This may be the weekend when life in South Florida is at its zenith: Not only do we get to blithely dismiss “the polar who-tex?” but we get to throw a little big-city culture around as the world’s great authors gather at the hearth of the Miami Book Fair (we’d wear tweed this weekend if we owned any) and Art Basel is still in the dreamy near-future instead of the frustrating, restaurant-clogging present.
Miami Book Fair International is always a study in democracy, with a wide range of authors, ideas and events at agreeable prices, mostly free. A traditional highlight is this weekend's Street Fair, a souk of more than 200 book sellers, with entertainment, family activities and food at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Admission is free Friday; Saturday and Sunday it’s $8, $5 for ages 13-18 and older than 62.
Music is another unsung attraction at the Book Fair this year with the introduction of The Swamp, a pop-up lounge under an air-conditioned tent at Northeast First Avenue and Northeast Third Street where the “weirdness” of life in Florida is celebrated. “Think Jimbo’s meets the Delano,” organizers say.
Among the live-music highlights are the Spam Allstars (10 p.m. Friday), the “gospel noir” trio Quarter Horses (10 a.m. Saturday), the Lee Boys (6 p.m. Saturday) and Gold Dust Lounge (12:30 p.m. Sunday).
There are musicians with books to talk about, too, including Sheila E, discussing the memoir “The Beat of My Own Drum” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jon Secada on “A New Day” at 10 a.m. Sunday, and the duo of Questlove and George Clinton at 5 p.m. Sunday. The two will be joined by Ben Greenman, who wrote “The World According to Questlove” and “Brothas Be, Yo Like George Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?”
And that’s not even counting esteemed songwriter (and star of "Phantom of the Paradise") Paul Williams reading from his self-help book (2:30 p.m. Saturday); filmmaker John Waters, who’s always seems like a walking musical (4 p.m. Saturday); and Rick Bragg, reading from “Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story” (noon Sunday).
Russell Mofsky, the guitarist and visionary behind the spacey Gold Dust Lounge sound, says the Book Fair’s expanded focus on music has opened it up to a potentially large new audience.
“There is definitely more buzz in the music community,” he says. “From Facebook, friends of mine, lots of people are going down. And not just checking out music. They’re checking out Anne Rice and Ira Glass …”
When Mofsky, also a pre-kindergarten teacher, plays The Swamp on Sunday it will be his first time at the Book Fair. He’ll try to further right that wrong by trying to catch John Cleese (7 p.m. Sunday), and he hopes to get his 7-year-old daughter to the Street Fair.
Books and songwriting aren’t such strange bedfellows, Mofsky says. And the coupling makes even more sense in Miami, where music is such a part of the culture.
“It feels really good,” he says. “I’m very excited about it, excited the Knight Foundation is involved. I think it bodes well for future opportunities.”
More info: MiamiBookFair.com.
There are just two things we needed to know about Honey, the restaurant/nightclub that recently settled into downtown Delray Beach (16 E. Atlantic Ave.). The “farm-to-fork” menu items are from the seasoned hand of star chef Nick Morfogen, of 32 East fame. The drinks are by Angela Dugan, well-known for her work at Kapow! Noodle Bar, who won a silver medal (out of 100 entrants) in Absolute Vodka’s “Best Bloody Mary in Miami” competition a few months back at the too-cool-for-me Broken Shaker at Freehand Miami. Info: 561-270-7187, HoneyDelray.com.
Just a heads-up: MatzoBall, the irreverent Jewish singles event on Christmas Eve, is returning to South Florida in a slightly different format, with the party rolling into Dec. 25 this year. The inaugural MatzoSplash pool party (tickets $35) will take place 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Christmas Day at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach, which will host not one, but two MatzoBalls the night before. So, yes, get a room. MatzoBall Miami, aimed at a crowd ages 21-35, will take place at the resort’s Liv nightclub (tickets $50); at the same time MatzoBall 25+, aimed at ages 25-55, will be at Michael Mina 74, formerly Arkadia (tickets $35). Other South Florida MatzoBalls will take place at Il Bacio (29 SE Second Ave., Delray Beach) and Passion in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino complex in Hollywood. Advance tickets for each are $30. Info: MatzoBall.org.
STILL A BIG SHOT
Soon after tickets went on sale for Billy Joel’s appearance at the BB&T Center last January, it became apparent that he remains in uniquely high demand in South Florida, and a second show was added. Just in case you thought there’d be no rush for tickets to Joel’s Jan. 31 performance at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, when they go on sale 10 a.m. Friday. Tickets can be had for $49.50-$124.50 via Ticketmaster.com, the AmericanAirlines Arena box office and at 800-745-3000.
THE OTHER PHANTOM
Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave.) on Saturday will celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Phantom of the Paradise,” with an 11:30 p.m. screening, as part of its After Hours film series. This deliciously campy satire of the pop-music business by Brian de Palma will be introduced by singer Gloria Estefan, perhaps as big a fan of the film as Guillermo del Toro, who has pushed for a remake. But the theater is also teasing a “special mystery guest,” who we believe is attending the Miami Book Fair International, as mentioned above. Tickets: $11.50. Info: 786-385-9689, GablesCinema.com.
YOUR WEEKEND BEER
If you still haven’t found a way to get to LauderAle (the “nanobrewery” that makes you feel like you’re not in Fort Lauderdale anymore, which we mean in the most affectionate way, or whatever), maybe Sunday afternoon works better than the typical Friday or Saturday night. During Growler Fill Sunday, from noon to 8 p.m., you can fill your jugs at a discount ($6 for a 32-ounce growlers, $12 for the gallon growler). Cool scene, too. LauderAle is at 3305 SE 14th Ave., Building 4. Info: 954-214-5334, Facebook.com/LauderAle.
IS THAT YOU, SANTA?
The City of Hollywood is holding its community tree-lighting ceremony 7-9 p.m. Friday at the ArtsPark on Young Circle. The event will include seasonal songs from the Airmen of Note, pride of the United States Air Force, caroling, Santa, the whole shebang. Yes, a week before Black Friday, when all the certifiable chestnuts come out. Info: 954-921-3500, VisitHollywoodFL.org.
LEY, LADY, LEY
Grammy-winning Chilean rockers La Ley, one of the most influential Spanish-language rock bands of all time, return to Miami Friday night on a comeback tour after nearly a decade apart. Now a trio of founders Beto Cuevas (vocals and guitar) and Mauricio Claveria (drums), and longtime guitarist Pedro Frugone, La Ley has never been shy about covering mainstream bands (from the Rolling Stones to Duran Duran), and earlier this year they released the single “Sin Ti,” their take on the sensual Chris Isaak hit “Wicked Game.” La Ley performs 8 p.m. Friday at the Fillmore Miami Beach (1700 Washington Ave.). Tickets: $48.50-$123.30. Info: 305-673-7300, FillmoreMB.com.
Each Friday from noon to 6 p.m., Mission Gifts (300 SW First Ave. No. 123) in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Riverfront complex offers free cups of Fair Trade coffee or “local” lemongrass tea by the fountain out front. Which sounds so darned pleasant. Mission Gifts, which has an affiliation with CityChurch, advocates “sustainable shopping with a social conscience,” if you are into things like, you know, society and sustaining it. Info: MissionGifts.net.
Selwyn Birchwood, the young Tampa-area guitarist whose album “Don't Call No Ambulance” was called “remarkable” by Rolling Stone, looks like a blues guy who is going places, and beyond his Friday gig at Railroad Blues in Miami. He’s got the goods musically, but also the laidback Florida style (he sometimes performs in bare feet) that would be perfect for South Florida’s growing lineup of outdoor festivals, including SunFest in West Palm Beach, the Sunshine Music & Blues Festival in Boca Raton, Tortuga Music Festival and Lauderdale Live. Hit the link for a Selwyn Birchwood interview. Pssst: Local blues bender Albert Castiglia plays Railroad Blues on Saturday night. Info: RailroadBluesMiami.com, SelwynBirchwood.com.
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS
Birchwood, who plays a Gibson ES-335 and a lap-steel guitar, is no stranger to the blues scene on this side of Florida, and has sat in with Miami's Lee Boys and Roosevelt Collier, among others. Not only will the Lee Boys play Miami Book Fair this weekend, but they’ll bring their own lap-steel magic to the Funky Biscuit (303 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton) on Wednesday. The adventurous Bobby Lee Rodgers also will perform, along with Juke. Admission $15. Info: FunkyBiscuit.com.
Local rockers Shatterglass will hold a release party for their new collection of hooky guitar licks and harmonies, “An Education in Attitude” (Boomslang Records), on Saturday at the Culture Room (3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale). Raine opens. Tickets: $10 at the door, $15.25 via Ticketmaster. Info: 954-564-1074, CultureRoom.net.
ALL OUT OF LOVE
It says something about something, but we’re not sure what, that there are no tickets left for buoyant ‘80s pop romantics Air Supply on Saturday at Mardi Gras Casino (831 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach; 954-924-3200, MardiGrasCasinoFL.com). StubHub, perhaps?