Forbes, occasionally in partnership with Torche/Shitstorm drummer Rick Smith, has provided and enriched South Florida's metal and hardcore community with one-off shows featuring some of the best acts the extreme music world has to offer.
Acts that, otherwise, would most likely never make it to this end of the state due to the inherent financial risk involved.
Over the last couple of years, Forbes developed into a fly-in specialist, arranging for bands to visit Miami, putting them up, sorting out a proper backline, and affording some of our favorite local acts the opportunity to share the stage with legends.
Most of the time, these shows were a financial loss for Forbes. And last night was Speedfreek's swan song: A weeknight celebration of heavy jams that featured crusty hardcore heroes Tragedy thrashing the dust out of Churchill's stage.
While we're not pleased that we won't be catching rare performances courtesy of Speedfreek any longer (like the first Infest show booked outside of California), last night's Tragedy show ended things with a proper bang.
The show was opened by Nunhex, a Miami-based punk band that ripped through d-beat parts and thrashed through pit-worthy riffs that had the early crowd raging. The trappings of the style Nunhex references have been beaten so mercilessly into the ground by new groups that the impact is usually nullified. However, Nunhex infused its performance with so much attitude and aggression that, for us, it was briefly revitalized. An audience member expressed our sentiments perfectly when he gave Nunhex's young, female guitarist a big high five between songs.
Next, Devalued hit the stage. This trio has become a local favorite of hardcore kids, metal fans, and black-clad crusties. And last night's set proved why this band's music transcends micro-genres so well. Devalued mixes the best bits of thrash with doom-metal atmospherics and a healthy dose of grindcore to make for a dynamic sound that is just so satisfying that one has no choice but to bang thine head.
Later, Rotting Palm set up in front of large stacks of vintage tube amps and proceeded to blow the audience's hair back with its quaking riffs. The band's martial dirges of thundering chug were almost nerve-racking in their intensity, residing between punk rock and doom metal. Not to mention, the crew's amps were so loud that feedback cried out between literally every note, like an animal being beaten into submission.
Rotting Palm's aural skull-fucking was shortly followed by Nerv, a punk band that was on tour from Iowa. Some have compared Nerv's sound to the legendary Void, but what we took from Nerv's set was more the lo-fi nature of first-wave hardcore, and not so much the intensity that made that stuff so awesome. Instead, the band's frontman danced around like David Byrne doing a Lux Interior impression, staring uncomfortably at crowd members near the stage as he screamed through the set. The audience seemed polarized by the performance, with some standing outside and others simply lapping up the feedback-riddled punk rock frenzy.
Miami's Maruta provided direct support to Tragedy. And we were, yet again, blown away by this band's intensity. If you're not deeply involved in the genre, grindcore bands can all start to sound the same after a while. But Maruta provides an approach that knocks us out every time, and last night was no different. Frontman Mitchell Luna barked and screamed through the flurry of pinch harmonics and tremolo picking as the crowd thrashed and headbanged. This crew does something really rare in its ability to be so technically mind-bending without losing any heft, and we're really excited to see how the new material performed last night translates in the studio. Speedfreek's Forbes has been an integral in dragging Maruta back from retirement by coercing the group into opening some of his more mind-blowing bookings, so it was only appropriate that Maruta helped to send him off right.
Tragedy took the stage at an uncharacteristically early time for a Speedfreek headliner, and the crowd swelled to catch the band's first South Florida performance ever. A squall of screeching feedback and fuzzy guitar signaled the start of Tragedy's set. And soon, the audience was entrenched in the band's rage-fueled hardcore assault. Guitarist and lead singer Todd Burdette appeared to be a man possessed by an angry demon as he screamed his way through song after song of thudding hardcore.
"Revengeance" was a turning point in the set, sparking a palpable change in the air. Tragedy performed with the sort of fire that simply can't be faked. At one point, Burdette looked to the sky and just screamed completely independent of the song being performed, as if he had no other way to expel the energy. The group's intensity was sustained for the entirety of the set. And it was a true demonstration of just how heavy a band can sound without relying on the trappings of death metal or mosh-y breakdowns.
The night was surely a fine way to end Speedfreek's run as a punk-and-metal promotion powerhouse. And for us, it served as a way to express some of the rage and sadness we feel in saying goodbye to the great shows that Forbes brought to Miami.
Personal Bias: Friends of Forbes, advocates of South Florida's heavy scene, lovers of dog Instagrams.
Random Detail: Apparently, crust punks leave the fanny pack on when playing with a band. Who knew?
From the Stage: "Do you feel, do you feel, do you feel the hunger?!" - Todd Burdette