Maguire's Hits the Pit

And hires security to keep the peace.

For someone standing so close to the stage, this guy looked kind of bored. It was like he didn't want to be there. Now, I'm used to seeing folded arms and stone faces at rock shows — even at a place like Maguire's Hill 16 (535 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale), where I had showed up for the recent Adolescents/Street Dogs/Vacanciesshow. But this guy was different. He stood right up front, practically touching the stage, though his back was to the band and his arms were firmly in place, folded across his bulky chest. I wondered: Were the Street Dogs not good enough for him? They sure as shit were rockin' everyone else's night, so what was this dude's problem? If only I could make out the wording on his T-shirt. It looked like a band name, but his arms were in the way, and I couldn't make out what it said. I could only assume it wasn't punk. Just as my guessing game began (was it Floyd? Zeppelin? Menudo?), he let down his guard, revealing the mystery word — Security.

It was the first time I'd ever seen a bouncer at Maguire's. But it made sense. With 190 bracelets dangling from the raised wrists — wrists attached to pumped fists, some clutching beer bottles — this was no quiet evening of Irish folk tunes. These people wanted their money's worth, and the only thing standing between them and the band members was one man. It was no surprise when Street Dogs bassist Johnny Rioux got a shiner halfway through the set.

"Somebody jammed the microphone into Johnny's left eye," singer Mike McColgan announced, before Rioux chimed in.

"But that doesn't mean we want you to stop," the black-eyed bassist said.

McColgan continued: "If anything, increase the tornado."

No! Wait! Give Fats a chance to back up — you know, so everyone else has more room. I'm not a wuss, really. All right, maybe just a little. But I wasn't born that way; it's a trait that took many years to cultivate. Besides, I've been around long enough to understand pit physics; you're just as likely to get nailed standing at the back as the people in the middle. And I suffered plenty of licks before I learned my lesson. I've been dropped on my head while crowd-surfing, dealt many fistfuls of metal (spiked bracelets, that is), and, most recently, had the displeasure of standing too close to some moron who thought ska music was for slam-dancing (right here at Maguire's, for the Independents show).

Maybe I'm just sensitive. But the cause of my sensitivity is purely physical, and it's on my upper right arm in the form of a scar — a punk rock brand I gave myself when I was 16. With a coat hanger. Not too smart, I know. But it's been there for well over a decade, and it's still a little on the soft side. When the scar was still fresh, a punch in the arm was like a kick in the balls. And as a loyal student of the pit, I endured many a punch in the arm. (However, more painful than that is having to explain what the brand says, what it means, and why the hell I did it. Let's just say I shouldn't have watched Suburbia at such a young age — the '80s punk flick, not the '90s slacker one.)

Why the lengthy aside? Because I thought about all this while the Street Dogs were playing. I didn't want to miss out on the action, but I wasn't keen on testing my Achilles' brand. More important, I wanted to get a closer look at the band; standing on the tips of my toes wasn't cutting it. I needed more height — and the music was slowly giving it to me. My tiptoe stance gave way to bobbing up and down. The bobbing grew to slight leaping, which became jumping. If we're to believe Sid Vicious, that's how he invented pogoing.

I'm glad this realization came before the Adolescents took the stage. Hearing the Ads' songs from their classic Blue album reminded me of the days when I was too young and/or drunk to care about my arm. But by the time the Ads' set was under way, my pal in the "Security" shirt was joined by three other impromptu bouncers, including Low-Fidelity's Mike Hooker, one of the show's promoters.

After a blistering version of "Rip It Up," the crowd briefly fell silent. Were they too tired to slam?

"Fuck the silence!" shouted someone near the bar, and the Adolescents tore into "Kids of the Black Hole." Indeed, the tornado gave way to a cosmos-sized pit. And when the first chords of "Amoeba" blasted through the speakers, the black hole spread beyond the dance floor. As the crowd shifted, tables followed. It looked like the shit was about to hit the fan. For Hooker and his new partner, Slammie's Jim Hayward, this would make or break the future of punk shows at Maguire's. A crowd this size could tear the place apart in a matter of minutes. I've seen it happen enough times to worry myself. And then something miraculous happened — nothing. That's right. There were no fights, no "accidents," and no broken furniture. And five minutes after the Ads finished, Maguire's was back to being a normal Irish pub; it was almost like there'd never even been a show. But there was, and there are more to come. And when they do, Fats will be there, just not too close to the pit — and nowhere near the guy in the "Security" shirt.

 
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