Since its inception, punk-rock has developed and evolved along a myriad of different sonic and social paths. The proliferation, splicing, and splitting of the genre has gone so far that the term “punk” itself is now a bit vague. Friday night’s show at Grand Central functioned as a punk sampler, featuring performances by some extremely different groups from the disparate corners of the punk realm.
Leading the charge was two of Miami’s favored sons (and daughter) of punk, the Vice City Rockers, and To Be Hated.
Though lacking a member, the Vice City Rockers sounded great, and did Miami proud with a rousing set of rock ’n’ roll infused street-punk, which was complete with a bloodied guitar and a song that featured the band’s own name in the lyrics.
To Be Hated’s set was an air-tight affair of male and female vocals telling tales of the other side of life in the Magic City, away from the “reality” television show taint of South Beach, and delivered over a raucous noise that was fast and intense enough to earn the band their boots, yet musical enough to earn the attention of fringe fans.
After To Be Hated got the crowd riled-up on the proper, the Sheds, from Los Angeles, were the next to stand in front Grand Central’s massive LED backdrop.
The Sheds’ style is a take on the poppy side of the punk genre, with a bit of a ’90s twist. The group played to a crowd that was already primed to move, and move they did, regardless of how different the Sheds turn-on-a-dime, grungy riffing meets airy, Kinsella-esque windows of clarity sounded from that of the headlining acts. The Sheds did Van Halen style jump moves and continued to win the audience over with their heartfelt style of punk throughout their set.
Chicago based sextet, Flatfoot 56, was the next band to take the stage. Armed with bagpipes, mandolins, and a trio of the tallest brothers I’ve ever seen, the Celtic-punk group brought yet another facet of the punk-rock spectrum to Miami. The band has been to South Florida several times before, and lead singer Tobin Bawinkel even shared a great story about the first time the band played Churchill’s. The story recalled had something to do with a man chasing another man around the bar with a cleaver “screaming bloody murder,” and though it was a funny story, it also served to remind us that we were not at Churchill’s, which has always been the traditional Miami venue for punk in Miami.
Grand Central’s high quality sound and air conditioning washed away any lingering sadness about the choice of location the minute Flatfoot’s burly sound traveled through the vast room. The songs were a mix of pub chants and punk-rock, and though the style has been done before, Flatfoot’s interpretation adds in a healthy dose of melody and texture that one might find missing from other bands of the sub-genre. A moshing and tumbling crowd met Flatfoot’s set, and the energy had risen so violently that a man was knocked into a convulsing black-out at one point by what might have been friendly fire, but was rumored to be a deliberate assault. At any rate, it was probably thrown in the name of fun.
Lower Class Brats followed Flatfoot 56’s mandolin solos and power chords, and the band voted most likely to maybe be British rocked, well… exactly like the groups they try so hard to emulate. Though the band was formed in 1995 in Austin, Texas, the band’s look and the sonic sinus infection was nicked entirely from the early era of UK punk.
Snotty, loud, and fast were what the order of the day, and LCB made sure to hit all of the marks, including (but not limited to) lots and lots of Oi! parts, the biting of a beach ball, the opening of a beer and drizzling of said beer over the open maw of an audience member, and a copious amount of sloppy, yet rockin’ guitar solos. While we are usually inclined to call bullshit on the revivalists, the band did not once come across as anything less than the genuine article, and the fans enjoyed it enough to chant for an encore, which they were granted in a move contrary to punk-rock encore etiquette.
After the Austin punks finished their round of on-stage beer spitting and swilling, the Casualties made the scene in all of their ornate hair and leather clad glory. After a spaghetti western introduction track finished, the group kicked into their set of sonic temper tantrums. As whoa-oh-ohs rung out from the stage and crowd, people took running leaps into the crowd, obviously making sure to avoid lead singer Jorge Herrera’s impossibly long liberty spike hair-do.
As Herrera and Co. belched and sneered through the songs they have been playing for the better part of two decades, a young woman was carried from the churning center of the room; she was having difficulty breathing, but she still wore a smile. After a minute or two on the couch, she was ready for more, and returned back to the madness that had just spat her out. That’s the nature of punk-rock fans: They make sure to have a better time than anyone around them, and they generally don’t let anything get in the way of that.
After a call and response chant of — what else — “Oi!,” the band shot off into another snot rocket of punk. The smile worn by the crowd betrayed the anger of the music entirely. The highlight of the Casualties set was the “wall of death” they orchestrated, which required several teams of fans to mount one another’s shoulders and have a chicken fight mid song. While a few groups duked it out in front of the stage, the bass player had a young fan riding his back the entire time he sang the song.
As the show wrapped, and hip, young Miamians lined up outside for Grand Central’s weekly Peach Fuzz party, it wasn’t hard to figure who was going to wake up having had more fun the night before. And as people found their way to cars in a lot littered with broken glass and half full beer bottles, the pulse of punk remained alive and beating in South Florida.
–David Von Bader
Photos by Valyn Calhoun:
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