Let's all take a moment now to toast the long-overdue resignation of that evil shitbag Donald Rumsfeld. Let me also pat you all on the head for such a decent job at the polls; nice of you to show up this time. While we're on the subject of sinister Middle East policy, the normally beneficent USO will soon be assaulting U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf on an upcoming tour with ordnance that's sadly close to home. That's right, the post-grunge dreck of Florida's own Shinedown is being brought in to perform for the poor souls. As if morale weren't quite low enough. The terrorists? The Democrats? Who knows whence this villainy sprung? Either way, we hereby apologize to the men and women of the armed forces. Be strong. Wear earplugs.

Falling-out boys

A mighty locomotive of neo-vintage rock & roll — powered by a totally boss lineup of the Detroit Cobras, The King Khan and BBQ Show and Taylor Hollingsworth and the Spider Eaters — was scheduled to make a stop in Orlando last week. But by the time it rolled into town, it was a sputtering jalopy with a missing wheel. As suck-ass luck would have it, the bill took a big hit two days before the planned date at the Social. The Cobras, it seems, had King Khan and BBQ booted off the tour. And it wasn't even for being Canadian. According to sources including publicists, promoters and Khan's record label, the animus started early on. The cumulative effect of a series of show cancellations (brought on by both parties) and the cannibalizing effect the Khan's days-off shows were having on the "main" tour's attendance numbers ultimately proved too much. (Their individual appearance the next night at Copper Rocket was also canceled.) Even KKBBQ's own publicist, Betsy Palmer at Screaming Peach Media, conceded, "They are a handful."

Thus the most thrilling and fiery element was forcibly removed from the bill, which is never a good harbinger. What's worse, the Cobras didn't exactly pick up the slack in their own show, even though they had headlining clout. Sure, they sounded all right. They always do. However, the charisma so central to their appeal was blunted. Mirroring her obviously on-cruise-control performance, singer Rachel Nagy was gloriously resplendent in … a pulled-down paperboy's hat and frumpy sweatshirt. Nah, we don't require a pulse for our cash, so don't go outta your way or anything. Your presence is enough. Really. The only ones who came to play were Alabama rockers Taylor Hollingsworth and the Spider Eaters, ripping a convincing set that highlighted their more rollicking Chuck Berry side despite a lack of early crowd enthusiasm.

The improv

Enough about young guys playing old music; let's talk about an octogenarian still piping out avant-garde stuff. To a lot of people, jazz from an 80-something is likely to conjure a muted Lawrence Welk sort of politesse. Sam Rivers' experimentalist pedigree, however, has and probably always will keep his music thoroughly modern. Though he's one of the most significant art figures ever to call this city home, I'd only seen him perform with the Rivbea Orchestra. But he didn't become a living legend simply by conducting a big band, so I seized the opportunity to see him in a smaller, more extemporaneous outfit at last weekend's Orlando Jazz & Funk Carnival hosted by Back Booth, where Rivers was playing a variety of horns in a quartet. For a city without much of a jazz scene, we were blessed with a set that brimmed with naked verve and was about as real as jazz gets. The energy may have been raw but the playing was ace, especially the stunning virtuosity of Doug Matthews on the upright bass. As for Rivers, it's difficult, if not impossible, to comment on him without being completely reverential. His fingers floated like seasoned butterflies, and his expression was as confident as it was masterful. And right there, during those moments, many of the things currently entrenched in the culture of contemporary popular music were struck down: rock & roll seemed utterly primitive, punk's revolutionary spirit seemed derivative and improvisatory jam bands seemed like a complete farce. Of course, these things aren't entirely true (except for the jam-band bit, which is more than entirely true). But it sure felt that way in the face of true mastery.

License to ill

Call it a silly boyhood fascination, but I care about James Bond (so much that I boycotted the Pierce Brosnan era). What exactly does James Bond have to do with music? Normally, nothing, but at the recent MTV Europe Music Awards, Sean Combs said he wanted to be the first black Bond. I'm down with a black 007, but Toothy McPimple? Not on my watch, playa.

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