The New Old Miami Sound

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Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention, but still, it is better to confront the movement than deny it. Funk, soul, Latin/fusion/hip-hop/DJ/horn bands in Miami with wicked guitarists and crazy-pounding beats are alive and well.

Like millions before me, I had a Sunday epiphany recently, but mine occurred over a double shot of tequila late in the evening at Ball & Chain during their 1st Music Festival which was celebrating 80 years in Little Havana.

Truth be told, theoretically, I’m a little old for this, but then again, who’s counting? I found my way there innocently enough, my better half persuading me to go to Viva La Salsa, Cubaocho’s ongoing Cuban Style Salsa lessons offered every Thursday evening in the heart of Little Havana. Afterwards, we crossed the street, passed Azucar without stopping for the Elena Ruz ice cream, and entered Ball & Chain, where Thursday nights offer a free 9pm salsa lesson followed by all night long Lionel Ritchie – scratch that – I mean all night long salsa party with bands and DJs.

Reassured that the DJ, spinning wicked tunes like Remenea by Seo Fernandez, was about my age, I settled onto a barstool and enjoyed the sphere. (Later, looking at the music video, I realized that it would be essential for me to ignore the misogynistic objectification of the women in the video, but even worse, the Latin, Pedro Martinez, Jheri curl cuts and big gold chains circa Michael Jackson 1984.)

It wasn’t long before I spotted the flyer announcing three days’ worth of a dozen or so of Miami’s finest, including long running Spam All Stars and Suenalo. I dropped by again on Saturday afternoon, after getting my fill of depression after watching Phoenix at the Tower, and caught a flash of what I think were The Politix playing some sweet, soulful stuff. On Sunday, I met my man BC and caught not only Spam and Suenalo, but also ArtOfficial’s hip-hop tinged set and an electrifying, genre bending one by Elastic Bond. Simply put, all of them rocked funky rhythms, pulsating basslines, wicked guitarists, and wild-stepping horn sections swapping friends, Caucasian trombonists, and acquaintances at will.

I have seen Spam and Suenalo a number of times over the years, and I have a CD or two which I have long since buried. That said, there was a powerful, positive, pulsating relationship throbbing between them and the other bands; Spam and Suenalo are deeply respected and respectful. Time has not weathered any of the live sets, instead breathing life into all the younger bands. Admiration is evident, pronounced, and promoted, and the crowd buys in royally, swaying with hands in the air like they are true players. DJ Le Spam, Andrew Yeomanson, is a chiropractor’s dream, viciously bobbing his head back and forth to every beat for the last twenty years.

By the time somebody got around to covering Michael Jackson’s Working Day and Night, I had imagined Mandrill, Earth, Wind & Fire, Larry Blackmon’s Cameo, Cold Blood, Aretha Franklin, Santana, Malo, Sugarhill Gang, and company reborn in Miami. For more information on the local bands, just look them up.

All of this warmed me up to what’s about to drop when the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center hosts its Backyard Bash in October, but that’s another story.

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