mr. zilla goes to town

Monday, February 23, 2004


Unlike our frenzied adventuring through New York at new year's, Suzy and I just spent a very relaxed three days & nights meandering through the hotel bars, cafes, shops and restaurants of the art deco beachfront hamlet called South Beach, Miami. In that, it was more reminiscent of last July's couple of days in New Orleans. Must be the effect of travelling down to a southern lassitude?

I understand it's fairly sweltering back home at the moment but 25C warmth, shirtsleeves and flip flop footwear were a wonderful relief after the coldest-in-10-years DC winter. Every corner of every block in South Beach is a tiny hotel; every tiny foyer is one-third reception and two-thirds loungebar that spills out the front door. As a result, it almost seemed that the solar and mexican coronas were competing to see who could do us the most damage. Fortunately we could fortify ourselves through rediscovering outdoor cafe dining - a sadly missed experience - and occasionally pleasant espresso. (Suzy's pursuit of the long black aka "Americana" was successful after resorting to DIY methodology, best supporting oscar going to the waitress at Jerry's Famous Deli).

There was one reminder that we were in the funky beachfront of a major US city as opposed to, say, Bateman's Bay. Friday night around midnight provided momentary adramaline as multiple police cruisers converged on the opposite side our strolling street to arrest a handgun-wielding chap running from (or to) somewhere important - double parked, perhaps? The first we saw was the apparent guy in question flinging his gun to the ground before the cops converged upon him, guns drawn. Nonetheless -- and unlike the crowd of onlookers that quickly gawped in -- we took momentary pause in a doorway with a 7ft by 5ft SUV engine block between us and the mischief across the street. (They are good for something after all!) I guess I'm still a rube tourist here, but I tend to think if the first stray shot is the one that makes you duck it might be a moment too late. Fortunately it all concluded with no shots fired.

That was only one moment and didn't overshadow a fanastic weekend. We experienced the greatest concept in a music store... that wasn't even primarily a music store. Base in the Lincoln plaza walk has a music bar set on one side of a clothing store, with about 10 stools set before headphone listening stations. Very little music is within reach, but several hundred CDs across a span of ambient, nujazz, lounge and deep house are arrayed upon the wall.

The musicbarkeep skillfully took orders, for example, he had turned and returned, CD in hand, before the woman next to me could finish her question, "I need some music for a mexican TV show I'm producing, do you have anything by that English guy living in Colombia?"

It felt like music served like wine... and if the store had served cocktails with umbrellas as well we might have never left. After sorting the unwooded chardies from the californian quaffers I came away with Turntables on the Hudson Vol 4 - a collection of styles from New York's buroughs, Ocean Driven - Miami Deeper Lounge by Chilly (lush latin flavoured deep house), and the Spam Allstars' Fuacata Live - a mischievous afro-cuban mix of samples, loops and live horns, guitar and percussion that sucked me in with a giggle-snorting spoken intro putatively involving Fidel Castro's sister.

But wait, there's more! Elsewhere on the weekend I also brought under my wing Bird Up - The Charlie Parker Remix project. For fans of this kind of pedigreemixing (you know who you are Gra) it's definitely a worthwhile addition to the field. Thirteen of the Bird's tuned produced and constructed by the likes of the RZA, monkey-loving Dan The Automator, and most intriguingly, Serj Tankian, frontman of cut-me-own-wrists angst-rockers System of a Down. I wouldn't say his track is the best on the disc but after one listen it wasn't the weakest either.

And still more - after getting into the wildly good Jazzanova last year, and their Remixed CD released here in December (featuring remixes of Jazzanova tracks by Madlib, Stereolab, Bugz in the Attic, Beanfield and Kyoto Jazz Massive to name a few), I picked up an invert: a 2CD collection of Jazzanova's own remix work spanning 1997-2000, featuring tracks by Ian Pooley, the Soul Bossa Trio, Karma... it's a little more downtempo, and music that any cafe worth their fair-trade shade-grown salt crystals should have on endless sunday afternoon loop.

Closing the loop musically was our club-hopping venture to Privelege, past the pushy (but somehow needy) Italian-American triangular man-mountain doorbitch, for a couple of hours of really. freakin. damn. good. techno. spun by resident DJ Black, warming up for the night's headliner Sean Cusick.

When these type of tunes are really on the money, it's like a rolling clatter of tuned anvils who have ganged up to hurl the snare drums of the world into a back alley dumpster for showing up to the club in the wrong shoes. DJ Black is a stocky guy who bounced around behind the decks like he was Van Gogh and just discovered his headphones didn't fit so well anymore, I'll be tuning in to him to see what else his tunes have to say about him.

I haven't even started on the sweetly preserved and restored art deco streets of South Beach but that's all for this post. I might see if I can persuade Suzy to guestblog on the architectural streetstyle and throw in links to some of the great pics she took too - they'll be better than the ones on this link.


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