It's a long way from the gothic torture chamber ambience of the defunct and sorely missed Washington Square to the upbeat sports bar decor of Dan Marino's American Sports Bar & Grill (as opposed to Dan Marino's Herzegovinian Bar & Grill or Dan Marino's Mongolian Bar & Grill, I suppose), but Second Coming have made the trip. And they didn't come here for the wings (which, by the way, are absolutely delicious, best wings I ever tasted, yummm. Now will you comp my beer?).
The band is set up in this faux-den sort of space complete with trophy case and oversize tennis racket. It's situated in the back of the bar next to the glassed-in "Owner's Box" (admittance by invitation only). I wonder aloud how often the Dolphin quarterback occupies that box on Wednesday nights to hear local acts do their thing, but the always congenial bar staff does not take my question seriously.
Marino's is probably not the least likely venue for a local original rock group, but it's up there. (Second Coming themselves once played a frat party held in a barn.) For starters, there's the dress code -- no tank tops, no cutoff shorts, no excessively torn jeans, no flip-flops. Sports photos/memorabilia adorn the wood-paneled walls. Jerseys worn by famous athletes -- Joe DiMaggio, Pete Rose, Magic Johnson -- beam down on a pair of well-lighted pool tables. Ceiling-mounted TV sets are omnipresent, half showing a hockey game, the rest tuned to a Dodgers-Phillies contest. Perky waitresses in orange shorts and aqua jerseys bearing the sacred number "13" circulate among the sparse but enthusiastic crowd. When Second Coming takes the stage more people are out in the CocoWalk courtyard watching the guy airbrush moonscapes for twenty bucks than are inside Marino's checking out the band.
All the elements for a fiasco are in place -- small crowd, unusual venue, lots of distractions. Except nobody remembered to tell the band that this was supposed to be an off night.
"Are you in the fucking house or what?" screams vocalist-songwriter Byron Warren, he of the Vernon Reid hairstyle, the baggy denim coveralls that cascade over one shoulder and fit him like window treatment, and the T-shirt that dangles out the back. If Dennis the Menace were an African American fronting a funk-rock band, he would look a lot like Byron Warren.
Bassist Seth Horan high-steps, throws back his long, frizzy mane, and pumps out a bottom thick and lumpy as hot asphalt. Lead guitarist Kim Godard peers out from under his Pervert tewk and alternately embroiders the mix with delicate filigrees or propels it with chunky chording on his yellow Strat. And up front there's Warren, playing to the crowd, dancing in place, flailing at his Telecaster. If they gave an award for best display of perpetual motion in a confined space, Warren's name would be on the trophy.
"Hey, man, turn down the sound," Warren laughs at his mates. "I can't hear the game!"
Second Coming's sound is heavily informed by the three Ps: Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, and the Police. Living Colour and Fishbone are obvious influences as well. Warren, who writes most of the lyrics, has been exposed to a wide range of musical styles his entire life. Growing up in a white suburban town in Jersey -- "Exit 1B," he remembers -- Warren heard his share of P-Funk and Earth, Wind and Fire at home, Zeppelin elsewhere. His sister listened to David Bowie and his father was a Yes fan.
"I didn't have a hard, hard life in high school, but it's definitely easier being in a rock band now," says Warren. "Back then there was a little of that 'What's this black guy doing playing guitar?' I was really happy when that first Living Colour LP came out. It's much better now. But I'll say one thing: If you're black, you've gotta be good. I'm not saying that I'm the shit, but you can't be half-assed. It's more accepted for a white band to be bad."
Warren, a UM student and one-time WVUM DJ and station manager who currently earns his regular paycheck at the CD Solution, expresses a fondness for every style of popular music except country. He is especially thrilled to see Living Colour get into heavier rock and move away from funk. "I want to see a black industrial band, or a black rockabilly band. Until that happens, I think that boundary exists," he confides, although he admits that Second Coming mines the funk vein pretty heavily. "That's the funny thing about working at the CD Solution. It's taught me to be extra careful judging people. Customers come into the store and they ask me about reggae, which I don't know anything about, and not about the Indigo Girls, which I do."
Warren's eclectic taste in music extends to the local scene. He has written a few articles on bands like FtN for Post Mortem (not to be confused with writing a postmortem on FtN), and waxes eloquent when asked about his favorites. "The Holy Terrors are the best band in Miami. Why aren't more people into them? My two favorite local bands are broken up: Coral Gables and F.O.C. Pizza Bob [Melendez, former Gables vocalist] was one of my local heroes for stage presence alone. I like Collapsing Lungs, Day by the River. Rene [Alvarez] is an awesome vocalist, definitely as good as Eddie [Vedder, from some obscure nonlocal band]. And Diane Ward -- man, after I listen to her I can't even listen to Melissa Etheridge."
But back at Marino's Warren has other things on his mind. It would be easy to just throw in the towel, turn in a perfunctory performance, get paid, and go home. But giving up isn't Second Coming's style. They've played Churchill's in front of five people. They've played UM parties where drunken frat boys shouted requests for "Back in Black," "Blister in the Sun," and "Ride the Donkey" over the band's originals. They've played a barn, for crying out loud.
"I haven't had a hard life," repeats Warren. "Neither has the band. But I think we've paid our dues. We don't want to be a local band forever." And for tonight, at least, the road out of Miami runs through Marino's.
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Tommy Lasorda grabs his crotch. The sorority girl in the khaki shorts and plaid cotton shirt gingerly grips a Rolling Rock in her delicate, braceleted hand. A couple of guys whose shot-making ineptitude belies their serious expressions hover over one of the pool tables. Second Coming dives into "Love is 4 Punks," one of their signature tunes, and slowly but surely, Marino's starts to come around. The male bartenders bob their heads, the female bartenders and waitresses throw some hip into it. The girl with the Rolling Rock bends at the knee in something approximating time to the music. A few patrons at the other end of the bar inch closer to the band.
It's a small step from the toe-tapping, head-bobbing phase to the call-and-response phase, and soon Warren has the audience shouting back at him with gusto. When he brings the volume down and says, "We like to start this off slow and soft, then get aggressive like --"
"-- Sex!" screams a guy in the audience.
Warren smiles. The transformation is complete. Dan Marino's is no longer just another yuppie sports bar. Second Coming's in the house.
Second Coming performs Saturday at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501 NE 2nd Ave, 757-1807. Admission costs $3.