When Eric Garcia first assembled Juke way back in 2007, it started with a conversation about the blues.
"It was at the blues jam at Titanic Brewery. Eric Broberg and I had the same idea of what the blues was — R.L. Burnside type stuff," Garcia tells New Times on a recent Sunday night.
Or, to put it more bluntly, as he told New Times back in 2017, Juke would be defined more by the type of blues band it wasn't. "We hated traditional blues and wanted something more groove-oriented that wasn't just a guy singing his complaints," Garcia said back then. "We would refuse to play blues clubs where you'd have all these old men wanting to hear traditional blues songs played traditional ways."
Though Garcia was a more accomplished harmonica player than a vocalist in 2007, he decided to try singing. And over the last 16 years, plenty of musicians haven't hesitated to join Garcia's voice, with 15 people cycling through the lineup.
"I have a strict rule with Juke: If you're going to be in the band, you have to be better than me. If you can't play music better than me, I don't need you in the band," he says jokingly.
With a long roster of bandmates coming and going, Korian Hannah, Juke's current drummer, cooked up the idea of getting the band back together — all of them. On Saturday, December 16, Magic 13 Brewing will host a Juke reunion show, with more than a dozen former members sharing the stage to play the band's brand of groove-driven blues. Former members will be coming in from as far away as Texas for the show.
"We're going to start with the original lineup and move through the eras. At the end of the night, we'll have a big jam with everyone on stage with two drum sets and horns," Garcia adds.
With so many shows and lineup changes, Garcia has seen many highs and lows as the band's frontman. One particular high came when Juke was tapped to open for blues guitarist and singer Gary Clark Jr. at the Fillmore Miami Beach. "We were on tour with the Melody Trucks Band up in Jacksonville when we got the call," Garcia remembers. "I didn't want to cancel on Melanie, but we hauled back down here and got there an hour before sound check."
"Sometimes, you open for a national act, which we've done other times, and no one is there yet, but it was full this time," he continues. "I still bump into people from time to time, and they recognize me from that night. Gary watched our set and hung out afterward with us and gave our drummer some great advice."
As far as Juke's lowest points, those are an easy answer for Garcia: "Shitty gigs are a low, but the real low points are any time we lose a good band member. When Evan Lamb moved away with his wife to Dallas, that was a real low. Every time someone good leaves, I ask, 'How can we keep doing this?' But somehow, we keep finding people. The sound changes, but it's still Juke."
The band's latest sound change came courtesy of guitarist Harold Trucco, a recent addition to the lineup, who gave Juke another kick in the backside. "He's a huge spark. He's young with a lot of energy and plays with more of a Van Halen style than the blues," Garcia says.
Some bands don't survive lineup changes, but for Juke, its rotating cast of musicians and evolving sound are what has kept the band afloat after all these years.
"People told me the blues wouldn't work in Miami," Garcia says. "This is a celebration of a niche band somehow surviving in that Miami music scene for a long time."
Juke Reunion Show. 9 p.m. Saturday, December 16, at Magic 13 Brewing, 340 NE 61st St., Miami; magic13brewing.com. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.