This past Saturday, the already-popular Gramp’s transformed into the place to be in Miami for both music and activism. The funky Wynwood bar known for karaoke and 80’s power hour dance parties, played host to a massive, 11-hour Everglades Awareness Benefit, featuring some of Miami’s biggest bands and over 18 short talks by local politicians, environmental activist groups, and Floridian non-profits.
Ploppy Palace Productions and Love the Everglades, the movers and shakers behind the Benefit, utilized Gramp’s three different performances spaces to host the volume of events, featuring headlining acts and speakers on its Outside Stage (complete with dance floor, et al), a lineup of performers on its smaller “Inside Stage” in the back barroom, and its main entrance as a performance space for acoustic acts, DJ’s, and speakers. At any given point in time, from 4 pm Saturday to 3 am Sunday morning, one could weave through the venue and focus in on their pick of musical style or political discourse. Gramp’s is an interesting choice for such a large event, given its size – but the close quarters worked to the Benefit’s advantage, as participants were forced to brush elbows. The effect cultivated an overall “party” environment that celebrated the art and music on display as much as it illuminated the plight of the Florida Everglades and the many efforts by present organizations to restore and preserve them.
The event kicked off with speeches from the Love the Everglades movement, then ran a tight schedule through the afternoon. Highlights of the speakers on the main stage included an appearance by Mayor Phillip Stoddard of the City of South Miami and Rep. David Richardson of the Florida House of Representatives, and Laura Reynold, Executive Director of the Tropical Audubon Society. In true Miami fashion, the lengthening of the shadows did little to turn numbers away: Mike Antheil, the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, wasn’t slated until after 11 pm.
Musical highlights included Magic City Hippies (until recently known as the Robby Hunter Band), an indie-funk staple that has captured an infectious throw-back sound, and always draws a regular crowd. Acoustic act from Hollywood, Fl, Brendan O’Hara, also managed to still the inside room with a set of originals, relying upon looping equipment and the wonders of modern technology to fully produce his songs as he performed. A simple midi keyboard, guitar and pedals, and sparse auxiliary percussion transformed into multi-tracked indie-pop replete with harmonies and modern dance rhythms. The headliners, Spam All-Stars and Suenalo, weren’t slated until later in the evening, with Spam All-Stars on at 11:30 pm-12:20 am, and Suenalo on at 1 am. Almost the entirety of the outdoor space was packed with audience members dancing, spilling off the dance floor into side spaces where local artists and artisans had set up shop.
The Benefit comes at a time when the Florida Everglades have been front and center in state policy dialogue. A source of water for over 20 million Americans and home to 20 different species on the Endangered Animal List, the Everglades have been the victim of much state legislative controversy. Though an “Land and Water Amendment 1” to the state’s constitution received 75% approval of voters in 2014, partitioning off $700 million for the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund over the next 20 years, only $109 million was approved by Florida Legislation and Gov. Rick Scott for Land acquisition and Everglades Restoration. A number of wildlife groups have filed a lawsuit charging the Legislature with violating the State’s constitution.
Anyone who missed this event should absolutely keep a look out for follow up performances by the many artists who performed and next year’s Benefit. In addition to Ploppy Place Productions, promotional materials listed The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, Dr. Michael Lemus and VolunteerCleanup.org as sponsors as well.
Contributions can be made at: www.gofundme.com/LoveTheEverglades