By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
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It's almost ten o'clock on a Saturday night, and 77-year-old Emilio Mario Valdez is planted firmly in front of the stage at Churchill's Hideaway, waiting for the set by I Don't Know to begin at the rough-and-tumble, turn-it-up-full-blast rock dive in Little Haiti. Watching intently as the first band of the evening sets up its gear, the elderly man has not wandered in off the street inadvertently, expecting bingo night or something.
As it turns out, I Don't Know won't go on for another four hours. But no matter. The band's popular frontman, Ferny Coipel, happens to be Se*or Valdez's grandson.
Mr. Valdez is just one of a number of individuals who take their parental (or in this case, grandparental) duties to the extreme, faithfully trudging from club to club and enduring countless moshers, stage divers, and assorted riff-raff simply for the pleasure of watching their progeny perform.
In the process, these senior hipsters lift the class quotient of local clubs considerably while proving that rock and roll, despite its reputation for fostering generational strife, can sometimes be a family affair.
Sue Camacho asks that her age not be mentioned. But the sixtyish mom of the Goods' brothers John and Jim is a staple on the scene, along with her daughter Susan. "Oh, I haven't counted," Mama Camacho says when asked how many shows she's been to during the six years the Goods have been playing. "I go every day that I don't have to go to work the next morning." Figuring a conservative estimate of 35 weekend and holiday shows per year, that would put Mrs. Camacho's tally somewhere in the 200-plus range. "I tried to [go on weeknights]," she adds, almost apologetically. "But I learned about two years ago that I can't do that any more." (Mrs. Camacho, who teaches advanced placement English at Miami Springs High School, gets up for work at 3:45 a.m.)
Similarly, Roz and Mike Wolpin (ages 58 and 63) are regulars at shows put on by the Broward band the Miles, for which their son Randy plays guitar. Their presence is fairly important: She's served as the Miles' manager for the past two years, while Dad takes care of the stage lighting. Mrs. Wolpin, a retired accountant, figures she's been to a hundred or so shows since the Miles got off the ground, and she says she'll continue to show up even though the band's business affairs recently were turned over to Mystique Management. "I love it," she claims. "My husband, too. He stands and taps to the music. We listen to 88.5 [WKPX] all day. We're young parents."
There are plenty more examples past and present. Kay Kramer, the mother of Matt of Saigon Kick fame, has been a local scene devotee for several years and has taught vocal lessons to many local rockers; Norma Malo, whose son Raul fronts the now-platinum-selling country-western act the Mavericks, routinely danced up a storm at local joints before the Mavs moved to Nashville; and long ago shows by the now-defunct Chant were blessed with the presence of the parents of front man Walter Czachowski.
If only through repeated exposure to their children's bands and the acts that sandwich them, Valdez, Camacho, and the Wolpins possess an impressive wealth of knowledge about the local music scene and can reel off the names of bands and clubs with the same ease they recite their kids' ages. "I love Black Janet," says Wolpin. "I love Muse. 23 is a good band. The Goods. Off the top of my head, these are the bands I would listen to and enjoy." Mrs. Camacho cites I Don't Know, A.J. and the Stick People, and Tampa-based Clang as her favorites, and recently became a fan of the Robbie Gennet Band after seeing them for the first time during a benefit at the Button South.
Mr. Valdez, who religiously scours Jam magazine seeking out photos of familiar faces, lists I Don't Know, the Baboons, and los Buenos (the Goods) as his favorite local bands, and laments the passing of such landmarks as the Cactus Cantina and Washington Square. "He says he enjoys coming to all the shows," relays bilingual grandson Coipel. "Not only when we play, but when other bands play he'll stick around. When he used to drive himself, he would sit there and watch all the bands."
Not that these older-than-average rockers are homers. Mrs. Camacho is not afraid to say some local bands still need a little work, though she declines to name names. "Well, some [bands] are better than others," she says diplomatically.
Even the Goods are not beyond Mrs. Camacho's reproach. Although she lauds their performances on a musical level, there have been times when she's expressed her disapproval of other aspects of their show. The most notable example came a few years ago during a gig at Washington Square, when the Goods invited the entire audience on stage and then encouraged them to take off their clothes. No sooner had twenty or so fans begun stripping than Mama Camacho was immediately stageside, trying to get her boys to cease and desist. "Now, I got upset with that," she remembers. "I spoke out, if you recall. I tried to stop it. I didn't make a scene about it, but I definitely made an attempt to stop them. I went up close to the stage as I recall, and got their attention. Which they...well...they ignored me."