Churchill’s Pub has undoubtedly proven to be a monumental venue for the music scene in Miami, with several lineups having graced the stage over the years. It is with this in mind that crowds gathered and joined bands over the course of this weekend to celebrate the 35 anniversary of the beloved Churchill’s.The actual birthday was yesterday, September 1 but the main festivities took place on Friday all the way up to Sunday night.
Bands were dispersed throughout the venue, either performing on the main stage inside, the floor next to the main stage with a screen behind them with projected films and random images, or the patio at the back.
My methodology for seeing bands changed each day, as some of the set times overlapped. For the first night, Friday, I decided to go for a list of preselected bands I had in mind.
The first group I saw was Juju Pie out at the patio, which was a wise decision to start the night. They started their set with a track titled “Good Enough.” Lala, the vocalist, captivated the audience with her sweet smile and lovely voice all while singing over haunting, somber music.
It was a juxtaposition of sorts, seeing her placid composure paired with the heavy music, but it worked and made the experience all the more interesting. Juju Pie ended their set with a track titled “I Know You So Well.”
Immediately after Juju Pie came Mind You, a punk group that started off their set with a track titled “This Is What It Feels Like.” Their set included quite a few of well executed covers, including Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop,” Bob Marley’s “Is It Love,” and Minor Threat’s “Straight Edge.”
After Mind You, I headed inside and joined the crowd to watch Askultura, a rumba punk ska band that really got the crowd going. They were incredibly fun and interesting to watch, not only because one of the guitarists (appropriately called El Luchador) had a luchador mask on but also because of the range of their instrumentation, which included an excellent horn section.
Their set definitely got the crowd moving, some of them even forming a dance circle, hopping along with arms extended over the other’s shoulders. At one point, one of the attendees even picked up another and jumped around while holding him almost above his head.
Soon came The Gun Hoes. They started off their set with “Baby Rip it Up,” a personal favorite of mine. I mostly recollect The Gun Hoes’ performance for how amped up the crowd was. They make the fellas go wild, to say the least.
Several dudes were showing off their acrobatic skills, doing cartwheels at the front while others to the right were showing just how well they can dance, one of them dancing in a similar fashion to that of the king of pop. The Gun Hoes ended their set with “Lotion Squeeze.”
The first night finally came to and end for me with a performance by Buffy, who started off their set with “It’s True.” Although their set was a great one, it felt like a short one. Because of the schedule, bands had to move along quickly. It didn’t help that the guys kept huddling up after almost every song.
It appeared as if they were having some issues with the audio, as vocalist Matthew and guitarist Julian switched amps at one point, which could explain why they kept huddling. But from my perspective, they sounded just fine, perhaps making the switch unnecessary.
Aside from their set, I liked little details I saw from their gear and clothes, such as Julian’s guitar, which had dice as knobs and the iconic Playboy photo of Marilyn Monroe on the center, and Matthew’s sleeve, which said “Fuck off and Die.”
For the second day, I decided to wander around aimlessly from band to band without having a specific lineup in mind that I wanted to see. The second day had more bands with a rougher sound than the first day and, naturally, saw an increase in the attendance. Something else I noticed a lot was the appearance of musicians playing in multiple bands throughout.
The first band I saw on Saturday was Landica. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the end of their set, which they concluded with the track titled “Mom.” As someone familiar with the group, I’d say “Mom” is the best song to be introduced to the band, since it is the one with the most interesting backstory. Although it might not sound like it, it’s a song that was created as a dedication to one of the member’s mothers and has been improvised every time since the first time they played it.
After Landica’s performance, I headed back inside and found myself watching The Grey 8s on the main stage, comprised of drummer Andres Bedoya, guitarist Danny Garcia and bassist László Piringer.
If there’s one thing I love most about The Grey 8s besides their music, it’s Bedoya’s commentary throughout the performance.
Although playing to an early crowd, this didn’t stop him from having his fun, such as dedicating songs to people in the crowd, repeating everything Garcia was saying/doing and even dedicating “Appalachia” to anyone who ever died on the Himalayas at one point.
A cover of “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” made an appearance in their set again, Bedoya later explaining that he hopes to jam with Mac Demarco when he comes down for iii Points.
I eventually made my way out to the patio again and came across a Hialeah metal band called Nekromaniak. Although theirs is a genre that is usually not my cup of tea, I stuck around for the band’s performance regardless and ended up enjoying what I heard. I especially liked a particular track that was being repeatedly requested by a member in the crowd titled “Tables Are Turned.”
I headed back in after Nekromaniak and discovered Wastelands on the main stage. With them, I saw the crowd at its peak, and with reason. Alex Nunez himself, the guitarist and lead vocalist, exuded such a high energy on stage, jumping around all over the place. It only made sense that the crowd followed suit.
Unfortunately, this put me in a tricky situation, as a mosh pit had formed behind me. I’m admittedly and unashamedly a wimp, so I backed out as quickly as possible, not having escaped entirely without a hit or two. I had my first taste of a mosh pit with them and I must say, given different circumstances (i.e. not carrying equipment), I would have joined.
I went back out to the patio after Wastelands and caught two acts: a noise act whose name I was not able to get and Zero to the Left, a punk band that played a cover of Face to Face’s “Disconnected” and an original track dedicated to a friend that passed titled “Remembrance.”
The second night at Churchill’s ended for me with two more acts inside: Octo Gato on the floor and Plastic Pinks on the main stage. As previously mentioned, the bands had to move along quickly because of the set times. Unfortunately, as is the case with most events in Miami, things were running a bit behind, so both bands were set up and ready to go at the same time.
Octo Gato ended up taking the stage first and riled up the crowd. They kept up a nautical look paired up with their surf/garage rock, frontman Captain Octo having rocked a captain’s hat, a Hawaiian shirt and a lei throughout the performance. They also played a lot on their name, with tracks such as “Octo-Cation” and “Superpuss.” The crowd was definitely rowdy with them, with Captain Octo continuously getting in the faces of those in the front as he sang.
Immediately after their set, Plastic Pinks picked things up where they left off on the main stage. As always, their own energy on stage surpassed that of most bands, especially frontman June Summer.
I always love seeing them perform, not only for the music but also for his antics on stage, like getting out into the crowd itself and eventually jumping on top of the bar. I think it’s safe to say he’s a frontman with one of the best dance moves out there.
The third day of Churchill’s anniversary celebrations finally came, and I couldn’t be happier. As I’m sure was the case with everyone, I was tired and running on a little bit of sleep. On top of that, I had been feeling ill throughout the whole weekend. But it was all worth it.
What I liked most about Sunday’s bands was the diversity of sound and the choice of instrumentation throughout, including a trumpet, washboards, banjos, and an upright bass.
Things started off to a small and quiet crowd at the main stage with Satori Kings. The vocalists seemed a bit timid but would give a bright smile to each other and the crowd every now and then, making the performance a sweet experience. These guys really impressed me and played one hell of a cover of Cream’s “Strange Brew.”
Afterwards, I headed out to the patio for the folk duo Demmier and Nico. The choice of genre was a refreshing surprise in the lineup, as was the choice of instrumentation. Demmier was on an acoustic guitar while Nico would alternate from a banjo to a washboard.
They played several original songs, all of which with lyrics on some aspect of life. I especially liked the added hint of harshness to the folk songs with the utilization of curse words. Demmier and Nico concluded their set with covers, one of the Grateful Dead’s “Jack-A-Roe” and a traditional Appalachian murder ballad titled “Down In the Willow Garden.”
After Demmier and Nico came The Stones Houses, a quartet that, unfortunately, played to a barely present crowd. Given it was Sunday, it was to be expected that the lineup of the night would play to a smaller crowd.
It was a shame, though, that these guys weren’t able to play to a much larger crowd, as they deserved. Despite the small crowd, they put on a great performance, especially considering the partial interference of one of the audience members. The guys took it in good nature, though, and played along.
I returned once more after The Stone Houses to the main stage for two final acts for the night. First was Unity Rise, which chose to play on the floor among the crowd instead. Theirs was the most memorable set because of the manner in which they decided to play as well as their gear.
Besides two guitars and a snare drum, one member of the group played an upright bass and another a washboard. Theirs was a genre described as riot folk, the songs taking on topics of social class and the like. They encouraged the crowd to join along, with everyone eventually singing along to “Losing My Mind.”
Finally, The Talking Dogs took the main stage and played to the fullest version of the crowd that night. They gained the most interaction with the crowd, perhaps being one of the most recognized group of the night.
Besides the music itself, certain details of the band caught my eye, in particular the guitarist.As was the case with Buffy (which the drummer of The Talking Dogs is the bassist for), the guitarist in this band also had a guitar with unique details on it. In this case, he had a picture of Jack Nicholson from the iconic scene of “The Shining.” The Talking Dogs concluded their set with “You Know.”
Over the course of three days, Churchill’s spirit was celebrated by several of the bands South Florida has to offer and I feel like they couldn’t have done a better job than they did. The importance of this place has always been described to me but I never got to actually experience it until recently and these nights simply cemented that concept for me. It’s a simple and charmingly ragged place that I am happy to have been in, listening to the best South Florida has to offer.
Thirty-five years strong, here’s till next year.
The Can’t Stand Ya’s
The Gun Hoes
I Know You So Well
This Is What It Feels Like
For the Record
Straight Edge (Cover)
It Was Just an Idea
Is this Love (Cover)
The Gun Hoes
Baby Rip It Up
The Grey 8′s
Trust No One
Adam Matza & Sharlyn Evertsz
Gold Dust Lounge
Booty & The Browns
Human Fluid Rot
Shark Valley Sisters
Vice City Rockers
Pocket of Lollipops
Zero to the Left
The Grey 8s
Made Me Look
Freaking Out the Neighborhood (Cover)
I Want to Burn
Eye to Eye
Booty and the Browns
Rock N Roll Scumbag
Tables Are Turned
Crave the Grave
I Ride On
Zero to the Left
Anchors Of Love
Suburban Swamp Kids
Of Wolves and Tigers
Demmier & Nico
The Stone Houses
Demmier and Nico
Searching for my angel blues
The American Dream
Last Trip Back Home
If I Had a Life
Down In the Willow Garden (Cover)
The Stone Houses
Losing My Mind
Told You So
At It Again
You Were Warned