Young people have managed to escape the confines of their three-bedroom, two-bath dwellings and congregate as teenagers do Saturday nights somewhere free from parental supervision. This evening the destination of choice is a rock show at the Roxy Theatre, a defunct movie house in a strip mall near the Florida International University campus. Later the group will hit Wendy's or Subway in search of late-night snacks, but now they've got arms to flail and eardrums to damage.
The interior of the Roxy looks like a Hot Topic warehouse. The packed crowd is bedecked in studded belts, wrist cuffs, and lip/eyebrow/nose jewelry -- the requisite uniform for listening to bands named Carter Beats the Devil and Killik.
This show is promoter Joe Gonzalez's first at this venue. He has made it his mission to bring hardcore and alt-rock to Miami's suburbs via a series of productions he has pegged Real Band TV. A skating rink, a housing development rec room, and now the Roxy have all become guerrilla settings for moshing suburbia, and if Gonzalez has it his way, enclaves such as Kendall will soon be known not for their abundance of T.G.I.Friday's and Best Buys but for their emerging rock music scenes.
Those who have descended on the Roxy tonight, however, might tell you this transformation is already well under way. They come night after night to support friends, siblings, or significant others who are on the bill. This is their scene. And though strip malls don't hold the same romantic allure as a downtown warehouse with concrete floors and hipster-friendly lighting, this isn't about the perfect location. It's about escaping manicured lawns and Starbucks, snubbing the new Vin Diesel flick at the Multiplex, and proving that the local rock show is alive and well in Miami -- even in the suburbs.
Sara Zegelbone, whose thick, straight bangs hang slightly over her eyes, has driven to the Roxy from Broward County. She sports a Carter Beats the Devil T-shirt in support of the local band, and she and her friend both have ex-boyfriends in Handgun Romance ("They're still our buddies," they both proclaim). Zegelbone says shows are easy to find and that Websites like MySpace.com and TheVolumeOnline.com help promote the local music scene.
A graphic designer who is a product of suburban Miami, Gonzalez can't remember the first show he ever promoted, but he can remember his motivation. "I had friends of mine who wanted a place to play," he recalls, "so I started booking shows to do them a favor." Plus, he adds, "there was no place in Miami to go to local shows and see national acts." Venues like the Chili Pepper in Coconut Grove have closed, while all-ages nights at venues such as the Hard Rock Café have long since disappeared.
Gonzalez's first locale -- Super Wheels, a roller-skating rink deep in Kendall -- didn't scream rock show. Despite its family-fun feel, Gonzalez insists that the rink works as a rock venue. The sound system is decent, the lighting good, and on any given night, 100 to 600 people watch bands perform as skaters roll past.
In addition to Super Wheels, Gonzalez recently began organizing shows in The Crossings, a Kendall housing development. It's the same neighborhood in which he grew up. For someone who has been promoting events for four years, this is a homecoming.
With the addition of shows at the Roxy, Gonzalez's business is booming. A table is set outside the theater's entrance, where the bands sell T-shirts and CDs. Amid the vendors, concertgoers lean against the lobby walls, taking a break to chat with friends and see if anyone new has arrived.
Inside, Handgun Romance switches the crowd into mosh mode. Onstage are about ten people, five of whom look as if they are actually in the band. The lead singer growls into a microphone he is seemingly about to swallow whole, while bandmates with string instruments engage in either cheerleader-esque jumps or the traditional headbang. Half the audience sits slumped in the cushioned theater chairs, sneakers propped up on seat backs, heads bobbing appreciatively. The other half has taken to the area directly in front of the stage and the aisle, where there is adequate room to thrash about.
Despite all the outward aggression, it's a rather well-behaved crowd. There are no bouncers or guards. There are no 40-ounces or joints, no fights or heated verbal exchanges, and no make-out sessions in the dark back corners. There is a friendly and communal vibe, which, considering the limited number of venues promoting all-ages hard rock shows, isn't surprising.
Gonzalez agrees with Zegelbone that the Internet has helped bands market themselves and their shows, yet he re-emphasizes the lack of all-ages venues in Miami. "The shows at places like Kafe Krystal are more about local bands, but the places to go for shows featuring touring bands are in West Palm, Sound Advice [Amphitheatre], the Culture Room, the Factory, which just closed. There's definitely a demand for it. Why isn't there an amphitheater here? Where's the rock stuff? Where's the metal stuff? Heavy music is getting huge; it's selling hundreds of thousands of records."
At the same time, however, Gonzalez, whose own band Vessel often performs at Real Band TV shows, recognizes that local groups are a major draw. His largest head count to date was 640 people. Tonight the audience may be thinner as Warped Tour band Glory of This plays its last song of the evening, but those who have stuck around are no less into the music. "I saw you guys dancing in the aisles earlier.... Now would be a good time to do that!" the lead singer exclaims before going musically ballistic. The kids, as if they even needed an invitation to go buck wild, happily do as they're told.
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