Music festivals conjure up visions of Woodstock and Monterrey Pop, tales of Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, and vaguely lucid memories of Voodoo and Langerado (oh how I miss Langerado). Rhythm Foundation each year does its part to contribute to the music festival quilt of America with its own very distinctive, very intimate Heineken TransAtlantic Music Festival. Combing the world for innovative musicians, they have for years fashioned a program that meshes with Miami’s diverse music appetite. This year marks the 13th year for TransAtlantic, a two-day affair set for this Friday and Saturday at the North Beach Bandshell on 73rd and Collins Ave. I’ve been attending this festival for years, since before my kids were born (they are 9 and 7 now) and always come away with good memories. Past performers include Aterciopelados, Sidestepper, Jorge Drexler, Seu Jorge, Amadou and Mariam, and Zero 7.
Here’s a preview of this year’s intriguing lineup.
Performing on Friday April 10th:
In this age of fusion, sampling and copycat acts, it is a real pleasure when purity shines through. Puerto Candelaria at its core is a Cumbia band from Medellin, Colombia, and they celebrate their ancestral roots with a dose of theatric, surreal flair that reminds one of the magical realism found in a Garcia Marquez passage.
This New York instrumental band first performed at TransAtlantic in 2009, and they don’t travel light. Eleven members, lots of horns and percussions. Their music sounds like extended reflections on retro cop show theme songs. No wonder they have been described as a “70s Psychedelic” band. I like the 70s. I like psychedelic. And I grew up on Starsky & Hutch so I’m looking forward to hearing them blast away on Friday night.
On tap for Saturday April 11th:
French born. Chilean roots. The daughter of exiles from the Pinochet regime, Ms. Tijoux embodies the gulf between the developed and the developing world with a hip hop bravado that pops like Missy Elliott and crackles like Lauryn Hill. Her “1977” track (the year she was born) was featured in a Breaking Bad episode. (Remember the Mike & Jesse day-long money pick up sequence?) She made NPR’s 2012 list of Best Latin Alternative Music of the Year in 2012 (“Las Cosas Por Su Nombre”) and has continued to be featured there. She is a star and she’ll be tearing it down on Saturday night.
Brother and sister duos worth there place are rare in music. The Carpenters? Pass. The White Stripes? You had us fooled for a while. Wild Belle is a brother-sister music act from Chicago that draws from reggae and paisley pop. Brother Eliot is the instrumentalist (he usually bounces between the piano and the saxophone) while sister Natalie delivers vocals with a subdued Bond girl quality to her. Their music is shag carpet cool.
Finally, each night will also feature a local band: MY DEER on Friday night and BLUE JAY on Saturday. Both are newcomers to the local indie scene. This is another fine thing Rhythm Foundation does well. No matter where the transatlantic flights take them, they never forget their roots.
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Sometimes the evening clouds part and the constellations appear. The Little Dipper bends toward the heavens, the Big Dipper makes eyes with the North Star, and the Seven Sisters gather and form a Kumbaya circle. It is at this time in your otherwise ordinary life on Earth that cosmic forces align and draw you in. So preach people who study astrology. And for one moment last month, I was a believer.
Check that; I was an astronaut.
A few days before, I took a break from work and checked my Facebook page. There, among the barrage of status updates, selfies, and sponsored ads, I came across this concert promotion posted by The Rhythm Foundation, a local organization that’s been hosting lively music performances in South Florida for over two decades.
Let me talk about a particular funk band — Galactic.
Since the late 1990s, this New Orleans quintet has displayed a flawless, other-worldly funk that never goes sour. Their sound is a gumbo that mixes a saucy southern soulful rhythm guitar, finger-lickin heavy Bayou bass lines, and skippety be-bopping percussive beats with a sprinkle of cowbell and a double dash of high-hats. And that’s just the instrumental jams. When they invite rappers to lend vocals, add one part old-school-hip-hop to that gumbo, dropping verses on the hard street life of the Big Easy.
This is head-bobbing music, back and forth, back and forth. If Rush concerts are ground zero for air drummers, then a Galactic concert is ground zero for head bobbers.
On two occasions I had a chance to watch Galactic perform. The first time was at New Orleans’ Voodoo Music Festival in 2010 and the second time was at last year’s Sunshine Music & Blues Festival at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, and both times I was regretfully too inebriated so I missed my chance to acquire a proper appreciation for their live gigs.
So when my Facebook page brought me this news of a free Galactic concert on a Friday night, I stared at that astronaut on my computer screen for while. But then it hit me, that sonic boom of resistance and left-brain logic speaking to me from a voice closer to home listing all of the why-nots:
- Friday night.
- Rush hour.
- Saturday soccer matches.
- Saturday chores.
So I shrugged, passed the cursor over the thumbs-up symbol, and settled for adding my “like” to the photo.
Reason prevailed and I forgot about the whole thing. I went back to work.
On Friday morning, on my way to the office, my wife calls me. Bad news, she says. The check-engine light is on in my car.
I immediately called our go-to mechanic shop and informed them. They said I could bring the car Friday night and drop the keys off through one of the bay door slips.
That evening after our kids’ soccer practice, we piled into both of our cars. I had one of my kids with me, while my wife tailed behind with our other son. We made plans by cellphone to have dinner near the mechanic’s shop. We knew of a few family friendly restaurants in that area. As we drove towards the traffic heading north on Interstate-95, it hit me, this idea, like a comet crashing into the frontal lobe of my brain:
Honey, the mechanic is around the corner from Hollywood ArtsPark.
Let’s go see Galactic.
This time the wave of resistance was no match for the cosmic forces. We had no choice but to acquiesce to the forces and the planets and the moon.
Thirty five minutes later, we were at Fillmore Street and 24th Avenue, in Hollywood, Florida, dropping off the VW keys with the last mechanic there.
Then we directed my car towards ArtsPark to search for a parking space amid the crowded street corners and distant music from the opening band (Monophonics). We found a spot on a side road, crossed a few streets, and entered a Friday night of neon and tie dye and bearded men in flannel shirts while the first band wrapped up their set.
We snacked on hot dogs and chips.
We killed time. We waited.
Suddenly, the bright lights dimmed to space-age blues and pink. Galactic arrived and got rolling. We side-stepped the crowd and found an ideal spot near the corner of the stage. I took turns putting my kids on my shoulders where they could see the band up close through the clouds of smoke and clusters of neon, along with other miniature people secured to the shoulders of their own dads.
When trombone player Corey Henry grabbed the mike and rapped to the crowd, hands went up and waved back and forth with the beat. When the band introduced vocalist Erica Falls, we were transported light years away.
That night we bobbed our heads.
That night we were astronauts.
And when the night ended and our mission was complete, we returned home safely.
Here’s a track from Galactic’s 2007 From the Corner to the Block:
 Speaking of head-bobbing: Toy bobble heads are reported to date back to around the 1840s and are based on a character from a Russian-penned short story that was described to have a neck that resembled “the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads”?
 Why does Facebook only permit a thumbs-up option to express your feelings about a post? What about the fist-pump or the high-five? I believe those have earned a spot on our menu of digital expressions, Facebook. And while you’re at it, so have the thumbs-down, the middle finger, and the double middle finger.
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