Spirit Cat and Total Bummer: Bringing Florida Music to the Forefront

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Benji Haselhurst
The Spirit Cat website-slash-movement is more than just a clickable distraction, bringing music from around Florida, mostly electronic, pop, and garage, to the web world. According to the creator of Spirit Cat, J.T. Bringardner, the sounds they post are varied, "We're really open to anything that moves us emotionally or physically!" An off-shoot of the site is Total Bummer, a Winter Park music festival in its third year, featuring over 100 acts from all over the country. It's coming up this weekend, featuring a crew from South Florida, including Guy Harvey, MillionYoung, The Dewars, Sumsun, and Henry Krinkle. It celebrates, he says, "The rich underground scene we've been helping to build in Florida over the past five years." 

For a little background on Bringardner, he's a music-maker and festival-thrower, a screen-printer and he brags, "when the need arises, a pretty bad ass barista." He's lived all around the world, including in Bangkok where his sister was born to Manila where, he remembers "our dalmation ran away and was nearly eaten." Then from California to Gainesville, "To some degree. I came into my own there, began my musical journey there, and met my wife there. It's a very special place." 

Of his electro-group Oh Fortuna, he notes, "It's the pretty usual story of five guys coming together united by our love of The Flaming Lips, M83, and Kevin Costner. We wanted to make electronic pop music in a town where we had no peers and punk was king." In a different vein, folk music is another of Bringardner's projects called Spirit Tramp and he is working on another that, he says, "exults my recent infatuation with techno." 

Acts Bringardner admires as musicians and people from down this way are MillionYoung and Sumsun. He'll actually be contributing some vocals to Sumsun's latest album. He's also into Lil Daggers, The Jameses, and the Dewars. 

Inspired by the supportive and passionate DIY punk community in Gainesville, who are, he points out, unashamed about getting wild at a show, Oh Fortuna built their own community of artists in Florida. "We were disgusted by much of what we saw in the music community at large, where sleazy agents rule the world and P.R. firms approach you like your band is gonna be the 'next big thing,' for the low low cost of $2,000 a month!" 

Of the punk mindset, he says, "We wanted to embody that spirit while embracing the growing and changing world of music, focusing on electronic and experimental music, with an emphasis on performance and showmanship." 

From Spirit Cat, and in response to major fests like SXSW, CMJ and Bonnaroo, has grown Total Bummer 3D, focusing all of its efforts on music and art and not on corporate sponsorships. 

"We take very deliberate care in the selection and curation of Total Bummer and reach out to acts from all over the country, honing in on specific geographic and music 'scenes.'" Ponting out some specific sites of attractive scenes, "For instance, we have an amazing crew of musicians from Ann Arbor, Michigan, this year including Kohwi, Sad Souls, Dreampeter, and fthrsn (pronounced "father son") and a great crew from Knoxville, Tennessee, including Blastoids, Coolrunnings, Fine Peduncle, and WALSH." Who gets invited is who gets them all fired up. 

The vibe is about community, encouragement, and an electric energy. It's about friends, dancing, and playing music. 

Total Bummer isn't all these guys are doing up in Gainesville, also they throw a costume-mandatory, electronic festival Skeletron Ball on Halloween weekend, and a follow-up to Total Bummer, Endless Bummer, which you can catch at the end of the summer if you miss the fest this weekend. 

If your car won't start, or you're too hungover to drive three hours north, definitely click on Spirit Cat and get tuned into music that is completely contemporary. You'll end up more plugged in, entertained, and really not bummed at all. 

Total Bummer 3D is taking place May 3 to 6 in Winter Park. Tickets are $30 presale and $35 at the door. Click here for information on locations, times, and contact information. 


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