South Florida's youth isn't known for its radical political activism, especially when it comes to creating art. So how's life in Miami for the politically conscious ska-flavor punk band Against All Authority? Just fine, especially because they're not here very often. But even when the Miami septet is in town, they enjoy a success that many other local bands do not. Their shows consistently draw large crowds; at times they've performed for up to 500 enthusiastic fans singing along and swirling together in front of the stage. And when they're out of town, AAA basks in the rigors of punk rock on the road, scorching stages from California to Holland. But are people listening beyond the catchy hooks?
"I hope so," Danny Lore answers when asked if he thinks AAA's fans get the social messages in the band's songs. Lore, the band's singer, songwriter, and bassist, says the band's image doesn't seem to be a major issue. He says South Florida doesn't offer any type of stimulation or dejection. He lives for music and draws inspiration from other people's tunes as well as his own experiences. "We don't pick a direction and say, 'We want this to sound like this.' We just write the music, and I write about whatever is pissing us off at the moment," he says. Lore's concerns range from government malfeasance and media deceptions to inner turmoil. "When I was young I didn't have any teachers who inspired me to pick up a book and read, or to learn and think for myself, it was Jello Biafra, the Subhumans, and Operation Ivy. That's maybe why the lyrics come out the way they do," he explains, referring to songs such as "At Our Expense," which deals with the controversial plutonium-powered Cassini rocket, or "12:00 AM," which emphasizes the need for a strong sense of self-worth.
During a recent show at Salvation in Miami Beach, their first gig here in more than a year, a random sampling of the young crowd confirmed that not all of the fans were there to hear a specific message; rather, they came to listen to some good music they heard about through word of mouth. Phil Labate is a member of Monica's Come-Stained Dress, a newly formed punk band from Broward County. He notes that "the lyrics in [AAA's] songs are everything. They share my views about government and society. They try to tell people to wake up, and they don't have to take whatever society is trying to shove down their throats." Labate is quick to point out, however, that many of the people at the shows don't actually delve into the band's lyrics. "Not all these people understand the lyrics," he says. "Most just come for the feeling of the music, for the common feelings of releasing aggression."
"Agression" is a good summation for AAA's trademark sound, a fireball that encompasses screeching guitars; thundering, tumbling bass; machine-gun-fast vocals; upbeat ska horns; and militarily precise drumming. It's a musical combination that began in 1992, with Lore and guitarist Joe Koontz. Soon horn player Tim Coates joined, and the three have been the core of the band since, cycling through several rounds of drummers and additional horn players.
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The first of the band's eight national tours was a strictly grassroots affair. They booked a two-month road trip with the help of an underground zine called Book Your Own Fucking Life, which is published by San Francisco's Maximum Rock and Roll magazine, the veritable bible of the punk-rock scene. Book features national lists of everything from bars to recurring keg parties in the woods that want to book a punk band, providing readers with ample contacts.
Now AAA has a professional booking agent to schedule their gigs, and a deal with the indie label Hopeless Records, which released their second CD, All Fall Down, in January 1998, with a third to follow this summer. But even with all that touring under their belt, AAA maintains the same attitude they always had toward hitting the open road. "When we go on tour we just go out, we do the whole loop around the states," Lore says. "One bad thing about being from Miami, it takes you a good ten hours to just get out of the state, and then you're in fucking Georgia. The way we look at is, if we're gonna drive all the way up to New York, we might as well go to Chicago. If we're going to Chicago, we might as well go to California."
With a name like Against All Authority there's bound to be a few moments of antiauthoritarian tension somewhere on tour. But unruly instances are actually few and far between. Of course there was the time on their most recent tour opening for the legendary U.K. punk band GBH when they had to be escorted out of a Detroit venue with shotgun-toting cops after neo-Nazi skinheads started a rumble. And then there was the time at a club in Berlin, Germany, where there were so many fights in the crowd the band never made it through a song. Lore says the German crowd didn't comprehend the way AAA wants their rebellion directed. "Finally we told them we're not going to play if they kept fighting," he recalls. "We didn't want to be the cause of their violence. If you want to fight, fight the system, not each other. Go fucking smash a bank or something. We just had to load up and get out of there."
The Berlin incident aside, Lore believes European punks are much more conscious of their local governments than their American counterparts are. "The kids in the punk scene and living in the squats over there are really into politics and how things in their area are being run, and we're not like that, we're not like that at all," he says. "We're like, 'I'm gonna go work in Burger King, then go to a show and get drunk.'"
The young crowd that Against All Authority draws sometimes incites criticism from other Miami bands who dismiss AAA as a "kiddie attraction." But that fresh-faced audience is just fine with the band. "We see a lot of young kids at the shows, and that's cool," Koontz says. "I remember when I was young and listening to bands like Bad Religion, and now I still listen to that shit. You have to start off listening to something, and that usually turns you on to other things, and that's cool if we're doing that for some people."
Against All Authority also tries to support various worthwhile causes, one of which is Food not Bombs, a national nonprofit organization that helps provide food for the homeless, often clashing with police in the process. "They show people that punks aren't just drunks out to fuck shit up, always talking about how everything sucks, and then not doing anything. Food Not Bombs is run by punks, and they do something," Lore says. The band has donated money from shows to the organization.
As Lore, Koontz, and Coates move into their mid- and late twenties,they show no signs of slowing down. The three weeks they opened for GBH were motivational, proving that old punks, even those closing in on 40, can still get the job done. Koontz says, "It's inspirational seeing those old guys up there just rocking out every night for two fuckin' hours. It's awesome."
Against All Authority performs a benefit concert for hospitalized musician Priya Ray of Kreamy 'Lectric Santa Friday, May 7, at Churchill's, 5501 NE 2nd Ave. Opening are Quick Stop and Darvis Brown and the Smoke Asses. The show begins at 9:00 p.m. and a $2 donation is suggested at the door for Ray's medical fund.
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