Gainesville’s Reigning Queen

Sally B. Dash brings blend of charisma and chutzpah to Gainesville’s burlesque scene.

By Tyler Francischine

[NOTE: A version of this article appears in the May 24, 2018 issue of the Gainesville Sun.]

Sally B. Dash emerges onstage at High Dive just before midnight on a Saturday. Her neck drips with pearls, and a burnt orange strapless gown hugs her hips. As her eyelashes flutter and her smile spreads, she tears off the gown to reveal a skirt fit for a belly dancer. The skirt gives way to a glittering set of bra and panties. She drops the bra on the ground, and two bedazzled pasties shine in the spotlights.

Not only does Sally B. Dash’s audience react enthusiastically to each layer of clothing she removes, they hang onto every subtle change in facial expression. Each raised eyebrow garners a collective “Ooh.” Every grin she breaks into brings the audiences’ hands together in a sign of audible joy.

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Photo by Ian Clontz/Historia Photography

She floats down the center aisle, throwing condoms into the air from a brass bowl. Audience members jump out of their seats to grasp onto her gifts, or perhaps to move a bit closer to the giver of the gifts herself.

On another Saturday, just after lunchtime, Sally B. Dash opens the closet in the costume room at her home to reveal a series of labeled plastic bins. Just above the bins, costumes made of tulle and glitter hang in color-coded order. Every part of every get-up – from top hat to pasty to tap shoe – is appropriately filed away here until its next curtain call.

Sally B. Dash is known as Florida’s Countess of Caricature, The First Lady of Laughter, Gainesville’s reigning Queen of Burlesque. It’s her particular blend of stage presence, creativity, organizational skill and pure work ethic that makes Sally the star, no matter if she’s center stage or watching from the wings with clipboard in hand.

Dash, 36, moved to Gainesville twelve years ago, a recent graduate of Macon, Georgia’s Wesleyan College. She studied philosophy and theater, and though she had yet to explore the meaning of the word ‘burlesque,’ she already displayed a preternatural talent for the art form.

“I’ve always looked for ways to take my clothes off. My nickname in college was ‘Nekkid Katie,’” she recalls. “My friend told me, ‘You’re not just naked, with no clothes on. If you’re ‘nekkid,’ you don’t have your clothes on, and you’re up to something. It’s always been pretty fitting.”

A born performer, Dash was placed in dance classes in her hometown of Tallahassee before the age of 3. Her mother recognized her daughter’s need for physical movement.

“Apparently, the first time I saw myself in the mirror in tap shoes and a leotard, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop staring at myself, the story goes,” Dash says. “Throughout my youth, I performed in recitals, even parades. I was really good at selling it, and I have a good memory and sense of timing.”

Joining the small theater department at Wesleyan College afforded her a nearly complete set of live performance skills.

“I got to do it all, from acting to stage managing to lighting to prop and set building. That’s when I learned to use power tools,” she says.

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Photo by Lisa Anderson

Before arriving in Gainesville in 2005, Dash’s familiarity with burlesque extended only to a Google search of famous burlesque performers like Dita Von Teese and Michelle L’amour, women who combine war-era pin up fashion and beauty with the sex appeal of the tease act. It wasn’t until a friend alerted her to a casting call posted at Maude’s Café that she officially entered into the world of feathers boas and pasties.

“I answered the call for this vaudeville show with burlesque, and I said I have skills as a stage manager, dancer and performer of various capacities. I got an audition. So, I dressed up in sparkly hot pants, put a face on and did a really awkward audition in the living room of this house belonging to a bunch of dudes. It was one of those ‘How did I get here?’ moments,” she says.

A Star is Born

She can produce the date without a moment’s pause: August, 31, 2013. Though she had created her stage name a few weeks beforehand, the date marks the moment her alter-ego – or more accurately, her ego – came to exist during a Manic Menagerie Vaudeville Company production.

“Sally B. Dash is an exaggeration of my real self. She gives a home for all the ridiculous faces I make normally. And she’s an outlet for all these skills I’ve been acquiring my whole life,” she says. “The first time I performed, it happened so fast. Four minutes and twenty seconds were a blur. I was outside of myself watching it all. I stepped off stage and wondered, did that really happen? Looking back, it was really satisfying to make all the creative decisions about costuming, choreography and the story I wanted to tell. That was the first time I had complete creative control and decided what I wanted to say as an artist.”

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Photo by Ian Clontz/Historia Photography

Dash stayed involved in the Manic Menagerie until it dissolved, eventually going on to produce the company’s shows herself. It was during this time that her signature style solidified. She says her performances depart from classic burlesque – which reached popularity in the US in the 1860s and was outlawed by New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia by the early 1940s – in that she focuses less on overt sexuality and more on strong characterization and physical comedy. Like Gypsy Rose Lee, whose 1957 memoir became a musical and film, Dash adds humor and wit to the act of stripping.

Though the term “neoburlesque” is often used to describe today’s burlesque scene, Dash bets that each performer creates their own blend of classical influences and modern styles.

“You can ‘-lesque’ anything. Anything goes. Today, performers incorporate belly dance, acrobatics, juggling or horror, to name a few. I think the best burlesque happens when the performer is doing what’s most authentic for them,” she says. “Classic burlesque is uber-sparkly, with feather fans and exaggerated femininity. There’s more emphasis on the tease and tantalizing the audience than a narrative. That’s more out of my comfort zone, but it’s on my to-do list. Growth happens when we challenge ourselves.”

One of Dash’s favorite characters to embody is Dolores Umbridge, the ruffle skirt-wearing nemesis of Harry Potter in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series.

“The act starts in the famous ‘I must not tell lies’ scene, where Umbridge makes Harry write that sentence over and over as punishment. But the act takes a turn from the book. Harry storms off stage, and Umbridge rage-strips to ‘Liar’ by the Sex Pistols. I throw a giant temper tantrum on stage,” she says. “In burlesque, you get to ask yourself: what would this character’s underwear look like? I enjoy creating the answer to that question.”

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Photo by Ian Clontz/Historia Photography

Dash’s emphasis on character-driven narrative was culled from the work of Boston troupe Rogue Burlesque. Dash watched performer Busty Keaton turn the theme of 1999 comedy “Office Space” on its head, and she was hooked.

“Busty Keaton is a bored office drone longing to do burlesque. She throws her work away, strips out of her outfit and chases her boss away by twirling her tassels to the tune of ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ It was so cheeky, funny and the narrative meant a lot to me at the time, as I was really miserable in an office job,” she says. “I knew, that’s it! That’s the kind of stuff for me.”

Dash welcomed her beloved Rogue Burlesque to Gainesville in February for a joint performance at High Dive. Dash’s longtime friend and fellow burlesquer Formaldehyde Flower also performed for the show, titled “Burlesque Against Humanity: Burlesque for Horrible People.” Flower says Gainesville audiences who have yet to see a Dash production are doing themselves a serious disservice.

“This woman pours her heart, soul, blood, sweat and glitter tears into everything she does, and she creates magic,” Flower says. “Everything about Sally is vital to this community, and we wouldn’t have grown the way we have without her guidance and expertise.”

“In This Together”

The list of roles Dash has taken on within Gainesville’s burlesque community is endless. Depending on the day, she acts as a performer, workshop and rehearsal leader, event coordinator, costume designer, stage manager or producer. After the Manic Menagerie dissolved, Dash evolved the production into the Market Street Revue.

For two years, she managed and produced regular performances at the Market Street Pub and Cabaret, often arriving six hours ahead of show time to move tables, hang curtains and ready the space for performance. Market Street, which closed its doors in 2016, was located on Southwest First Avenue next to Loosey’s. Dash says the venue was a haven for the various troupes comprising Gainesville’s burlesque scene.

“It was a safe place to grow as a community of artists,” she says. “We had complete control over the schedule, and all the troupes got to test out show formats and new material.”

These days, Dash says, the scene is spread out among various downtown venues like High Dive, Loosey’s, the Hardback Café’, Maude’s and Durty Nelly’s. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I think it’s better now, because we can reach different potential audiences, utilizing crowds that already go to these different venues,” she says. “Our audience is people of all ages. We get some students, but mostly it’s working adults that live here. And it’s mostly female. There’s a perception that our audiences are all sleazy dudes, but it’s actually a lot of women who feel empowered by seeing us get up there and be vulnerable and powerful in that way.”

Allen Finley Photography

Photo by Allen Finley

Dash produces Sally B.’s Dashing Revue at High Dive a few times a year, creating the area’s only burlesque show with live music. She’s also a member of Dr. Sinn’s Freak Island Musical Sideshow, a group of bawdy lasses that combine clowning, live music and fire to the tease act. To keep track of all her involvements, as well as the many shows she attends as a fan, Dash created the Hoggetowne Burlesque and Drag Alliance website. It’s a one-stop shop for all of Gainesville’s live burlesque shows.

“We have 35 to 40 active performers in the community. We’re very often participating in each other’s shows, or at the very least attending each other’s shows. And we have a regular audience who follows all the troupes,” she says. “I started managing this community calendar partly to keep an overview of the schedule, but also to make sure we’re not competing with each other on the same nights and weekends. I’m such a dork, but there’s nothing I love more than a beautifully organized document.”

Dash feels strongly about building a sense of community within Gainesville’s arts scene, connecting not only other burlesquers to each other but cross-pollinating within the town’s diverse art forms.

“The only way we’re going to make Gainesville a city for the art is if we’re all supporting each other and doing this together. Our town is way too small for us to be competing with each other,” she says. “I don’t want to fight masses of people to do the things I want to do. I like that I could go anywhere and run into people I know.”

When Dash began her burlesque career half a decade ago, her fan base was a group of close friends, people who knew the name written on her birth certificate. In the years that followed, she’s expanded her audience, reach and level of community involvement to the point where her face is recognized in the harsh light of day, a status of célébrité she must reckon with.

“When people who I don’t know recognize me in my normal, naked face, it’s awesome but terrifying. I feel like, my cover’s blown. I don’t have a secret identity anymore,” she says. “I walked into a Downtown Drag event in January, and somebody said, ‘Hey! It’s the queen of Gainesville burlesque!’ I was like, ‘Who? Where?’ Then I realized, ‘Oh, you’re talking to me!’ It’s a whole new world. This life is something I’ve daydreamed about, and now it’s real.”

 

 

 

 

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Pop Bar: DirtBike brings sunny SoFla sensibilities to The Atlantic Friday for Sprang Break

By Tyler Francischine

There are few moments in this life more imbued with joy than when you hear a song that stops you dead in your tracks. On the drive to workplace hell or while parked in the driveway of an abode you dread entering, a melody or rhythm can transport you — body and soul — to a place where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

At least that’s how I feel when I listen to DirtBike.

The five-piece pop-rock act will play The Atlantic on Friday, along with Parisian transplants Pearl & The Oysters and Florida’s own Cabo Boing.

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Photo courtesy of DirtBike

DirtBike was born about six months ago among the retirement communities and salty shores of Boynton Beach, Fla. The band is comprised of Mark Dubois, guitar, keys, vocals; Matt Stuchal, guitar and keys; Jordan Richards, guitar, keys and electronic percussion; Ryan Delawyer on bass and Jesse Price on drums and percussion.

Dubois, 25, writes and records the band’s material. He says he aims to create songs that stick.

“I want the listener to bite their teeth down or squeeze their steering wheel hard and say, ‘Gosh darn it, this is so solid,’” he says. “Or maybe they let the full song play when they only have a minute left of their drive.”

So far, DirtBike has released an EP called Them: four short and sweet songs that layer bright, soaring melodies on top of jazzy rhythmic foundations to create tight, toe-tapping compositions. From the surfy opening of “Tornado” to the Strokes-y guitar licks of “Forget About It,” Them evokes images of long car rides and high times spent with good buds. When the track “You Wear Me Out” opens, try to keep those shoulders from shimmying.

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Mark Dubois live in Orlando. Photo by Ed Holten.

Dubois says the band’s sound is influenced by his diverse musical history: he’s been a member of a deathcore metal band, and he was a jazz drummer at Palm Beach State College for a couple years before transferring to FSU to get his bachelor’s in communications.

“I think that’s truly where the rhythm of DirtBike gets its roots from,” he says. “Also, I love Dr. Dog, Bill Evans, The Unicorns, maybe some Fleetwood Mac. I’ve been heavily into MGMT’s new album Little Dark Age as well.”

Dubois’ songwriting process is akin to building a home. You’ve got to start with the foundation.

“The first thing I do to create any demo or piece is have some sort of drum groove or rhythm. It’s a little strange, but without a groove or a beat, I can’t hear any melody or chords in my head. Once I have a rhythm, I build from there,” he says. “Lyrics are the last thing I add, and I never dwell much. It’s an improvisational thing when it comes time to record.”

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DirtBike live in Orlando. Photo by Ed Holten.

Dubois began teaching himself the ins and outs of digital recording when he was 16, and he continues to learn each day in the tiny bedroom recording studio he’s built within his Delray Beach home. Currently, he’s working on brand-new material for DirtBike’s first full-length album.

“I am more excited about the new material than the old, always,” he says. ”I’ve slowly been working on the new material since we got back from our winter tour in January. I am trying my best not to rush the writing process in any way. I want this album to outdo the EP by far, so getting the time to write is currently a special and tedious thing. So far, the songs are all about a specific person. Pretty original, right?”

No matter what lies ahead for DirtBike, DuBois says the project is a fulfilling way for friends to get together and play music they love.

“Success to me is having the patience to build a full-length album, record it, release it under a label (or maybe no label) and getting a chance to tour the music with my best friends in my band,” he says. “I don’t write music to play shows or festivals. If it happens, it happens!”

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Photo courtesy of DirtBike

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The Sunshine Man: Cabo Boing brings joyful noise to The Atlantic March 23 for Sprang Break

Cabo Boing will perform at The Atlantic Friday, March 23 for Sprang Break along with Gainesville’s Pearl & The Oysters and DirtBike from Boynton Beach.

By Tyler Francischine

The house lights dim as Cabo Boing’s set begins. All eyes are drawn to two glowing red orbs, which hover just below Brian Esser’s eyes. Lemon-yellow fringe drips from his nose to his chin, resembling the whiskers of some radioactive Santa Claus or perhaps the inner workings of a mechanized car wash. Nearly every inch of Esser’s body is covered in bright fabric, save for the tips of his fingers, which nimbly move from the electric guitar strapped to his neck to the effects equipment lined up in front of him.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Esser

Cabo Boing, the solo project of veteran Florida musician Brian Esser, transports listeners with its bright, jubilant melodies and driving rhythms. The sounds of 2017 debut Blob On A Grid, released by Haord Records, get your juices flowing whether you’re dancing in a live audience or head-bopping along with headphones as you crank away in a cubicle. Combine this sound with Esser’s costuming, and you’ve got an experience that’ll probably resurface in your dreamscape.

Esser says he feels most inspired to create in the moments immediately following a live performance.

“There’s a sense of accomplishment following every live show. I think of it like a magic trick that I hope goes well, and I’m very relieved every time it does,” he says. “Like a magic trick, there is a system in place for how I perform my songs. While I’m playing, I’ll get these feelings of when things are working best, or when I’m enjoying what I’m hearing the most. I try to remember these moments for when I get home and can start writing again.”

Esser began writing music nearly two decades ago when he was gifted a synthesizer after graduating high school in Longwood, Fla., just north of Orlando. In 2001, he formed Yip-Yip with friend Jason Temple, and the pair went on to release six albums over the next decade. The self-proclaimed “weirdo synthesizer duo” drew acclaim for both their sound and their attention to visual aesthetic. An Independent Florida Alligator article from 2013 noted, “This band is used to performing blind. No, it’s not a Ray Charles tribute band. It’s Yip-Yip, Orlando’s strangely costumed electronic act.”

Yip Yip 2011 by Jenna Shumate

Yip-Yip, 2011. Photo by Jenna Shumate

Esser, who also played in Orlando’s Moon Jelly for their self-titled album, says costumes have longed enabled him to get on stage and share his music with others.

“I have stage fright and anxiety in most social situations. I’ve always been comforted by the idea of making it seem like it’s not me up on stage,” he says. “I didn’t realize this until a recent show where a friend posted a clip of my set. Not only can you not tell it’s me physically, but my voice is now so mutated that it doesn’t sound like me either.”

Though Cabo Boing continues Yip-Yip’s penchant for visuals and synthesizer-based sounds, it differs philosophically from previous projects. With Blob On A Grid, Esser is more intentional than ever before.

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Listen to “Blob on a Grid” now.

“The equipment that we used in Yip-Yip was just a mess of odd things we would find for cheap on Craigslist,” he says. “Cabo Boing comes from a place where I understand the equipment more, and how much these boxes can change the sound of a project. I could start the project thinking about what my favorite sounds and effects are and make that the core of what I’m doing. I’m trying to spread my love of certain sounds and effects to anyone that’s happy to hear it. There are other things I’m communicating in the lyrics that might be important too, but that’s more unconscious.”

Esser draws inspiration from avant-garde artist collective The Residents, English art rock act Cardiacs and new-wave electronic rock act Devo, the latter of which also incorporated kitsch science-fiction themes in their costuming and sample-based, synthesized sounds.

Oh, No! It’s Devo was the first Devo album I bought. I think it was 20 years ago! It’s funny because I didn’t realize for years how electronic the album was. Most of the drums were actually drum machines, and a lot of the synthesizers were sequenced and probably not played by hand,” he says. “Their next album, Shout, was almost entirely made on an early sampling computer. I relate much more to those two albums because it’s so much like how I make music.”

2017 live in Boston by Tiffany Topor

Photo by Tiffany Topor

Esser says his creative process incorporates both ever-evolving techniques and ancient software, which evens out to become a fairly slow and annoying undertaking.

“I start by writing the music with now-ancient computer software like Acid 4.0 and Sound Forge,” he says. “Then I run those sounds and melodies through a few different convoluted processes with hardware equipment that hopefully bring them to life.”

Esser spent four years in New York City bringing Cabo Boing to life, but now he’s excited to share the project with Florida audiences. He moved to Tampa a few months ago and has already played several shows across the sunshine state.

“I missed Florida very much. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot while I was up in New York, but it always felt like a temporary thing. Many of my best creative friends either live here, or they’re from here,” he says. “It’s been really fun going out the past couple of months, seeing what’s new in all the different cities. Lots of exciting stuff and I’m very happy to be back!”

 

 

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Connections and Vulnerability in a Bizarre, Humid Beach World: An Interview with Jordan Burchel

Gainesville musician Jordan Burchel will perform with full band at The Atlantic Friday, Feb. 2 alongside Ricky Kendall and The Slims. Below is an interview with the 27-year-old Spring Hill, Fla., native about creating, performing and continuously mumbling into his phone.

By Tyler Francischine

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Photo by Charlotte Kesl

Tyler: First, let’s talk about Friday’s show. What sets this performance apart from past ones? What are you most looking forward to?

Jordan: “I’m playing with several new musicians on stage for the first time and we’re playing all new material. It’s both exciting and a bit terrifying. Collin Whitlock of Darkhorse and The Shitty Beatles, Scott Kauffmann of Average Friend and The Pseudo Kids, singer-songwriter Matthew Fowler and documentary filmmaker David Borenstein are all joining the band on Friday in addition to Sam Moss, Stuart Strome, and Chris Hillman who I’ve played music with for years. I’m most looking forward to getting on stage with other people for the first time in a long time.”

Tyler: What’s your relationship with the audience during a live show? What do you hope your audience walks away from the show thinking or feeling?

Jordan: “My relationship with the audience is maybe 20 percent adversarial, and I’m willing to take the blame for that. The deal is this: the band and I can ruin your night by being bad, and you can break my heart by being on your phone. So everyone involved is vulnerable.

That vulnerability can turn into one of a few things based on how well we do our jobs as entertainers. It can grow into a genuine connection, or it can devolve into an awkward evening. I hope people leave the show feeling like they made a connection of some sort. I also just want them to feel like they got their entertainment dollar’s worth, and hopefully, that dancing was at least a possibility during our set..”

Tyler: Now, the music. Will audiences hear new, unreleased material? Songs from your last release Vowel Sounds?

Jordan: “We’ll be playing only new material. None of the hits. We will be playing some songs from the last record on February 24th at The Heartwood Festival, if I may shamelessly plug our next gig.”

Tyler: What’s your process when it comes to songwriting? Do you begin each song with a melody or lyrical phrase in mind? Do you attempt to conjure a mood or feeling in the listener?

Jordan: “These days, I’m finding I start writing with just a mood or emotion in mind. I try to give it some specificity by visualizing what I might be doing or where I might be experiencing that particular emotion, and then I begin mumbling ideas into my phone.

I try to resist the urge to use lyrics as my starting point, because I’ll just write something that I’ve written before. If I wait a bit, though, usually the ideas that come are better, or they’re more closely related to the core of the music. Sometimes they aren’t, and that’s ok too. The process has to be fast and I have to give myself lots of chances, so I’m constantly recording and writing down ideas — maybe three or four snippets a day. The trick is to write constantly. And don’t get too bent out of shape if you make something terrible. Knowing your song is terrible is another skill entirely.”

Tyler: Who are some artists that inspire you, that you may try to draw from in your own recordings and performances?

Jordan: “David Bowie, Moses Sumney, St. Vincent, SZA, Jay Som and Kendrick Lamar are a few of the artists that I’ve had on heavy rotation recently. I’d say they all inspire me a great deal.”

Tyler: Let’s talk Gainesville. What do you make of the artistic community here? What needs to happen to make Gainesville even more hospitable for artists?

Jordan: “I’ve been here for eight years now. Wow! I think we have a great community of artists here, and I’m constantly amazed by what they make. In my experience, Gainesville is an ideal place to start being a working musician. You can get a show, which doesn’t actually sound like a compliment, but in a lot of cities the process of getting a show is a mystery.

I think doing more as a community to draw bigger artists to Gainesville as they head to Orlando or down south is a big part of improving the scene for local artists. This often comes down to the size and type of the venues that are available to those artists when booking their tours. In that regard, there are some very exciting things on the horizon.

Beyond that, we could shed the perceived lack of legitimacy that occasionally haunts us here. Speaking only for myself, I have a bad habit, as a native Floridian, of assuming that this place is simply inhospitable to good art. I spent the first twenty years of my life feeling that way.

It isn’t a hard bias to let go of thankfully, because there’s so many talented people doing great work here. You just have to seek it out. This is a place where art gets made and where people reckon with it. The fact that art happens in the middle of this bizarre, humid beach-world we live in doesn’t diminish the art. If anything, the art is more interesting as a result.

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Photo by Charlotte Kesl

Tyler: Finally, tell me about your projects in the works.

Jordan:I Think I Live Here is a concert film that I’m hellbent on getting made. The basic pitch is this: we edit together a series of performances into one cohesive concert, focusing on the people and places that make Gainesville a great place to play and hear music. The shows would be of all different sizes and shot in wildly different places.

I’m currently working on a few EP’s and a full-length album. I’ve never met a single deadline I’ve set for myself when it comes to releasing music, so I’ll refrain from setting new deadlines here.  It could be fun to put the names of the projects out there though. In no particular order I’m working on: Gosh, GUTBUSTER, To No God In Particular, Sometimes Why, and A New Awareness of the Lumbar Spine.”

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Poster by Richard Kendall

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Manny Bravo Talks Depression, Racism, Hope on Debut “We Gon’ Die Anyway!”

The fourth-year University of Florida student opens up about the reality of a time billed to be the best four years of his life.

By Tyler Francischine

If we gauge our reality by the media we consume — and let’s face it, it seeps and creeps in no matter what — then those four years we spend as college students are bound to be the best days of our lives. This is a time in which experimentation leads to real discovery about our identities, our futures, the reason why we ended up on this planet. Right? Not quite.

What if our college years end up being a series of struggles, interminable weeks in which feelings of otherness lead to suicidal thoughts and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness? Many students at the University of Florida may find the Gator Nation doesn’t give all newcomers the same welcome. For these students, it takes more effort to sift through the dominant culture and carve out a space of one’s own.

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On his debut album, Manny Bravo, born Emanuel Griffin, delves deep into his time as a Gator, piecing apart the experiences that nearly broke him and the ones that built him back up. The 21-year-old says the meaning behind the album title, We Gon’ Die Anyway! has evolved along with his sense of self.

We Gon’ Die Anyway! was primarily inspired by a drug overdose. You see college kids partying and taking drugs in movies all the time. What the movies don’t show you is how many of them end up in a hospital or a casket. After a normal night of partying and poor decisions, I was almost one of them,” he says. “I used to say ‘We gon’ die anyway’ to justify my drug consumption, selfish behavior and defeatist attitude. Ever since the overdose, I say it as a reminder that I need to live the best life that I can every single day.”

On album opener “Bored of Education,” Bravo catapults listeners into the world of a suicidal college freshman, feeling adrift in a sea of (white) orange and blue sports fans: “Imma blow my brains out in my dorm room anyway/It’ll probably make the front page of the school news unless my school wins a football game”

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On the eight tracks that follow, Bravo chronicles the idiosyncrasies inherent in attending a large university in the South. Even though University of Florida leadership publicly touts values of inclusiveness and equality, individual students of color may experience interactions of another flavor. No stranger to the tenuous nature of racial politics on campus, Bravo has met with UF President Kent Fuchs about improving the school’s racial climate, and he currently serves as a student advisor to University Police Department Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick.

“I’ve been called ‘nigger’ by students in moving cars. I’ve had professors assume I’m at UF because of some minority scholarship. However, the majority of racism I’ve experience at UF has been subtle. There are certain little microaggressions I have to deal with on a daily basis,” he says. “UF is in an interesting position. It’s a top-10 institution, so there’s a demand to be diverse. At the same time, a lot of its money comes from racist, old White dudes. The administration wants to keep the donations coming in and keep a progressive public image. It’s having a hard time doing both.”

 

On track “On-Campus Freestyle,” Bravo paints a clear picture of the racist perceptions maintained by members of the authority: “Cops stopped and frisked the kids with melanin/ And the kick is, while the cops is messin’ with niggas, my dealer is a White chick”

“The University of Florida portrays itself as inclusive, but it isn’t,” Bravo says. “The same fraternities and sororities have been running student government for decades. ‘Every Gator Counts,’ but we don’t count equally. If you’re a minority and aren’t part of Greek life, you have to create your own place to prosper. I’m still trying to figure how to do that myself. Whether I figure it out or not, I’m not all that angry about it. It’s good practice for the real world.”

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Bravo cites artists Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Tyler, the Creator, Lil B and Paramore’s Hayley Williams as influences, leaders in creating their own brand of sound. For Bravo, newness is the word.

“I want to make stuff that nobody has ever heard before. If you know yourself, that shouldn’t be hard to do. After all, there’s only one you,” he says. “The artists I admire most created their own lane and influenced future artists to follow their heart by doing so. I want to be that type of artist.”

Just as a once terrified freshman becomes a nearly collected and confident upperclassman, the mood of We All Gon’ Die Anyway! lifts as it progresses. “TRY!” urges listeners to keep on keepin’ on, even in the face of adversity. That doesn’t mean moments of doubt are in the past — the second-to-last track, “Off-Campus Freestyle,” dips back into the pit of despair with the lyrics “I said I was happy/ I lied.”

As one’s college years come to a close, that unsettled feeling is replaced with a more insidious fear: the question mark that is The Future. For Bravo, creating music affords him an outlet to channel these fears, and he hopes this album serves listeners in a similar way.

“[Music] allows me to express these feelings of doubt, frustration and depression in a healthy way. On top of that, it also allows me to help somebody who is going through similar situations. I’m able to give them a soundtrack and let them know that they’re not alone,” he says. “I want the people who aren’t passionate about their major and don’t know what they’re going to do after graduation to hear a song like Off-Campus Freestyle and say, ‘That’s exactly how I feel.’”

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Ultimately, We Gon Die Anyway! leaves listeners with a sense of hope, resilience and power. Just as Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” implores audiences to focus inward to create change from within, Bravo’s album closer “BElieve in YOUrself” advises listeners to recognize their own power. “Use school. Don’t let school use you.” As Bravo enters his last months at the University of Florida, he looks forward to a future surely replete with experiences he can draw from to grow, evolve and share his truth with others. He plans to release a follow-up, “High Dive,” this winter.

Find Manny Bravo online at https://www.facebook.com/IAmMannyBravo, https://twitter.com/IAmMannyBravo, and https://soundcloud.com/iammannybravo.

 

 

 

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The Dewars To Play Farewell Show Wednesday at The Atlantic

By Tyler Francischine

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Photo courtesy of The Dewars

Like pilgrims making the trek to Mecca, Gainesville musicians The Dewars are leaving their Florida roots behind in search of gigs, thrills and opportunity in New York City. They’ll play one last show Wednesday night at The Atlantic with Tiny Farm and Pearl & The Oysters. On the opening track of their 2015 full-length All A Part of The Show, Anthony and Zachary Dewar warn against the perils of a life spent comfortably at the homestead. Far from suckers for their hometown, the brothers prepare to bring their signature combination of haunting harmonies and clever lyricism to New York City’s ears.

True to the Dewars’ penchant for #twinning, the following quotes cannot clearly be attributed to one Dewar over another.

What inspired your decision to move to the Big Apple? What are your goals and dreams for this next phase?

“While I partially agree with Tim McGraw’s statement ‘You can have a lot of fun in a New York minute, but there’s some things you can’t do inside the city limits,’ I also believe there are things you can do inside the city limits that can’t be done elsewhere. As far as dreams and goals go: mass stardom, billions of dollars, 101 dalmatians and an infinity pool.”

What will you miss most about Gainesville, or Florida in general?

“I’ll miss my Gainesville friends and that Thai restaurant called Bangkok Square. In terms of Florida, there’s a lot to miss but I haven’t been able to miss them yet because I’ve just been here. But let’s face it – you can take the boy out of Florida, but you can’t take the Florida out of the boy.”

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Photo courtesy of The Dewar family

What was the biggest challenge of being a band in Gainesville?

“The biggest challenge of being a band in Gainesville is getting a hold of Ryan O’Malley. Honestly, the hardest part of being a band there was the people weren’t ready. Our music is like a foreign language they couldn’t understand. But seriously, the hardest part about being a band there is that the long-term prospects proved unfruitful, and it’s not that stimulating of an environment to write in. For me. No offense. Go gators.”

Now, some background – how long have you been creating and playing together?

“We’ve been playing since the summer of seventh grade but didn’t take it seriously until the winter of eighth grade. To be honest, I don’t clearly remember meeting each other, but we’ve known each other for a long time, and we’ve been creating art forever.”

What effect do you hope your music has on listeners?

“That depends on the song – sometimes charmed, sometimes scared, but mostly pleasantly surprised and amused.”

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Photo by Noah Lamport

What’s your favorite aspect of the musical process?

“All aspects have their unique perks. Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. If I had to choose, it would be fishing for new concepts and bringing them to life.”

Where are you at within the creation process of your next release?

“That’s a really good question. We’ve had some flaky producers that have led to unfinished albums but we’re going to crank out some DIY albums in the very near future. Might as well be an LP, but with the shrinking attention spans of today we could be releasing it note by note.”

How do you define success for The Dewars? On a broader level, what do you think constitutes ‘making it’ in today’s climate?

“You start by setting your expectations very low. Just kidding. Success boils down to being excited about the art that you create and its potential to positively affect those who come into contact with it. I would consider ‘making it’ being able to travel around the world on my music and rock some socks off along the way.”

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Photo by Noah Lamport

 

 

 

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Pearl & The Oysters To Debut Album at The Atlantic Wednesday

By Tyler Francischine

Pearl photo illustration

Photo illustration by Manon David

The swampy heat and critter-filled wooden houses we call home in Gainesville may create a personal hell for some, but for the Parisian transplants who make up Pearl and The Oysters, it’s a strange and beautiful paradise.

With song titles like “Lake Alice” and “Santa Fe,” Juliette Davis and Joachim Polack pay homage to the land they love (among other people, places and things) on their debut album With Pearl and The Oysters. The duo will release the album with a performance at The Atlantic alongside The Dewars and Tiny Farm Wednesday night.

Davis calls the north central Florida landscape exotic and inspiring.

“Subways, crowds, being anonymous — that’s my ecosystem,” she says. “Here, there are armadillos and raccoons living under the house. That’s the most exotic thing I could imagine.”

Though lyrically influenced by the local flora and fauna, the sonic landscape this album creates is otherworldly. The sounds coming out of Davis’ Suzuki Omnichord, which was created as an electronic substitute for the autoharp, add a layer of near-fantasy to this batch of songs composed of bouncy bass lines, driving guitar licks and key lines that smack of Chico Marx in their playfulness. The influence of early electronic musicians like Raymond Scott and Jean-Jacques Perrey is made explicit with the song title “Welcome to the Wendy Carlos Appreciation Society.”

Polack says he was most influenced by the song structure and sound of 70s pop artists like Electric Light Orchestra and Wings, and he took cues from The Dandy Warhols in combining electronic instrumentation and guitar-based rock. Davis looked to The Everly Brothers when she crafted these songs. Before a single lick or word was written, the pair settled on a common goal: build a sense of sonic unity within this album.

“I don’t think we’ve ever tried so hard to leave a sound signature,” Polack says. “Like reading a good collection of short stories, I want listeners to get the sense that the songs are different, but there is something binding them.”

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Photo by Noah Lamport

Polack and Davis met in their high school music class and have been collaborating since shortly after graduating. They both went on to receive master’s degrees in musicology from the Université Paris-Sorbonne. While Polack learned composition the same way as Debussy before him at the Conservatoire de Paris, Davis’ education was in jazz, picking up techniques from her father, long-time professional musician Jean-Michel Davis, who currently plays percussion in the group Les Primitifs du Futur.

Polack began playing in bands at age 13 and promises he practiced the violin every single day for 10 years straight. Davis recalls hearing that she sang from her crib as a baby, and she definitely remembers having to wait for her big-girl front teeth to grow in before she could start playing the trumpet. She says her and Polack’s backgrounds have left a mark on With Pearl and The Oysters.

“Having been around this knowledge all my life gives me tools and instincts. I can throw myself into the music and put into it what I want to hear,” she says.

Polack says,“I don’t drink a lot. I don’t smoke. Writing music is me being with myself in a good way.”

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Photo by Noah Lamport

The pair’s journey brought them to Gainesville two years ago, when Polack began his studies of Brazilian music within the University of Florida’s doctoral program. From the start, Polack found the town to be home to creative minds and receptive ears. Local record label and artist collective Elestial Sound nabbed Pearl and premiered their first single, “Vitamin D,” on the June compilation ES17.

“Gainesville is very special,” Polack says. “When I arrived here, I met musicians organically and quickly. It’s easy to talk to a musician after a show and say, ‘Let’s jam or listen to music.’ In Paris, it’s not as easy to connect. You’re just another drop in the ocean.”

Davis says her previous musical ventures in Paris suffered from lack of a supportive arts scene, and her experiences in Florida have proved the opposite.

“Gainesville is alive. People are interested, passionate and curious about art,” she says. “Having people support your art is very important. You can create the music you want and show it to people in a positive way.”

Juliette Davis of Pearl & The Oysters

Photo by Noah Lamport

The pair recognize external pressures for bands to be successful, but Davis says the glamour of fame isn’t attractive to them. For Polack, victories like West Palm Beach audiences lining up to get their records autographed after a show, or releasing a full-length album on vinyl and cassette, prove rewarding and renewing.

“We’re a mixture of ambitious and not very ambitious. Every band wants to be as big as possible, but I want to enjoy what we are doing now,” he says. “In Paris, we were chasing blogs and labels, and it never happened for us that way. When we started Pearl, all I could see was how good it felt to play music without those other concerns or expectations.”

That feeling of freedom has eased the pair’s work on a follow-up to With Pearl and The Oysters. Listeners can expect to hear remnants of 50’s R&B and doo-wop, and of course, more of the same mix of Floridian fantasy and reality.

“It’s almost offensive,” Polack says, “how much we exoticize Florida on the next record.”

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The Conch, September 1, 2015 Theme was, “Neighbors and Roommates”

We had a swell time hearing stories about roommates and neighbors at The Conch in September. You can check out some of the best stories from the night here
C
heck out other Conch podcasts here
A
nd check out all the other Grow Radio podcasts here

Check out our Facebook page for other Conch-related info

Come to the next Conch event, October 6 at Lightnin’ Salvage. Theme will be, “The Internet.

Photos by Bruce Proctor

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A sad week for Grow Radio, two former DJs passed away

We’re saddened to bring news that two past Grow Radio DJs died last week.
Travis Fristoe hosted two radio shows. The Mixtape Party with Don Fitzpatrick and Culture Wars.
Pat Fitzpatrick hosted Protest, Inc. with assistance from his son Dan Fitzpatrick , another Grow DJ
Both were forces of nature in their worlds, striving to make our world a better place to live for all.

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The Conch, June 2, 2015 Theme was “Summer Vacation” with featured storyteller Shannon Cason

We had a great night of stories and storytellers June 2. And we want to thank Satchel for bringing Shannon Cason and his family to Gainesville from their home in Detroit so that we could enjoy Shannon’s stories and they could experience our hometown.

Check out the great stories from the night in our podcast here

You can find out more about Shannon and find his podcast  here

You can see more from the Conch on our Facebook page

photos by Bruce Proctor

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