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Load Trip

Four angry young drunks drive to the top of the local rock heap

There's nothing in the fridge but beers so you wipe the sleep away and go to get some breakfast at two o'clock on a stormy Miami afternoon. You order a hamburger minus pickles at the Burger King drive-thru, park over by the Winn-Dixie. You unwrap the burger to discover the goddamn thing has been soaked with at least a quart of condiments; it isn't even edible, and you are not choosy. You stumble into the Winn-Dixie, but there are no shopping carts, and the lines are too long anyway.

You sit in traffic. Finally you get back home, empty-handed, and decide to have a beer for breakfast after all. This sucks.

You drop the needle on the "Pastor's Day" seven-inch. Shut down screams the lead singer over a buoyant, almost bouncy, instrumental roar. Go to hell, he shrieks like a dying man. Motherfucker...Johnny Appleseed...Shut down. And now things don't suck so much.

"There was this guy on the MTV Awards from Pearl Jam," says one of the members of Miami's most low-down band, Load. "He said that if it wasn't for music, he would kill himself. For us, it's more like if it wasn't for the music, we'd be killing other people."

The four members of Load -- Jeff, Fausto, Tony, and Bobby -- walk into Ted's Hideaway south of South Beach. This is a neighborhood bar -- pool tables and an unpredictable jukebox, cheap beers and the regulars who drink them. Geographically Ted's is only a few blocks from Poseur Row over on Washington Avenue, but in every other way it could be another planet.

There's trouble early. A bearded bartender, tall as a tree, taps loudly on the bar. Bobby, Load's lead screamer, tries to lift up his head and accept the big glass of draft beer. "You can't sleep on the bar," the barkeep says, more to the rest of us than to Bobby himself, as if we are Bobby's caretakers, which I guess we are.

Bobby springs to life -- sort of. "My problem's that I'm a drunk but I can't really fight." That's a good thing -- that he can't fight. Too many people might get hurt.

A heavyset man smoking Camel no-filters hollers across the bar to Jeff, initiating a conversation about Jeff's dreadlocks. Something about jumping in the ocean, bacteria, ticks and fleas, the chlorine in swimming pools. That's how my hair got this way, Jeff offers. The big guy yells, "Sue 'em. Sue 'em." The big guy has warmed to the Loadsters, walks over and inserts himself into the conversation, such as it is. He brags about his souped-up truck, and Bobby says, "Who the fuck cares?" Big Guy does not like this, spits out a "What's that, pal?" Bobby looks up, effects a sincere expression, and says, "I said, 'I think that's really interesting'."

There is a moment of quiet as we re-up on drafts. "I really like that band the Angry Samoans," Bobby blurts to no one in particular.

Tony, who plays bass, surveys the scene at Ted's and approves. "This is the kind of place," he says, "where if you think you've really got problems, you come here and realize you don't." I think he's insulting the clientele, but with Load you're never sure.

Well, sometimes you're sure. Like at Miami Rocks this past February. More than one mover-and-shaker was worried about his or her band saying something negative about the music industry for which South Florida's top acts were showcasing. For two nights those fears went unfounded. Cell 63 was notably polite, at least for them. Holy Terrors held their tongues. And so on. No one -- their manager, for instance -- had expressed such concerns about Load, the final band of the event. "Hi, we're Miami Sucks, Too!" Bobby bleated at the high-profile crowd. "Shiver me timbers and blow the man down! Only on the weekends! For Christ's sake! All you people are lame as fuck!"

You might say they were chomping off the hand that feeds them, except that Load has little use for the games of the biz. They are a real punk band.

Punk bands play by different rules. Maybe that's why the press never mentions them. Load has released two brilliant seven-inch singles, with a third due out in a month, and a full-length cassette. They appear on the Churchill's Hideaway live CD. Tomorrow they will begin their third tour of the Southeast. When they headlined a show at the Plus 5 in Davie on a recent Saturday night, they drew 263 fans, a number any local band would be proud of. In fact, the club had set 300 as a goal -- if the band could have brought in a few more customers, they would've received a bonus.

Maybe the press would pay attention to a band that clearly deserves recognition if the members of Load would tell reporters their last names. Or at least put their names on the sleeves of their records or in their press releases. Or if Bobby would sober up for once. Or if they'd make a video. But then they wouldn't be a punk band.

So instead they pile into their 1981 Chevy van and hit the road. In the next month -- from tonight (September 15) till October 16 -- they'll play 28 shows. Their next day off isn't until September 28, set aside so they can drive from Richmond, Virginia, to Knoxville, Tennessee, where they'll headline the No Cheez Music and WUTK New Rock 90 Night at the Mercury Theatre. The trip will take them as far north as Ohio and back west to New Orleans.

Many believe that one shortcoming of Miami's booming local rock scene is that the bands never travel. Road trips make the group members closer, the challenges build character, new audiences are reached. Take the bevy of skinheads at a house party in Birmingham, Alabama. Fausto, Load's drummer, recalls it as a riot, but Tony scales it down to "a huge fight. One skinhead had this long-haired guy on the ground and he was holding the guy's hair and pounding his head into the cement. Bobby, who had sliced his head open when he fell into the drums and hit his head on a cymbal, walked over to the window, looked out at all those people, and started saying, 'Hi! Hi, Hitler! Hi!'"

I ask Fausto why Load hasn't appeared on The Buzz, the entertainment segment on WSVN-TV's news show. "Laurie Hibberd won't get near us," Fausto says. "We'd rape her." Bobby swivels his head and says, "I really like that band the Didjits."

When Load formed two years ago, punk was at a low ebb, but the art form has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. That has, of course, carried over to Load, who have become one of South Florida's most popular bands despite themselves. What's remarkable is that they haven't changed their approach one bit. They watch a lot of television. (A new song, "Cannon Procedure," addresses the way fat TV detective William Conrad was able to karate chop bad guys with the greatest of ease.) "We want to be geniuses," says Fausto.

I'm keeping an eye on Bobby, who's babbling about either Jerry Lewis or Jerry Lee Lewis with his bandmates, when Jeff jumps up and announces, "I have to piss." He stands up and walks out the front door of Ted's Hideaway. "He has a problem with bathrooms. He never pisses in bathrooms," Tony explains. "Not even in his own house," adds Fausto. Bobby spins toward us, "Why is Jeff pissed?"

Some time passes. No Jeff in sight. One of the band members tells me I have to look outside. I crack the front door and there's Jeff with the heavyset Camel smoker, staring at the engine of the guy's hot-rod truck.

One of the Loadsters says that when the band practices (at which point Bobby interjects, "We practice? When?") Bobby spends the entire time watching Batman -- the cartoon version. "I really like that band Gang Green," Bobby mentions. We talk about how Gang Green was famous for its members' affection for Budweiser. Fausto says, perhaps seriously, that Load is seeking corporate sponsorship from Old Milwaukee.

Soon we're sitting in an alley talking about AIDS. "Our parents," says Tony, "fucked everybody. So now we can't."

Bobby, who began the day with a beer at 10:00 a.m., says, "I really love that band Forget the Name." One of the musicians has retrieved a stack of plastic buckets to sit on. When he stands to stretch, Bobby kicks the buckets over and begins shouting indecipherable epithets at us. Fausto says that Bobby's dad recently turned 65, and Bobby burps another curse. "Yeah, well, you're old man is cooler than you are," Fausto tells the singer.

And then I find out that Bobby sent his old man a birthday card.
Load performs at 11:00 tonight (Wednesday) at Squeeze, 2 S New River Dr., Ft. Lauderdale, 522-2151. Admission costs $5 and $7.

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