannonball” was released as a single 22 days before the album, which eventually went platinum based largely on that song. To this day, it remains their best-known song, and one of the more recognizable musical documents of that era. It’s been so ubiquitous, in fact, such a pure and perfect song, that it will always threaten to overshadow the depth, diversity and dynamism of their other stuff—a legacy that jumps genres and hews to no particular pre-defined aesthetic. For as the Deal sisters made their way through the business in those years, they did so as themselves; it’s not that their music conformed to people’s expectations, but that the expectations conformed to the music. That seems a trait they shared with Cobain, a trait he recognized, appreciated and did his very best to encourage, on- and off-stage. (Some seven months before Last Splash was released, Cobain praised Pod as one of his favorite albums ever in an interview with Melody Maker; “It’s an epic that will never let you forget ypur ex-girlfriend”, he said, and he was right.)

Cobain was neither the first nor last artist within those circles to meet a tragic, premature and, frankly, suspicious end, but because it was him, the overall effect was much, much worse. Culturally, Cobain’s death was later book-ended by the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, but many great talents fell in the interim. The summer of 1994 was a summer of death for the musicians who knew him most closely, many of whom took their own demons on the road, touring through grief and uncertainty. Among the casualties of that brutal year were the Breeders—that is, the version of the band that recorded Last Splash. After Kelley Deal was allegedly caught signing for a FedEx package of heroin, virtually all of the band’s forward momentum to that point was stopped cold as a corpse. She went to rehab, Wiggs and McPherson left to pursue their own projects, and Kim Deal simply remained Kim Deal—the one constant in all of this. Despite all of the great work they’ve done since then, separately and together, they would never again ascend to a commercial plateau anywhere near their peak, which sucks, but life moves fast, and the fickle tastes of the pop-music business move even faster.

The sisters Deal and their colleagues continued recording their own projects for the rest of the ‘90s and then, like a phoenix of sorts, the Breeders was reborn in May 2002. That Title TK happened at all was viewed by some as miraculous, and by others as a sign of the apocalypse, but not even their most hard-core fans (and I count myself among them, maybe even at the tippy-top of the list) would have expected the album to be as unbelievable epic as it was. It’s not just that it was a good album by the Breeders; it was an amazing album by a version of the Breeders that did not exist prior to that point. With its antecedents in the Deals’ solo work in those frustrating years between Breeders albums, the difference between Title TK and Last Splash, in terms of both form and content, was as dramatic as that between Last Splash and Pod. Aside from the vocals and a couple little musical tricks, the three albums might as well have been by three completely different bands, and to a certain extent they were.

It’s now been over a decade since the revamped Breeders lineup strolled into the new century, recording two full-length albums, releasing two albums and an EP in that time while touring the world and landing high-prestige gigs like Coachella and All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP). Despite this new era of success, some fans remain nostalgic for the “classic” version of the band, with Wiggs and McPherson. With the new lineup gelled and seasoned, it seemed unlikely that would ever happen, but as one has come to expect from the Breeders, anything can happen. As such, the Deal/Deal/Wiggs/McPherson version of the band will reunite and tour this year, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the record that made them. I’ve not seen them play in a decade, and I just realized I’ll have to miss their show in Atlanta on May 15; it irritates me beyond words, but that feeling is well-surpassed by the overall joy I feel, just knowing that the Deals are not only alive and well, but thriving. And as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of their biggest commercial success, it’s really more like a celebration of a scene they helped create—a scene that now holds a dominant position across the scope American culture. As it turned out, with Last Splash, the Breeders were just dipping their toes into the water.


Morrison Pierce and Chance Isbell: “March Dies”/”Pandora’s Box”


Morrison Pierce and Chance Isbell at CORK

Individually, Morrison Pierce and Chance Isbell have crafted two of the more unique brands in this region’s art scene, spanning a range of media in various parts of the country—Pierce as an a painter, musician and maker of short-films, and Isbell as an illustrator and one of the area’s most in-demand tattoo artists. Collectively, they are working together on a new project centered in and around the One Spark event running April 17-21 in downtown Jacksonville. I spoke with them at the CORK Arts District building in Riverside, a place where both men are fixtures and facilitators of the facility’s functions. Each man maintains their own studio spaces in the building.

CORK plays host to their “March Dies” show, which opens on Friday night, March 29. Both men will be displaying some of their newest work for sale, while also offering a variety of items for a silent auction. Live music during and after the show will be provided by Creep City, Burnt Hair (aka Matthew Moyer) and Pierce’s own group, Scared Rabbits. A $10 donation is requested, but not required. All proceeds raised will go to fund the installation project Pierce and Isbell are planning for the epic One Spark crowdfunding event in April. “Pandora’s Box” (# 598) will consist of a large wooden frame with plexiglass panels, creating a large box for attendees to walk through. The artists will use paints to give the box the feel of a stained-glass window, but rendered in their own inimitable style.

I sat down with Pierce in his studio on the 27th; video of the session can be found on YouTube. He explained that a lot of his motivation/inspiration for doing the piece relates to challenging the sociopolitical status quo, the quiet complacency that has led Americans to embrace extremism while handing over their own civil liberties, all for the sake of fighting an enemy that is spectral at best, and illusory at worse. Having witnessed, first-hand, the chance in people’s attitudes over just the past decade since our disastrous drive into war, Pierce feels obliged to help spur activism through his art.

Preview: “Music For Meows”, Feb. 16


This is the flyer. You don’t need one, because you’re reading about it already…

The third annual Music For Meows concert is being held next Saturday, February 16, at Jack Rabbits in San Marco, and I’d totally forgotten until Heather Bruce (whom I’ve known for years) hit me with a flyer at Birdies the other night. Well, she didn’t literally hit me, in the projectile sense–she slid it into the space between our drinks on the table. Ms. Bruce has been volunteering with the sponsors, the Stray Cat Saviors Group, since the event’s inception in 2011, and she counts it among the most rewarding experiences of her life. The purpose of the concert is to raise money for organizations working to reduce the number of stray, homeless and feral cats in Northeast Florida, with the ultimate goal of making Jacksonville a strictly no-kill city–certainly a noble undertaking, albeit formidable.

As to the event itself: “Music For Meows” will comprise a silent auction alongside the actual concert, which features a diverse sampling of the region’s musical fare, including the maniac metal-men of Status Faux, the ferocious folk stylings of Lauren Fincham, the ethereal electro-pop of Shoni and the balls-out bombast of All Night WolvesThe Pinz, Xgeezer, Dixie Rodeo and FFN are also playing, while I know nothing about them at present, I’m familiar enough the artists cited to be sure it’s all well-worth the $10 cover, which goes to help the little kitty-cats, anyway, so it’s money well-spent in any case. The organizers are partnering with local groups like First Coast No More Homeless Pets. (To buy tickets online, click this link.) As the kids say, “Meow!”

Jazz Festival Preview: Sonny Rollins


The Lion In Winter: Sonny Rollins, the last best hope of Hard Bop


Sonny Rollins, who headlines this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival, was born in New York City on September 7, 1930. His arrival is a triumph for local jazz fans who’d lobbied for his inclusion for years, perhaps as long as the festival itself has been in existence. I know that, in my ongoing conversations on the subject of jazz with Bob Bednar, host of WJCT’s “This Is Jazz” program (and recently a member of the festival’s Hall of Fame), Rollins’ name was in circulation since the late-1990s. We’ve both mentioned his name repeatedly, not that doing so was necessarily necessary, due to his legend status—but, then again, it’s only happening in 2012, and we should consider ourselves lucky to have had the chance for so long.

In the years just after Charlie Parker’s premature death in 1955, Rollins emerged as the dominant new saxophone star of the jazz world. He was then a member of the great Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet, sharing the front-line with Clifford Brown, whose meteoric rise was halted by a 1956 car-wreck that also killed the group’s pianist, Richie Powell—whose older brother Bud Powell was in fact one of Rollins’ old employers. When Max Roach pushed through his grief to reemerge with a new band, just a few months later, Rollins was key to its sound. Max Roach + 4 found Rollins out-front with Kenny Dorham, one of the most underrated trumpeters ever, with Roach now taking unprecedented amounts of solo space; the Max Roach that most jazz fans think of today really began in 1956.


Rollins’ work on Roach’s seminal Jazz In ¾ Time helped cement the drummer’s place as a leading figure in the jazz mainstream, while adding further shine to Rollins’ reputation, which even then, in his 20s, was approaching mythic status. The years 1956-‘62 saw him cranking out a string of perfect records: Sonny Rollins+4, Newk’s Time, Tour de Force, etc. For the newcomer who wishes to hear the purest distillation of Sonny Rollins at his peak, one is advised to immediately get ahold of Live At the Village Vanguard. It was his first time recording in what would become, in time, his ideal setting—the trio.

Also, Tenor Madness featured a rare recorded meeting between Rollins and John Coltrane, who was also then beginning to get a serious push as well. Theirs was not a rivalry, so much as it was a case of two relentless perfectionists evolving on parallel tracks. Saxophone Colossus was the Rollins sound encapsulated; “Blue 7” features a solo by Roach that is a masterpiece of minimalism. Way Out West sees Rollins reinventing shopworn tunes of the Old West, while drummer Shelly Manne turns in one of his all-time finest efforts.

The Freedom Suite marks Rollins’ first experiments recording in a more expansive style, a form he’d return to often in later years. His trio includes Roach and bassist Oscar Pettiford, in one of his last major efforts before dying just a couple years later. It also led to a favorite musical curiosity: While waiting for Rollins to arrive at the studio, Roach and Pettiford jammed on the standard “There Will Never Be Another You”, which is 1) the high-point of Pettiford’s recorded legacy, 2) one of the greatest bass solos ever recorded in jazz, and 3) one of only a handful of recordings documenting Max Roach’s singular style when playing brushes.


Rollins returned from sabbatical with a new band built around the sumptuous harmonies of guitarist Jim Hall, who’d spent the previous period making key contributions to two of the most unique groups (in terms of their sound and approach to composition—Chico Hamilton’s quintet and the original Jimmy Giuffre Trio. The title-track of the group’s first record, The Bridge (1962), sounds exactly like what it is: a formal announcement that Sonny Rollins was back, and ready to reclaim a tenor crown that Coltrane effectively abdicated with his brilliant but polarizing excursions in the stellar regions of free jazz.

One of the true jewels in Rollins’ output, and one that doesn’t get enough attention, is his 1966 collaboration with master post-bop trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, East Broadway Rundown. The 20-minute title track evokes “The Freedom Suite” with its length—which wasn’t nearly as big a deal by then, just four years later; credit Coltrane for that—but the sound was completely different. Typically for Rollins, there is no piano; he probably became convinced of the value of this approach while working with Roach, who abandoned the piano chair entirely in ’58. This quartet also includes bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, who were at that time also the backbone of Coltrane’s quartet—surely no coincidence. The sound is also reminiscent of Ornette Coleman’s quartet, circa Change Of the Century.

Incredibly, there may be many jazz festival fans for whom Sonny Rollins is actually an unfamiliar name. When dealing with a man who’s recorded at least 38 albums to date (not counting the copious live sets, bootlegs and sideman gigs), one may be challenged to find an appropriate jumping-in point. While any record makes for a good jumping-off point, the essence of Rollins’ artistry can be gleaned from an excellent double-disc set released by the Concord Music Group to commemorate his 80th birthday in 2010. The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary includes 21 of the key tracks recorded between 1951 and 1958, including “Blue 7”, “Tenor Madness” and “the Freedom Suite”.


Rollins’ most recent album is Road Shows, Vol. 2, released last September. Rollins has continued to record and tour into his ninth decade, winning three Grammys in the 21st century so far. For those of you who are truly newbies to Rollins’ music, there is no better place to start than the Main Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library, which has almost every major recording by or featuring Sonny Rollins; you can check out his entire career, fit it all into a canvas tote, and (if so inclined) load it all up onto your computer. It’s some of the best music ever made.

Image; April 16, 2012

Jax Jazz Fest preview: Madeleine Peyroux


[For the May/June issue of Arbus.]

The Pop-Jazz Prototype:

Madeleine Peyroux: A Musical Change-Agent


For years, Madeleine Peyroux (born April 19, 1974) has been a darling of public radio, a perdurable presence in every Starbucks, Borders and Barnes & Noble—a singer-songwriter who anticipated the massive shift in the music industry over the past decade. Her evolution from anonymously busking on Parisian streets to global acclaim is a story she’s told herself, in songs written for five albums on three different labels. The reason it took so long for Peyroux to get over in the business is that it simply was not possible when she started, 20 years ago; there was no market structure to support and sustain her artistry.

In a sense, the story of Madeleine Peyroux can be viewed the story of seismic shifts in the industry itself. Her presence as one of the top acts at this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival can be also viewed as a shift in the festival, which is making more of an effort to embrace the traditional jazz artists favored by fans and critics alike. Peyroux has always been one those artists hard-core jazz fans would have loved to see here, but never thought they actually would. When her name popped out from the lineup sheet, it was like a pleasant hallucination.

After three albums for Rounder, Standing On the Rooftop is Peyroux’s first for Decca Records, a legendary British imprint founded in 1929 and now owned by Vivendi/Universal. It holds a special place in the hearts of jazz fans for its early advocacy of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, but it has also been a major contributor to the American vocal tradition, in all its many forms. The Decca catalog is, arguably, the most extensive cross-section of American and British indigenous music ever compiled. (This year’s jazz festival’s headliners, Sonny Rollins and Chick Corea, are also currently signed to Decca.)

Decca has maintained that tradition into the present. Peyroux, an early auteur of the new hybrid style, joins a roster featuring Melody Gardot, Sarah Harmer, Sonya Kitchell, Imeda May, Jane Monheit, Krystina Myles, Hayley Westerna, Laura Wright and Nikki Yanofsky, in addition to a whole crop of up-and-coming crossover classical talents.

These ladies are the latest in a line that has included many of the all-time greatest female singers of jazz, blues, pop, gospel, country and classical music, people like the Andrews Sisters, Tori Amos, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Judy Garland, Connie Boswell, Jenny Lou Carson (first woman to write a #1 hit country song) Patsy Cline, Rosemary Clooney, Kathleen Ferrier, Ella Fitzgerald (youngest woman to lead a big-band), Jane Froman, Marilyn Horne, Kathy Kirby, Brenda Lee, Peggy Lee, Ute Lemper, Annie Lennox, Loretta Lynn, Vera Lynn, Dolly Parton, Leontyne Price, Lita Roza (first British singer to chart #1, with “how Much Is That Doggie In the Window?”), Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Kitty Wells (the first female country star) and Aziza Mustafa Zadeh. Note also that Billie Holiday, to whom Peyroux’s voice has been so frequently compared (although it’s changed so much over the years), recorded one album for Decca, The Lady Sings (1956), at their famous studio at Manhattan’s Pythian Temple.

For this album, Peyroux—who started out singing alone on streetcorners—has assembled a sterling cast of collaborators, including pianist Allen Toussaint, violinist Jenny Scheinman, guitar master Marc Ribot and Meshell Ndegeocello. Listeners will by now have an established idea of Peyroux the singer, but she challenges those perceptions with her most adventurous album yet, taking bold risks with an already-lucrative commercial brand. Producer Craig Street is best-known for his work on Norah Jones’ first album, arguably the most important record of the 21st century, as well as people like John Legend and Cassandra Wilson. He crafted a great sound, dense and haunting, but clear—a fine sonic foundation for Peyroux’s voice.

Peyroux wrote or co-wrote eight of the album’s 12 songs. Scheinman co-wrote two, as did David Batteau; “The Kind You Can’t Afford” was co-written with Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman. The album opens with “Martha My Dear”, a Lennon/McCartney chestnut. “Lay Your Sleeping Head, My Love” is a sleek, sophisticated lullaby for grown-ups, written by Ribot and Wyston Hugh Auden. The title-track sounds almost like indie-rock—anthemic affirmations over dissonant chords. When she sings “I have conquered all my fears”, the listener believes her.

For this writer, the album peaks with Peyroux’s lurching, ethereal cover of Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain”—one of the finest things she has ever recorded. Even experiments like the soft summery funk of “Meet Me In Rio” come off nicely; it’s iPod-ready for beach runs. But through it all, that voice is like the center-line on a road stretching and winding through past eras of music history, on into those unfolding as we speak. With a serious new album on a major jazz label, the years ahead may be her best yet. And even if she never quite eclipses the brilliance of Dreamland, to simply survive, thrive and progress is a victory, in and of itself.; April 16, 2012


Interview: Luiz Palhares and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu legacy


Passing the Torch: Luiz Palhares and the Gracie Jiu Jitsu legacy

Luiz Palhares, in-studio.

Fight fans will remember that day, two decades ago, as if it were yesterday: November 12, 1993. Denver hosted the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship that day, and Americans were introduced to the dominant martial-art of the last 20 years. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was already 50 years old by that point, yet fighters tasked with countering it got played like cheap fiddles, over and over. What began in a little facility in Southern California has now become a global industry as big as anything of its type, ever, and Duval is helping to lead the way.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is, along with kickboxing and amateur-style wrestling, the foundation of MMA as a sport and as a distinct, uniquely American art-form with real, inestimable value. Its practical applications are obvious, in an increasingly unstable world; close-quarters combat is what civilians face on the streets, and if you’re ever in a situation where escape is not an option, BJJ will save your life. It’s being taught to police officers, football players, pro-wrestlers; even the US Military has sought to integrate BJJ into methods that are already pretty gosh-darned effective. The Gracies have started teaching it to kids as part of their anti-bullying stance, and women are embracing it in unprecedented numbers, to the point that women’s MMA is itself a multi-million-dollar business.

The State of Florida has one of the country’s biggest and best BJJ scenes, with Northeast Florida right out in-front. Most of the major cities (Orlando, Tampa, Miami) have good schools now, and smaller cadres are training everywhere else, especially at college campuses, YMCAs and such. Many people consider Luiz Palhares one of the very best Jiu jitsu teachers in the US today, and his skills will be on display when his Jacksonville Gracie Jiu Jitsu studio in Mandarin (founded 2007) hosts the 5th Annual Jax BJJ Open on Saturday, March 24.

A native of Rio de Janeiro, Palhares began training under the late Rolls Gracie from 1976-82, then continued his studies under his brothers Carlson and, since 1982, Rickson, widely viewed as the most dominant professional fighter of his generation. Palhares, 53, is currently a 7th Degree Black Belt; he’s taught in the US and Canada, as well as Paris, London and Belfast, and his students have included US Army Rangers, Green Berets and Navy SEALs. He was the multi-time champ of Rio, the 1998 Brazilian National Champion and the Pan American Champion for 2000, 2003 and 2004, all in the super-heavyweight senior division. In the big, wide world of BJJ, it doesn’t get any more authentic than Luiz Palhares. He’s worn the black belt for almost 30 years, and he earned it from the absolute best. His presence speaks directly to Northeast Florida’s growing international appeal.

SDH: What’s it like to learn the art-form in such an intense environment as Rio in the 1970s and ‘80s? Was it as tough as we’ve heard from legend (and the “Gracie In-Action” tapes)?

LP: The 1970s where a lot of fun even though they were intense, and I was fortunate to be present when the Gracie family challenged Karate, Tai Kwan Do and other martial arts styles to prove as Rolls did in the first 2 UFCs that jiu jitsu is the best martial arts to defend yourself. Also it was the same time that Brazilian women started to wear the teeny bikini, so it was tough to dedicate the hours we did. It was a very intense and dangerous environment.


SDH: Most fans never got to see Rolls Gracie, and even those of us who know a bit about the Gracie legacy know very little about him, but he was your first teacher. What was he like? How would he feel to see how far Gracie Jiu Jitsu has come over the past 30 years?

LP: Rolls was very important for the development of jiu jitsu because he was studying different martial arts such as wrestling, Sambo etc. and started to use the best techniques from these martial arts to mix with jiu jitsu. Besides this, he was one of the best competitors and one of the best coaches I saw in my life. He would be very proud to see jiu jitsu spread on all five continents. I’m sure he would be happy to know that all his students are traveling and teaching jiu jitsu all over the world.


SDH: What brought you to Florida, specifically Jacksonville? How long have you been here?

LP: I came to Florida for the warn weather, escaping from Virginia Beach where I was teaching the Navy SEALs and at a few schools. Since I was born and raised on the beach, I really missed that environment. I have now been living in Jacksonvlle for 5 years, opened two schools, one in Mandarin and the other one in Orange Park. Also, for more than four years I have been teaching at the JSO on a regular basis.

When the toughest men in the world want to get even tougher, they train in Gracie Jiu Jitsu...

SDH: What are your favorite and least-favorite things about living here?

LP: What I like most about Jacksonville are the people and the beach. What I hate is the traffic.

SDH: Could you explain to readers the differences, if any, between the Jiu jitsu associated with the Gracies and the style you teach? How much variety exists among the approaches taken by the trainers you’ve encountered?

LP: I have been teaching the jiu jitsu lifestyle, the same way I was taught by the Gracies. Jiu jitsu is a type of martial arts that continues to develop and I keep up to date on these new techniques for my students. This doesn’t mean that I left the roots of self-defense and I always explain to my students that martial arts is also about friendship and loyalty. There is a lot variety among the trainers, but a big concern is the large number of inexperienced instructors teaching jiu jitsu.

SDH: Who are some of your favorite students?

LP: It’s difficult to answer who my favorite students are, because I am teaching my two sons and most of my students are friends including the kids. If I start naming some of them I’m sure to forget others. Some of my students have gone on to start their own schools all over the US and Europe.

SDH: How would you assess the Jiu jitsu scene in Florida, relative to other parts of the country? How many schools/students would you estimate there are right now?

LP: The jiu jitsu scene in Florida is over-crowded, which speaks to the success of the true jiu jitsu lifestyle. There are hundreds of jiu jitsu schools across Florida with tens of thousands of students.

SDH: If someone reading this wanted to begin training in Jiu jitsu, what can they do to prepare themselves before calling you? Does one need to be at a particular level of conditioning first, or can someone out-of-shape start immediately?

LP: Jiu jitsu was made for the weak, out of shape or regular people who do not have enough time to work out to defend themselves on the street. Remember jiu jitsu is not about strength, it’s about leverage and technique. Anyone who brings a copy of this article to either one of my two locations, or the JSO, can have one free week.

SDH: Who would you consider the top-five best Brazilian Jiu jitsu practitioners active today, and/or of all-time?

LP: I consider Carson, Royler, Rolls, Rickson and Helio Gracie all-time best jiu jitsu practitioners. Active today among my top best are Roger Gracie, Michae lLanghi, Lucas Lepri, and Rodolfo Vieira. jitsu/160973310596945; March 12, 2012

Top Billin’: Sonny Rollins booked for 2012 Jacksonville Jazz Festival.


Mayor Alvin Brown was the star at a press conference held Thursday morning, Feb. 9, to formally announce the 2012 Jacksonville Jazz Festival, which will be held downtown May 24-27. The big news coming out can be summed-up in just two words: “Sonny Rollins”. Jazz fans will need no further embellishment, but for the uninitiated (and becoming a hard-core jazz fan is kind of like an initiation): With the sole exception of Dave Brubeck, Rollins is the world’s greatest living jazz musician, a man whose influence permeates almost the totality of the music in the 60+ years since he first made his name in post-bop New York.

One must note, also, the presence of two other masters among a lineup that is still being finalized: Chick Corea and Terence Blanchard. But the booking of Rollins, who at age 82 does not play concerts that often anymore, and rarely outside the areas more epicentric to the music, is a major coup of historic proportions. He is probably the most important musician to work our festival since those peak years when Dizzy Gillespie headlined multiple festivals toward the end of his life. But that was the ‘80s—a whole different world. The idea of Sonny Rollins appearing in Jacksonville, Florida in 2012 will, for some, be interpreted as a sign of imminent apocalypse; a heavy cynic might wonder if the world is destined to end the day before.

By attaching his name to the festival, Brown does it a service by basically making the festival brand symbiotic with his own. This is a great move, for his own interests, and it also puts a bit of pressure on him to make sure the festival’s long-term momentum is maintained. There were deep initial concerns about its very future coming into this year. Funding for Office of Special Events (which also oversees things like the World of Nations festival and Veterans Day parade) had been in some jeopardy during the last few years of budget battles; while truly significant cuts were not made, the specter of such cuts—and their disastrous effect on the city’s cultural identity—was often invoked by the Peyton administration in its later years.

Those fears, stoked by Peyton, caught fire soon after Brown succeeded him. Those now-infamous staff cuts last year hit the OSE hard, resulting in the elimination of its two top people. Theresa O’Donnell-Price and Christina Langston-Hughes were two of the unsung heroes of city government in the first decade of this century, skillfully implementing the mayor’s mandate to restore the vitality of a festival that had seen better days. Last year’s festival turned out to be their last at the OSE and, headlined by Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers, one of the best ever. But Brown, at that point less than a month in as Mayor-Elect, was on vacation at the time, so he missed seeing what they could actually do—and within a few months, they were shown the door as unceremoniously as everyone else.

Losing them both, simultaneously, was the biggest blow to the festival as an institution since the scandalous staff cuts at WJCT that led directly to the collapse of the festival under its direction in the late-‘90s. It was a dark day for local jazz fans, that’s for sure, and anxiety about the future has only built-up since. Initial buzz on the 2012 festival has already gone a long way toward assuaging many of these concerns, but more can be done. In a nutshell, there should be a heavy representation of local artists at the festival, the businesses of the Urban Core need to be better-integrated into the overall experience, and the City should take the lead in establishing an even stronger presence for the festival in media, both in terms of social media, as well as trying to strengthen relationships with local and national media.

After WJCT basically washed their hands of the logistics, and the country caught its first taste of the post-9/11 economic instability, it was a gamble to invest public money in the Jazz Festival. (Bear in mind, there are people who oppose its public funding even now, despite the overwhelming evidence of disproportionate upside, in terms of economic impact. If all public monies could generate such direct and visceral return on investment, the whole world would be different right now.) But Peyton did it anyway, in early signs that he was far more moderate than he ever got credit for, and I think we can all agree that the gamble paid off.

It’s entirely likely that, had anyone else become mayor in 2003, the Jacksonville Jazz Festival would have never survived into the 21st century—the third century of jazz music, which was born in Storyville, New Orleans, in the late 1800s. For this, Peyton will surely someday join Jake Godbold among former mayors enshrined in the festival’s Hall of Fame. At this rate, Brown may end up there, too. He’s got a real gift for the kind of retail politics that work so well in the south, and initiatives like this put those skills out-front.

Having written more about the festival’s modern incarnation than any other reporter (if not all of them, combined), I can say that he’s done the two things I’ve always recommended the political leadership do: 1) Take advantage of the festival’s ability to bridge gaps among citizens, and 2) Bring Sonny Rollins to town. It will be curious to see if the national jazz media gives the festival a bit more hype now; we’ll see about that.

New Kids On the Block: Whistling Princess brings vintage style downtown.


The historic W.A. Knight Building has been through several incarnations since it was built back in 1926. The upper floors currently houses some of the most interesting apartment-spaces in the city’s urban core, while its ground-floor was best-known as the home of Chew, one of the city’s best restaurants and anchor in the mini-renaissance that’s happened downtown over the past decade. But now, with Chew closed, destined for relocation into the new complex being built by its owners in Five Points, Adams Street now sees its identity changing.

The newest addition to Adams Street is the Whistling Princess, which proprietor Lynn Alaia describes as a “boutique thrift-store”. For years, Alaia (who also works right around the corner at Chamblin Uptown) has evolved her hobby of collecting vintage clothing into a viable business, run through her store, “ThriftShark”. It’s a more than just a nickname for her—it’s a brand. She spends countless hours scouring the region’s thrift-stores, estate sales, etc. (usually while wearing gloves) in search of the kind of unique and valuable rarities she stocks online. Over time, the stock overwhelmed her Riverside apartment, so she decided to put some of it into a store-front, which saved her space at home while opening new avenues to promote and expand upon the online business. Sitting just yards away from Laura Street, it would be almost impossible to find a more highly-visible location.

Whistling Princess appeals to the same clientele, but with an emphasis on accessibility and rapid turnover. Most items in the store cost less than $20, and nothing costs more than $40. There will be bins of items for $5 and even just $1; there are rumors that they might actually have a bin of free stuff, which can only be had if the customer consents to be photographed wearing it out of the store. (I suggested calling it “the Blackmail Bin”.)

The store also carries items from Burro Bags, as well as jewelry hand-made by Rayna Reichstadter (who also maintains an Etsy store: “BijuBee”); her husband Richard is caretaker of the building and a driving force behind many of the art-shows, concerts and such featured in the space to-date. With his father and brother both veteran jewelers themselves, it’s no surprise that his wife has taken to the art so adeptly, and in less than a year, at that. They will also be hosting monthly vegan dinners prepared by Dig Foods, whose products have already attracted a passionate following from working ArtWalk in the same space. It will instructive to see how this project proceeds through 2012.; January 19, 2012

Notes on 9/11, 1998 and the 2012 Election


Notes on 9/11 and the 2012 race

1998 was a long time ago—13 years, to be exact. It was an entirely different world then; the physical dimensions are the same, the topography has been only slightly altered, and the water and air aren’t that much filthier than they were—except in certain parts of China, Mexico and everywhere else. One thing that has changed dramatically, though, is the way people think about the world, especially in the United States and Europe. There were, to be sure, mass quantities of what actor/musician Tricky called “pre-millennium tension”, small wars and mild recessions, and individual concerns always abound, but folks were generally wildly optimistic about what awaited their country and the world in the new century ahead.

“Optimistic” is not the optimal word to describe how people are feeling now. Things have changed a little bit, thanks to 19 men who, on September 11, 2001 used four hijacked planes to set all-time records (in both individual and team categories) for the fastest time a human soul was sent directly to Hell. They didn’t just hijack planes; they hijacked the future of the entire human race, beginning with the United States itself. All the hard work of the post-war era to build the greatest economy ever, the strongest military in history, the most awesome industrial, agricultural and technological force that ever has or ever possibly could exist on this Earth again—all backed by delicate interlocking diplomatic and trade relations that our nation has been developing since the days of Patton—was undone in ten years flat.

How? For years, America’s enemies openly theorized and strategized about how to break our control over their affairs. Eventually, Osama bin Laden and “al-Qaeda” (whatever the hell it actually is) came along and developed a plan to make this country break itself by drawing it into a war of attrition that would a) bleed the US economy, b) drive a wedge between the US and its allies, and c) provide cover for further attacks against other targets. This is not conspiracy theory; these are their own words, but I would advise you against trying to look it up.

It’s highly unlikely that the billionaire guerilla warfare experts did not scout their enemy and figure the context in which their action and the repercussions would occur. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were probably of no strategic value to al-Qaeda at all, other than getting rid of mutual foe Saddam Hussein; they even game-planned for that by placing Zarqawi in Iraq well in advance of the war. No doubt alliances were formed and friendships made in those places, but it’s unlikely that suicidal, homicidal, genocidal madmen would really be all that concerned for collateral damage; they’ve pretty much made that clear.

On the whole, though, holding that territory or protecting the people there was never a priority; the point was to make America spend money and political capital they knew could not be sustained for very long. How did they know? Because everyone in America knew. The need for balanced budgets, to reign-in spending and pay-down debt, to press for peace in the Middle East (while eschewing nation-building) and to crack down on predatory violence in the streets of our own country, was uniformly acknowledged by both nominees in that ridiculous 2000 election, and Bush came into office on a similar track as both presidents before him. But 9/11 put an end to all that.

Now, how exactly does 9/11 this relate to the 2012 presidential election, and what do either of them have to do with the year 1998? Good question. Basically, as the events of 9/11 must necessarily continue to shape the political future of our country, so too should they stand as a window through which can see the past anew. In the years leading up to the 2001, the biggest issue in American politics was the impeachment of Bill Clinton. So fully did this story occupy the business of government, it became a major issue in the 2000 election, by way of a distracting debate on “values” that helped swing the race toward the Bush—which was the point all along. Congressional Republicans never seriously thought removing Clinton was possible, but they correctly figured it could be used as a wedge to weaken Democrats and smooth the way toward an eventual retaking of the White House.

The last years of the Clinton era were helmed by a lame-duck president whose credibility had been sapped so badly that even his ill-fated retaliatory strikes against al-Qaeda in 1998 were dismissed, by many observers, as a distraction from his impeachment. Bush then took office under a cloud of electoral drama, and was not even considered the legitimate President by much of the world until 9/11 galvanized support for America and allowed him to consolidate power, in a form that held for five years. In other words, the United States had a significant power vacuum that opened on January 16, 1998 (the day the Lewinsky story hit the media) and did not finally close until 9/11. That three-and-a-half year period (in particular, those last 24 months of the Clinton era) was the time in which government intervention could have possibly prevented the massive terrorist strikes that eventually took place.

The historical record now reflects that multiple individuals, working independently of each other in different branches of government and law-enforcement, most of whom had zero knowledge of the others’ existence, discovered aspects of the 9/11 plot as well as some of the people involved in its planning and execution. The record also reflects that, in pretty much all cases, their efforts to expand their investigations were scuttled. Now, there is no evidence of any willful negligence by the assorted functionaries implicated in all this, so one can presume that all these different requests were denied because their superiors thought it just wasn’t that important. There was no unified, coherent counter-terror message coming from government prior to 9/11, despite clear evidence (such as a steady, consistent escalation of the size, scope and audacity of previous attacks) that something was coming.

Why? Because the time, energies and mental resources of our political and media class in that period were almost totally wrapped-up in the impeachment of Bill Clinton on spurious, non-essential charges unrelated to his actual functionality as President. Given that the ranking House and Senate members who allowed that charade to proceed were also among the same ones who received the highly-classified briefings that documented the growing threat in the 1990s, one is inclined to ascribe some level of incompetence to their conduct. One is further inclined to hope that anyone involved in pushing the impeachment hype would be forever disqualified from ever holding public office again, or at least the Presidency.

By the time of Florida’s GOP primary on January 31, the field will have been narrowed down to four main candidates: Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and front-runner Mitt Romney. Of these four, Romney (who was in the private sector back then) is the only one who had no role whatsoever in the impeachment hype, and as such is the only Republican in this field worthy of anything resembling an endorsement. Indeed, while Paul is a perpetual candidate, one with no obvious intent of ever becoming president, the presence of Gingrich and Santorum in the race is an unpleasant reminder of the days when America laid down for terrorism.

As Speaker Of the House, Newt Gingrich holds more responsibility than almost anyone else to force the impeachment process to its embarrassing conclusion. In fact, it could be said that the only good thing to come out of the impeachment debacle is that it precipitated the end of Gingrich’s career in public service. The man’s third act could bring the curtain down on our entire way of life, and if it does, it will be our fault for not having seen it coming.; January 13, 2012

Big Top Brawl: Ringling Bros. sparks protests over elephant abuse (with a lengthy disgression related to the depravity of SeaWorld).


Hey, kids: The circus is coming to town! I bet you can’t wait, right? Sure. It is reasonable to assume that we have all had some type of fascination with circuses at some time in our lives, and why not? The visual spectacle of exotic animals and aerial artistry makes a profound impact on the minds of kids; for most, it is the first truly huge, overwhelmingly awesome event of their lives. For most people, it’s just a passing fancy, a relic of childhood soon displaced in our minds by visions of comely contortionists, chicken geekery and other Jim Rose-style freaky, while many are instantly hooked, and remain so forever.

Either way, the circus facilitates our collective introduction into the carny arts and ignites a creative spark that never really goes away. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus is the gold-standard of such operations, and it rarely fails to draw rapturous crowds as it packs every venue it hits on the road. A business that began in rickety canvas tents, waterproofed with highly-flammable chemicals, now commands top dollar in some of America’s biggest and most-prestigious arenas, from Madison Square Garden on down. Fans come from miles around for the acrobats and the clowns, but what really masses the marks are the animal acts—specifically, the lions, tigers and elephants. It is this, the most popular aspect of their operation, that has proven the most controversial, and a local organization is working to make sure their latest visit to Northeast Florida does not come off without a hitch.

Jax Protest takes a narrow, specific focus on what they characterize as the maltreatment of elephants trained to perform under the big top. Their website is replete with relevant data, as well as pictures that speak for themselves. “For animals in circuses,” they write, “there is no such thing as ‘positive reinforcement’—only varying degrees of punishment and deprivation. To force them to perform these meaningless and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks and other painful tools of the trade. In the Ringling Bros. circus, elephants are beaten, hit, prodded and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody. Ringling breaks the spirit of elephants when they’re vulnerable babies who should still be with their mothers.” Brutal stuff, all of which Ringling denies, of course.

The group denounces Ringling not only for the harshness of their training methods, but also for the conditions in which the animals are forced to live, work and travel: “Constant travel means that animals are confined to boxcars, trailers, or trucks for days at a time in extremely hot and cold weather … Elephants, big cats, bears, and primates are confined to cramped and filthy cages in which they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate—all in the same place. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus boasts that its two units travel more than 25,000 miles as the circus tours the country for 11 months each year. Ringling’s own documents reveal that on average, elephants are chained for more than 26 hours straight and are sometimes continually chained for as many as 60 to 100 hours.”

“JaxProtest members are a 100% volunteer group,” they write. “We come together to help those who have no voice. We are teachers, MMA fighters, web designers, stay at home mothers, retired military, students and everyone in between.” The group plans to protest all seven of Ringling Bros. planned performances at the Veterans Memorial Arena downtown, which are spread out over four days between January 19 and 22. To this end, they have partnered with like-minded organizations like the Girls Gone Green, the Animal Rights Foundation and OccupyJax. Headhunter Muai Thai also supports Jax Protest; the fact that some of its members train there makes for a nice counter to the widespread perception of animal-rights activists as, well, geeks. (They’re in the Relson Gracie Academy on Beach Blvd., and worth checking out.) It also makes sense, given the elephant’s prominent positioning within Thai culture. Another collaborator, the Lotus Elephant Sanctuary, has gone so far as to begin preparations to establish its own wild elephant preserve in Laos.

I’m not much of a circus fan (though I do try to catch the awesome all-black Universoul Circus on their yearly swing through the area). While the animal-rights aspect of the argument is plenty compelling, for me the issue pivots on the question of children’s rights—specifically, the right to not be traumatized by these periodic animal freak-out sessions that have, on occasion, been precipitated by the mistreatment of animals. If an animal ran amok in the crowd or maimed its handler in the presence of kids, that outfit should be banned from that particular city forever, and investigations should immediately commence into any possible causalities. Ringling has a responsibility to lead on this issue, so that smaller circuses cannot use any laxity up-top as an excuse for failure down below.

Ringling has so far been able to avoid the disgusting, depraved moral and ethical lapses of SeaWorld, whose executives are some of the biggest pieces of scumbag trash anywhere in the United States today—and if you know any of them, please tell them I said so! The Tilikum debacle should have been sufficient to shut the whole thing down. Instead they were able the a) basically bury the negligent homicide of their own employee by claiming the victim got herself killed through her own incompetence, then b) keep a killer whale known to be lethally-dangerous to its own species and to people (including its closest human companion) performing for the public, whose children will absolutely be forced to watch that thing kill again, on their dime.

Ringling Brothers should be mindful of the piss-poor example set by SeaWorld (not to be confused with “Sea World”, an entirely unrelated Australian company that does pretty much the exact same thing, but better and safer—they like to make that clear). Tilikum was born in the wild, abducted at age two, separated from his family and forced to live with older, non-related orcas that physically abused him on a regular basis. He was trained at Sealand in Canada, using methods that included deliberate starvation, and perhaps worse.

It was there where he killed a 20 year-old female trainer in 1991; it was deemed it an accident—he didn’t do it, he just helped the others do it—and they kept him working. Like a pedophile priest, he was transferred—appropriately enough, to Florida, a state that openly, gleefully encourages the presence of all violent predatory animals, even those that aren’t human. Whether his history raised any red flags, or whether his new handlers were even informed of that history, remains unclear, but since this is Florida we can presume they did know, and just didn’t care. Well, obviously, they don’t care, and never did—we have the public record to tell us that.

They found a man’s naked body in his tank in 1999. SeaWorld said the guy sneaked in drunk, which implies that they kept a known killer under such lax protection that someone could get into the tank when the park was closed, even if they were drunk and naked. Luckily, it was not some intrepid pipsqueak looking to get a closer look at the beautiful orca, or a terrorist hoping to channel Tilikum’s insane killing power for jihad. His third killing, in 2010, fit the modus operandi of the first: grabbed by the orca and thrown around the pool until dead. Dawn Brancheau was a 16-year veteran who knew this beast better than anyone, so she didn’t die quick, unfortunately for her; her jaw, ribs and neck were broken and her spinal cord severed before she drowned, paralyzed, at the bottom.

At least a dozen people had to watch that woman die, but were powerless to save her. It was SeaWorld’s job to keep her safe, and they neglected that duty so profoundly that the park’s continued existence is a disgrace. Brancheau should be a martyr for workplace safety, and the video of her death should be made public, so Americans will understand the pressing need to put these people out of business. Instead, OSHA issued a whitewashed report, a bullshit $75,000 fine, and Tilikum was back entertaining the masses a year later. As the kids say, “OMG!” Suffice to say SeaWorld is so depraved, even Tommy Lee has voiced concerns.

Among the dozens of serious attacks on humans by killer whales, only one has happened in the wild, and that was in 1972. Either the captivity contributes to the aggression, or humans have somehow successfully captured only the most violent specimens. One should note here that Tilikum, who’s spent 28 of his 30 years captive, is himself implicated in 75% of all documented human deaths related to orcas, which makes a compelling case for causalityg. In this increasingly unstable economy, all it takes is one unfortunate incident to torpedo a company, even one as big, as rich and as historic as the Greatest Show On Earth. Just one more elephant, or a single overly aggressive lion, could do to the entire circus industry what fires, economic depression, two world wars and brutal train-wrecks could not: Kill business forever. So, it’s probably best not to beat them, right? Sure. We’ll see how that works out for them.; January 2, 2012

Notes on Occupy Orlando


Raising the Bar: Occupy Orlando sets the regional standard.

This reporter, who lives in Jacksonville, recently spent a couple of days visiting Occupy Orlando, which was then in its third week. The Occupy movement began in New York City, then quickly went national as graphic evidence of police misconduct inspired others to start their own local offshoots in solidarity. As such, while each Occupy location does have certain features common to all, they mostly reflect the distinctive character of the cities and towns they are situated in.

Having already spent hundreds of hours researching the subject in general, including communications with insiders, observers and other journalists at Occupations around this country, the chance to sprint south and check out the scene in Orange County was welcomed eagerly. It certainly helps that Orlando is a beautiful city with great food, from eateries like Dandelion Community Cafe and Ethos Vegan Café, multi-media madness at Rock and Roll Heaven and Park Avenue CDs, which is the best record store in all of Florida. Right around the corner, Stardust Video and Coffee makes epic soups and sandwiches and a massive selection of DVDs for rental. Each Monday evening, their parking lot hosts the Audubon Park Community Market, while the Homegrown Local Food Cooperative ( provides sustainable fruits, vegetables and dairy to homes and restaurants throughout Central Florida.

The city’s impressive development in the half-century since Disney’s arrival makes it an ideal location in which to weigh the costs and benefits of the corporatized society the Occupiers stand opposed to. The fact that so many of them (the students, in particular) are beneficiaries of this system does not invalidate their position; rather, it reinforces their responsibility to get involved.

After putting the word out via social media (the author maintains the greatest Facebook page ever, full disclosure), about two hours elapsed before receiving a phone call from Brook Hines, part of their Media Relations team. At 45, her experience in the media and public relations world was put to good use. This type of rapid response and vigor in regard to outreach efforts has been crucial to their rapid success in a state that is generally almost devoid of large-scale progressive activism of any kind. As she puts it, “We want to work with the city, rather than crash it.”

There were veterans of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Some got their first taste of politics via the Obama 2000 campaign. Others are veterans of older movements, including the assorted presidential campaigns of Ralph Nader, Ross Perot and Dennis Kucinich. A smaller segment comprised folks old enough to have participated in the seminal protest movements of the 1960s; for many old-school activists, these may be the final act in their political lives.

As Hines wrote in one of the group’s press releases: “Like Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Orlando is a leaderless movement, but it is far from disorganized. Coordination takes place online and at daily General Assemblies where … participants present ideas and dialogue until reaching consensus. Then, we take action to accomplish out collectively approved goals. The formation of multiple committees, including media, medical, peacekeeping, legal, transportation, food, event facilitation and materials preparation, enables all participants to contribute to the movement.”

The actual Occupation of Orlando commenced on Saturday, October 15, but planning began two weeks earlier, including two General Assemblies held at the Orange County Regional History Center. The date was announced in advance, a website was set up, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds built, supplies gathered, responsibilities designated and promotional materials (flyers, buttons, posters, etc.) prepared. They even sent out a letter soliciting the support of local businesses. The work paid off. The first event was arguably the biggest political protest ever held in Orlando, drawing between several hundred and a couple thousand participants, depending on who you ask.

Beth Johnson Park is just a quarter-mile or so down the street from Boom Art Gallery, a shop showcasing the brilliant hand-crafted work of Glenn and Sandy Rogers, which they describe as “the fusion of functional furniture and nostalgic art”. Their client list is awesome, and includes Ann-Margaret, Jay Leno, Paul Shaffer, Jeff Foxworthy, Mandy Moore, Robert Plant, Carrot Top and Shaquille O’Neal.

The art is must-see, and the artists are two of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Glenn’s dual backgrounds in fine art and as an International Flooring and Home Furnishings Designer led to a diverse career that included technical work on Broadway, shows, art exhibits in SOHO, storyboarding the “Mr. Whipple” commercials for Charmin, acting credits in Hollywood and the New York stage; he also helped create the Yellow brick Road used in The Wiz. The Rogers met and married during their 15 years spent touring together as clowns in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Sandy was, for seven years, Director of it Clown College, in which capacity she helped train Steve-O. Unsurprisingly, they offered full support for Occupy Orlando.

“This is redress of grievances, not a wedge-issue protest,” said Matthew, a 23 year-old student and musician part of a group of young people sitting on blankets in the park one day. His group included several people who’d been part of the OWS group, but were reticent about sharing further details with a journalist.

Over 2,000 people had taken part in the occupation, over 200 of whom spoke at the General Assemblies; and another 10,000 people had expressed support online in just the first five days, and those numbers spiked in subsequent weeks as Occupy caught steam nationally and Occupy Orlando started getting mainstream attention.

Like many of their fellow Occupy operations, the Orlando group maintained a camera streaming content directly to Depending on the size of the crowd and the amount of activity in a given city at any given time, most full-time occupations run live video 24/7, while others fill the “dead” time with video of earlier activity; some cities have more than one feed, in addition to whatever is being done by individuals. This type of instant connectivity isn’t just great for outsiders (advocates and critics alike) to watch what’s going on directly and interpret for themselves. It is crucial for the actual occupiers in each of those cities, who can now learn from each other in real-time, share knowledge, adjust their methods, streamline tactics and goals, as well as networking.

Maybe no other city in Florida has brought in as much money from multinational corporations than Orlando, but there are many ways to quantify it. But its public image is tied-in with Disney and Universal Studios in a way no other city is with the many large companies doing business in them. Theme-park money spurred tremendous growth, and the landscape reflects it, especially compared to the relative bleakness and desolation of the outlying areas like Winter Park, Casselberry, Maitland and Ocoee. (The blank-yet-knowing looks on the faces of the kids working at the Walgreens and Steak and Shake in Apopka made me want to adopt them all, or at least write them recommendation letters to the UNF.) Mass-transit out there sucks, putting the lower-income families living out there at a persistent competitive disadvantage for jobs and schooling, the youth in particular.

The reader has probably seen the video(s) from Zucotti Park, where those three wee lasses felt the hot stuff (which really hurts, by the way). Note that at least one officer was already conducting a discussion with the ladies related to their refusal to get up and leave. While not exactly cordial, it was civil until his colleague imposed his own will upon the proceedings. The original cop’s agitated response, directed toward the one who deployed the burning, stinging mist into a group of civilians and fellow NYPD officers, presaged later confirmation of prior complains against the same guy at political events.

The nefarious action of one cop means little compared to the historic reputation of a department that saves and improves the lives of people every day, nor does it mean that the women sprayed that day were necessarily right. But the incident was recorded from a number of angles, and the targets were highly intelligent, well-connected members of a well-organized protest operation that was already ongoing in New York, with affiliated groups already starting elsewhere. The hardest part of civil disobedience is to not fight back when violence is used; that’s why most people generally want no part of it.

NYPD handed Occupy an image to, for lack of a better word, brand their movement, and like all good brands, it has staying power: young people being pushed around for engaging in political protest. Thanks to cell-phone cameras, YouTube and streaming video sites, a huge portion of the thousands of Occupy-related arrests have been documented, replete with scores of clear-cut incidents of abuse. The situation in Oakland alone could fill a book; surely a number of student protesters will apply their field experience directly to the classroom.

It only took a few good squirts of poorly-aimed pepper-spray to transform Occupy Wall Street into a national movement, and Florida is doing its part

 Beth Johnson Park sits at 57 S. Ivanhoe Blvd. It curves off the I-4. Whether approaching from any angle, the first thing one will see is the American Flag. Currently, Beth Johnson Park closes at 11pm. All citizens must vacate by then, but the sidewalk is not subject to those rules. As such, Occupy Orlando adopted what’s called “Sidewalk Solidarity” by standing on the sidewalk in shifts, 24/7. However, the law does prohibit sleeping on the sidewalk, sitting down on it, or sitting in a chair (all activities that are allowed in the actual park when it’s open). Sleepyheads make use of a privately-owned parking lot across the street, 20 feet away. Although trespassing charges was raised by police, they did not occur because the lot’s owner either refused to make a complain, or was otherwise not present.

This is just among the many examples of how, despite the anti-capitalist talking points and the alarmist rhetoric of commercial media, sizeable portions of the business community around the country are exerting subtle forms of support for Occupy activities. Another is that the nearby Doubletree Hotel offers its bathroom facilities for the occupiers. (Note also that Zucotti Park, the epicenter of Occupy Wall Street, is itself owned by a billion-dollar corporation that clearly has no issue with their presence, as long as they clean up after themselves.)

Most occupiers have chosen to heed those rules, but as expected others forced the point. Occupy Orlando took a huge, risky step forward on the night of October 22, when a small group of activists chose to openly defy city rules and remain in the park after 11. They, as individuals, chose to stage their own independent action without the approval of the General Assembly; some 200 people were doing Sidewalk Solidarity at the time. Some allege it was a blatant publicity stunt, others that it was an attempt to be more aggressive in the face of political power.

This civil disobedience resulted in Trespassing arrests for 19 people, including two women and a juvenile. By all accounts, the police were entirely professional in doing their job. (It’s always worth noting that law-enforcement has very little actual influence on the crafting and implementation of our nation’s laws, and citizens are worse off for it.) If it was a publicity stunt, it worked perfectly by forcing the occupation into commercial media, thus helping to grow the numbers. Another 13 arrests were made a few days later, as activists refused to vacate the park following the teach-ins on November 5—Guy Fawkes Day, incidentally, and also a day after the epochal success of Bank Transfer Day.


Among those 19 arrested that night was a wheelchair­-bound young man who had been doing unpaid volunteer work for President Obama’s national reelection campaign, similar to his activities in 2008. His disability leaves him unable to do most types of work, so he lives at home with his family, on a fixed income, while he pursues his studies. Like many people in his position, he’s felt the heat of price increases and the pressures exerted on many Americans as state legislatures around the country clip strategic holes in the social safety net; those concerns manifest as political action.

His involvement with Occupy Orlando was as a private citizen, not as any type of representative for an Obama campaign that many critics allege the Occupy movement is designed to help, much as the Tea Party ultimately served Republican interests. However, after the news of his arrest became public, he was dismissed from his official duties and rendered persona non grata, on the pretense that his arrest brought negative publicity to a campaign that hasn’t even been officially declared yet.

Further, the fellowship that made the delicate balancing act of his student life possible was immediately pulled, throwing his educational future into some doubt. The crushing news was delivered by telephone, by a supervisor who was either unwilling or unable to say exactly who made the decision, or to delineate the process by which his life was ruined. He was still emotionally wrecked, visibly and palpably so, as I spoke to him ten days later; the police who arrested him were downright kind, compared to the allies who shafted him, over a petty charge that will most be dropped.

Yet, despite this life-altering humiliation, the young man was insistent that his name not be used here, because that’s how strongly he feels about reelecting Obama. That, in a nutshell, in what the Occupy movement is about: Young (and not-so-young people doing what they think is right, despite the extreme consequences that may result. His plan now is to hit the road, visiting and collaborating with other Occupy operations in places like New York, DC and Chicago, culminating with the ongoing actions in the city of his birth, Philadelphia.

Many activists on the scene gave vocal credit to students from the University of Central Florida. Many of those UCF “Knights” have lived up to the moniker, in terms of their contributions to the effort, from logistics to publicity.


            October 25 saw 15 Occupy Orlando activists expanding outreach efforts even further by sitting in to show support for the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1596, which was negotiating with the Board of Directors for LYNX, Orlando’s bus system. According to a press release, “Drivers have not seen wage increase in three years and are being offered only a 0.5 percent wage increase at a time when inflation for food is forecast to rise as much as 4.5 percent.” They had no obvious effect on negotiations, which remain calcified, but it made for valuable experience.

            Such action has become a worthwhile habit.      The day before, Occupy Orlando sent  27 people in business clothes to the Orange County Legislative Delegation meeting, where they had meetings with state representatives from both parties. Occupy has also become a regular presence at meetings of the Orange County School Board and the Orlando City Council.

November 1 was Day 18 of the occupation, and coincided with the “Awake the State” rally. The day’s most popular whipping boy was the local Chamber of Commerce. It operates out of a large multi-story building adjacent to the park, yet reportedly pays only $1 in property taxes per year. Spicing the brew, Mayor Buddy Dyer had apparently, a couple days prior, made the astoundingly absurd claim that there was no corporate money at all in Orlando. 

A low makeshift stage was laid out near the entrance to the park, placing the Chamber building (and the sunset) behind the speakers. Their modest PA was sufficient. Speakers included an older activist whose rights to vote had been forfeited via felony; he copped to his mistakes, and urged everyone else to cast the votes he could not. The owner of Dandelion talked about the wildly disproportionate environmental impact fees that undermined profitability and her ability to hire new workers. A member of the teachers’ union noted that Florida teachers haven’t received a cost-of-living wage increase in three years; “Education cuts don’t heal”, she said. The delightful Sundrop Carter brought glad tidings from the United Auto Workers, who are stepping up organizing efforts in Florida, a state basically built around the automobile.

Although no elected officials made their presence felt on Day 18, the crowd did include a number of veteran political insiders, as well as a couple of candidates. Mike Cantone, 28, is seeking to unseat mayor Buddy Dyer in next year’s elections (scheduled for April 4, 2012). He comes off as a smart, earnest young man who’s quickly developing a certain facility with the lingo of leadership. Having myself run for Jacksonville City Council in Jacksonville earlier this year, I was curious about how his new-reality based, grass-roots approach would fare against an entrenched incumbent like Dyer.

 He began smartly, with a streamlined and systematic approach to his platform. He broke it down into seven key components; for each he created quick, one-line synopses of his vision, then identified a number of forward-thinking proposals he would implement in order to methodically each component of the larger agenda. Listed alphabetically, they are: Clean Energy (4), Coordination (3), Education (4), Innovation (10), Public Safety (7), Quality of Life (6). As a Jacksonville resident, I appreciate the catchphrase “A Bold new Vision for Orlando” even more than his slogan, “I Like Mike!”

As one might expect, he’s fully-synchronous with social media, and his promo materials are well-done; they’re also union-made. The aesthetic centers on soothing blues and greens, reminiscent of the city’s waters and lush plant-life. The candidate’s picture is good, with a nice sunset background, but it can be improved upon.

We both agreed that the non-partisan, “unitary”-style elections held at local levels offer the best chance to get new progressive talent into office, as opposed to the standard process, which allows Democratic gatekeepers to freeze out any dissenting voices. As we have both noted repeatedly, the great efforts made by Occupy so far will be wasted unless they translate to serious political gains in that epochal year of 2012.

Occupy Orlando has a lot of electoral activity they can exert potential influence on. Senator Bill Nelson is up for reelection, and the popular Democrat will have several marginal Republicans chasing his rear bumper; a strong progressive turnout helps bolster what looks so far to be an fairly easy win, and be crucial if conditions change. All seats in the US House are up for grabs next year, and those are always volatile; Occupy’s exact place amidst is impossible to guess..

Locally, besides Dyer’s seat, four of the seven School Board seats in Orange County are up for grabs, as well as three of six seats on the Board of County Commissioners and three of five seats on the Soil and Water Board. The offices of Sheriff, State Attorney, Public Defender, Clerk of Courts, Comptroller, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections are all on the ballot in 2012, so the stakes are huge. This election will decide the future of their city.

In real terms, a guy or gal like Cantone would need a massive groundswell of progressive activity statewide, the rising tide to lift all boats. He (or any other, similarly-inclined candidates elsewhere next year) can probably build a formidable street team, but to keep them all activated at full efficiency, it takes money. 2012 will be the most expensive election cycle in history; to win in that environment does not necessarily require more money, but it does require a substantial amount of ready cash. My campaign, for example, did not result in victory because I was not an effective fundraiser, and could not find anyone who was. Cantone and his ilk must be a lot better, a lot faster, and it’s quite possible.

I also met a fella named Curtis Southerland, also from Jacksonville. His path into the realm of political activism was neither planned nor voluntary. His obscure, outsider campaign to unseat Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford as a write-in candidate in 2011 was motivated by his desire for redress after his brother Mark[?] was killed in a one of those “police-involved shootings” that have now become an unfortunate trademark of the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. He lost, of course, but that’s fine because the fix was in from the start; former JSO Public Information Officer Ken Jefferson had an excellent chance to win, but regional Democrats stymied his fundraising, for unknown reasons. Southerland’s campaign was more of a protest against the system and a means of telling people about the tragic death of his brother.

Local media coverage was generally fair, though laced with the same snarky cynicism typical of Occupy reporting in general. Leading the pack, surprising, was the nominally liberal Orlando Weekly, which functions in the case as a gatekeeper for an Establishment Left that has been uncomfortable with Occupy from the get-go. In its October 27 issue, staff writers Billy Manes and Jeff Gore flog the standard commercial media talking points: That Occupy has no “list of demands, a chief goal or an overarching political philosophy”. While conceding their sidewalk strategy to be “brilliant”, they repeatedly note the “(ostensibly) leaderless nature of their organization” and keep the focus squarely on the negative aspects, like arrests and shady characters.

Granted, this was published only 12 days into the Occupation, and surely there is more left for them to say on the subject. But as a visitor to the city, I was disappointed to see its leading liberal publication projecting a generally dismissive attitude toward young people whose political views are basically consistent with the values of alt-media in general. It’s the sort of reductionist thinking that has essentially tanked political-based print media in general, in particular an alt-weekly market that has become aggressively corporatized and unresponsive to the needs of their audience.

Ironically, that issue’s cover features a snarling, broken-toothed Tea Party caricature as part of a series of poorly-done humorous Halloween masks. Occupy gets a nod, too, with a cut-out version of the now-ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask adopted from “V” For Vendetta, which is now a universally-recognized symbol of Occupy and the larger (and more amorphous) Anonymous movement. “Initially dismissed as iPad-wielding hippies, the occupiers leered and groaned in the face of authority, anxiously anticipating police brutality and pepper spray,” writes Manes.

“The very notion that this leaderless movement had come to life as a pseudo-political monster is enough to cause apoplexy and anxiety among those in power [including, apparently, OW itself]. ‘Give us your list of demands!’ they screamed at the occupiers in a panic, only to realize that there really wasn’t a list of demands.” Imagine, two completely contradictory ideas coming from the same writer, in the same publication, just nine pages apart. This kind of cognitive dissonance certainly helps explain why the mainstream media still struggles to comprehend the depth and complexity of Occupy.;; November 7, 2011

Interview: Kathleen Hanna


[The piece below is for Folio–runs Tuesday. But, since Ms. Hanna’s birthday is today, it made sense to preview it now, for the one-half of one-millionth of the world who actually checks this thing out–and thanks, by the way. I should also note that the section of downtown Jacksonville with MOCA and the newest Main Branch library are the best investments made in local public infrastructure in the past decade, a decade with many nice moves made.

The library’s music section is probably the best in Florida, in part because the collection is old, and in part because their acquisitions game is tighter than the Carlyle Group. The record collection alone was worth perhaps $100,000 before it was sold off piecemeal; WJCT did the same thing, and the cognoscenti worldwide sez “Thanks!” The zine collection is the most recent addition, and it touches on an aspect of regional culture crucial to its current leviathan status.

And next time you’re in Gainesville, make sure your visit includes a) the Butterfly Museum, b) Hear Again Music, and c) the legendary Civic Media Center, of which I could never say enough. Etc. and so forth, here ya go.]

Leader of the Pack
Kathleen Hanna on zines and scenes and feminist things.2011 Zine Symposium
“Zines: The Personal Is Political”
Jacksonville Public Library, Hicks Auditorium
Panel Discussion, 11am; Keynote Presentation, noon
Back when people wrote actual letters, I sent one to Kathleen Hanna, former singer for Bikini Kill, whose three imperfectly perfect albums in the ’90s set a sonic standard whose emulators have dominated the 21st century. Between her sound and their fury, Hanna (who turns 42 on the 12th) helped establish the continuity that ensured “girl singers” could do what they want, however they want to do it. What was next? I wondered. She sent back a package with some of the zines she was doing then; soon, Julie Ruin emerged, followed by Le Tigre. The original Rebel Girl is now an established veteran of all aspects of media, and one of the most influential women of her generation. She’s recorded eight albums since 1991, three EPs, seven singles featured on nine different compilation albums and, most tellingly, appeared on 17 different albums by other artists. She’s also the subject of two documentary features: The Punk Singer and Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre On Tour. (And, of course, her cameo in the video for “Bull In the Heather”!)

Hanna’s first visit here comes this Saturday, November 19, by invitation of the Jacksonville Public Library, where she’ll sit on a panel convened by curators of the library’s game-changing zine collection. Panelists include author, musician and FSCJ art professor Mark Creegan; artist/author Adee Roberson (–very nice!); zine writer Travis Fristoe (whose credits include Maximum RocknRoll, Library Journal and Gainesville’s legendary Civic Media Center); and myself, a big fan of all their work. Hanna will then deliver the keynote address for the 2011 Zine Symposium. For adepts and adherents of the art form, this cannot be missed. Folio caught up with the ever-busy Hanna via Internets:

FW: Did the Internet kill the ‘zine trade, or somehow make it better?
KH: I think the internet gave certain obscure zines a place in the modern landscape they never would’ve had without it. Having said that, it is annoying to me when people buy older zines and then scan them and put some pages up on the internet without the author’s permission. They lose their original context that way, and often zines that were written in a specific time and place come off as overarching and ahistorical when, really, they were responding to specific things that were going on in local scenes at the time. Zines kind of were our blogs before blogs existed; they were meant to be quick and rough and
local and not overworked.If we wanted to write books, that were more permanent, we would’ve, but we didn’t. They were meant to be ephemeral and function in a specific time period.

FW: Have you ever worked with the Future of Music Coalition(
KH: I know Jenny and Kristin but I’ve never worked with FMC. [Note: Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson co-founded the band Tsunami.] They were, I believe both at the first Riot Grrrl meeting and were verysupportive and involved early on. I went to Junior High with Jenny Toomey.

FW: What are your thoughts on Occupy Wall Street? [Note: OccupyJax has
been in Hemming Plaza since Nov. 5]

KH: I think it’s great. I am pretty inspired by what young people do in general (not like it’s all young people, but it seems like quite a few young people were the instigators). It is interesting to me when people criticized it in the beginning, claiming it was all young, middle class people, and I was like “They are the ones who can manage to physically be down there sleeping on the bricks, and so they are, and that’s awesome, not a bummer!”FW: How do you feel about the “SlutWalk” trend?
KH: I am always happy when women are taking it to the streets and starting discussions.FW: What are your thoughts on the late Slits singer Ari Up?
KH: She was an innovator and I can’t believe she is gone. We lost her and Poly [Styrene] in a 2 year time period [note: both to cancer] and I think many of us are still reeling from this.

FW: Tell me about Lydia Lunch?
KH: LOOOVE HER. There are many spots on the album I am working on with my new band The Julie Ruin where my vocals are totally influenced by her style. She has influenced culture on such a deep level and never really been given her due.

FW: Is it possible for women to take positions that contradict the larger feminist community, while retaining feminist credentials? What must she say or do to be “expelled” from the movement?
KH: There are so many different ways to enact one’s own feminist ideas that it is pretty hard to come up with a unified list of feminist do’s and don’ts, and I personally hate that way of thinking. I am way more into allowing women to define feminism for themselves and keep on stretching its meanings. More arguments, more questions, more disagreements, this is what leads to a vital movement, not lists and rules.

FW: What’s it like seeing yourself on film?
KH: Um. Weird and embarrassing pretty much sums it up, but I have a distance from it now. After Who Took the Bomp? came out, I started being filmed for an upcoming documentary called The Punk Singer and my main thing is that I don’t really care if I come off like a jerk. I just want the movie to be engaging so people will go off on their own and check out my work and the stuff me and my bandmates made together.  I mean, on one hand I have a huge ego and love attention and all that, that’s why I’m a performer, but on the other hand I don’t take any of it too seriously, cuz I really am just an ant on anthill like everyone
else and my time here on earth is finite.

FW: Which of your recordings stands out as most representative of your aesthetic?
KH: I am most proud of the Rebel Girl 7″ Bikini Kill did and the first Le Tigre album. The song “Hot Topic” on that album is very much indicative of my aesthetic. Poppy yet still DIY with a big nod to the past.

FW: Who are the “Riot Grrrls” of today?
KH: Brontez Purnell of The Younger Lovers is my favorite modern riot girl. Also the women who run the website

FW: Why have you never appeared in Jacksonville before?
KH: I don’t really know why, it was always hard to book stuff in Florida for some reason. Le Tigre played in Gainesville and Miami, but BK never played Florida at all.

Press Release: Odd Future/Adult Swim




Adult Swim announced today it has picked up the live-action series Loiter Squad, a 15 minute live-action show that features sketches, man on the street segments, pranks and music from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. The cast, featuring the Los Angeles collective of rappers, artists, and skateboarders, channel their multi-faceted creative talents in this Jackass-style showcase. 

This announcement comes on the heels of Tyler, The Creator’s “Best New Artist” win at the 2011 Video Music Awards.  Creating their own show comes as a natural next step for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, whose accomplishments have garnered wide media attention in 2011 and continue to compound on themselves.  Singing member Frank Ocean contributed to the new Beyonce album and the collaboration between Kanye West and Jay Z. Tyler, The Creator’s Goblin LP has sold more than 100,000 copies and his Yonkers video has been viewed more than 22 million times. Odd Future is on the verge of their first national tour and the release of their Golf Wang book in November will document their travels and hometown exploits. 

Loiter Squad is being produced by Dickhouse Entertainment–the Hollywood production partnership of Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze who have been the creative power behind hits including Jackass, Nitro Circus, Rob & Big, Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory, Wild Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, The Birth of Big Air and Wildboyz.  The Dickhouse sensibility provides a perfect match for the unique viewpoints, masterful pranking and artistic inclinations of the Odd Future crew.  Jeff Tremaine and Adult Swim’s Nick Weidenfeld will serve as executive producers.

Adult Swim (, launched in 2001, is Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.’s network offering original and acquired animated and live-action series for young adults.  Airing nightly from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. (ET, PT), Adult Swim shares channel space with Cartoon Network, home to the best in original, acquired and classic entertainment for youth and families, and is seen in 99.4 million U.S. homes.

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, creates and programs branded news, entertainment, animation and young adult media environments on television and other platforms for consumers around the world.



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Preview: “Tangerine” at Walkers Wine Bar, Aug. 25


courtesy Nicodemus Atrium Galleries

The man known as Zaiche keeps many plates spinning. After emerging in the 1990s as one-third of the hip-hop group Power Douglas, Zaiche (a native New Yorker) traveled the world before returning to his adopted home of Jacksonville, FL a few years ago. He and his mother opened the Kabre’ Cyntanna Salon on Park and King streets a couple years ago, and he is now also a principal in the Nicodemus Atrium Galleries, a new management/promotional groups focused on the freshest, most sophisticated stuff in the region. (You know, that Nick Fresh-type stuff!)

His newest project is called “Tangerine”, and it’s being promoted as an upscale, high-energy gathering of the new power base, the young artists, musicians and activists helping to put Duval back on the map as a hotbed for progressive politics and diverse cultural excellence. The first event occurs on Thursday night, August 25, at Walkers Wine Bar, located on the corner of Post and King streets in historic Riverside, just a couple blocks down from Kabre Cyntanna. It’s a perfect venue for such a gathering, with the sort of stylized industrial aesthetic that has come to define the area; the owners of Walkers also own a dance club called The Loft and a wine bar called Rogue, located side-by-side just a few yards from Walkers.

As usual with a new project, it’s unclear exactly what will happen. What we do know is that DJ Chef Rocc, of the infamous Big Bucks DJ crew, will be manning the tables. The rest is largely up to the clientele. Zaiche wants it to be the kind of place where conscious cats can network and plot the power moves needed to move the city forward. Show your support by attending, and be sure to “like” the various FB pages linked from here. I will certainly be there!