It was the fall or winter of 1995, and I was standing in front of the stage at the Edge in Fort Lauderdale, being throttled by a throng of sweaty, mohawked kids while trying in vain to chain-smoke the pack of cigarettes I had stolen from my mom. It was predictable Catholic high school rebellion. Some shitty punk band was playing, the singer snarling with a faux British accent, though he was probably from Coral Springs. I remember watching girls get elbowed out of the way by the guys, paving the way for much of the territorial, alpha-male behavior I would see at shows to come. I also remember a feeling of freedom mixed with the anxiety of being out on a school night mixed with whatever was in the silver flask my friend Josh had given me. A tall guy in a stained, white T-shirt was standing next to me. He suddenly turned and yelled something indistinguishable in my ear, and as I turned to look at him, I saw a white flash. He winced, looking up to the second floor, where some shadowed figure had just lobbed a beer bottle at him. Then I saw the blood gushing from a quarter-sized gash above his eyebrow. We both gawked at each other for about 2.5 seconds. Then we both laughed, and I gave him my last cigarette.
There are certain memories from youth that tap you on the shoulder every now and then. This particular memory pimp-slapped me on a recent Sunday night as I stood against the railing on the second level of Revolution (200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), the freshly remodeled venue that used to be the Edge. I was watching Death Cab for Cutie serenade a pit full of eager young men and women and clutching an empty beer bottle in my hand when I realized that, for some of these kids (it was an all-ages show), this would be their first real show -- their first night out with Mom's car, driving to the show with the windows down. In the bathroom, staring at the young girls meticulously smearing their makeup in the mirror, carefully mussing their hair, I realized that identities and memories were being alchemized under the hot lights. And in the crowd, you could hear waves of "I remember this place when"s.
Years after the Edge closed in 1997, people still talked about it in mythical tones. For touring bands, it was the Fort Lauderdale stop, and we got lots of them. The years saw Hole, the Cult, the Jim Rose Circus, Rancid, Porno for Pyros, David Bowie, Faith No More, L7, Tori Amos, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Offspring, the Ramones, Foo Fighters, Bob Dylan, Ween, Beck, and the first Warped Tour. I remember trying to avoid a pseudo-boyfriend at a 1995 Weezer show after he attempted to read me his poetry.
Chuck Loose, drummer for the Heatseekers, fondly remembers a Fugazi performance: "Ian [MacKaye] scolded some skinhead for dancing too hard, returned the $5 admission, and told him to leave... and Far Out Records used to have a yearly show there, and people would bring skimboards to surf the crowd on."
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Local bands, you hoped to get an opening spot for a national act. Who could forget when the Holy Terrors opened for Danzig?
"We had to set up in front of this huge drum riser and play in front of a giant goat skull," Holy Terrors guitarist and lead screamer Rob Elba says. "I remember looking out across a sea of black-T-shirt-clad 14-year-olds giving us the finger, and the only thing I could think of saying was, 'Do your parents know you worship the devil?'"
And then there were the infamous performances by notoriously loud local bands. "My favorite spectator memory was seeing Rat Bastard and To Live and Shave in L.A. open up the City Link music fest on the main stage," Elba says. "They got through about half a song before the soundman cut the power. He thought there was some horrendous problem with the PA. When it was explained to him that it was supposed to sound like that, they were allowed to play half of another song before they were shut down again. I believe the show ended with two bouncers getting [vocalist] Tom Smith in a chokehold."
That's the Edge people remember -- a dirty and dark meeting place for loud and fast kids. Revolution has put more polish on old Fort Lauderdale's veneer, paving over the cracks. But it's still striving to be the people's club, a nexus, an anchor that Fort Lauderdale's music scene needs right now. A new Edge. The sheer number of people, young and old, at the Death Cab show proved its potential.