Live Fast, Die Stinkin'
South Florida punk rock just lost its favorite uncle. Die Stinkin' Palm Beach County's longest running punk band (b. 1985) played its final show in Fort Lauderdale on May 28. And I fucking missed it. Yep, Smarty Pants Pompano decided it'd make more sense to drive up to West Palm Beach first to check out the Bar-Mitzvah Disco Party at Inferno (330 Clematis St.). But I forgot it was Memorial Day Weekend, meaning all the club-hoppers were either (a) in Miami for hip-hop weekend or (b) too wiped-out to party on a Sunday night. Yeah, I could have stuck with the sure thing the close thing by bidding the Stinkers farewell at Maguire's Hill 16, where the show was. But I tried to have it both ways and missed by a mile.
The plan was I'd head up to the disco around 9, cut a few moves on the dance floor, chat with some peeps, and head out by 11. What happened was this: I got there at 11, had some of the complimentary Bagel Bites and kosher mini dogs, and waited around for the crowd to arrive. It didn't. To add insult to idiocy (my idiocy for missing Die Stinkin'), I was the only person dressed for the party, wearing my blue denim '70s suit (a hand-me-down from Fats Senior). OK, so the party's host, Christian Lantiga (AKA DJ D-Elite), was dressed-up too, sporting a clover green blazer, plaid shorts, and an ash gray golf cap. But that was it. The remainder of the club's 15 or so patrons seemed oblivious to what was supposed to be going on. I felt bad for Lantiga. The guy did a lot of promoting (through his company, Martini Crew Productions). And the only person who came in costume was some nosy reporter.
By the time I left the club, it was well after midnight. A quick phone call confirmed that, indeed, Die Stinkin' had played but that they went out in a smart-assed blaze of glory. All right, maybe it was more of a cloud of smoke and aerosol. Ever the pranksters, Die Stinkin' took a good-natured jab at F, a punkish cock-rock band from Miami. The Stinkers lampooned F's frontman (also named F) and his penchant for spray-painting that letter on his bare chest while a smoke machine fogged up the stage.
"We spray-painted D.I.E. on our chests, just like F," bassist Eric Ridgemont said, admitting that he masterminded the shenanigans. "Matt [Parker, guitarist] owns a smoke machine, so we used that too. By the end of the set, he was playing the smoke machine as an instrument."
Ridgemont got the idea after Die Stinkin' and F opened for the Zero Boys in April a show I did have the common sense to attend. Toward the end of F's set, Ridgemont was standing in front of the stage when F (the man) doused him with a fire extinguisher. Ridgemont responded by hurling a beer bottle at him (he missed, thankfully). This came after Ridgemont had given F a good kick in the ribs. Surprisingly, there wasn't a showdown.
"Did you see Eric throw that guy down on the ground and kick him?" Die Stinkin' drummer Brian McManus asked me, making sure he wasn't just hallucinating. "Then he whipped a beer bottle as hard as he could at him. I was like, 'Holy shit! Nobody did anything!' It was nuts."
But that's what McManus and guitarist/vocalist John Silvernail got when Ridgemont and Parker joined the band a few years ago. Before then, Die Stinkin' was three guys, all over 40. When the two early twentysomethings joined, it created an interesting dynamic but it also signaled the beginning of the end. Ironically, the band's moment of glory opening for pop-punk legends the Queers in April sped up its demise.
"Matt and Eric wanted to play the same set of songs, and John was writing new songs that they didn't really want to do as much," McManus says. "Plus, we had that big show with the Queers. After that, it was like, 'What are we going to do now?' We played to a couple hundred people. Then the next week it was a hundred. The week after that it was seven. That would have been fine, but you could tell there was some crankiness in between."
And then came the band's final blow losing their warehouse.
"The owner decided he didn't want any more bands, so out we went," Ridgemont said. "Plus, he was probably sick of cleaning up piss bombs and beer bottles." Uh, that would be the surgical gloves Ridgemont and Parker filled with urine and lobbed off the balcony. Not a pretty sight, but it's a lot tidier than the pool of blood Parker left behind on the final night.
"Eric and I ended up going through a case of beer, throwing the empty bottles in the corner," Parker said, noting that they did eventually clean up. "Eric tossed a bottle that didn't break to my satisfaction, so I jumped on it. I was drunk, but I could feel that something wasn't right. I looked down and there was blood pouring out of my Vans. I ended up going home and sleeping it off. But I spent the next day at the hospital, having doctors shoot me with Novocain and pull the leftover glass out of my foot." Die Stinkin'? More like Die Limpin'.
OK, so maybe Fats can see where the band needs a break. Everyone does at some point. But c'mon, are they sure it's not just a phase?
"We'll enjoy the time off for a while," Silvernail said. "I don't know if the four of us will ever play again, but Brian and I will eventually do something, probably under a different name."
Fats doesn't buy it. I've seen bands come and go and come back again. It's the cycle of life in rock music. Besides, I'm more partial to Ridgemont's idea.
"If we do anything again," Ridgemont says, "it'll be holiday-themed shows Christmas, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa. Those are always fun."
Hey, how about a Bar-Mitzvah disco? I know just the guy.
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