Resort recollections

Pub date January 9, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Welcome to Mi Ami — where the only hint of tropical exposure is the stifling humidity of an all-night dance party. Here in Mi Ami, there are no arced palms, hungry crocs, or pesky tourists getting in the way of all the sheer nastiness shaking and stirring about. Within its pulsating realm — a world-beat machine of tireless, congalike aerobics — delayed and jangly guitars, dirty bass, and skronky electronics fill the dank atmosphere as sticky, gyrating bodies press up against one another and ripple to and fro. The sweat beads will probably sting your eyeballs, and you might even collapse from near exhaustion, but perhaps that’ll just indicate that your body is kicking into overdrive. At least you’ll know the noisesome dub punkers of San Francisco’s Mi Ami have put a dent in your psyche.

Daniel Martin-McCormick, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist, confessed to me over the phone that his involvement with Mi Ami began as a result of his frustrations and technical limitations as a musician. Raised in what he described as a "very conservative" Washington DC, Martin-McCormick spent most of his time there playing in punk bands with current Mi Ami bassist Jacob Long, one of them the explosive dance-punk outfit Black Eyes. After that combo fizzled, the discouraged Martin-McCormick — who cited free jazz and modern composition as primary motivations to advance his guitar playing beyond punk rock — relocated to the Bay Area to study classical guitar at San Francisco State University in January 2005.

"At a certain point I felt like I was trying too much to fit into a box of what I thought my music probably should be and I wasn’t spending enough time on it," he explained. "I started to get into free jazz, which had a big impact on me because I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is insane,’ and it got me thinking, ‘Well, what am I doing with my life?’

"Not too many people playing punk are going to get beyond three good records, or whatever. So I felt I needed to take this a step further and start pushing myself in this kind of abstracted, rigorous way," he added.

After he chanced on Damon Palermo at a summer 2006 noise show where they were both playing sets, Martin-McCormick said, the two agreed that "playing in the improv genre wasn’t quite taking us to the places we were hoping to get to." So the pair decided to start their own project together.

"I’d gotten too far away from the original feeling of inspiration and more into wanting to imitate things I admired but couldn’t necessarily play," Martin-McCormick revealed. "I felt I needed to get back to something more personal and was listening to a lot of dance music, so I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if this is a place to stay, but it’s a place to start. Here’s a beat — I can at least borrow this beat for a second, and maybe that’ll resuscitate me.’<0x2009>"

Since reinserting the beat into their life, Mi Ami played the hell out of the Bay Area DJ circuit before regrouping and handing bass duties to Long this past fall. Martin-McCormick is hopeful the band’s White Denim–issued 12-inch debut, African Rhythms, will see the light of day before Mi Ami embark on an East Coast tour in February, but in the meantime this dance party is just getting started. And it will never be the same again.


With Short Hair, Planets, and Manacle

Sat/12, 9:30 p.m., $5

Edinburgh Castle

950 Geary, SF

(415) 885-4074