This weekend’s Surfers for Autism Beach Festival is South Florida at its most authentic and cliché-defying best, a free three-day gathering of music, food trucks and fellowship made special by moments of transcendent joy, watching children and young adults with autism renew their spiritual relationship with the waves.
Volunteers for the nonprofit Surfers for Autism say the experience of guiding the surfers in the water cannot be put into words, but one that is used a lot is “magical.”
“If you have a heart, there’s no way to not be moved by it,” volunteer Dave Rossman says. “To witness a child 6 or 7 years old who’s been nonverbal their whole lives, jump off a board and yell, ‘Mom, Dad, I surfed!’ is amazing.”
The therapeutic value of the event goes both ways, with volunteers walking away feeling profoundly renewed.
This week, festival organizers sent out a Facebook alert to volunteers who had signed up but would not be able to attend: There is a waiting list for people who want to take part. Which says something good about South Florida, Rossman says.
“There are lots of stereotypes about South Florida … but regardless of your lot in life, there’s something about seeing 8 to 10,000 people on the beach and the pure joy and positivity, which is so fleeting these days, that makes all your problems fade to the background,” he says.
The festival, which includes paddleboarding, kayaking, face-painting and games, will open 5-10 p.m. Friday with live music from DJ Fiyah Queen, the Stratolites (6 p.m.), Mandy Moon (7:30 p.m.) and Bushwood (9 p.m.).
Surfing will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with music including a Tom Petty tribute (6 p.m.), Making Faces (7:30 p.m.) and Pretty Girls (9 p.m.). The festival will conclude 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, with a pro-am standup paddleboard race from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Festival admission is free.
Deserving of your attention is Oceans 234 (234 N. Ocean Blvd.), which is throwing after parties on Saturday and Sunday, with special treatment for volunteers. For information on how to volunteer next year, go to SurfersForAutism.org, Facebook.com/surfersforautism.
YOUR WEEKEND PLAYLIST
Leave it to an indie German blues label, Ruf Records, to show us what we’ve always had right before our ears with the release of Albert Castiglia’s “Solid Ground.” The seventh album from the Miami-based blues guitarist, who was the last protégé of the great Junior Wells before his death in 1998, is a tasty slab of Castiglia at his rollicking best. There’s the big and boastful swagger of “Keep You Around Too Long”; the rootsy acoustic lament “Hard Time” (written with local favorite Joel DaSilva); and the Santana-spiked “Little Havana Blues.” Also recommended is “Celebration” (written with longtime friend Graham Wood Drout of Iko-Iko), a surprising country-pop tune that will rub up against your leg in all the right ways. And Castiglia also has the taste and skills to offer one of the best versions of the Rolling Stones’ “Sway” you’ll hear. Castiglia will have an album-release show at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Maxwell Room at Fort Lauderdale’s Downtowner Saloon, opening a summer U.S. tour that will bring him back to South Florida several times: May 10 at the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth, May 11 at the Dubliner in Fort Lauderdale, May 22 at B.B. King’s in West Palm Beach, May 30-June 1 at the Green Parrot in Key West, June 7 at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton and June 27 at Rip’s Sports Bar in Pompano Beach. Info: AlbertCastiglia.net.
The Fat Village Art Walk returns on Saturday, and among the stops to consider is Cadence, the landscape architecture firm who will have a pop-up gallery in honor of National Landscape Architecture Month (who knew?). The challenging relationship between the natural environment, urbanization and developing people-friendly cities –– for which downtown Fort Lauderdale serves as an interesting, and possibly trailblazing, crucible of creativity –– will be examined in 30 projects from around the world in Cadence’s “The Art of Landscape Architecture, Part II” from 7-11 p.m. Cadence co-founders Rebecca Bradley and Gage Couch will deliver an artists’ talk at 8 p.m. To see where they are set up, look for Chef Robyn Almodovar’s distinctive Palate Party food truck. Info: FatVillage.com.
In 1993, Spin magazine ended a paragraph ripping its choice for Worst Band in America with a crowning insult of South Florida’s Scraping Teeth: “Unlike many of the entrants, they’re a real band, not a joke — three years old, and they still suck.” The joke, of course, was on Spin. Scraping Teeth leader Rat Bastard’s primary goal for the band was to make Spin’s worst-of list, and the top spot was a marvel of media manipulation. The colorful music environment that gave birth to producer, performer and “noise rock” pioneer Rat Bastard will be celebrated in performances of the rock musical “Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera” at 8 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, where a 2010 performance sold out. Written by Rob Elba and Brian Franklin, the production stitches together film, theater and live music from the likes of local scene-setters Russell Mofsky, Rene Alvarez, Andre Serafini, William Trev, Carey Peak, Jim Camacho, Ed Artigas, Ali Cullota, Steven Toth and Diane Ward. Tickets: $8. Info: RatOpera.com, FLIFF.com.
That whole Wynwood thing that still seems so exotic and unnecessarily confounding to many people will be on its best behavior this weekend for Wynwood Life, a “cultural street festival” of food, art, fashion and music Friday-Sunday. At the top of my music check list: Tremends (4 p.m. Saturday), Problem Kids (7 p.m. Saturday) and Suenalo (7 p.m. Sunday). Tickets: $15, $25 for two-day pass. Friday admission: $25. Info: 305-461-2700, WynwoodLife.com.
Fans of the hip-shaking boisterousness of Suenalo may be interested to know that the band will be a centerpiece of the Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Rocco’s Tacos outlet on Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard. Info: RoccosTacos.com, SuenaloMusic.com.
DON'T SHOOT THE DJ
When James Murphy told MusicWeek in February that most contemporary dance music makes him want to vomit, he did allow for a differing opinion about new music and that of his old band, LCD Soundsystem: “This past month, I've been really hoping that there’s two people DJ’ing to a room full of 150 people that think what I did was stupid and are making something awesome and having a great time. I won’t hear it until they do a shitty sell-out track and I never hear what’s great about them, but that’s what I’m hoping.” On Saturday, Murphy will be DJ’ing in a room full of more than 150 people at Bardot in Miami. Tickets: $30, $40. Info: BardotMiami.com.
It would be difficult to explain to contemporary comedy fans the influence of Gallagher, whose renegade wit was punctuated (some say obscured) by the juicy application of mallet to watermelon. While his act, seen on an astounding 14 Showtime specials, has always been based on smart observations about society and language (the graduate of Tampa’s Plant High School majored in chemical engineering and minored in English literature at the University of South Florida), it was always the climactic Sledge-O-Matic splatter of sticky fruit that was remembered. Leo Gallagher, 67, will bring what is being billed as his farewell tour to the Palm Beach Improv at CityPlace in West Palm Beach for shows at 8 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $25, or $40 VIP seats for the best chance to go home with watermelon on your lapel. Info: PalmBeach.Improv.com.
Maybe this is the difference between Broward County and Palm Beach County: To the north, it’s Gallagher’s classics, while the Fort Lauderdale Improv will host several nights of Greg Fitzsimmons, who advises fans that his new pot jokes will be even funnier if you show up high. Even not high, this recent @GregFitzShow tweet is pretty funny: “Celebrated #420 #Easter & #EarthDay together: I passed out smoking weed in my Prius & then an hour later rose from the dead.” Fitzsimmons will perform 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday (7 p.m. sold out) and 7 p.m. Sunday. Info: FTL.Improv.com.
The Palm Beach Poetry Festival caps National Poetry Month with a free screening on Wednesday night of “Being Flynn,” the story of a father and son, writing, dreams and disappointment, based on Nick Flynn’s memoir “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.” The 2012 film, starring Robert DeNiro, Paul Dano and Julianne Moore, will be shown at 7 p.m. at Lynn University (3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton), and will be introduced by poet Lorraine Stanchich-Brown, who teaches at Nova Southeastern University. Info: 561-237-9000, PalmBeachPoetryFestival.org.
The Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble on Friday night will have its primary fundraiser, to cover costs associated with the high school band’s fifth straight trip to the national finals of the prestigious Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The gala evening, which honors Dr. Dierdre Satterwhite Wilson, begins at 7 p.m. at the Westin-Fort Lauderdale (400 Corporate Dr.). Tickets: $65, $120 per couple. Info: 954-214-0320, DCAJazz.com.
The record for the sweet corn-eating contest at the Sweet Corn Fiesta is 46 ears in 12 minutes, set in 2010 by Hollywood’s Joe Larue, who has his own profiel page on the Major League Eating website. This year’s contest has a $2,500 prize for the winner, and there’s also the amateur eat-off with a $100 prize. All manner of rides, live music and family fun is included in this annual celebration of the local vegetable, which runs 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds (9067 Southern Blvd., near West Palm Beach). Tickets: $5, $8. Info: SweetCornFiesta.com.