IN CASE YOU HAVE SOMEHOW missed re-branding Margaritaville, USA, allow us here at the Florida Weekly to enlighten you: Jimmy Buffet our bald eagle stand-in. “Margaritaville” is the “Conch Spangled Banner.” And we now pledge allegiance to a Hawaiian shirt suspended from a bamboo flagpole.
OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But if you didn’t know any better, all the laid-back tunes streaming from bars up and down Duval Street might make you think Trop Rock was the official religion of the Florida Keys.
And while we are deliriously proud of the local indiesinger-songwriterr tradition, sometimes the brain craves a buzzing amp and some non-steel drum percussion to break the monotony.
Well, move over, Jimmy B. and the Coral Reefer Band, there’s a new sonic sheriff’s department in town and it’s … well, it’s a lot less mellow than what we’re used to.
Sure, new musical ensembles spring up every other Tuesday in this town but this band’s name alone might give you some insight into what you’re in for. They call themselves Parrothead Massacre (see what I mean?) and they promise no mercy for the music lovers who come “phlocking” to town hoping to catch the latest in local Trop Rock talent.
Parrothead Massacre’s bandanaed front man is Mark Gambuzza, a Staten Island native with long locks, a thick New York accent and two arms full of well-designed tattoos — not exactly your typical Key West denizen, but then again Parrothead Massacre isn’t your typical Key West band. Mark owns Uva Wine Shoppe, one of the island’s premier destinations for discerning wine drinkers, minus the pretention that usually goes along with connoisseurship and a deep appreciation of the finest and rarest vintages.
Mark’s bandmates are a veritable motley crew of professionals with serious musical side gig inclinations. Will Shepler, the drummer whose driving rhythms you’ll be head-banging to all night, is an accomplished architect whose distinct stylistic stamp can be seen on commercial buildings across Key West. Bassist Ayden Phillips is an insurance broker by day, where I’m sure the music piped over the office speakers probably sounds a lot more like the reggae-tinged tunes we’re all subjected to on the local radio waves. And Clint Moore, the guitarist shredding and riffing his way through the heavy metal canon, spends his days playing the role of Captain Clint Moore, purveyor of eco tours and snorkel trips through the stunning back country of the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.
Oh, and their mascot? A 6-foot tall blowup penis. Does he have a name, you ask? Of course he does; every anthropomorphized phallus deserves a unique moniker. This particular “member” of the band goes by Jimmy B. (If you have to ask what the “B” stands for, take a short scroll back up to the first couple paragraphs. We’ll wait.)
“I met Will about eight years ago,” Mark begins. “In his former life, Will played in a pretty famous band called Agnostic Front up in New York. They were like the godfathers of the New York hardcore music scene. At some point in time, we had mutual friends and I used to rehearse with my band at a studio in the same building where Will and his friends would rehearse. We casually knew each other up north and then a few years ago we met up again down here. Will and I came up with the idea of starting the band after many discussions of how much the music scene in the Keys can be one directional, especially on Duval Street. We both obviously lean towards the dark side of the musical spectrum, hence the name Parrothead Massacre. It’s a tongue in cheek way to poke fun at the typical singer-songwriter acts down here, but of course it goes without saying that we respect everyone in the industry.”
Parrothead Massacre had its grand Key West debut last summer at the Key West Theater’s Summer Smackdown, where the band took the grand prize for best local act. The night featured artists of all media, but the foursome were definitely a shakeup to the usually subdued performing arts scene. “The Summer Smackdown was a great event, but that night we realized that when we play, we need to get people to understand that they need to let their hair down for the night,” Mark says. That realization inspired the band to collaborate with Comedy Key West to create a way to break the ice with laughter before Parrothead Massacre could break the sonic barrier.
Saturday, Sept. 15, finds Parrothead Massacre teaming up with Comedy Key West again on Stand Up & Scream, a concept Mark developed with Joe Madaus, the mastermind behind Comedy Key West, to raise money after Irma ravaged the Florida Keys one short year ago. By joining forces after such a traumatic event that left so many in need, the comedians and hard rockers hoped to draw a crowd ready for big laughs and maybe a little musical catharsis.
“Last year, I approached Joe
Madaus and asked him if he’d be interested in joining forces with us,”
Mark explains. “That was right after
Irma. We played our first Stand Up
& Scream event at the Key West
Theater in October to raise money for hurricane relief. Joe and Comedy Key West brought in a well-known national act to headline, plus they had five other local comedians contribute their talents. They all killed it and, between the comedians and the band, it was funny and high energy and just something different than what we usually see around town. Then we decided to run with the idea, to keep keep playing shows and raising money for local organizations.”
The charity of choice for this weekend’s Stand Up & Scream is the local Boys & Girls Club of the Keys Area, a facility absolutely vital to Key West’s working families. Beyond providing after school and summer camp programming, the Boys & Girls Club strives to enable all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. The staff is compassionate and dedicated and the programs aim to enhance children’s lives by teaching them real-word skills and preparing them for futures in higher education and the workforce.
Now, more than ever, the Boys & Girls Club of the Keys Area needs as much help as they can get.
“By chance a couple months ago, I talked to Executive Director Dan Dombrowski of the Boys & Girls Club and I told him the next time we play a show, I’d like to raise money for their organization,” Mark explains.
“Right after our conversation, the city drastically reduced their funding due to budget cuts, so I knew I had to put another show together to help them. Joe and Comedy Key West were into doing a repeat engagement, which is awesome.
“This show is going to be great to raise awareness for what they do at the Boys & Girls Club and how much the city needs them around.”
Though it may seem an odd combina- tion, Mark believes comedy and metal are a perfect union.
“When Parrothead Massacre first started playing together, we quickly realized that we’re so different than most of the other bands here,” he says. “There are so many great musicians in the Keys, but sonically we’re so loud that it’s not a good match for us to play with most of the other acts in town. When we talked about how to market our shows, we remembered that back in the 1980s a lot of heavy metal bands used to take comedians like Sam Kinison on tour with them because harsh, irreverent comedy and heavy metal music tend to attract the same crowd.”
Parrothead Massacre’s heavy metal oeuvre includes covers of bands like Metallica, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Buck Cherry, Danzig, Black Sabbath and “some added surprises this time” — yes, we are just as curious as to the nature of those surprises as you are. The band realizes that all of that darkness, however, necessitates a little light. “When we play gigs, we try to lighten the experience up by introducing some levity through comedic acts, if you will,” Mark laughs. “Sometimes the comedy is necessary to distract from the intensity of the music.”
On Saturday night, the light will be provided by an all-star lineup of local comedians including Leland Hurd, Stephanie Kaple (who recently opened for Howie Mandel at the Key West Theater), Steve Crane, Ian Lauritzen, Tony Hughes, Kathy Gilmour and Joe Madaus himself.
For Mark, Parrothead Massacre is just a natural way to maintain his individuality in an increasingly homogenous musical world. “I’ve always been an appreciator of music that pissed my parents off,” he laughs. “And part of this is very cathartic for me. When I was a teenager, this was the music that your parents told you wouldn’t be around in five years. Now 30-plus years later, the two biggest tours of the last year were Guns ‘n Roses and Metallica, so I guess they were wrong.”
Parrothead Massacre is also committed to our informal island-wide mission to keep Key West weird. “We want to be part of a movement that shows people that this eclectic place should be eclectic once again,” Mark says. “People are starving for new venues and new types of entertainment and we want to be at the forefront of that new direction in the arts.”
The comedic, cacophonic collision starts at 8 p.m. at the Key West Theater on Saturday, Sept. 15. Tickets start at $15 and are available online at www.thekeywesttheater.com and at the Key West Theater box office, at 512 Eaton St.
And it goes without saying, but though the show benefits the boys and girls of the Florida Keys, the event is strictly for the 21-and-over crowd, so leave the Nirvana-loving kiddies at home. ¦