At present, South Florida's hardcore scene is strong. And that really should not be taken for granted.
We have benevolent promoters who continue to toil away, convincing bands to make the journey down the length of a seemingly endless state to perform in Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach. The area is also rich with great local crews that frequently outshine the acts they support on touring packages.
There is an unprecedented lack of unnecessary violence at shows these days, and South Florida boasts fans who can, for the most part, be relied upon to show up to the gigs so our promoters and clubs don't lose their shirts.
It's when a community like this is at its healthiest that shows become special again. And for most fans of hardcore, a set by legends of Cro-Mags' caliber has more in common with a major religious holiday than a hardcore show.
This past Friday night saw South Florida's last true bastion of punk rock, Churchill's Pub, fill with an exuberant crowd of fans that lined the venue's stage to share the mic and seek the truth with the NYHC pioneers.
The show was opened by local bands that spanned generations of South Florida hardcore including Kickturn, Nunhex, On Our Own, and Trust No One. Each band managed to ratchet up the energy, little by little, building enormous anticipation for the entrance of Cro-Mags.
When John Joseph and crew finally crashed the Churchill's stage, the band was ushered in by a most triumphant soundtrack of orchestral music (no doubt nipped from a film we could not identify), and the energy that had built throughout the night was unleashed in a dramatic scene of flailing limbs, screaming men and women, and Cro-Mags run amok.
John Joseph took time to make dedications before songs, sending "Malfunction" out to promoter, John McHale. The Cro-Mags frontman also a song out to Miami resident and Madball bassist, Hoya Roc. And to the delight of a marine (later seen moshing on the stage as Joseph smiled and said, "Now that's a marine!"), "Seekers of the Truth" was dedicated to our servicemen and servicewomen.
The night ran smoothly until a man took off from from the stage without adequate crowd support and landed on his head. The injury was a gruesome reminder that the positive aggression found at hardcore, punk, and metal shows can be dangerous beyond just a bruise or a bump.
The show was stopped, the club evacuated, and the man tended to by a crowd member that happened to be an off-duty medic until emergency services could respond. As the injured fan was carted off (conscious at this point), the show's energy left with him.
The crowd filed back in, and things kicked back off with "Sign of the Times," prompted by Joseph's plea for people to "just be careful." And the vibe was understandably tempered by the accident.
But just when things seemed bleak, the immediately recognizable opening seconds of Bad Brains' "Right Brigade" turned the crowd back into a churning mess of punk-rock lunatics, and the evening carried on without a hitch.
As is always the case, the band's cover of the intro from Leeway's "Rise and Fall" inspired a climactic mosh, leaving former Leeway guitarist and current Cro-Mags axeman, A.J. Novello, with a broken guitar strap. The strap was swapped and the band finished the night with a blistering run through "Hard Times," bolstered by a crowd of sweaty, battered, yet smiling fans.
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So if you missed the show because you're ignorant enough to believe that there is some right or wrong side in the drama that shattered the original relationships that Cro-Mags was built upon, or that the current lineup has no right to perform these songs, it truly was your loss.
Aside from that one fallen fan, the night was exactly what a great hardcore show should be.