Monday, November 25, 2013 7 Comments
Following on to Doug’s amazing post about Florida and what it has meant to Five Eight:
It would be difficult to overstate the importance Florida has played in Five Eight’s career. It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Florida we would have had a MUCH harder time staying together in the ’90s. The Pensacola shows at Sluggo’s were how we paid our rent and bills for most of the years when we were touring the hardest. Without Nick and Terry at Sluggo’s, we would have probably bagged it in about year 4.
I have so many Florida memories. I think I may spend a couple of days this week going city by city trying to relay them all to you.
First up, TAMPA:
I remember when Ybor City was a ghost town- an abandoned casino, Ybor Pizza, the Silver Ring, the place where they roasted Cafe El Aguila, and The Rubb. That was pretty much it, except for maybe the Knights of Columbus building. I still have my coffee scoop from what is now called El Molino- I wandered into the building marked “Naviera Coffee Mills, Inc” one bright, sweltering summer day when we were playing in Tampa. It was the only building on that block that didn’t look abandoned.
I wanted to buy a couple of pounds of espresso and a new stovetop Moka pot but I couldn’t afford it. (We were really living hand-to-mouth then- I probably had the day’s per dium in my pocket and half a pack of cigarettes and that was it.) The guy who was there roasting coffee that day was very nice, let me hang out there for a little while. I bought a small plastic coffee scoop that was the color of a robin’s egg and had the El Aguila logo on it. That was probably 17 years ago. I don’t know if I could make coffee without that thing. (Three scoops makes eight cups, four makes 12, etc- that’s been my standard measure through nine houses and a half dozen different coffee pots) Last week, the plastic tab on that scoop broke off. I think Five Eight needs to book a Tampa show so I can buy a replacement!
Of course, on top of all that, there is my favorite restaurant on the planet, La Teresita. There may be better places to get puerco asado. There may be a better place to get a Cuban sandwich. There may be a better cup of coffee in Florida, but you will never convince me that there is a better place to get all three that has the same gritty lack of pretense and better prices. I love La Teresita because it so accurately reflects my own values about food and ambiance and service. The food? Delicious and generously served. You want roast pork, black beans and yellow rice? Here’s a PILE of it. How much? Eight or so dollars, companero. Ambiance? You would be completely justified to not think of La Teresita as an elegant place.
It’s not. However… let me tell you about one Sunday when we were there: it was late afternoon (rock and roll lunch time)- it wasn’t too crowded, but La Teresita is never deserted- and there were four or so old guys in the corner with their acoustic guitars. They were quietly playing traditional Cuban songs, more for each other than for the crowd. Our waitress, a sort of Latina Steel Magnolia, was softly singing along with them while doing a little samba behind the counter. The whole place was slightly hushed so as to hear these guys play their melancholy versions of ‘Chan Chan’ and ‘El Carreta’.
If you’re looking for a meal with three forks and velvet napkins, La Teresita isn’t the place. That day, however, I had one of my five favorite meals of a lifetime.
Of course, the service is as efficient as it is dismissive. You want coversation? Bring a friend. You want amazing food? It’ll be out in about four minutes.
Then, of course, there was the amazing band The Monday Mornings. We played with the Monday Mornings in Pensacola and I spent months spreading the word on their great record “Despise Our World” to anyone who would listen. Karen once told me the hilarious rules about the radio at Ybor Pizza:
Half of the Monday Mornings worked at Ybor Pizza in the ’90s. On the college radio station, the local music show was on Tuesday nights, and since everyone who works in an independent pizzeria in a large town is in a band, everyone at Ybor City Pizza would listen to see who’s band got played.
The reggae show followed the local music show, and some of the people who worked there LOVED reggae and everyone else HATED reggae. The rule was that the reggae show could actually play UNTIL a song actually mentioned the word “reggae”.
It usually went like this-
The local music show would dissonantly honk to an ignoble and inevitable halt at the top of the hour, some stoned white kid from the suburbs of Boca Raton would say “Irie…. uh…. welcome to Crucial Vibrations, the… uh…. reggae and ska show on WMNF… and… uh…”
Then the dubby bass would start…. the timbales would go “dippity-dip-dip, donk!” and the guitars would go ‘chick… chick….’ and the singer would go “rrrrrrRRRRREGGAAAAAEEEEEEE-”
Sadly, the phenomenal singer and songwriter of the Monday Mornings, Mike O’Neill, chose to end his life by jumping off the Sunshine Skyway bridge in 2006. They never got the kind of recognition they deserved. Such a great band.
I also have tremendously fond memories of the Brass Mug, watching the female owner of The Stone Lounge get into a fistfight with the soundman while were waiting to get paid, and of finding amazing deals at Thoroughbred Music. When I quit Five Eight I briefly considered moving to Tampa because I loved Ybor City and old Tampa so much. I love the old wooden-framed houses over by Ybor City- with their windows designed so the wind can blow all the way through the house, and their stuccoed brick foundations. Tampa also has a fantastic studio where I could happily make many records.
In recent years, we’ve played the New World Brewery a few times and it’s always a blast. Keith at New Granada has taken amazing care of us. We’ll be there again soon.
Tampa, besides the fact that there was like a year where ‘Cops’ was filmed in your town every week, I love and miss you. I can’t wait for us to play there again.