Richard Shelter remembers when Miami's storied nightlife was in its infancy. Back then, the city was so empty you could roll a bowling ball down the street in Miami Beach without hitting anyone, he says.
"We look around Miami, the way it is now, and we just kind of chuckle to ourselves," Shelter says. "Can you imagine this place empty of people? Can you imagine renting a room with a view of the ocean on Ocean Drive for like 300, 400, 500 bucks a month?" he says, rousing the ire of anyone paying rent in the Magic City in 2017.
In the '80s, Shelter was best known for bringing bands such as the Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and Black Flag to Miami. Now he, along with collaborators like Zak Gotay and Rob Elba (formerly of Holy Terrors and now of Shark Valley Sisters), will try to re-create some of the magic of those glory days during a weekend of stories about the Miami Vice era beginning Friday in Fort Lauderdale and continuing Saturday and Sunday at Miami's Churchill's Pub. There will be talk of band reunions and punk shows at the Cameo Theater.
A couple of years ago, Roger Deering — formerly of the '80s Miami band the Drills and now vocalist and guitarist of the L.A.-based Smash Fashion — approached Shelter with the book We Got the Neutron Bomb, which described the early days of the L.A. punk scene. The two hatched an idea for a similar book about Miami in the '80s. Their plan is to contextualize the music in the history of Miami's race riots of the '80s, the 1986 FBI shootout, and the Mariel Boatlift.
Shelter had already been kicking around an idea for a screenplay about the decade and had begun writing some drafts. "But when Roger came to me and said, 'Let's do a book,' then it all just organically came together. I said, 'Let's make a timeline.' That'll help our book; that'll help our screenplay. Then [when] we have those projects done, we can go to somebody about maybe making a documentary, maybe a feature, maybe a miniseries."
The reunion weekend, dubbed Miami Punk Rock High, has been in the works for months with help from many of the people who were a part, both as performers and fans, of the '80s Miami punk heyday.
"Miami Punk Rock High represents the research portion of the bigger project," Shelter says. "So what I thought about was, let's just turn the research into an event."
A Facebook group dedicated to the project has been collecting pictures, memorabilia, and stories to share throughout the weekend. Its GoFundMe page has raised $8,450 of a $10,000 goal to support production costs for the reunion weekend, financing for a screenplay editor, and an online archive for the project.
This Friday, Kreepy Tiki Bar & Lounge will host Storytellers' Night, where performers will play short sets and share their tales from that time. "Picture MTV Unplugged meets Storytellers," Shelter says.
Saturday's show at Churchill's Pub will salute Shelter's clubs — Flynn's and 27 Birds — with performances by the bands that made those clubs' stages home. Sunday will be a Cameo Theater reunion night.
Miami Punk Rock High Storyteller's Night
7 p.m. Friday, March 31, at Kreepy Tiki Bar & Lounge, 2608 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 305-803-9014; kreepytikilounge.com. Tickets via GoFundMe donation.
Miami Punk Rock High '80s Club Reunion Night
8 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets via GoFundMe donation.
Miami Punk Rock High Cameo Reunion Night
8 p.m. Sunday, April 2, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Tickets via GoFundMe donation.