Our Man in Miami: Basking in the Beauty of Miami Horror

Incongruity becomes me. I drive a ’76 Buick Regal and use a 4G phone. I wear suits and ties where shorts and sandals are pretty much de rigueur. I dig listening to The Archies while reading Nietzsche, and reading Mickey Spillane while listening to Wagner. When most of the land lies down to bed for the night, I rise. When everyone’s hell bent on heaven, I’m among the heaven-sent who descend. So it stands to damn good reason that I’d dig Miami Horror, the nightmarishly-named Aussie outfit who make music so beautiful it hurts. I can’t recall exactly when or where I first came across the name, nor what went through my mind in the nanosecond it took for me to click back and see if I could believe my eyes. Some kinda tragic headline, I surmised. Most certainly, I didn’t think music, let alone a sound so robust it makes the disco it emulates almost pale in comparison. And when I did find out Miami Horror was a man (now a band), I figured he’d cribbed his moniker from a tabloid a la New York’s legendary 3 Teens Kill 4. You know, the kinda front page story that grabs folks by the throat.

Alas, as you’ll read, I was wrong, way wrong. In fact, I was so far off base I may as well have been on another playing field altogether. And when a know-it-all like me so completely misses the mark, well, getting to the core of the matter becomes of paramount importance. So when I heard the man (now band) would be holed up at The Fontainebleau and staging at LIV, I set my sights on a sitdown. And when I found out the man (and band) had barely left the grounds in the two days they’d been in town, I insisted we preface said sitdown with a drive around.

That’s how I found myself playing tour guide for Miami Horror’s main man, Benjamin Plant. The rest of the band had gone to the frolic in the sea, but managers Jerry Soer and David Kirkpatrick were courageous enough to jump in and join me on a whirlwind look at South Beach.

Backed by a monologue that must’ve sounded as mad as the cat in the hat who was uttering it, I pointed out local landmarks like The Octagon, where my French designer pal Daniel Venissac lives in Muhammad Ali’s old apartment, Frank Gehry’s soon-to-open New World Symphony complex, which bookends nicely Cesar Pelli’s Arsht Center across the Causeway, and our once dearly beloved Burdines, Florida’s first department store, which has now gone the way of Macy’s. I took ‘em on a stroll down Lincoln Road, and told of its boom and bust and boom again history, and how it was designed by the late, great Morris Lapidus, the very same mind behind The Fontainebleau. And after a dynamite meal at Rosinella (where else?), I dropped off the now fully-informed trio at Mac’s Club Deuce, the dive bar to end all dive bars, and the one remaining element of old South Beach.

It was while we were breaking bread that I managed to shut up and let Ben get a word in edgewise. Here are a few of them.

It just so happens that both Massive Attack and MGMT will be coming to Miami on the same date. If you had choose one of the two, which would it be? I’d have to say Massive Attack, because I’ve seen MGMT.

Really? How were they? A lot of people were disappointed by their show, because they basically just stand there and do nothing. But that’s exactly what I expected. Everyone else thought that because their music is so unique, they’d have this really crazy show or something. They don’t.

What other of the new crop of bands do you dig? There’s another Australian group called Tame Impala, and they’re pretty much Psych Rock with Cream influence and John Lennon-like vocals.

They’re also from Melbourne? No, they’re from Perth.

Is it something you might wanna remix? They wouldn’t really want a remix, because the music is so organic. There are a couple synth noises here and there, but it’s mostly all guitars, heavy phasers…

What about dance music? This guy Lindstrom from Norway, he has some pretty cool stuff. It’s not that dancy, but it’s that kinda new disco that’s goin’ on now.

You know, I interviewed Calvin Harris when he was in town last year, not that you sound like Calvin Harris, but there is a similar slant. And it always puzzles me how this strange blip in the aural cosmos – ’77 or ’78 to ’81 disco – got a hold of you guys. Obviously you weren’t around then. What happened? Did you hear an old Donna Summer record and go nuts? Yeah, I think so. Pretty much. I tried to keep Illumination influenced by disco, but not really disco. I think what happened was that for 10 years there was this house thing, which was obviously influenced by disco; in fact it’s probably more disco than all this new stuff, just a newer version of it. And that’s where the influence first came from. Then people started looking into house’s influence, and that led back to original disco. Okay, you’ve probably answered this a million times, but where did the name Miami Horror come from? I was looking at visual words. I wanted something that had more depth to it than just a word, i.e with a more visual aspect. Miami was quite colorful. It was probably when I was into more ‘80s sounding stuff, too, so that made it appeal to me even more. Horror was a nice contrast with Miami, and both words together have a lot of repetition, you know, two i’s, double r’s, two o’s. Horror can almost be mirrored. It’s just a visual thing really.

So you didn’t come across some tabloid headline that led with “Miami Horror”? No, nothing like that. It’s just two words that happened to come together really well.

So what do you think of Miami anyway? Well, we’ve seen more in the last 40 minutes than we have in the entire two days we’ve been here.

That’s my fault. Had I known you’d be in town early, I would’ve snatched you up sooner – or at least given you an itinerary of hot spots to hit. There’s always something goin’ on. Next time, for sure. We’ll be back.

I’m gonna hold you to that. Please do.

Pow-Wowing with the Louvre’s Fashion & Textiles Chief, Pamela Golbin

There are occasions in a chronic byliner’s life when there just isn’t enough time to ask all the questions on one’s mind. People are busy. Schedules are relentless. And all too often, a chat comes to an end before your questions even get asked, let alone answered. Then there are what the French call “thoughts of the stairwell.” Things you think of to say (or in this case ask) after you’ve left the conversation. Case in point: Pamela Golbin. Golbin, who’s Chief Curator of the Fashion and Textiles Museum at The Louvre in Paris, gave a rather keen talk last week at The Wolf. After she signed a stack of her marvelous book, Madeleine Vionnet, about the pioneering French dressmaker, we sat down for a chat. Unfortunately, there were a few distractions, and The Wolf had to close up shop before the conversation could really get started. Fortunately, Golbin was in town for a short while, and she agreed to a second sitdown. So late Wednesday afternoon we ducked out of the summer rain and into Rosinella (yeah, I know, but I dig the place). Here’s how some of round two played out.

You said last week that the Fashion and Textiles Museum covers the 16th century until tomorrow. So I’m guessing it’s not all about the past, is it? We have the national collection, so it’s part of the French patrimony. It has the same judicial stature as the Mona Lisa. So I’m collecting for future generations. The key pieces in fashion history need to be in a museum, and I have very close ties to current designers and we work together with shows, for research purposes, and in various types of projects.

Is there a parallel between art acquisitions and fashion acquisitions? The collection is a living collection. It’s not closed off. So when I say it’s from the 16th century until tomorrow, it really is until tomorrow.

So each year you hit all the shows? Yes, I go to every single show – well, the big ones anyway.

Would, say, Stephen Sprouse have been something you’d acquired back in his day? Well, Stephen is more of a New York designer. We try to concentrate on Paris designers; not necessarily French designers, but designers that show in France or who are with Parisian houses. Paris has always welcomed all nationalities – I mean, Charles Frederick Forrest was an Englishman and he’s the one who started couture. And today Balenciaga is Spanish, Valentino is Italian, Marc Jacobs is American, John Galliano is English… so it’s really a melting pot of fashion. And creativity and talent is what brings them together in Paris and that’s what we collect.

Okay, I’ve gotta ask: Lagerfeld, is he the coolest? He’s so cool. He’s the coolest of the cool.

And super smart, right? He’s more than super smart. And he’s the only one left today who studied with the great fashion designers of the ‘50s who started Parisian couture – Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain, Jean Patou. This was the Golden Age. There was a trio: Yves St. Laurent, Valentino, and Karl Lagerfeld. Yves St. Laurent passed away and Valentino has just retired, so Karl is the only one left from that generation. It’s pretty incredible. He’s been in the business for almost 60 years.

Does he live near The Louvre? Yes, he lives right across the river. I’m a frequent flier, but he’s a super ultra frequent flier.

He’s everywhere? All the time? He’s everywhere. All the time. He’s a real night person. The mornings are a very personal time for him; nobody sees him. Then around 1 o’clock he’s on, till 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning.

Do you see a Lagerfeld exhibit in The Louvre’s future? Sure. Any time. But he’s not into museums that show dead clothes. It drives him nuts.

Before we go, can you tell me what it’s like to walk into The Louvre every single day of your life? I mean, even after 18 years, the thrill still must be palpable. You know, I started going there when I was very, very young, because my grandmother – this crazy, whacky lady who lives by herself at 98 – was one of the first women in Paris to study Art History, in the ‘20s. And we always went there. So it’s place where I’ve always felt at home.

Some home! Yes, it’s quite nice.

Introducing John Hood, BlackBook’s New Man In Miami

Miami’s a wild place. It has been since long before Julia Tuttle made it a city, and I suspect it will be as long as it exists. In the ‘20s, carpet-baggers came down by the thousands and flooded the streets with useless land deeds; their counterparts did likewise throughout the Oughts, running our real estate right back into the ground. In between there were the Cocaine Cowboys of the ‘70s, the Marielitos of the ‘80s, and a swarm of models and bohos who saved South Beach from oblivion in the ‘90s. But we’re not here for a history lesson. We’re here to hear what’s what right now, up close and of the moment, whether it’s the latest South Beach swankery, the newest place to get your grub on, or the most with-it visualist in Wynwood. That’s where I come in. My job (if you can call it a job) is to be where the action is, smack in the center of the scrum—and to be coherent enough to report back what I saw. And while my coherence might sometimes be in question, it’s a privileged position, one that I don’t take lightly no matter how weightless the encounter. So from here on out, in this very space, I’ll be doing my very best to keep the reportage as lucid and as timely as possible.

Take late last week. Over a four-day span I had the great good pleasure of getting with The Louvre’s Pamela Golbin, Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan, and Interpol’s Paul Banks, Okay, so I didn’t get to get with Banks, which was odd considering I had no problem getting with Carlos D. when he was with the band. But I did get to get in the pit at Interpol’s Fillmore Gleason show, which put me about as close to the action as one can be without actually standing onstage. And while my time with Golbin was all too brief (we’ve got a follow-up slotted for Wednesday) and my moments with Donovan briefer still (our steamy August nights aren’t the most conducive to interview), the tete-a-tetes were testament to the fact that Miami remains a hotbed of activity—in every imaginable aspect.

At The Fillmore Saturday night the wild threatened to spill out into the teaming streets. Interpol, who’ve been mad at it for 13 years now, had sold out the fabled venue, and not a rabid fan in attendance wasn’t breathless with the thrill of it all.

The band, in turn, seemed almost elated with the crowd’s reaction, and if I’m not mistaken, Banks even cracked a smile or two, despite crooning some of the most relentlessly dour lyrics in alt-popdom. Sure, it was strange seeing them stage without Carlos D., who’d been perhaps one of the band’s most recognizable and propulsive members. But Slint bassist Dave Pajo and careening guitarist Daniel Kessler more than made up for the miss—so much so that by the time they came back with an encore that included “NYC” and “Slow Hands,” one almost forgot that he’d been such an integral part of the equation.

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The wild was most in evidence when Banks cracked, “This one gets some inspiration from Miami, for sure.” The song, of course, was the churning “Rest My Chemistry,” which tweaks with a verse that begins “I live my life over cocaine/Just some rage and three kinds of yes.” It’s a line that could epitomize our town, how it became what it became and how it remains what it is—a city built on a reckless variety of affirmatives.

Later, over pizza and cocktails at Rosinella, Butter Gallery’s Paco De La Torre, my concert companion for the evening, jokingly said, “They weren’t bad for a boy band.” And though Banks’ Brady Bunch-like mop-top could be equated with a flavor of the day, the sound and the visions that Interpol unleashed at The Fillmore Gleason were anything but. They were something deep into the excesses that we call Miami.