The post-pandemic Miami hardcore punk scene has gone DIY

The Miami hardcore punk scene didn’t disappear after the pandemic. It’s just finding its audience through DIY venues.

In a city that celebrates Latin, tropical and hip-hop music, iconic places like Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti and Las Rosas in Wynwood were essential to keep Miami’s metal and hardcore scenes alive.

However, the COVID pandemic helped cause these places and other bars, clubs and venues to close. While this forced many local bands to stop performing, change their lineup or  even break up, there is a new post-pandemic generation of South Florida bands reviving the scene.

Lead guitarist Justin Maldonado and drummer David Betencourt formed the hardcore and metalcore band Romantic Rehab in 2018. But it wasn’t until the pandemic started that they found the other members of their current lineup: bassist Rogelio Arditi, and singer and rhythm guitarist Justin Velazquez.

In a conversation with Tom Denney, the original guitarist for the million-selling Florida band, A Day To Remember, the band learned that the metal scene’s current troubles  had not always been present.

“He was like ‘Miami, back in the day, was where everyone got started,’” Maldonado said of his conversation with Denney.

That was until the pandemic hit.

“We had a couple of good venues close, like Churchill’s [on Northeast Second Avenue in Little Haiti,” Maldonado said. “We know from local booking agents and local bands that there were practically no shows, there were no bands, no one played anywhere.”

While the closing of venues shocked the scene, bands like Romantic Rehab found an audience craving live performances. This audience attends the band’s shows and enthusiastically sings the lyrics of an unreleased debut EP months before the official release.

“Recently we started back up and we’ve done nothing but shows,” said Maldonado. “We now have a solid fan base that knows us and that actually knows the lyrics to some of our songs.”

Romantic Rehab has found an enthusiastic audience at the local metal scene (Courtesy of Katia Valyi).

While some of Romantic Rehab’s performances at bars, restaurants and venues are organized through booking agents, they, like many other bands starting out, find local venues to play through social media.

Newly Opposed is a new Miami band still working its way into the scene and developing a presence within the community.

Members explain that the difficulty is not the lack of metal bands or booking companies, it’s the lack of venues in Miami willing to host metal shows.

“Most places are afraid of hosting metal shows,” the band said, “and the places that were not afraid have closed down.”

So, Newly Opposed participates in “house shows,” performances that take place in the backyard of a house and are organized independently by the hosting band or homeowner.

But “house shows” are just one type of events the scene recognizes as “DIY spots.” 

Scattered Reality, another post-pandemic Miami band with a growing presence post-pandemic, found a variety of creative, improvised venues.

“We played our very first show at an art event, at a photo studio by the name of Flix Studios,” said Zaher Al-issa, the band’s pioneer. “Since then, we’ve played crowds of a few hundred to thousands of people in warehouses, aircraft hangars, and even at abandoned places.”

For up-and-coming Miami hardcore punk band, Siesta, the DIY approach has not only helped  find an audience, it’s led to a philosophy.

“Punk and hardcore is, in large part, about supporting and nurturing the community,” said Jared Cove, the band’s vocalist. “That philosophy will help maximize the positive impact and influence of our music scene, and it’s something I would like to think our scene embraces.”

Tracking events at DIY venues or official bars and restaurants can be a challenge for fans. Romantic Rehab recommends following bands on Instagram.

The bands help each other out.

“We repost each other’s flyers and events even though we’re not playing. The more people we get to buy tickets, means more filler bands and more shows in the future,” Romantic Rehab’s Maldonado said. “So, usually, we stick together and we promote each other.”

“At the end of the day, it’s a pretty small scene,” Maldonado said. “But it’s alive, it’s thriving, it’s growing.”

Sidney Peralta is a digital journalism major. She is interested in social and political news. She would like to pursue a career in the world of political media after she graduates.