K.C. Toimil sits on the sidewalk in front of PS14 on a recent weekend night. She's trying to stay awake, and her band, Melted Sunglasses, is still patiently waiting to get onstage. It's 3 a.m.
I drove to this show, to see K.C. and her melty band. She told me she was playing at 11:30 p.m., so I left my house at 11:30. In my heart, in my pants, and in my parasympathetic nervous system, I know that rock shows don't start on time. Even if I go out of my way to be fashionably late, I'm still early.
Part of the problem was clear: On the night in question, there were eight bands booked. Let's do the math: Say the first band goes on at ten, and let's imagine that each band plays for half an hour, and let's assume that it only takes 15 minutes between bands. In this best-case scenario, the night ain't over until 4 a.m.
Seriously, why so many bands? "It's the clearing-house effect," says Chuck Loose, who used to book shows in Miami and Broward in the early 1990s and played drums for the Crumbs.
Mad Martigan guitarist Red Tuttle agrees. Recently, he tried to book a weekend show at Churchill's featuring just five bands. "They said if I want to do a show on a weekend, there's got to be at least 11 bands," he says. "Man, I've been the 11th band. I'm so tired, the band is drunk, (and) people have gone home. It doesn't make for a good show."
Promoters, however, put the responsibility back on Miami's fickle crowds. "If I knew that one band would pack the place, I wouldn't need to book a million bands," says Notorious Nastie, who books shows at PS14, Churchill's, and other venues around town. "It's Friday night, it's Saturday night, everyone wants to play. There aren't many places to play live music in Miami, and why not give a new band a shot?"
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And still, there's another common occurrence — perhaps only six bands are advertised to play. But somehow the lineup swells that same night, with new bands popping and hitting the stage while the headliners are at the bar hitting the sauce. "Bands just show up and claim they were told they could play, or the promoter just adds another band," says Todd Slimack, drummer of Stay Hitt. "Then 3 a.m. rolls around and we're saying goodbye to our friends as we're setting up to play."
Raf Classic of the Crumbs has been playing in Miami for more than 16 years, and he offers this advice to younger bands: Don't accept a "headlining" slot. "As exciting as that may sound, you might as well be playing in front of four guys at 4:30 a.m.," he says.
The solution is simple, though, if hard to implement. Humans who go to shows should show up on time. Promoters should be realistic as to how to manage the time in a night, and make everyone adhere to a strict schedule. Performers should suck it in and play to thin early-evening crowds if they have to. And if their friends and fans keep missing their gigs because they showed up late, maybe the audience will learn to show up early. Well, maybe. After all, it's Miami. Caribbean time is contagious.
Juan Manuel Rotulo, drummer of Miami hardcore band Dancefloor Justice, points out that the difference in attitude changes sharply at the county line. "Just go up to Broward and Palm Beach," he says. "When I played in Delray Beach at the VFH Hall, did we leave at 3 a.m.? No. We played to 200 people, and made it to Churchill's in time to watch the first band at midnight."