With the way the current generation of garage rockers ape and fetishize the new wave of punk, the fact that a band like South Florida's the Front never really made it seems just a bit more heartbreaking in 2014.
There are currently labels that fill their rosters with new artists that sound like Pete Shelley's bastard children and make records that could be easily mistaken for dollar bin gems from '79. And while we're certainly not complaining about that, it is serendipitous that the Front's story is finally going to be told at this particular point in time with the debut of the documentary film The Front: The Band That Time Forgot. The trends have finally made it so that the group's tale and music may be fully appreciated by younglings and those that were there alike. People will finally get a proper look at what many consider one of the best bands the area ever spawned.
The story will also shed some light on South Florida's criminally underrated early '80s rock 'n' roll scene, the music and its politics. Most people with a cursory understanding of this scene "back in the day" seem to grasp that it was a unique time rife with legitimately great bands. But most of them have all but been wiped from the pages of history since none hit it big.
This film brings with it an opportunity to pay a bit of reverence while educating yourself on what came before. And you're more than likely to find a few new early punk nuggets to impress the obscurophiles with.
We spoke with the Front-man himself, Greg McLaughlin, about the film's debut this weekend at Cinema Paradiso, and what he'd like to see come from it while gleaning a bit of perspective on times past.
New Times: It seems that between this film, the impending Churchill's doc, and just the general energy in the air recently that South Florida's outsider music community is starting to show a real reverence for its past. How do you feel about that?
Greg McLaughlin: I'm very happy to see that. South Florida has a very diverse music community and the music scene of the late '70s and early '80s was a watershed for musicians playing originals, many of whom have gone on to bigger things and helped to shape what was to come. It's good to see some of that history finally coming to light.
Do you have any goals or expectations for the Front's story being told with the documentary? Is there a sense of validation here?
Truth be told, no expectations or ultimate goals other than I am hoping that a new audience gets to hear the music. The band's story is like a lot of other bands in many ways -- all of it true, funny, and bittersweet.
We went from Randy Rush's living room to making a few records and opening for some national/international acts. All along the way, writing our own materiel and hitting all the marks! It just didn't happen for us. We were a very tight and prolific band, loved what we were doing, so in a way, the film is like a record release in itself.
The guys in the band are very funny, and I added as much humor as possible to the story. Also featured are bands such as the Eat, Charlie Pickett, Screamin' Sneakers, XCONZ, Gay Cowboys in Bondage, just to name a few. This is a no budget punk film not to be taken too seriously: It's just fun and it should give you a sense of the early '80s in South Florida. This is my second attempt at this filmmaking businesses and I'm teaching myself as I go along.
The validation is in simply doing it. If you get it, great. If not, that's great as well. One thing I know is you will have a laugh and some fun watching it. I hereby give Charlie Pickett permission to bring his ear plugs!
The bits of music I've heard are fantastic. Would you ever consider reissuing them on vinyl, sort of like what happened after the Death doc came out?
Sure, I would love to release a record on vinyl. I will be working on that in the next year.
The way people talk about the Front -- and really all of the punk or punk-oriented bands that came from South Florida around that time -- it seems like there was a real unique, visceral energy there? Can you describe it? Is it missing from the current scene in your opinion?
It was magical. Before the late '70s, you really had to play cover music to work. Then came Robert Mascaro, who opened the doors to clubs for original bands to play. He really opened the floodgates. It was the first actual original music movement in South Florida!
You sort of had to be there to really understand it. I am talking about hundreds of artists coming out of nowhere and it has only grown since. It was new to go out and see all original bands back then, it was a novelty, so in that way it truly was unique.
You've said that music community was once really competitive in South Florida, and my experience was always quite the opposite and really cohesive. What's changed? What bred the animosity then?
What I meant by that is it was like cover bands who had the gigs dissing original bands -- that sort of thing. As for the clubs back then, you felt it when you walked into certain clubs. We all had camps South Miami, Hollywood, etc, but there was no real animosity.
However, it was competitive. When you look back at the scene in its entirety, it really is amazing how much talent was there then and is now. So as Greg Baker says in the film "Don't believe Rat Bastard, they weren't all hippie bands." They were a bit more competitive then. Today I see a more cohesive, work-together attitude. Then again, what do I know? I'm just and old, washed-up punk rocker!
The Front: The Band That Time Forgot, 8:30 p.m., Saturday, September 20, at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale. $10. With performances starting at 10 p.m. by Larry Joe Miller, Xela Zaid, Charlie Pickett, Ian Hammond, Riot Agents, Forte, and Surfer Pig. Visit FLIFF's website.