The Mavericks earned two Grammy nominations this week for their latest album, Brand New Day. But in 1989, they were just another band of dreamers in their 20s getting their start on the Churchill's stage. Footage of their debut show at the legendary Little Haiti dive lives on in perpetuity on YouTube.
The video is grainy, but one thing is clear: The Mavericks have lived up to their rebellious name from the beginning. At a time when the Miami music scene was dominated by rock bands, before the advent of grunge, the Mavericks were playing traditional, no-frills, classic country music, and while they've explored varying musical territories in the decades since, the Mavericks continue to be a band that defies genre descriptions. They're the kind of group for whom the term "Americana" was invented: They didn't stay a traditional country band for long, they're not rock 'n' roll band by the strictest definitions, and though they make roots-influenced music, they're definitely not a folk band.
"The Mavericks have always been somewhat on the fringes, and that's never really changed," guitarist Eddie Perez says. "This business has always needed to put a label on something so they can sell it as a bonafide product, but it seems today that the business in general is kind of in a moment of reboot right now."
It's nothing new for the Mavericks to adapt to the changing tides of the music business. Last year they started their own record label, Mono Mundo Recordings, and Brand New Day is their first studio album released on the imprint. The album's title track, Perez says, is both an optimistic take on the chaotic state of global affairs and a statement about their professional leap of faith.
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If the Grammy nominations are any indication, the Mavericks' flexibility appears to have paid off, and they will have plenty to celebrate when they stop by Parker Playhouse in support of their album this weekend. It's a South Florida homecoming, and though Perez joined the band in 2003, he says he often hears stories of the Mavericks' early days in Miami. "I wish I had a connection to those days," he says. "The guys always tell me: 'You should've been the guy that should've been with us the whole time.' And I say, 'I don't know, man, I don't think I would've survived that!"
Perez says his bandmates often reflect on Miami's days as a hotbed for live music in the late '80s and early '90s. Coming up during the same era in the L.A. rock scene, he finds it easy to relate. "For me, growing up in Los Angeles and coming up in the clubs in the L.A. scene, I kind of have a similar story, so it's interesting that we can be from two different parts of the country but yet we come together to make this music, and some of our experiences have been kind of similar."
The Mavericks. 8 p.m. Friday, December 1, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-462-0222; parkerplayhouse.com. Tickets cost $34 to $67 via parkerplayhouse.com.