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Bluejay adds local color to III Points Festival

Interview: Bluejay (@bluejaysongs) playing III Points Festival (@iiiPoints) in Wynwood Oct. 9-11.

To pigeonhole Bluejay by its name would be wrong, but also right. Setting up and subverting expectations is one of the ways Jay Thomas gets his kicks.

Does a band called Bluejay call to mind an acoustic Americana sound played outdoors among sun-dappled trees and the crunch of leaves beneath your feet? Thomas' band can do that.

Does the name conjure the image of a shrill, intrusive, swaggering bird, perhaps a bit too proud of its bold plumage? That's Bluejay, too.

Thomas, who studied creative writing and philosophy at Florida State University after graduating from South Broward High School, calls the name "a neutral symbol that allows us to write the whole story."

Since forming the band with sister JoJo Sunshine and a fellow FSU student, cellist Oscar Quesada, Thomas has learned a few things about the namesake bird.

"People would come up to me and say, 'Do you know that they eat the eggs of other birds?' Or, like, 'You know they can mimic the cries of other birds to take over?' And I go, 'That sounds about right!'" Thomas says, laughing.

There are many styles of music that fall under the "new Miami sound" catchall, from the Latin-funk hybrid to local DJs' dance-music experimentations. With its original acoustic, indie-pop instincts (see "Tallahassee Song") evolving into a more theatrical sound that will be right at home this weekend at the III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival, Bluejay is going a different way, unbound by genre and fashion.

Three weeks ago, Bluejay appeared on "Folk and Acoustic Music," the Sunday-afternoon WLRN public radio program hosted with sunny warmth by Michael Stock, a wise curator of South Florida's unsung singer-songwriter scene. Dressed in T-shirts and jeans, the band played "Burnin' Soul," an achingly heartfelt acoustic memorial to the late mother of Thomas and his sister.

But Thomas' engaging, high-lonesome soprano, a mournful cascade of emotion, was the only thing the performance shared with the video Bluejay created for the song, an arty, industrial performance spotlighting the band's two men, sweaty and bare-chested.

Thomas, who appears shirtless with small plastic horns jutting from his head in the band's Twitter picture, delights in adding fun and mystery to the conversation. They did the opening party for Miami Smokers deli and meat shop dressed in all pink, "to look like little piggies."

"We can do anything from a quiet acoustic show like we have coming up at the Annex, pared down with a different kind of set list, or if we're doing someplace like Bardot, we're going to give you bam-bam-bam-bam, full fashion, full-on energy and kill it in half an hour, instead of our two-hour shows where we take you on a longer journey," he says.

Thomas, who lived in Hollywood in his high-school years, can trace his showmanship to an unlikely source: His father is George Orr, once a heavy-metal performer in Scotland and currently a fixture on the South Florida nightclub scene with his Hot Rod show, a tribute to the music and outsize personality of Rod Stewart.

JoJo and Thomas grew up listening to the music of their mother (she died when Thomas was 12 and his sister 10), which included Bob Marley, the Cure and Depeche Mode. Their father, whose show is part music, party comedy, trained them on how to work the crowd.

"My dad taught us how to, like, goad an audience. His show is just really rude," Thomas says, laughing. "We don't go that far, but in terms of being able to break down that wall, he's influenced us. In terms of content, he's bereft."

Bluejay has released two albums, "Goblins" (2010) and "Mercury" (2012), followed last year by a collection of remixes and live cuts, "Bluejay Mixtape Vol. 1." A new album is brewing, Thomas says, and will showcase the nuanced songwriting of his sister.

"JoJo's got a song coming out called 'Miami Girls,' which on the surface is a kind of club song, about girls in Miami and how they get away with murder," he says. "But at the same time there are lyrics and musical phrases that are telling you something else."

Now in its third year, the III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival quickly has become nationally known among indie and dance-music adherents as a consistent showcase of acts on the leading edge of what's new in many genres. Among dozens of performers Friday-Sunday on multiple Wynwood stages will be Nicolas Jaar, Run the Jewels, the Martinez Brothers, King Krule, Neon Indian, Ghostface Killah and Bomba Estero, as well as popular locals such as Surfer Blood, Psychic Mirrors, Ketchy Shuby, Crisp and Tremends.

The gathering, with a self-described focus on the counterculture underground, also includes exhibits by local artists and collectives, panels, lectures and vendors, all radiating from the festival's hub at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., in Miami.

Beyond their 5 p.m. Saturday performance at III Points, Bluejay's upcoming performance schedule is suitably diverse: Thursday (Oct. 8) at the laid-back Rhythm and Vine in Fort Lauderdale; a happy-hour on Oct. 15 at Stache in Fort Lauderdale; an acoustic show on Oct. 28 at the Annex in Wynwood; Nov. 6 at the North Beach Bandshell on a bill with New York's electro eclectics Brazilian Girls; and Nov. 14-15 at the eighth annual Love in Festival in Havana.

The Cuba show came at the initiation of the Copperbridge Foundation, a Miami-based arts nonprofit, where Thomas' sister works.

"It's special, but at the same time, performing anywhere is special," Thomas says. "Everyone is talking about all these big changes that are happening over there, and I think we are going to get to see the last of how Cuba is now before globalization. I hope we can go over there and show respect and put on a good show."

III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival will begin 5 p.m. Oct. 9 and end 3 a.m. Oct. 12. The festival is based at Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., in Miami, with performances in locations throughout Wynwood. Tickets start at $55 per day. A three-day pass costs $88. Go to

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