Churchill's Pub. 1998. The U.S. Bombs are playing furious acid-drop skate punk. Lead singer Duane Peters' head is covered in blood, possibly from smashing a microphone into his own face.
The stage and the floor is slick with warm beer and sweat. A big guy in a plain blue t-shirt is dancing by himself, flailing his arms and rocking to the beat.
"That guy is dancing stupid," says an overgrown teenage skinhead. He walks over, punches him in the jaw, pulls his shirt over his head, and beats him to the floor, where several other ultra-violent youths gang up and kick him in the face till the empty whites of his eyes stare blankly toward the ceiling.
It's called a boot party, and the victim is simply dragged outside by the scruff of his neck and thrown in the bed of a pickup truck. He lies unconscious for hours. Inside, blood swirls up with the sweat and the beer on the dirty floor. The band never misses a beat.
In the '90s, something like 90 precent of every punk and hardcore show at Churchill's saw fights of such unmitigated brutality that Mad Max would have felt like he was back in the Thunderdome.
Leather-jacketed punks covered in sharpened steel spikes with three-foot mohawks fought packs of oxblood-booted skinheads in white tees and suspenders. Outlaw bikers with three-foot beards snapped into alcoholic rages and heads went smashing face first into the bar top. Pool cues were weapons. Body parts flew through the glass in the jukebox with such regularity that it was eventually left broken.
Those were the glory days of violent aggression. "Everybody was fighting everybody," remembers Tony Flores.
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But now the house that punk rock built is as safe and welcoming as Cheers. And Flores (whose band Die Trying is celebrating the release of its self-titled seven-inch record on Oi! the Boat Records with a ten-band bash at the greatest rock club in America) says, "It's an open scene. Everybody is welcome. It's not close-minded, it's not exclusive, you don't have to be a punk rocker, and there's no elitist bullshit. Anybody can come here and make new friends. This scene is all about unity."
As part of Oi! the Boat, Die Trying is now labelmates with Lars Frederiksen from Rancid, and the new record will see worldwide distribution. So three cheers for putting Miami street punk back on the map. This time for doing something positive.
Die Trying's Record Release. With FWA, SSK, The Ruins, Low Visibility, Sandratz, Surfer Pig, Liberty Call, Hardware Youth, and others. Saturday, September 28. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission costs $5 or $10 with a copy of the album. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.