Remember Alex Del Bueno
To young, casual consumers of Miami's downtown nightlife, Alex Del Bueno was the lord of The Vagabond door, the no-bullshit sentry who guarded the final entrance to the club's inner sanctum. But to a much, much wider swath of the local music scene, Del Bueno was an intensely loyal friend and fiercely talented musician who bridged the often-contentious worlds of punk and hardcore.
The sheer number of people who considered him a friend has become evident in the two weeks since Del Bueno, age 35, was killed in a car accident. Last week saw a street-punk-oriented benefit show at Churchill's, organized by U.F.C. frontman Roach, and an all-day benefit tattoo event at Hell Bound City Tattoo in Wynwood. This Thursday, Del Bueno's friends have put together two more, concurrent benefit events: a special edition of The Vagabond's weekly Thursday party, Shake; and a rare, intimate show by Poison the Well at Churchill's.
Miami's hardcore and punk kids, when it matters, definitely take care of their own.
Born to Cuban parents in Queens, Del Bueno moved to Miami with his mother, father, and older brother Julian when the boys were teenagers. Julian would eventually play in a hardcore band called Brethren, while Al, as he was known for short, cut an imposing figure on the scene. "I met him in the late Eighties because he used to go to all the hardcore, punk, and metal shows," says Juan Montoya, the guitarist for Torche. "I noticed him because he was a Latino kid like me, but he looked like Rambo back then.... He was a big dude who could definitely knock you down, but he was a superswell guy."
Del Bueno was also often at the center of a diaspora of exiled New York hardcore kids. The single-monikered, heavily tattooed "Brooklyn," now the day manager at The Vagabond, remembers how he met Del Bueno 12 years ago outside a show at the now-defunct Club Q in Davie. "I was walking by his brother Julian's car, and I noticed they were listening to the Yankees game, so I asked the score," Brooklyn recalls. "And we first bonded over the fact that we were huge Yankees fans."
Al soon followed in Julian's musical footsteps, on his own instrument of choice — the drums. Early on, heplayed in a hardcore band called District 9. He then played with his brother in an outfit called Mindframe "that was a straight-up hardcore band with a Miami feel, an awesome band with a lot of rhythm," says another longtime friend, Bundee, bassist for Mehkago NT. The way Del Bueno kept that rhythm, too, was ferocious, Bundee says. "He was crazy — the real-live version of Animal from the Muppets. Before he played a show, he'd tape up his fingers like a boxer, because he'd just box up that drum set."
His greatest musical impact came a little later, as drummer for the charging, mostly Orlando-based hardcore act Viet-Nom, and then as the rhythm backbone for the Miami-based bilingual act DNME. Del Bueno's musical open-mindedness allowed in a host of influences that set DNME apart in Miami's segregated world of punk-derived subgenres. "One thing Al was known for was being a bridge between scenes," says Dominic Sirianni, cofounder of the show promotions company and record label New Art School (and occasional writer for New Times). "Back then, punk kids really only went to punk shows, and hardcore kids only went to hardcore shows, but Al made it cool for people to go to both."
"He'd also go to hip-hop shows," Bundee recalls, "so I'm sure in that world, they knew him as the punk kid who knew how to break dance."
DNME hit the ground running, playing its first show on the locals stage of the 2001 Warped Tour, and soon scoring supporting slots with bands such as local heavy-hitters Where Fear and Weapons Meet, as well as Blood Clot, the latter-day project by the Cro-Mags' John Joseph. Joseph even contributed guest vocals for DNME's debut album, Last of a Dying Breed, released on New Art School Records in 2003. "The reviews were all really good," says Sirianni, "and we sold a bunch of the records."
Above all, Del Bueno was known for walking the walk, for living what his beloved hardcore espoused: staying true to one's beliefs and taking care of family — both blood and otherwise. He had recently moved in with his parents to help nurse them through health problems, and was a deeply loyal friend and co-worker. "I never wanted to work with anyone else at the front door," says Jessica Bennett, The Vagabond's operations manager. "He kept everything in check. And everyone who came through the door, whether they were from Hialeah or Fort Lauderdale, he knew."
"Al was the type of guy where, if he had a dollar in his pocket," Brooklyn says, "and he had a choice between giving it to you to survive or keeping so he could survive, he'd give it to you."
Del Bueno also remained committed to music and had recently begun writing with a Vagabond co-worker for a Spanish-language punk band. In fact he was leaving band practice the night of Wednesday, October 8, when he passed.
It's fitting, then, that his scene compatriots have rallied to put together a series of benefit concerts that continue this week; all bands are playing for free, and all admission money is going to the Del Bueno family. Churchill's will feature a show headlined by local legend Poison the Well. Later that night, the benefit will continue at The Vagabond's weekly Shake party, which is cohosted by Sirianni. Taking a break from the party's usual retro-fab format, guest DJs Mike Deuce, Chris Graham, and Ryan Evans will spin sets of the hardcore, punk, and hip-hop that Del Bueno loved. Even the folks at Miami Ink have donated money to the events and are promoting them on posters inside the shop.
Economical in his words but effusive in his generosity, Del Bueno was a key figure on Miami's music scene. He is already sorely missed.
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