South Florida’s hardcore scene has weathered myriad sonic and political trends. Fans have grown older and jaded, replaced in the moshpits by younger fist-pumping, elbow-throwing aficionados of the form. Venues have shut down and popped up in a seemingly neverending cycle. Throughout all of this, South Florida has consistently put out influential bands, despite being “geographically fucked,” as promoter John McHale of Breakeven Booking describes it. And McHale should know — he’s been booking hardcore and punk acts in South Florida for the better part of a decade.
South Florida’s distance from other scenes, coupled with the logistical nightmare of touring down the length of the state, has seen the area overlooked when it comes to the sort of hardcore festivals that command reunion and one-off performances by legendary bands — the sort of festivals that rely upon traveling fans to sell tickets. Recently, however, the area has enjoyed a long stretch of remarkable shows, many of which have been orchestrated via promoters flying bands into town to perform.
Now, with the Reel & Restless Festival, South Florida’s hardcore scene boasts a fest comprised almost entirely of one-off and reunion performances: Bird of Ill Omen, By the Grace of God, and Powerhouse, to name a few.
“The fact that a show like this is happening down here is incredible,” says McHale. “I’ve had to travel as far as New York, Chicago, and Boston to catch an event like this.”
The three-day festival has been designed to function as both a trip down memory lane for lifers and a history lesson for younger fans. The bands selected to perform are like a living museum of hardcore. In addition, the festival features a spoken word presentation by award-winning filmmaker/Trial frontman Greg Bennick, a screening of the documentary Orange County Hardcore Scenester — which depicts the Southern California scene in the ’90s – a Q&A session with OCHS filmmaker Evan Jacobs, and an exhibition of classic flyers and paraphernalia coming mostly from a storage unit belonging to the person behind the event, Mark Pollack.
Pollack has been booking and promoting events in South Florida since 2003, and while he doesn’t limit himself to hardcore and punk shows (Pollack was behind the recent John Waters event at Parker Playhouse) he was an engaged member of the hardcore scene before he was a promoter. When it comes to this event, he has a hard time containing his excitement: ”Mean Season and Chorus (of Disapproval) haven’t played in years!”
Photographer Maureen Roxanny, who has countless times jumped perilously into the moshpit fray, camera in hand, to get the perspective shots many avoid for fear of bodily harm and equipment damage, is another staple of South Florida hardcore. As a female fan in this testosterone-fueled world, perspectives like hers often go overlooked. Nevertheless she’s pumped about the festival and what it represents: “There are so many notable bands, from all around, and with so many messages, but [they're] all about unity,” she says. “It’s great to see that hardcore can still bring people together, male and female, who can set their bullshit aside and just come together, sing along, and just have a good time.”
While many of the bands performing hail from around the country, the fest features some extremely important South Florida homecomings and reunions, including a highly anticipated performance by (former) Pompano Beach/Coral Springs band Shai Hulud, with defining vocalist Chad Gilbert (also of New Found Glory) leading the charge. Gilbert was the voice of the band’s most important contributions to the hardcore canon, and has not sung with the group in South Florida since leaving the band to form New Found Glory, save for a song or two when Shai Hulud toured with NFG.
Also on the list of big time reunions is the return of seminal South Florida straight-edge band Culture — who initially declined to perform on the grounds that the band’s militant straight-edge ethos no longer holds true with some of the members.
Then there are the notable local groups, like Miami’s Homestretch and Aversion. When asked about what being a part of Reel & Restless meant to him, Homestretch/Aversion guitarist Peter Allen said, “When I saw the lineup, I was blown away. Things like that just don’t happen in Miami. It was a huge honor when Mark [Pollack] asked both Homestretch and Aversion to play; to be on the same stage as these bands is a huge honor. It means a lot to hear that someone thinks what we’re doing is worth sharing at the same time. I hope we don’t disappoint.”
Seventeen-year-old Joey Collery, one of the younger regular faces of the South Florida hardcore scene and part of grindcore band Super Mutant, is similarly excited. His band didn’t make the bill, but no matter. His enthusiasm demonstrates the longevity and influence some of these bands continue to have within this particular subculture’s up-and-comers. ”[Reel and Restless] celebrates an era of music I wasn’t able to be a part of,” says Collery. ”So it’s really awesome to be able to see some bands I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.”
–By David Bader
Reel & Restless Festival takes place Sept. 14-16 at Churchill’s Pub, 5501 N.E. Second Ave., in Miami. Doors open Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. Tickets cost $20 (Friday) or $35 (Saturday-Sunday) the day of the show or $18 (Friday), $33 (Saturday-Sunday), $65 (Saturday-Sunday two-day pass), or $75 (three-day pass) in advance at Brownpapertickets.com.