Miami's 20 Best Punk Bands of All Time
The Eat, chewing through the studio.
The 305 did not invent punk rock, nor was it instrumental in the development of its subculture.
As a matter of fact, South Florida was plagued by so-called "album-oriented rock" clubs, insufferable cover bands with Eagles aspirations, and misguided disco heads who were ignoring the better stuff put out by TK Records. But in the late '70s, the sounds of rebellion were beginning to fester with a few transplants from up north that brought the racket with them.
Once it took a hold of Miami's youth, punk rock got some additions to its early roster that has continued to the present. Like all regional scenes, Miami's punk has a different attitude, a tropical snarl if you will, that sets it apart from the scenes in other American cities.
Here are Miami's 20 best punk bands of all time.
See also: Miami's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
The Symphonia of Boca Raton: James Judd, Guest Conductor
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20. Critical Mass
Critical Mass formed in 1973 and toiled in Miami until a heavy influence of the Sex Pistols hit leader and constant member Mick Fazz that prompted the band to press somewhere in the vicinity of 200 copies of their 45 rpm "Silver Screen" b/w "No One Left to Blame" in 1978 making them the first punks to press a record in Miami. Somehow he managed to secure a deal with MCA Records and released a 1980 album, It's What's Inside That Counts with a different lineup that was okay rock but without the attitude of the 7". They will always be Miami's first punkers.
Amazing Grace were the heavy hitters of the '80s. Not because they were awesome or brought a bit of Gothic pop to a NWOBHM sound but because for a short while, they were the supporting act in Miami to touring punk bands. Billy La Volpe, the Lambert bros and Ron Norton were also rumored to be the dudes who got all the chicks, specially yours. Their lone LP, Entities, a monumental feat in the age of the EP and 45 is an expensive endeavor to track nowadays.
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18. Menstrual Cycles
Perhaps Miami's first Oi!/punk band, Menstrual Cycles wasn't short on the Reagan-era angst and the juvenile humor that makes their Retirement Home EP enjoyable 31 years later. The trio consisted of Skin on bass, Hippie on drums and $hock on vocals and guitars. By all accounts, these guys were way too young to hang out at most clubs but their youthful energy is certainly timeless.
17. The Essentials
Walter Cz, Steve Sincere and the dearly departed Pete Moss brought their guns blazing with their Fast Music in a Slow Town four song EP. Their track "Turn Off Your Radio" is a local classic and an unheeded warning for many today. These guys would go on to appear in different bands throughout the years but their lone recording as a trio is pure power pop deliciousness.
16. Screaming Sneakers
We can't think of any band that has resonated more with the teen angst of young women in the early '80s than the impact the Screaming Sneakers' lone Marching Orders 12" EP had. When you've read riot grrl fanzines and websites namedropping this outfit, you know that Lisa Nash and crew must've hit a nerve. That they didn't record more is a bit of a shame. Lisa Nash might've been propped on the cover to sell more copies and rightly so, she's a total babe but she has vocals that outdo physical beauty. She was most recently recorded to our knowledge on the last Psycho Daisies album, 2008's Return From Blood Island.
15. Gay Cowboys in Bondage
The Gay Cowboys in Bondage was another Pete Moss band that shared the hardcore energy and youthful fuck-you-ness of cross-state punkers Roach Motel. You might liken them to Reagan Youth and other bands of the early '80s that endured the cross of Reaganomics but this racket was all about fun, melted cheese and baloney sandwiches. They weren't going to solve the politics of their parents and they certainly did not give a shit if anybody did.
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Sure, the sludge heads and the metal crowd will always take Cavity into their fold but Cavity's punk rock roots are undeniable. The full-fledged kick in the balls that they planted in Miami during their reign of terror shock-waved itself all the way out to Japan where numerous copy-cat bands wanted to emulate these clean-cut killers. Perennial helmsman Dan Gorostiaga artfully released over a dozen recordings with a revolving cast of players too numerous to mention but who have certainly been in pretty much every band in Miami since 1988. Of note too, is that one of our top 25 Electronic Music Acts of 2014, Ed Matus tenured with the band for a stint.
13. We The Living
WTL released a 7" and a cassette in their short go-around of Miami's '80s punk rock scene. What they masked with hardcore blasts were in reality leanings of funky jazz, New Wave notions and maybe a couple hundred bucks on music lessons their parents might've been persuaded into believing they wasted. Maybe they did but what they left behind is as fun today as it was then.
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12. Kreamy 'lectric Santa
Supremely weird and buckling to no one, KLS ushered in the '90s for a generation of punkers who connected with their art/jazz/funk/space/punk racket. Fraught with personal tragedies and a revolving door of characters, KLS continue to this day in North Carolina releasing records and exploring the vast dimensions of sound with valves at the ready. You can help their violinist/vocalist/muse Priya Ray win a handicap accessible van by clicking here and voting for her.
11. The Stun Guns
Paul Lecours held the classic mystique of a malcontent: equal parts wizened college professor, distraught romantic poet and/or bank robber; there was always something fun and potentially criminal about the Stun Guns. With two 7"ers and an LP in which they take a dig at the Crumbs over who covered the Eat better made you wonder where the fantasy line was drawn with their enamoring of "wise guy" culture.
See also: Florida's Ten Best Ska Bands of All Time
10. Charlie Pickett and the Eggs
Most of the Eggs are gone now for various reasons. Pickett continues to rock South Florida stages and most recently shared the stage with the legendary Sonics and the Suicide Commandos. For someone who stood at the brink of "Replacements-like" success, Pickett has powered on through concentrating on his work and his still inspiring, jaw-dropping guitar work. When people use "cowpunk" to describe a sound, you should only imagine Pickett and crew and ignore whatever the Hell it is they are trying to show you.
If Quit had waited a couple of years to release their album Earlier Thoughts there's a very good chance you'd see them on Fat Wreck Chords or Vagrant catalogs. These guys played a clean and catchy pop punk that while a product of its time was still light years ahead of what this nation was offering in the genre. The album was originally released in 1990 and rereleased in 1996. This scribe has had the dumb luck (read: never lend albums out) of losing both versions.
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When the Screamers and The Unit were making waves out west, British ex-pat Jeremy Kolosine and Futurisk were creating simply delicious and danceable synth-punk that should be all the rage today. Spacey, New Wave-y, Casio-toned, minimalist and yet aggressive, Futurisk was one-of-a-kind in its time and has recently gotten some repress love from Minimal Wave Records.
7. The Reactions
The Reactions were already a bunch of snotty kids: Joey Maya, Tony Suppa and Sean Astin's long-lost biological father, Isaac Baruch when they were joined by legendary guitarist and visionary Johnny Salton. Salton's passing a couple of years ago left a huge void in South Florida's musical community but the indelible mark that he made with The Reactions is evident in the sophistication of their power pop. A reunion was attempted at Churchill's when Baruch, now an artist of whimsical pop surrealism briefly returned to Miami Beach.
6. The Crumbs
The Crumbs were signed to Lookout! Records when Lookout! Records was Lookout! Records. It didn't get better than that at the time. They toured with the Donnas, made incredible records and Raf Classic's nasal vocals are perhaps the most distinct in punk and roll. They weathered the '90s into the '00s and eventually called it an end but while they were around, there were few who could touch them. Their second Lookout! offering Low and Behold might just be the finest rock and roll album ever made by a punk and one of the most misunderstood by punkers. A goddamned shame because it is a classic.
5. The Front
Weird, pushy and artsy... The Front weren't average punks because they might've not been punks at all to begin with. The attitude certainly was there and the progressive conglomeration of freaks made for a subversive listen as such intra-band energy kept them fresh and edgy during their short-lived career. Singer and agitator Greg McLaughlin most recently gifted the world his documentary about South Florida's punk scene Invisible Bands.
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Not since the Eat welcomed "los punks Cubanos" to Miami had the Cuban exodus been felt as when FWA (from "fwacata!") exploded with their aggressive hardcore punk. Notorious for riotous shows and for sharing the stage with many out-of-towners, FWA should've recorded some more. Bassist Eric Rivers was tragically shot at his workplace in Minneapolis on October of 2012 and died from his wounds.
3. Drug Czars
If Chris Cottie and Michael O'Brien were the hardcore heart of the Eat, when they joined forces with Roach Motel's Jeff Hodapp, then the shit really got serious. Beloved educator Cottie might've been the King of the Midway, but his devilish humor came through in tandem with O'Brien's acerbic Irish humor to create one of the better acts to catch during the '90s in South Florida. With three 7"ers released and a bootlegged disc of their entire recorded career available to those who seek, the Drug Czars were equal part garage rock demigods and punk rock outlaws. Choke on it.
See also: 50 Best Miami Bands of All Time
If Quit were the clean pop punkers from next door, LOAD were the reckless crazies from the potential crack house down the street. Loud, abrasive, angry and with a Devil-may-care attitude that alienated and endeared them to you simultaneously, Bobby and crew were a dangerous element that put Miami firmly on the dirty South's map. Bobby passed away a couple of years ago, much too young. Drummer Fausto Figueredo has recently hinted that an album of material might surface very soon.
1. The Eat
No band has put more record collectors at odds over the years than the Eat. Their first single "Communist Radio" b/w "Catholic Love" was beaten to the punch by Critical Mass' "Silver Screen" by a miserable year, but pound for pound, the Eat continued to improve and release better records. Known as the comedians of the scene, the lineup of brothers Eddie and Michael O'Brien did themselves well by recruiting Chris Cottie behind the skins. They would further humorize their situation by inventing a conflict between their first bass player Glenn Newland and their second one Kenny Lindahl. Such was the humor of the brothers O'Brien. Jello Biafra did the world a favor and quieted many collectors and eased the wallets of many fans by releasing a complete discography of the band on his Alternative Tentacles label. Go get it. They've rocked since '77 and will continue to rock until you're 77.
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