Tag Archives: suburbia

Dispatches from Suburbia: Rusko in Miami

As the cliché goes, all good things must come to an end: my nearly two week vacation in South Florida is over. I’ve gone from 70 degrees at the beach to 40 degrees in DC, from a nascent scene to a more developed one. And while the DJ nights, singer-songwriters, and local bands were pleasantly surprising, I’m happy to be home.

But before I left, I trekked down to Miami once more, this time for Rusko: DJ and dubstep producer extraordinaire, and one of the winners of 2009 (a more complete list of things that didn’t suck in 2009 is coming tomorrow – procrastination for life!). The 24-year-old is one of the driving forces in a style that we at TGRI Online think will be huge next year, and while I have seen Rusko rock a room before, I couldn’t miss a stateside gig in my backyard.

Ever since 2 Live Crew decided to be as nasty as they wanted to be, Miami and bass have been forever intertwined, influencing local scenes and styles from Atlanta to Baltimore. So I was interested to see how bassheads in the 305 would react to the distinct wobble crunk that the Leeds-born, LA-based Rusko generates.

Just down the street from the Vagabond in Miami’s Design District is White Room. The venue is basically a warehouse adjoined to a large open-air space that holds canopy lounges that wouldn’t get much use anywhere else this time of year. After a few local dubstep producers and MCs warmed up the crowd, the mullethawked feature DJ took the stage.

Rusko is one of the most active DJs I’ve ever seen. At all times, he’s either jumping up and down or air conducting, convulsing as if his movements control the treble, mids and overwhelming bass pouring out of the speakers. The crowd eats it up, doing their best to dance along to a style that is admittedly not the most dance-centric electronic music. The few kids trying to light show with glow sticks were dismissed out of hand: “Why don’t you wait for fucking Ultra for your twirly little shit?!” However, the pseudo-ravers were hardly the worst audience members: a few couples decided to demonstrate crowdfucking – or something close to it – and it wasn’t pleasant.

Still, we were able to enjoy the dubstep clinic that Rusko put on, much like he did at Hard NYC. From contemporaries Zomby and Doorly, to remixes of Gucci and Kid Sister, the set included everything that demonstrates dubstep’s promise right now. The best part is initially recognizing a song, before it devolves into the glitched out sounds of the apocalypse that have come to define dubstep. And it was good to see it work where bass was born.

Dispatches from Suburbia: Miami’s Design District

While my first night back in South Florida took me to West Palm Beach, my second found me in the opposite direction, deep in Miami’s Design District. The neighborhood is across Biscayne Bay from South Beach, and gentrification has spawned over a hundred galleries, showrooms, boutiques, and eateries in a formerly run-down section of downtown Miami.

The first stop of the night was the Wynwood Social Club, a mixed-use arts venue, for acoustic duo Raffa and Rainer’s album release party. The Wynwood has an open, community room vibe, with local art on the walls and found furniture throughout; I enjoyed the show from a PanAm airplane seat. Opening the show was (not that) Danielle Steele, a singer-songwriter not even out of high school, with a quirky sound that evokes Regina Spektor. Next up was scene veteran (not that) Jesse Jackson, who played a combination of banjo, ukulele, and harmonica in a short set that found him covering both Elton John and James Taylor; standout number “If Wishes Were Horses” was as haunting and bluesy as ever.

Confession time: trying to experience the Miami scene like eating from sample plates at Whole Foods was a mistake; I left the Wynwood way before I had my fill. Still, it was worth it to see a bit of Miami’s burgeoning folk scene. For the brevity, I’ll blame the night’s second destination: the Vagabond, to see Surfer Blood. I’m all about nightlife on a budget, so when I saw “free before 11” and “$1 PBR and Rolling Rock,” I made the fateful decision to leave early and hustle down North Miami Avenue. When neither of these promises was true, I was already inside the venue and pissed off. I hate being nickel and dimed and I hate false advertising, so the Vagabond gets poor marks for both.

ANYWAY, once inside the club and easing my spirits with America’s Best 1893, I was able to objectively judge my surroundings. Unlike Respectable Street, Vagabond is all about the décor and hipster chic; if you want a more upscale clientele, you invest in the look and feel of your club. The bar’s DJ was spinning the usual fare, and the only difference between the crowd and one at say Nouveau Riche was the smoking (something I could have sworn was banned in civilized society, but I digress).

A bit after midnight the crowd migrated to the back room, which was another dance floor with a small stage set up. Tallahassee’s Holiday Shores opened the show and play lo-fi, surf pop. Heavy on the Brian Wilson influence, the band could stand to tighten up their ambitious arrangements. Still, the music was light and danceable, and not unpleasant. What was unpleasant was the blaring electro/techno between sets – wasn’t this a rock show? Luckily, Surfer Blood quickly took the stage, and the Palm Beach quintet showed the crowd how it’s done.

Together for less than a year and riding a wave of buzz from their performances at CMJ, the band plays a catchy mix of indie pop and garage rock. The songwriting reminds me of Blue album Weezer and early Shins, without the pretension of Vampire Weekend, or the host of other blog bands that have gone to this well before. The vocals are drenched in reverb, the guitars unleash waves of fuzz, and the percussion even touches on the Afro-pop flavor that is so en vogue right now. Their debut album, Astro Coast, was recorded in a University of Florida dorm room, and drops in January. They’ll be doing a few dates in the US before heading to the UK, and by the time they return, Astro Coast will be the sound of 2010. Mark your calendar for February 24, when Surfer Blood, Holiday Shores, and Turbo Fruits descend on DC9, bringing a little bit of Florida sunshine to the DMV.

Next Dispatch from Suburbia: Rusko at White Room.

Photo of Surfer Blood at the Vagabond by Ian Witlin, Miami New Times.

Dispatches from Suburbia: Flaunt @ Respectable Street

While I grew up in South Florida and went to college in Miami, I never really immersed myself into the nightlife. As you can guess by my output here, I grew up on rock shows. So, with a Christmas break of nearly two weeks, I decided to be an investigative reporter and search for The Scene, an ever-elusive alternative/indie/underground culture, in South Florida. Something, anything, that proves my old stomping ground is more than retirees and South Beach superclubs.

Like any good reporter, I did my research, scouring the Internets for venues, performers, and promoters, without much luck. There lacks any cohesive resource for finding out what’s going on in South Florida, the nearly 75 mile stretch of communities off of I-95. Love it or hate it, at least BrightestYoungThings exists. The closest thing I found was The Honeycomb, which, while helpful, is far from comprehensive.

My search took me to Respectable Street Cafe, the “oldest alt music club in the SE USA,” for the Thursday night weekly Flaunt, which bills itself as an Indie / Hip Hop / Electro / Dance party. Nothing says “hipster bait” like $1 PBRs, so I was off to Clematis Street.

While DC was preparing for Snowpocalypse 2009, South Florida was being assaulted by torrential downpour. Ever go to The Living Seas at Epcot? The weather reminded me of how oceans were born: “the deluge.” So I’ll forgive Clematis for not exactly being at its finest on Thursday.

Respectable Street is a mid-sized venue, complete with a stage, dance floor, patio, and rows of couch/booth hybrids. The crowd was a disparate mix of tattooed punks, hipsters, and dress-to-impress kids who got lost on their way to Miami. Unity in the scene or a lack of options on a Thursday? You decide!

Musically, I was expecting something along the lines of DC9’s Liberation Dance Party: a mix of Pitchfork-approved dance tracks. I wasn’t disappointed; the DJ collective of Marvelous Kendall, The Commissioner, JJ Contramus, Glowtape, and Ozwaldus started the night with some indie-dancers like Girls’ “Lust for Life” and the Jokers of the Scene remix of “Little Secrets” by Passion Pit. As the night progressed, the music traversed down the La Roux-Calvin Harris axis, and the dance floor was packed and moving. A bit of hard techno was out of place and unwelcome to most (“What is this, the Jersey Shore?”), but after the brief Guido-foray, things were back to normal. Headlining DJ Jason Tyler brought a trumpet into the mix, a welcome but unusual addition to a DJ set. And when West Palm got down at Major Lazer O’clock, I felt at home.

I would definitely check out Flaunt again: cheap drinks, interesting crowd, above-average playlist, and a 3am close. Well done, West Palm. Well done.

Next Dispatch from Suburbia: Miami’s Design District