MJ Hancock, the singer of Miami band Awesome New Republic, appeared
to be bleeding profusely from the lower half of his face, bright red driblets of perspiration flowing down his neck and bare chest. “You have to wait until Halloween before they start selling sweat-proof face paint,” he explained. “It’s a good time.” It was an evening of blood, sweat and butterfly wings at Sweat Records on Friday, Sept. 2. A crowd of more than 250 gathered in the back lot to watch four bands comprised entirely of UM students and alumni. As the captive audience clapped and sang from roofs of cars and danced the Hoo-dee-hoo, there was a tangible feeling of excitement in the air, a chemical reaction set in motion by the resonant frequencies of the speakers.
The catalyst for the seemingly overnight explosion of homegrown talent is Sweat Records, founded a year ago by recent UM graduates Lauren “Lolo” Reskin and Sara Yousuf. Started to “provide Miami with a local music source worthy of its inhabitants,” Sweat features an extensive collection of works by local musicians and visual artists, an almost nightly series of concerts, and a monthly book club where people gather to discuss Naomi Klein’s No Logo and other highbrow fare.
The concert on Friday was a perfect showcase for the impact Sweat has made in less than a year. “I can’t remember the last time I saw this many people at a local show,” Reskin said.
The evening began with ANR’s MJ Hancock and former drummer Bob LaDue performing as Purslipping, coaxing otherworldly sounds from two TV sets, a CD player and their heavily processed voices, plastic disguises obscuring their faces.
Next was Cassette, a five-piece outfit that played UM music student Devin Smith’s recently completed album of 35 songs in 36 minutes in its entirety. The rhythm section of Richard Hargett and Rajan Purcell effortlessly handled the complex time signatures as Devin sang catchy songs about ladybugs, cartographers and his computer, pink fairy wings sprouting from his back.
By the time the Dead Hookers Bridge Club, Miami’s champions of punk, had arrived, a sizeable crowd was on hand to shake their hips and fists to instant classic “Hung Like Whales.” The band ended its set with the “Hoo-dee-hoo,” a dance invented by ANR’s MJ that got the entire crowd doing the twist and the mashed potato.
ANR, about to embark on a month-long tour, played last, stirring the crowd into a frenzy with their chaotic soulful anthems. During “Tape They Don’t Want You to See ,” MJ tossed a plastic dismembered hand into the audience, hitting a dazed girl squarely in the face. A nearby fan picked up the hand and raised it defiantly in the air, like the flag of a new movement, a declaration of creative independence.
Matt Gajewski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.