AXPONA Jacksonville Gets Ready

It's the afternoon before AXPONA Jacksonville opens, and Carmen Davis is getting prepared. Badges are ready, and welcome smiles and hugs are plentiful. But it's not until after 5 that the show guide arrives from the printer. There were, it seems, so many last minute cancelations and room changes that what only a few weeks before had been announced as 40 exhibit rooms has instead been consolidated into 28.

As Carmen and I chat, she thanks me for pointing out, in Stereophile's Show preview the vital importance of the AXPONA/live symphonic nexus. Some people, she had discovered, just don't get that audio is about music, and that the ultimate reference is the real thing. It makes one wonder: has the culture of reality show TV so permeated our consciousness that we value reality show audio over the actual musical event?

When Steve Davis says that the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra is right across the street from the 16-floor Omni Resort Jacksonville, he's not kidding. Equally enticing, the riverfront is one block farther. What a great location for an audio show.

First time visitors to Jacksonville will discover, as an alternative to the lovely indoor environment of the Jacksonville Omni, the outdoor plaza at The Jacksonville Landing at St. John's River, literally one block away from AXPONA Jacksonville 2012. Although it's not without its demons (see below) and demonic overabundance of fast-food chains, the shopping area also has several lovely restaurants and a stand where you can get yogurt, salads to go, and fresh fruit. And a suntan.

If only everything about Jacksonville were as idyllic as this view from The Jacksonville Landing. Unfortunately, as I settled in for my bowl of tofu-veggie soup at the Sushi restaurant over looking the River Walk at the edge of The Jacksonville Landing, I opened the city's alternative press Folio Weekly to discover the story, "(No) Sympathy for the Devil: Tarot readings and nekkid mannequins draw retaliatory prayer sessions from local Baptists."

Dismayed, I read about Brenda Kato, daughter of a deacon in the local First Baptist Church, whose Bee Gallery at The Jacksonville Landing has been under fire. The problems began when she set up a table for a white-robed tarot reader outside her shop. In response, the River City Gourmet Shoppe which moved in next door to the Bee Gallery has welcomed a group of Baptist women to hold a monthly prayer circle inside the food store "to combat the evil spirits at Kato's Bee Gallery." So intense has been the opposition to from these purveyors of nutrition that, even after the tarot reader moved her table inside the shop, a woman barged to interrupt a reading with a warning, "That's the Devil in those tarot cards."

The conservatives haven't given up the fight. It seems that, when for a brief time the Bee Gallery had six naked mannequins in its window, the Landing management received complaints, and asked Kato to dress them so that their breasts were covered. So far, no crosses have been burned. But who knows what will happen if some of those conservatives attend AXPONA and discover the Rolling Stones playing. Let us pray...