Careerists are rare in punk rock, but not as rare as you might think. The Queers, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, and Minor Threat/Fugazi auteur Ian MacKaye have all been entrenched in this fickle, youth-obsessed genre for well over a decade, and there are a few groups from the first wave of '77-era British punk -- Stiff Little Fingers and Buzzcocks among them -- still grinding it out in the recording studio and on the club circuit. The Ramones have only just retired, following a high-profile slot on last year's Lollapalooza lineup (and I've got twenty bucks that says they'll resurface for a reunion before 2000). The Circle Jerks got back together not too long ago, as did the Sex Pistols for a cash-grab tour and a live album that, amazingly, wasn't so bad. Still, most of the music's survivors have moved on past punk's moral outrage, political fervor, and loud-fast minimalism. Some have moved on to other parts of the music industry, former Bad Religion producer/guitarist and Epitaph mogul Brett Gurewitz most notable among them. Hardcore standard-bearer Henry Rollins once purged his damaged soul with Black Flag, but now he's a multimedia baron -- author, publisher, record exec, actor, and advertising mouthpiece for clothing and computer companies. Ex-members of the Clash, the Jam, the Misfits, Black Flag, Television, et al., are still making music, but little of it is much related to what they were doing when punk was new and their ideas were interesting.
In both punk time and plain old rock time, nine years is a pretty good haul; that's about how long it took for the Beatles to rise and fall; ditto for the Clash. And nine years is how long Miami's Quit has been playing its tight, catchy, and endlessly energetic brand of punk rock. Well, they're playing it no more: Having decided to put their name into action, Quit -- guitarist/vocalist Addison Burns, drummer Andre Serafini, bassist Tony Rocha -- did just that late last month, bidding farewell on Christmas Day with an adios performance at Marsbar. But that club's 21-and-over policy kept many of Quit's youngish loyal-and-fanatical from taking part in the despedida, so in a very punk-rock move the band decided to play a second final show at Cheers, the South Miami club with a commendable all-ages policy.
I didn't make the Xmas blowout, but I did turn up at the band's last call this past Sunday. I'm glad I did, for it was an amazing show -- one of those uncommon occurrences when both band and audience are in perfect sync, feeding off the other's energy, pushing each other to a state of blissful, cathartic exhaustion. After opening sets by a couple of bands I missed and one I didn't (a terrific half-hour assault by the punky-metal Vacant Andys), Quit climbed on-stage with neither pretense nor a set list and spent the better part of two hours taking requests from an intense, raucous, and close-to-full house. The audience -- mostly kids, mostly guys -- knew damn near every word to every song, some of them grabbing the mikestand from Burns during "Did You See" and screaming the words to "Remember" like they'd written it themselves.
From stage presence to songs, Quit is a fairly modest bunch. There ain't a lot of posing going on: Rocha sways back and forward a bit, lurching to the microphone during the choruses while Serafini lays down a racing, freight-train rhythm -- simple, powerful, effective drumming that's low on flash and perfect because of that restraint. Burns hangs close to the mikestand, singing with eyes clenched tight, his hands a blur across the neck and body of his sunburst Stratocaster. His lyrics are straightforward variations on some of punk's set themes, especially romantic frustration ("Could Be Wrong," "Dedication"). There's one song about the looming specter of adulthood -- "Changes" -- that takes on even greater meaning in the face of Quit's breakup. "Everybody in the band is starting to have other obligations," Burns explained of the breakup, a few days before the Cheers show. "Nobody can put what we used to put into the band any more."
Based simply on their one album, I think it's safe to say that Quit is -- or was, whatever -- a fine band. Earlier Thoughts, Quit's self-released 1990 debut, recorded when lead guitarist Russell Mofsky was still a member, is a sharp, evocative snapshot of pop-laced punk from the pre-Nirvana era, framed by the roaring rhythm of Serafini and Rocha and built on Burns's winningly frail voice and aching, forthright songwriting. Reissued last June by the local Rojo label and remastered with finesse by Lounge Act's Mike Boudet, Earlier Thoughts retains much of its vitality because of Burns's vulnerability, frustration, and the whining timbre in his voice, which only underlines the pained sentiments in "Dedication," "Could Be Wrong," and "Searching."
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At Cheers, though, there was something else at work beyond really good songs being played with more relish, gusto, and ability than they were seven years ago. It was something in the faces of Burns, Serafini, and Rocha as they tore through their nine years' worth of material, as they goofed around on covers such as the Police's "Next to You" and the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" and fragments of "Master of Puppets" and "Sweet Home Alabama." They were smiling, confident, relaxed, banging out songs without a hint of self-consciousness, obviously having a hell of a good time, playing for the sheer fun of it.
Then it was over. Thank-yous came from the stage and were returned from the crowd, and Burns ended the night with a call of support for the local bands who haven't yet hung up their instruments. It made me recall something Burns had said a few days earlier, something that harked back to the simple sincerity that to me best defines Quit's music: "If you like to play, you just go out and do it. We never wanted to do anything else but put on our instruments and play. Instead of trying to sell a lot of tickets and get a lot of people to the shows, we concentrated on making the music the best it could be. We can always look back at that."
-- By John Floyd