Friday, November 26, 2004

here we go again

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

what the hey

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Sobriety - One Step At the Time 

It’s a balmy Thursday evening at the Osceola Tavern, a three-story, wood-frame landmark on the southern edge of downtown Dade City. Sobriety - an as-yet unquantified quartet of local felons and metalheads boasting all original material - is to make its unofficial debut with an unpaid set.
Funny, but factor in a couple toothy coeds and no cover charge and this Sobriety thing sounds better all the time.
Arriving a few minutes early, we belly up for a cold pint, starting a tab and retreating to a small corner table to take advantage of its lonely fan, lack of smoking restrictions and unobstructed view of the door.
It’s a little after nine before DJ, tavern proprietor and karaoke czar Mike Agnello finally squelches the PA. We hasten a piss, pausing only to give the seat a fresh wipe and flush with a foot.
A Durst look-alike sporting a Dropkick Murphys shirt and whiskbroom beardy introduces himself by dropping the obligatory F-word along with a rather noncommittal string of incoherent shout-outs. His musicians skulk to their places.
Woah! the building suddenly erupts, spasmodic muscle memory and damaged inner ears recalling dash-rattling agonies of blown coaxials past. Too much bass, dude.
Guitar and drums noodle self-consciously as Beardy (vocalist Brian Dempsey) and bassist (former Blackstoner Tommy Hemingway) scramble to remedy the glitch.
By the time Osceola Mike decides to intervene with some “Dirty Deeds” on the PA, a full third of the patrons have headed for the exits in a muttering mass of boredom and disgust.
“What the fuck,” band manager Mark Johnson is heard to shrug. “Shit happens, man.”
We dig in our pockets for tobacco, the eyes and bodies of what stunned alcoholics remain wandering in aimless, desperate quest for stimuli.

“Well, we’re back,” Dempsey finally manages, his guttural mutterings trailing off into something or other we resist any further effort to decipher. Anticipatory tensions diminish with every syllable.
Call us critical, but was a substantial hunk of Ozzie’s own aura not severely damaged when his mouth was allowed to open for something other than his preordained lyrics? Hell, even then it was hit or miss.
To fire on all cylinders, death metal’s gothic moorings of leather, chrome and cartoon blasphemy seem to demand that its frontmen refrain from coming off like fraternity drunks. Scary stuff, sure, though it tends to make the whole violence and horror angle play a lot closer to Al Lewis than Crowley.
The welcome clack! clack! clack! of a pair of percussive sticks brings us around.
We find Dempsey has assumed a puke position betwixt the strings, Hemingway and drummer Matt Formby weaving a turgid foundation upon which guitarist Jason Capriglione’s can cast his crude melodies.
Grasping his testicular area with a left, fellatiating the mike with a white-knuckled right, Dempsey begins with a menacing bellow, his bent, husky stalking interrupted mid-sludge with an incomprehensibly screamed testament or some sort to the celestial sphere that is the Osceola’s tobacco-stained ceiling.
The outburst stumbles to a close amid a smattering of feedback.
“I’m Brian,” a sweating, breathless Dempsey intones. “And I’m here to shred my fucking vocals ‘til they bleed.”
We take him at his word.
A scorching lead announces the onset of the next number, shifting tempos and spoken rants divining an ugly if durable bridge between vintage Black Flag, a five horse Briggs & Stratton and “Hairspray Queen”-era Nirvana.
We’re delighted when the third selection (a dirge-like tangle of nettle and barbed rust) briefly shifts gears into a psychedelic showcase for Capriglione’s artier, less caustic leanings before inevitably settling back into more sludge and shouting.
We have no idea what the hey Dempsey’s saying, but apparently he’s sad and a little angry.
“Drink up,” he reminds us as the snare kicks in, heralding what is immediately and unanimously judged to be the best of the lot thus far.
Starting at a spinout, Sobriety unwind like never before, riding the clutch and downshifting midway to negotiate a thorny hairpin meter.
This is a good band, we decide. We’re happy they’re pissed. It will some day be an honor to say we knew them when.
Then, just as suddenly, someone hits the brakes. From our vantage point, it’s hard to determine precisely just who was at fault, but we stall just the same, arcane hippie guitar leading us alone through the mire and out the other end.
But wait. What is this? Is there no other end?
We realize we’ve been shanghaied into another song entirely. We feel cheated. What a shitty way to end the best song of the evening! Greasy biker fucks.
The racket ceases to a din of feedback as the crowd claps and hoots its approval. We feel like whores: just another member of some tasteless, attention-starved mass of sweating, farting, pissing, coughing hormones and hair who gobbles whatever it’s fed. We are different, we decided. We possess a Critical Eye. We decided to drink faster.
A new, primal beat catches our collective ear. Almost pleasant, it sounds remarkably like standard-issue, radio-ready hardcore, replete with something that might charitably be described as a homogenous, truncated Caucasian rap.
The song draws the loudest applause of the evening. We worry about the upcoming election.
“Anybody ever have a girl piss ‘em off?’ Dempsey queries. We decline to document the response.
What follows, however, is Sobriety’s approximation of a power ballad, though it too is quick to find a chord change with which to attach a hissy fit. “Sister Christian” for the pierced and damaged set.
Sadly, it soon becomes apparent that this music stirs little emotion but dull irritation and an eye-rolling sense of deja vu. Perhaps that’s the point. Either way, the increasingly besotten audience smatters its approval. We’re the folks who always detested The Doors, after all.
“Fuck reggae,” Dempsey intones, pertinent to nothing, as far as we can sumise. “Anybody down with sinsemilla? We’ll talk later.”
A severe stab at a Caribbean toast ensues, but is regrettably given up for dead after a single verse. Hey wait a minute, we grouse. Why stop there?
For all the shouting, pentacles and hoodoo, that single verse was the most interesting and dangerous experience of the evening. Like Harleys and facial hair, demons come in many forms, my friend. Let’s see how truly crazy these cats are.
An obscenity-ridden rant soon follows, its shouted chorus a mystery even among the lushes who echo phonetically back toward stage. Whatever they’re saying, we can’t disagree. Its sounds kind of musical, sorta.
We return from the can. If Sobriety can keep it up, it appears that the set will conclude on a high note, the crowd actually beginning to interact with the performers somewhat.
Then Dempsey lets slip with another venomous “motherfucker,” quieting the room to a curious and somewhat agitated murmur.
The music stumbles to a shaky stop. Glances are exchanged. No one seems surprised to find the set has run its course.
As the band packs up its instruments - Cake’s version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” gnawing at our brainpans - it is noted that chief among the band’s groupies is one Maxi Mouse.
Like the great Disney empire, we are reminded, the Osceola Tavern was founded as a family establishment and labor of love. Osceola Mike and better half Claire reside with their young sons just out back and often upstairs and deserve a little respect.
With experience, of course, it is possible that perhaps Sobriety will prove a tad less noxious and depressing, focusing on its musical (read melodic and rhythmic) strengths rather than pandering to foundations.
Meantime, a pinch of Propriety would do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

You know what the coolest thing about Napster was?
It finally made a computer a thing worth having.
As media hype and internet service finally spread to those of us outside the major cities, it suddenly became tres' chic for everyone and their grandma to take home a PC. Shoot, grandma used it more than I did.
Most folk I know fucked around on theirs a couple weeks before its table became something of a magnet for other gadgets and garbage in the house: VHS camcorders, boombox cassettes. Cell phones the size of a Bible.
Then along came Napster. Woohee. Suddenly every Tom, Ben & Jerry had his own box set of '80s death metal and Nick Drake's Greatest Hits.
You mean that pieceashit HP has a purpose beyond bad jokes, chain letters, cheap sentiment and penile enlargement? No foolin'? Wow. Get the hell offa my porch.
Now we're being sued. Big whoop. Compared to Iraqis, we've got it easy.
I figure, how much are a couple hundred Uncle Heck Buford recordings worth, anywho? Forty bucks and change? If I could find them at the fucking Mal-Wart I wouldn't be waiting an hour and a half for each of the sons of bitches to download.
Ripping off music is why there's anything as rock & roll, anyhow. Where would the Beach Boys be without Chuck Berry, George Harrison without the Shirelles, Ghost Busters without Huey Lewis?
I admit it. I done wrong. I've shipped burnt bootlegs via through the US Postal Service, distributed them as Christmas presents, tortured unsuspecting visitors during latenights on the linai. I am guilty as sin.
That said, bootlegs were where I first heard Frank Zappa. Miles Davis. David Alan Coe. Okay, just because it's a bootleg doesn't mean it's any good.
Same thing with this file sharing business. If I was hawking my handiwork at the local flea market I could see where Metallica might stand to get a little peeved. As it is, since I detest their stuff anyway, it's all a moot point.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003



Long before Ron & Ron, the Power Pig or Cleveland Wheeler ever fought for the skies over Tampa Bay, legions of listeners were tuning in to pioneer radio station WDAE for the latest in news, gossip and entertainment.
On September 22, 1927, the Tampa station transmitted the area's first live network sports coverage, a heavyweight bout between champion Gene Tunney and challenger Jack Dempsey, live from Soldier Field in Chicago. The response was tremendous.
"Eardrums of 40,000 to 50,000 Tampans will be tuned in tonight on the biggest sporting event in modern history," the Tampa Daily Times speculated that day.
"Interest in the bout has the fever pitch attendant to a national election. And everyone who can but borrow or build a radio is preparing to shut himself away from business and domestic cares with a set of ear phones or a loudspeaker and drink in the details of the encounter."
That night 1,000 guests attended an invitation-only affair sponsored by the Studebaker Gulf Sales Co.
There were "hundreds of private parties" about town, and more than 10,000 fans jammed the streets adjacent to the Tampa Times building to hear sportscaster Graham McNamee call the fight over loudspeakers.
The resulting chaos forced traffic to be rerouted and streetcars halted.
By that winter, WDAE had moved from Bay Isles to a bungalow on the Marjorie Park Yacht Basin and was broadcasting moonlight concerts by Harold Bachman's Million Dollar Band, direct from the Plant Park band shell.
Bachman would go on to lead the University of Florida's Gator Marching Band in later years.
Longtime air personality "Salty" Sol Fleischman was broadcasting from the Moulin Rouge Night Club on 22nd Street one Saturday night when the place was raided on suspicions of illegal gambling. Claude Harris' Band was the evening's featured entertainment, and the show went on as usual, without any on-air mention of the incident.
One of the medium's darker moments took place in November of that year, when the station conducted another remote broadcast, this one from Raiford State Prison to cover the execution of convicted ax murderer Benjamin Franklin Levins.
Levins had been the subject of an attempted lynching while in custody at the Hillsborough County Jail on Pierce Street the previous May, and by the time the National Guard dispersed the crowd, five people were dead and nearly 40 had been wounded.



How does one itinerant farm worker climb from the constraints of migrant labor to the lofty rungs of successful entrepreneurship?
Easy. It took a lot of hard work, determination, and a little help from his friends, says Chuck Florez.
In little more than four years, Florez has succeeded in breaking free from financial dependency on seasonal crops by starting his own business - Florez Auto Detailing and Stereo Sounds, at 107 N. Seventh Street in Dade City.
"I always knew what I had in my head," Florez says between countless interruptions from his three full-time employees and numerous clients on a busy Friday afternoon. "I had a nursery, a carpet-cleaning business... and this is what it all led up to."
He founded the business on high hopes and small change - less than $3,000.
"One day I told my wife, 'You know, I'm going to open me up a detail shop," he says. "I told her, 'If you don't let me, I'm just not going to work anymore. I'm going to let you work the rest of your life, I ain't working for nothing."
Florez's business is similar to others in Pasco County. Small businesses - that is, those with less than 500 employees under the federal government's definition - are the backbone of the county's economy. There are an estimated 4,200 small businesses in Pasco.
A native of Grandfield, Oklahoma, a small Texas border town nestled some 45 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, Florez and his 12-member family had been following fruit and vegetable harvests cross-country for several years when they first set foot in Pasco County in 1969.
"We harvested beets in Montana, went to Michigan and did some cherries, went to Ohio and did tomatoes, and then back to Michigan for apples," he says. "We were migrants. We came here to pick oranges."
Returning to the Dade City area season after season, it was not until 1977 that Florez, his wife, Tammy, and daughter Anna finally decided to stay put and raise a family.
"We found that it was a nice place to live. There were people here from all over Texas, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and South America. The atmosphere was great."
Despite the area's well-founded reputation as a booming agricultural community, Florez was disheartened to find there was not always enough crop work to go around. He eventually was forced to begin working odd jobs.
"I worked at a store setting stock. I helped ranchers put up fences, pruned trees, picked strawberries, drove a truck - anything. I worked for Lykes Pasco off and on for four years. [When] there was an overflow of tar at the Tampa shipyards, we had to cut it with an ax and move it out. I had a bad time for a while there."
Unable to makes ends meet, Florez turned in desperation to the local Farmworker's Self-Help organization and its director, Margarita Romo, for assistance.
"Margarita helped me out to pay an electric bill," Florez recalls. "She doesn't even have a place of her own to live, yet she's helped people to buy their own homes. I never have forgotten that. I've been paying back to the community ever since."
Such efforts have included the donation of his carpet-cleaning skills for the beautification of St. Rita's Catholic Church, of which he is a member, assisting athletes and coaches of the local Police Athletic League's acclaimed boxing program, and providing financial assistance to Farmworker's Self-Help for the transport of relief supplies to the south Florida victims of Hurricane Andrew.
Having experienced firsthand the many obstacles his fellow laborers regularly face, Florez remains determined to help the area's poor, unskilled and disenfranchised in their fight for economic and social stability.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Saw Steve Earle last night at Tampa Theater. A lot more rock-oriented than expected. Failed to play "Telephone Road," but his second encore triad of The Amboy Dukes' "Time," The Youngbloods' "Get Together" and Elvis Costello's version of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding" brought the house down. Overall, a moving, politically-charged performance. ***1/2

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