It Came from Margate

Margate's rock 'n' roll troika turns the 'burbs up to 11

Listening to the guys list their influences is an Attention Deficit Disorder sufferer's wet dream: MC5, Eric B and Rakim, AC/DC, Poison, Slayer, Chuck Berry, Deicide, Dimmu Borgir, Jimi Hendrix, the Ghetto Boys, and Credence Clearwater Revival all figure into the mix. The Slants' music is straightforward rock 'n' roll. No frills, no flowery lyrics, no masturbatory guitar solos.

The same can be said about Malt Liquor Riot, a band whose frenetic sets embody the what-the-fuck attitude of Margate. "We set out to be old-school hardcore with new-school-style vocals," explains Nielsen, who plays guitar in this band as well. "We're just influenced by the music we grew up skating on, like 7 Seconds and old New York hardcore. We actually started the band as a joke and would book shows and show up and just make noise for an hour. Like, we would just start playing and try to follow each other. Then, we actually started writing songs. We already knew Kevin [Grau, lead screamer] and Joe [Marino, drummer]."

Across the street from the Slants' warehouse is where the Shakers practice. Bassist John Stahl and his younger brother Pat, the guitarist and singer, have been in the changing lineup since 1994. Ever the multitaskers, Nielsen (third time's a charm) and Belknap joined within the last year, on guitar and drums respectively. They play poppy punk as the perfect complement to the Slants' anthemic rock and Malt Liquor Riot's minute blasts of hardcore.

The gang's all here: From left, Kevin Crook, Joe Marino, Adam Kostrzecha, Pat Stahl, Kevin Grau, John Stahl, Joey Belknap. And kneeling: Jeremy Nielsen
Colby Katz
The gang's all here: From left, Kevin Crook, Joe Marino, Adam Kostrzecha, Pat Stahl, Kevin Grau, John Stahl, Joey Belknap. And kneeling: Jeremy Nielsen
The Slants know it's only rock 'n' roll. But they like it.
Colby Katz
The Slants know it's only rock 'n' roll. But they like it.

"Margate's all right," says John Stahl, 29. "It's a lot of old people, convenience stores, the Swap Shop. That's Margate for you. I work for the city --"

"John's born to be mild," Belknap interjects as everyone laughs.

"Well, I'm just a little more settled than the rest of these guys," John says in response. "I'm happily married, and I own a house. I plan on living in Margate for awhile, and eventually I plan on running for office here. There's a lot of redevelopment going on. As long as it doesn't end up like Coral Springs, I'll be happy."

"I'll tell you what immediately comes to mind when I think of Margate," says 27-year-old Pat Stahl. "Thrift stores, mechanics, pawn shops, and these warehouses. Shit, we got reliable mechanics sitting right here [pointing to Kevin, Adam, and Jeremy, who all work on cars in one form or another]. We've all been grease monkeys over the years. We've all owned an old Volkswagen at some time. Everything that's happened to us in the last ten years has happened along this stretch of road [441 between Atlantic Boulevard and Copans Road]. Margate is straight-up working class, no frills. You can get a 99-cent quart and four tallboys for less than $3. On any night, you can go to a bar and get a $1.50 pint."

Hmmm. Is Margate really an All-American city, or is it surreptitiously contributing to the delinquency and alcoholic tendencies of its youth? I wanted to see the hookers, the corruption, the seedy underbelly of Margate. So I asked the guys to take me on a tour of their city. We piled into the back of their friend Twan's flatbed truck and proceeded north on U.S. 441. The first stop was the abandoned Albertson's where they used to skate. In the same plaza is Dad's Donuts, a converted fast-food place that was also recently torn down. As I try to ignore the exhaust filling my nostrils, I envision bands thrashing around in front of cases of donuts, the intoxicating scent of fresh-baked dough mixing with sweat. "There was a two-donut minimum here," Pat says with a smile. "You get to eat donuts, you get to see a show, and the place makes money. Everyone was happy." Once upon a time, current Hot Topic poster boys New Found Glory played with the Shakers here.

We continue north to Mother's Pub, an unassuming storefront with blacked-out windows and wood paneling slapped on the outside.

"This is totally a Margate bar," Pat laughs. "A total dive."

The rest of the establishments flanking the pub are medical supply companies or church-related. If you ever need hazardous materials or want to be saved from eternal hellfire after a few brews, this is the place to be.

As we chug south on this desolate strip of 441, Kevin goes on to tell me the story of "Cowboy," a local bum who has been MIA since he got out of rehab for the fourth time. "Cowboy used to live in the meter room behind our warehouse," he says. "He's been around for years. He'll always come by, hang out, ask for a cigarette, drink with us. He was in detox for a while, but hanging out with us isn't going to do him any good."

The guys point out the various gas stations that would sell underage beer and cigarettes, the motel where hookers are known to live, streets where they've broken bones skating -- and the restaurant where Cowboy fell on the curb, threatened to sue, and got free food every day. We drive through a neighborhood of neatly groomed lawns and square houses with identical carports. I ask where the downtown area is, and they swing me past another equally nondescript plaza with a liquor store, a pub, and an Ace Hardware. This is their downtown. Margate really is a series of plazas punctuated by gas stations and auto mechanics.

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