Though "the season" is officially here in Miami (determined by a very scientific formula - counting the party invitations in my mailbox), one area of entertainment still (and will probably always) remains more emaciated than Polina on the Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. (Empty carrot cake box under the bed? I've seen that made-for-tv bulimia movie starring Calista Flockhart - you're not fooling anyone, Polina.) The JDMA, btw, is a great show to watch at the gym. But I digress.
We've got art (Basel), we've got fashion (Funkshion), dance (the MCB) and whatever's on the Arsht sched this season - some classical music, a few operas, a little Broadway, yadda yadda. But when it comes to music - as in bands one stands up in a mid-size concert venue to listen to - Miami is seriously lacking. This isn't a tune (pun not so much intended but maybe a little) I haven't sung before. Over and over and over and over. But it always comes up again when I go out of town to see a band - and to see most of my favorite bands, that's what I have to do - or, in the case of last weekend, more bands in a few days than I get to see all year here.
I traveled to the Music Capital of the World - that would be Austin - for the Austin City Limits music festival. For those who have never been, it's a three-day, all-day music extravaganza with eight stages, really good food (i.e. avocado tacos instead of microwaved pizza) and some of the nicest people I've ever had to spend three days with. Oh, and after it's all over each night, there's even MORE music in the various venues around town. David Byrne, Vampire Weekend, Stars (one of those great Canadian indie rock bands that probably has dinner parties with Arcade Fire), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Neko Case (another talented Canadian and sometimes member of the New Pornographers). And that's just a drop in the band bucket.
But before I go on and on and on about the music, first let me go off a little on how wonderful the people of Austin are. Everyone there is just so f-ing happy and helpful. Despite the gigantor crowds at the festivals and at the after-shows, there were no drunk, testosterone-fuled fights or yelling. No pushing, no battling for the attention of the bartender. I didn't see one police officer on festival grounds the entire time. From what I saw, there was no need for them. And if there was, they handled it all Disney-style by whisking them to some underground jail before anyone notices and gets their happiness ruined. Even the cab driver, when asked if everyone is always so nice, actually said yes. And a cabbie will always be the first one to tell you whether or not the people in a city are really nice or just hiding their a-holeness behind a nice mask so you'll come back again and spend more money.
The (musical) highlight of the weekend was a going to an ACL taping for their performance series that's aired on PBS. The band we chose was the Swell Season -- the guy and girl from the movie Once (the song in it won an Oscar, and they're just really kickass). So we're just sitting there, enjoying the awesome show, when the lead signer announces he's going to sing a cover of a Daniel Johnston song. A little background: Daniel Johnston is an Austin legend. He's this quirky, manic, musical genius who has formed a cult following, including Kurt Cobain, who wore a t-shirt promoting Johnston's album, Hi How Are You?, during many of his shows. He's such an interesting human being that there was even a documentary made about him - The Devil and Daniel Johnston. It's wonderful, so stop writing that TPS report and Netflix it right now.
So yeah, Swell Season guy says he's going to sing a Daniel Johnston song. And, omg, guess who comes out? Daniel MF Johnston! I know, only a true music nerd would find this remotely exciting. But for the one (two, if you count my mom who will just be excited because I'm excited) person who knows who I'm talking about, it's pretty darn cool. Even cooler was taking the stairs after the show and seeing Johnston smoking a ciggy in the alley. No, I did not get a pic, because I am lame. But who knows, maybe he'll come to Miami one of these days. Bwahahahaha. That's a good one.
p.s. I have high hopes for Miami's Langerado Festival, which gets bigger and better every year. It started out at some park in Broward, then moved to somewhere out in the Everglades last year, and this time around it's moving to Bicentennial Park. They've already got the multiple stages thing going, and the good band thing, now all they need is a sweet food court and some after-hours shows. Vagabond, Circa 28, Manuel Artime, that means you.