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Festival to be a music salad

No, a salmagundi is not a small lizardlike animal that you dig up in your back yard.

It is, however, a mixed dish consisting of a number of ingredients, often served as a salad. And, Saturday's Salmagundi Music Festival will be a veritable salad of rock and pop styles as young bands from around the state gather for the all-day event.

For three years, Ocala's Tuscawilla Park Youth Center has been featuring young musicians on "Alternative Saturdays." But this will be the first time so many bands have come to play. There will be eight in all, with names like Whole Brain Smile, Skin Dot, Sphere Lazza and Think Tank. The styles range from hip-hop to punk to industrial to alternative and other genres that even the musicians themselves have trouble describing.

"We're hitting on some unique areas," says Andrew James, drummer for Whole Brain Smile of Orlando. "It's hard to describe what we do. You have to see us live."

James says the band draws on a number of influences including the Beatles, the Doors and Jane's Addiction. But none of those influences overpower the unique stamp the band puts on its original songs.

"I'd almost say we're alternative, but that's become the mainstream," James says. "Our music is definitely groove rock with a good dose of funk."

As so-called alternative or modern rock music becomes the accepted commercial music of the day, younger players are looking for fresher forms of expression. Many of them find themselves either going back to incorporate the bottom heavy, bass-laden rhythms of funk as developed by James Brown, Sly Stone and George Clinton, or crossing categories by mixing current styles.

"The bottom line is that funk is fun to play," says Josh Hetter, guitarist for Nature Kids. "It's really danceable and really seems to get people involved."

Hetter describes his band's sound as "hippy-rap." The trio of bass, guitar and drums fronted by two rappers is based in New Smyrna.

"We play live hip-hop," he says. "It gets pretty quirky and strange. It's really a revolutionary kind of music, very pro-environment and pro-natural lifestyle."

Chemical, a four-piece band from Ocala, has gone through both a name and a style change recently. Formerly known as Jar, Chemical now takes a more relaxed, accessible approach to its music.

"We used to be pretty obnoxious," admits bassist Saul Corwine. "We'd write songs that were purposely as complex as possible with lots or meter changes and a very raw edge, but now we're into a much more mellow jazz-rap kind of thing."

Corwine says the reworked sound has paid off.

"We've generated a lot more positive audience response since we came up with this style," he says. "We're not trying to get some big point across. We're not campaigning for anything. We're just four guys out there trying to have some fun."

At a glance

WHAT: Salmagundi Music Festival

WHO: Whole Brain Smile, Chemical, Nature Kids, Skin Dot, Skif Dank Zenshine, Sphere Lazza and Think Tank

WHERE: Ocala City Auditorium, 836 NE Sanchez Ave.

WHEN: Saturday, noon to 11:30 p.m.

COST: $5 per person

CALL: (352) 629-8379