Miami Punkers the Crumbs Play — Where Else? — Churchill's
The Crumbs' singer/guitarist Raf "Classic" Luna may be the leader of the most hard-luck punk rock band in Miami's history, but he knows how to live the high life. Watching the Dolphins/Jets game from his North Bayshore Drive penthouse overlooking Biscayne Bay, Luna pops open 12 ounces of courage. Leaning back on his couch, he cracks the handsome rouged smile that has kept him in girlfriends and out of trouble since he hit puberty 25 years ago.
"I'm sticking to my guns," he says raspily in his inimitable Fonzie-meets-Cheech Marin cool-guy brogue. He's referencing his band's opening four-on-the-floor salvo, "Stick to Your Guns," off the Crumbs' new album, Dade County Trash, on Baltimore punk label Insubordination Records. "I like the music, the new ideas I have, and there's always new stuff to talk about."
And what Luna is talking about in 2008 are the reasons he is still banging away at the three-chord Monte. It's been some 12 years since the Crumbs graduated from local sensation to then-hot, new Lookout! Records act (the label famously introduced the world to Operation Ivy and Green Day). But they would soon blow it, when the cheapo van they bought broke down so many times that even an engine replacement couldn't keep the band from missing all but four gigs on a nationwide tour. In the end, they had to scrap the van altogether and Greyhound it back to Miami with their tails between their legs.
"Never buy a van for less than $600," Luna chuckles. "When you're younger, you're not as prepared. You make small mistakes like that. And over the years, you learn to take care of little details. How can you not make a show because your van broke down in the middle of nowhere? You miss one show, and then you drive 2,000 miles to catch up." Luna stops and takes a swig of Budweiser. "It's all about enjoying the moment. We're lucky we're still playing. We're about to go to Tampa and play with [Florida punk diehards] the Pink Lincolns. We're not going up there as 20-year-old kids; we're going up there as guys who are past their prime. We just respect each other and have a good time."
What Luna doesn't respect, however, is the South Beach velvet-rope culture. It nauseates him. "There are two sides of Miami," he opines, "the one you see on TV: high fashion, nice cars, beautiful people, and trendy clubs. And there's always someone at the front door to decide who will have fun and who will not have fun." Luna pauses, and his eyes light up as he continues. "What we do is create our own world — in the spirit of independence, which is what the underground is all about. We don't need to be a part of that velvet-rope bullshit — we're inclusive. But if those people looked in from the outside, they would probably say, 'These people are just Dade County trash.'"
The Crumbs' Dade County Trash meetings usually take place nowadays at Churchill's, and in the pub's honor, they have immortalized Miami's sole rock club with "Down at Churchill's," the album's third track. "Most of us spent our youth in that joint. The first time I went there was in 1990 to see Die Kreuzen, and I hopped the fence because I was underage — and now it's funny, because I am overage! We met friends, girlfriends, bands — it's a place where anyone can get in. And if you don't have enough money, you can jump the fence," he says. "Sometimes I go there in the daytime to hang out — and it's cool because there's no one there to bother you."
Although Luna is staying the course and continuing to hold court at Churchill's, half the lineup that recorded Dade County Trash flew the coop as soon as the recording was completed. Bassist Tono, who had held down the four-string position for half a decade, and Luna's fellow guitarist, "Johnny B" Bonanno, are gone. Bonanno actually started the band with Luna in 1992, when both of them decided that drinking cheap beer with one hand and playing Ramones riffs with the other was more fun than the serious doom rock they were playing in their group Cavity. (The latter, meanwhile, is now legendary, one of the few Miami bands to make it out of Florida and onto independent record labels in the Nineties.) Their respective replacements, José "El Rey" Flores and Against All Authority guitarist Joe Koontz, are decorated Miami scene veterans who have marinated in the same musical Schlitz keg as the Crumbs. But the question pops up: What makes the Crumbs, the Crumbs?
"We never made a dime," Luna pronounces. "The people who were in the Crumbs came in every Wednesday for practice and gave it their all. For some people it was better to move on. I'm very thankful for everyone who has been in the Crumbs." Many folks on the local music scene have observed over the years that Johnny B's hellified lead playing and roots music influence are what gave the Crumbs a unique identity. But while Luna is grateful for Johnny B's tenure, he sees his longtime partnership with Marcio "Grim" Gemelli as the thread that keeps the band itself.
"Johnny and I came up with the guitar riffs," he acknowledges. "But Marcio has a unique style of drumming. I've never played with anyone who is as intense as him. He keeps it exciting and there's always a reason to jam. We might play for another 10 years — maybe that's when we'll hit our peak. Everyone that we started this with is gone. Maybe that's part of the motivation too."
What is definitely part of Luna's drive is his desire to make sure the stain the Crumbs have left on Miami's musical mattress remains visible. "The Crumbs have been a part of Miami punk rock for 16 years, and from the beginning we wanted to create a sense of identity here. A lot of the kids who are just getting into punk rock, they listen to a lot of Orange County crap, generic New York City bands, etc. So look right here. We're trying to preserve a certain kind of music: loud, crude, and creative. " Luna pauses to finish off his beer. "You know — Dade County trash."
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