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First there was the 11 p.m. curfew. Then came the 21-and-over ordinance for bars and clubs. And now Spanky's -- Clematis Street's long-standing venue for national, all-ages punk, and hardcore shows -- is deader than disco. The message seems clear: The kids are all right -- as long as they're somewhere else, far from the perennial construction site known as West Palm Beach. But as any good punk knows, "If the kids are united, they'll never be divided" (so sang Sham 69). All they need is a uniter -- someone with enough connections to organize, say, a two-day, 65-band event like the inaugural East Coast Music Convention. That someone is Alex Tchekmeian, who wasn't about to let a little obstacle like the closing of the show's venue get in the way of his pet project.

"We had a guaranteed sold-out show at Spanky's, including some national bands," Tchekmeian says. "But we had to keep it local to accommodate the smaller venue we moved it to." That venue, naturally, is Ray's Downtown, the city's last all-ages holdout.

The convention, he says, is all about networking. In addition to the bands performing for a bigger audience than many of 'em are used to (Tchekmeian expects more than 1,200 throughout both days), they get to show their stuff to record-label reps from Hand of Hope, Fluff, Undecided, and Eulogy.

"The whole thing is set up for networking purposes," Tchekmeian says. "It's us giving back to the artists we work with in Florida."

Of course, none of this is possible without satisfied fans. Fortunately, there are enough bands to sate the most eclectic audience, from hardcore bands (Hearts Over Rome, On Watership Down), to pop-punk (Neptune 66, Five Cent Wish), and even hip-hop (Cadet-yo, Marcus Harris ).

"Next year, we hope to have national bands," Tchekmeian notes. Until then, there are plenty of local bands who deserve your attention. Gas money helps too.

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Jason Budjinski

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