Arts & Entertainment Staff Picks

Best of the Bay 2006

Best Do-It-Yourself: Acafool

Last year, a rapper calling himself Acafool cut a CD in his Tampa home that included a song called “Hata Blockas,” which celebrated a special type of magic sunglasses that can keep all those haters out yo face. Acafool and some friends test-marketed “Hata Blockas” on the streets and in the clubs, and then hit up Wild 98.7 for some airplay. Big, corporate-owned stations rarely pick up records from independent local acts, but the song’s bounce-beat and badassitudde got folks at the station interested enough to give it a few spins. The audience responded, Wild put it in heavier rotation, and soon enough rival station 95.7 The Beat jumped on the record. Meanwhile, Acafool and his crew had designed sunglasses etched with “Hata Blockas,” and were selling them online and at shows. The song’s popularity has spread to such far-flung markets as Honolulu and Salt Lake City, while entrenching itself throughout most of urban Florida. Acafool will independently release his self-titled album in October. He’s been doing shows around the state (and even one in Salt Lake) based on the popularity of “Hata Blockas.” A few labels have put out feelers, but Acafool is waiting for a right and proper offer. An encouraging case of DIY in action.

Best New Band: The Dry County

This young, coed Tampa trio has built up a rabidly supportive following over the last year through regular shows at Skatepark of Tampa’s Transitions Art Gallery, with a sound that flawlessly balances artiness and grit. To call them indie rock might be misleading, but it’s virtually impossible to peg the group any more specifically — shades of everything from The Smiths and Hüsker Dü to Smoking Popes-esque pop-punk, dubby experimental post-rock and even alt-country provide grist for The Dry County’s nonetheless cohesive, unique and compelling sound. Like all great modern-pop-associated music, the threesome’s vibe is both familiar yet fresh, and the group’s obvious commitment to approaching it from an original and personal perspective promises more killer songs to come.

Best Local CD: When You Get Lost on Those Brick Streets, Military Junior

All of this standout Pinellas County trio’s defining elements — the melodic sense, the poetic lyrics, the knack for incorporating odd time signatures without becoming too busy, the instrumental talent — mesh inventively and engagingly on this 10-track gem. Those Brick Streets isn’t just completely devoid of filler, it’s also a cohesive, well-thought-out program whose structure neatly turns back on itself like a sonic mobius strip. Military Junior possess the same sense for balancing proggy musicianship with pop songwriting displayed by bands from The Police to Sunny Day Real Estate, and has produced a modern-rock disc that’s catchy and challenging in equal, perfectly integrated doses. Plus, the best song a local act put out over the last year, the gorgeous “Anodyne,” is on there.

Best Singer-Songwriter: Geri X

Whether alone or with inventive, intuitive drummer Anthony Zollo, 22-year-old Bulgarian-born Geri X never fails to move attentive listeners. Her deceptively straightforward lyrics draw you in, and her hypnotically precise fingerpicking style turns the heads of the other acoustic players in the crowd, but it’s her voice that seals the deal. By turns fragile and bold, and always tinged with an alluring hint of accent, Geri X’s vocals perfectly fit her music’s combination of the timeless and the contemporary — it’s uniquely hip and eclectic American post-folk, but sounds like it learned about love and heartbreak somewhere unfathomably older than here.

Best Musical Achievement: The Vodkanauts

For WMNF’s Who tribute/fundraiser at Skipper’s, the Vodkanauts decided to raise the bar on these recurring shindigs by playing the rock opera Tommy all the way through (save for a few disposable pieces). For the occasion, the quartet beefed up with extra singers (notably Brian Merrill and Ed Woltil, to complement regular member Jonathan Harrison). The ensemble strutted through the myriad songs and sections with nary a blip, executing the wide range of dynamics with particular aplomb. These folks must’ve had to woodshed the material extra-hard — and all for a fundraiser, making it all the more of an achievement. For about an hour, The Vodkanauts and guests had a blast, as did the audience.

Best Good News/Bad News for the St. Pete Music Scene: The Garage
662 Central Ave.

THE GOOD NEWS: It’s the medium-sized live-music club that downtown St. Pete has been missing forever, or at least since the State Theatre (located right across the street) adopted a nearly completely national-act format, and everybody completely forgot The Bank existed and it starved to death. It’s got a nice big room, a full stage with a full P.A., and is just waiting for local scenesters to rub some colorful character into its newly painted walls. Plus, it’s also already booking some of smaller touring bands that previously required a drive to Ybor. THE BAD NEWS: The Garage is currently beer-and-wine only, and worse, has consistent problems dialing the room sound into anything even remotely pleasant. It’s gotten markedly better recently, however, and hopefully by the time this issue hits, the new club’s nagging live-mix issues will be history.

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