LOCAL SHOW PREVIEW: MR. E & MLE FIRE UP STREET CORNER SOUL

Mr. E & MLE live at Buskerfest Miami 2015. Photo from the band’s Facebook page.

What if I were to tell you that a couple of super-cool critters were gonna do a super cool show in super cool Miami? Your only requirement for attending was to be there. No heavy lifting, no cover charge, no decals on the windshield needed… just show up.

I’d throw down $5 and a six-pack of Milwaukee’s Best that you’d have some silly little reason as to why you wouldn’t be able to hang.

Guaranteed you got the same shit on your list as I do. Nothing.

Some of the greatest hits of the flake out:

“I have the kids that day”

“I’m just getting over a cold”

“My folks are in town”

“I’ve got to get rid of this dead body”

….blah blah blah.

Well, Mr./Ms. I’m-So-Fucking-Busy-I-Need-To-Check-My-Schedule kinda person, what if I were to tell you that these friends were Steven Toth (guitars, vocals, anything that makes noises) and Emile Milgrim (vocals, hand held disturbances) from Mr. E and the Pookiesmackers and that they’d be performing as the duo, Mr. E & MLE?

What if the show would be performed outside on the corner of 10th Street and NW 2nd around 5 pm on a Sunday evening to celebrate the music of Sam Cooke, the legendary R & B vocalist?

Just what I thought, cleaning out those boxes of Self Help books you bought a few years back when your ex moved out of your apartment because you were a shitty person seems less important to you now, doesn’t it?

The interesting quandary that I’ve passively aggressively put in front of you is going down on Sunday, January 22nd. The performance will coincide with the original release date of soul singer and early R & B legend Sam Cookes awesome 1963 RCA live album, One Night Stand, which was recorded here in Miami, as well as celebrate the singers’ entire catalog.

Steve and Emile will be taking a departure away from their bread and butter band, Mr. E, and the Pookiesmackers, to take their street performing duo to the exact spot where Sam Cooke belted out some of his greatest hits in front of a live audience.

 

A LITTLE BACKGROUND

Mr. E & MLE happens to be the street performing arm of their full band, Mr. Entertainment and the Pookiesmackers. Quoting from Mr. E & MLE’s Facebook page they “are a happen by accident street performing duo. Can and will play anywhere two people can fit.”

Toth put together Mr. Entertainment & the Pookiesmackers after his punk band, One Eyed Kings, disbanded. For the Pookiesmackers, Steve reinvented himself as Mr. E, a colorful character who endears himself to the audience as sort of an underground carnival barker. Here he heads up a cast of misfits playing odd instruments and creating dust-ups wherever they go.

Emile’s story takes her from leaving South Florida and winding up in Portland, Oregon back in the early 2000’s. In 2011, she chose to come back to Miami. She co-founded the Miami Girls Rock Camp, a nonprofit group for women of all ages, that Emile says “uses music and performance to promote self-esteem, community, and self-expression for girls and young women”.

Emile also continues to work with the avant-garde record label she founded, Other Electricities, home to over 50 artists.

THE BAND, MAN

It seems neither one of these people enjoys having any free time.

To be honest, finding out about how much both Steve and Emile do on any given day had me scheduling daily phone chats with my therapist.

These guys are ambitious as hell.

Emile Milgrim and Steven Toth. Photo: Tina Toth

Emile says that she was watching Steve street perform one evening and essentially just “jumped on board” and, although having played drums in various other bands, she had “never sung a note in public before.”

A few street corner shows later, Emile became a full-fledged member of both the street performing act and the Pookiesmackers.

When asked about the challenges of street performing, Emile tells me that the challenges are way more positive than they are negative. “It’s a great way to just perform with no pressure or expectations. We also don’t have to rely on (much) gear or a sound person or even an audience to do our thing. It leaves room for improvisation which keeps each performance fun and interesting.”.

THE GHOST OF VENUES PAST

How in the hell did an idea for a gig like this even begin? Steve tells me that it just sorta “came together” while him and Emile “were talking about how great this live Sam Cooke record was at Sweat Records one day last year.”

The thought of celebrating the release of Sam Cookes live album had them excited. It became sort of a mission for both performers. Steve recalls that “having it being recorded in Miami” at some “mysterious spot called the Harlem Square Club” made it way too interesting to just let slip by with no acknowledgment.

Sam Cooke was one of the true standouts of Soul in the 60’s

Information on the whereabouts of the Harlem Square Club did not come easily. The club doesn’t exist anymore, neither on paper nor in person. Once they were able to navigate themselves to an approximate location, Steven says that all they found were “2 empty lots, a building on one corner and some construction on the other”.

I ask, as street performers, if they need a special permit or permission from any kind of city authority to pull off a performance like this. Steve just laughs and says “Emile and I are going on a reconnaissance mission to claim our spot in the next couple of days. We are asking no permission from anyone.”

WOULD YOU RATHER?

As a jaded and surly old punk rock bastard, I’m as antisocial as they come. The music community has taken me to task, at times, for not being solidly and blindly supportive. I slack on attending shows. I admit that I’m probably guilty of being way too opinionated about the bands. Basically, I’m the guy they point to when everyone bitches about the lack of support on the local scene.

The idea of hanging out on a street corner on a Sunday afternoon in South Florida watching Sam Cooke songs being performed by Mr. E & MLE in the vein of the Flat Duo Jets is just far too perfect to pass up. I am definitely going to be in attendance… and so should you.

If you got the kids then bring ’em and if you have to work, you can get your shift covered. Don’t wanna drink? They won’t be selling booze. You say you want to drink? Brown bag it. Cash-strapped, you say? It’s free. No ride? Tuff Gnarl has a mighty fine directory of numbers… call someone.

Obstacles = Removed

Unless it’s that dead body that’s got you worried. In that case, direct message me… my dad’s got an awesome set of tools.

Mr. E & MLE will perform on the corner of 10th Street and NW 2nd, Sunday, January 22nd beginning at 4 pm sharp. For more information, you can contact the band directly by clicking here.

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Mark Dubin

Mark spent 25 + years fronting punk and alt.country bands such as the Johnsons, the Hang Ups, and Los Diablos but now wreaks havoc as a Suburban punk rock dad. You can follow him and his misadventures on various sites by clicking on any of those nifty little boxes to the left and begin to amaze yourself at his undeniable ability to stumble over everything around him.

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