Stop Talking Crap About the Florida Music Scene

By Dante Lima

A lot of people were upset about THIS POST we ran yesterday, so we were like, "fine, tell us about how we fucked up," and this guy did. Everybody friends now?

 
Florida isn't paradise. You can point to a host of unlikable traits about Florida, and perhaps you could once point that nagging finger at our music, but not now. Now that finger is bound to get broken.
 
A quick Wikipedia search will give you the background on Florida's musical shit list. Yes, you'll find boy bands and cock rock and Jimmy Buffett (who, by the way, was born in Mississippi and began his career in Nashville). In the same state, you'll also find the traces of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Stephen Stills, Bo Diddley, the Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, and Gram Parsons. Iron & Wine's Sam Beam started his career here, as well as Against Me!, Hot Water Music, and Diplo. I'm not here to give history lessons. Instead, I'm here to let everyone into a misunderstood musical state booming with talent that is consistently faced with the challenge of overcoming its stereotypes.  
 
It's important to address Florida's musical validity now because if bands like Hundred Waters are cloaked with the perceived stench of their home state, we take one step back from building a scene. Hundred Waters got framed as the skinny kid at fat camp in their previous interview with VICE, and not only was that point of view unfounded, it was offensive. Writers and publications are assigned to spotlight the up-and-comers, I get that, but when that spotlight quickly turns, the rest of us hard-working musicians are left in the dark. I can't sit back and let ignorance and irresponsibility remain the status quo in music journalism, nor should the rest of the country's ears suffer. I refuse to let that happen to a culture I love.
 
If you walk downtown on any given night in Gainesville, you'll find musicians playing to musicians. The bars and clubs are small, and because of the university atmosphere, the interest level in original, local music from the general public can be absent. It leaves the artists with crowds of their peers, left to fend for themselves. In bigger cities, any semblance of a scene would evaporate in the same conditions, but in Gainesville, it thrives. The reason is because the artists rally around each other. They collaborate. If it sounds like a circle jerk, it isn't. Without national attention, the city had no other choice. You’ll seldom find a Florida band featured on a major music blog or magazine without the cliched "Florida sucks, but this doesn't!" mantra.
 
In Gainesville, there are no groupies, nobody seeking attachment to a fad or social structure. There are just people who make music and people who are into it. When I was playing there for nearly six years, the music community became like a family. Each member had its eccentricities and special talents. We ate meals together and partied together. We recorded together and jammed together. Eventually, when you combine dozens of like-minded individuals in a small place, you get a creative outburst. In other cities like Washington D.C. you'd get the birth of American hardcore, or in Seattle you'd get the birth of grunge. In Gainesville, we got a burgeoning mess of 78.5 different classifications of rock, folk, punk, soul, and experimental electronic music. Since we didn't have a built-in history of what our music was supposed to sound like, we decided it would sound like nothing. And perhaps this is our fatal flaw, that nobody can point to Gainesville and say, "Man, that's the Gainesville sound." Listen to Morningbell, Pseudo Kids, Michael Claytor, Ricky Kendall, Young Hookers, Waylon Thornton & the Heavy Hands, Snakehealers, D.P., Hundred Waters, Darkhorse, Praything, Hear Hums, Nook & Cranny, Levek, and the entire No Idea Records crew, and you'll have a harder time justifying their place in the same mixtape much less the same town. I'm leaving out so many worthy names, it kills me, but the rabbit hole does go deeper.
 
Hundred Waters was born in this culture of a family with no boundaries. Now that they're being discovered, media outlets aren't quite sure what to make of their sound. But that's precisely what makes Florida music such an X factor. It's discovering its own identity. Musicians in this state are too far removed from the musical forefathers I mentioned earlier to reasonably cite an influence, and that leaves our sound ripe for redefinition.
 
Now I live in Orlando, and I'm experiencing the same phenomenon as Gainesville. I was born and grew up in Orlando. In high school, we went to see touring bands at The Social and House of Blues. The local scene was largely formed of ska-punk and stoner rock bands that were fun to see, but didn't exactly age well. Orlando was still living in an era of imitation and a true creative force was scarce. In the eight years during my absence something changed. I found a host of musicians that were making the same family concept work in Orlando. Bands like Day Joy, Maximino, Thee Wilt Chamberlain, Roadkill Ghost Choir, Great Decievers, Saskatchwean, xxyyxx, Surfin Serf and Michael Parallax. I've only started to scratch the surface in my newfound home, but I can already see the common denominator: individuals experimenting with sound and supporting themselves. There's a do-it-together mentality that's caused the two cities and others in Florida to converge for festivals like FMLY Fest, Total Bummer, Antiwarpt, and AM/FM. At these gatherings, you can witness our finest talents for criminally cheap.
 
Of course I'm speaking about the communities I know. Florida is a huge state, like, we-decide-elections huge, and I'm certain there's limitless musical ground to be traversed in Tallahassee, Tampa, Jacksonville, South Florida, and everywhere in between. Until I get there, I can only shine a light on where I've been and what I've heard. I have the urge to hear more, and I can only hope other music journalists and fans feel equally inspired to explore Florida.
 
As the years have passed, I've met and played with so many deserving musicians in this state. Our discussions about home often quickly turn to "How do we save Florida?" But in reality, Florida doesn't need saving. We aren't lost musical souls. We've fallen victim to misunderstandings and misrepresentations. We've been bullied for no reason. The better question is, how do we tell our story? The answer is through our music. We're not deprived of creativity; we're deprived of a fair shake. Listen and you'll hear Florida. It might not sound like a postcard, but it will sound like our lives. We're made of the same joys and sorrows, emotional and social complexities as any group of musicians in any part of the country. The only difference is that we've been told our art doesn't matter, and those are dangerous words to tell a Floridian. We're fighting back with sound waves, and one day they will be heard.
 

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