The Hardcore Scene in Florida's Broward County Exists Against All Odds
The often neglected South Florida region produces a scrappy scene that is in a constant fight for survival.
Day by Day, photo by Zack Rogers
Broward County is a congregation of 31 cities and towns in South Florida. Living in the shadow of its luxurious counterpart, Miami, it consists almost exclusively of strip malls, townhouses, chain restaurants, and beachside crab restaurants. Although the area is home to close to two million people, it is famous for virtually nothing, other than being the general vicinity where Marilyn Manson's band got together and one of the counties directly involved in the 2000 US Presidential election recount controversy. To an outsider, and perhaps even most residents, Broward County probably appears simply as a collection of suburban neighborhoods in an extremely humid part of the country. And, honestly, to a certain degree, this interpretation is fairly accurate.
That being said, Broward County's numerous shortcomings are unexpectedly, and paradoxically, some of the primary driving forces behind one of its greatest untapped secrets: its hardcore/punk scene.
Even though most people across the country aren't aware of it, hardcore and punk in Broward County in 2017 is thriving, turbulent, diverse, and constantly growing. This is due to a culmination of factors, but perhaps none larger than the necessity of its existence. There is a communal understanding amongst the members that acknowledges how vital fostering the scene is, because without it, most would have no other outlet to express themselves. Everything here, from dubbing demo cassette tapes to booking an all-locals gig, is deliberately and gracefully done with a DIY ethos, as it is known that there will be no one else to do it for you. Either work tirelessly or lose it all.
It has been historically proven that even with tremendous passion and interest, maintaining a flourishing hardcore and punk scene is not an easy task. Broward is no exception to this rule, and it's been forced to face an unrelenting array of obstacles over the years just to keep it afloat. This includes, but is not limited to: a fundamental lack of nearby major cities or states to play in, affordable rent, and veteran show-goers to provide insight and guidance.
In 2014, Broward also lost its only all ages venue, The Talent Farm, over a dispute with a neighboring business that specialized in laser tag and children's birthday parties. Although the space was in the middle of the Everglades and got terribly hot far too easily, it provided a longstanding, intimate home for local bands to perform and kids to be around like-minded, community driven individuals. Since the Talent Farm's closing, Broward has had one attempt at another all ages space, the 282, that after months of careful planning and funding, was forced to close before the first 15-minute set there ended. The countless bands and punks in Broward have been told time and time again that they are not entitled to a proper home to explore new ideas or throw gigs, but it's just been another hurdle for the scene to overcome. It's currently not uncommon to see shows hosted at random sports bars, tattoo shops, or dance centers by the beach. In Broward, if there's any kind of PA system and a roof, it can work for a night.
Perhaps to no surprise, larger scenes like New York City, Boston, or LA have mostly obscured Broward's rich and diverse history of hardcore punk. Although it never had an Agnostic Front, an SSD, or an X, it did have a Morbid Opera and F in the 80s, and a Shai Hulud, Poison the Well, Culture, and Morning Again in the 90s. There was never a fear in Broward to try something new, or do something weird, mostly because it was always understood that hardly anyone from the outside was watching. And if they were, no one here gave a shit.
Because of this, the hardcore/punk identity of Broward had never been properly carved out on a national scale, which was beneficial then, and still is now. Because it has always lacked a tremendous spotlight or reference point for what "Broward County Hardcore" should sound or look like, its newest wave of bands has been allowed to organically be completely different from one another. For example, Day by Day, a metallic, tortured hardcore band, was able to form just minutes away from Subliminal Control, who pay homage to the Revolution Summer school and the more "post" side of punk. Jared Hutcherson, who plays guitar in Day by Day, also sees Broward's lack of a rich timeline as a bonus. "It gives us all the freedom in the world to express ourselves completely how we want to. There is so much diversity in South Florida and that's exactly what our scene has. It keeps us fresh and constantly striving for more."
Even with some obvious sonic and aesthetic differences amongst the acts, there is still a commonality that binds all of them together. There is something, maybe in the less-than-professional recordings, or crudely drawn demo designs, that makes every band from Broward, no matter what subgenre they perform, distinctively a Broward band. Regardless of how unforgiving the landscape has been to the members of the scene, there is still a certain prideful localism. There's an agreement that more or less states, "Yes, Broward is a monotonous shithole, but it's our monotonous shithole."
And with that localism comes a genuine desire to improve and expand upon the already admirable scene in Broward. Local shows often have a staggering amount of attendance and energy, with an emphasis on inviting new kids, and record labels, such as Eighty-Sixed, Plead Your Case, and Not For You, were started to showcase to the world what has been happening. John McHale, who has been booking shows in Broward and Dade County for the past decade, makes note of these efforts as well. "Everyone here is supportive of each other and pushes one another to keep this moving. Venues get respected. Personal drama stays elsewhere. Touring bands get to made to feel like they're at home." It's clear that those who are a part of the scene in Broward want it to be special, for themselves and their visitors, for now and for the long haul.
Below is a list of a small fraction of the current bands working to do just that:
Day by Day
Fresh off a West Coast tour with label-mates Deflect (Eighty-Sixed Records), Day by Day is one of the bands currently responsible for putting Broward "on the map," and it's not hard to figure out why. They play a style of metallic hardcore that is frightening and dreary, uncompromising and unforgiving, similar to brooding acts like Cold As Life. With lyrics just as dark as they are personal, Day by Day is a, if not the, prime example of what hardcore sounds like when it's played by those who desperately need it.
Influenced perhaps more so by death metal and grind than hardcore, C.N.D is a newer band that combines the aforementioned elements in a punishing, unrelenting form. With lyrics that focus on hopelessness, death, and murder, and a sound to match, C.N.D is a brand of hardcore often missing in most scenes. Very few bands encapsulate true ferocity like C.N.D, making them all the more unique.
This band attracted immediate attention with their ingenious combination of catchy riffs, UK82 stomp parts, and truly angry lyrics. Opting to voice their message in Spanish, the band explores the difficulties and frustrations that come alongside being Latinx in the current (and past) social climates. Even though Ladrón only has two recordings and a single East Coast tour to their name, their stamp on hardcore is already obvious and vital.
With influences ranging from Crucifix to Integrity, Deflect is a perfect embodiment of both the energy and excitement that hardcore was initially founded upon. Their newest output, Downward Spiral, aesthetically and sonically represents how to craft hardcore that is unusual, aggressive, and tasteful all at once. Hardly any bands have the bravery to take as many risks as Deflect does and has, making them both influential and virtually untouchable.
Channeling 90s acts like Strife, Ecostrike play a blend of hardcore that is both metallic and catchy. Ecostrike centralizes around veganism and straight-edge, with lyrics driven by dedication and unwillingness to compromise ethics and ideals. Having already released a tremendously successful EP, The Time is Now, and having recently played Sound and Fury in California, Ecostrike serves as one of the newer heavy-hitters of Broward County and hardcore as a whole.
Gouge Away combines politically and socially driven lyrics with emotive, yet hard-hitting riffs and melodies, similar to 90s screamo acts like Saetia or Yaphet Kotto. Having extensively toured the country with acts like Touché Amoré and Ceremony, their balancing act between hardcore, punk, and other subgenres is a clear representation of how to attain attention from honest songwriting.
Put It Aside
Named after a Youth of Today song, Put It Aside's brand of fast, straight-to-the-point hardcore is not only a homage to the past, but a reminder of the importance of the now. The act is self-aware that they're not reinventing the wheel of hardcore, and instead exist as a shining example of why the wheel has never been broken in the first place. Put It Aside is real-deal hardcore, and nothing else.
One of the better Youth Crew acts to spring up in recent years, the Turn channels bands like Wide Awake and Uniform Choice, without sounding anything like a rip-off. It'd be difficult to find a band that balances intensity, creativity, and style as well as the Turn, and in a subgenre cluttered with lyrical clichés and feigned passion, it's refreshing to see them unafraid to pose questions about love, the future, and reality.
Diving far into the metallic realm of hardcore, xElegyx is a new band demanding attention with both their heaviness and intellectualism. Like Ecostrike, the band was formed with the intent of spreading a positive message about veganism and straight-edge, which a quick glance at their lyrics or shirt designs clearly reflects. Although their influences are deeply rooted in the era of 90s metalcore, their sound is distinctively modern and accessible, making their revivalism feel more like a reinvention.
Melodic, groovy, and oozing with charisma, Secondsight play an introspective style of hardcore akin to Turning Point. With only a demo and a couple of shows under their belt, their obvious love for exploring the lesser charted pockets of hardcore promises a bright and interesting future.
This band only has three recorded songs, yet still successfully managed to play a secret set at 1 AM in Washington DC at Damaged City Fest. This accolade, though small in the grand scheme, is reflective of this band's mostly untapped ferocity and sincerity. Being one of the few acts in Broward to combine punk with '87 era NYHC, Curbed demonstrates what it means to be both mean and tactful.
Existing primarily in obscurity, this d-beat tinged punk outfit is as vicious as it is sloppy. Booger's purposefully unpolished sound is one that's difficult to pull off, but in this case pays off immensely. Fans of The Swankys, The Shitlickers, or Halloween in general will have no problem finding something to love in this tastefully idiotic band.