Film & TV

New Documentary Film to Shed Light on Legendary South Florida Punk Band Load

Before we talk about Load, let's make one thing clear about punk rock in South Florida: It has always been an outlet of necessity. Historically, the tricounty area has been one of the most neglected when it comes to out-of-town talent rolling through. What little did trickle down gave birth to one of the country's tightest and most creative scenes.

"It's unbelievable that what we did... could have any kind of impact on anything."

tweet this

During the late '80s and early '90s, when punk was reinventing itself, South Florida pioneers like the Eat, the Cichlids, Charlie Pickett and the Eggs, the Spanish Dogs, the Front, F, and Gay Cowboys in Bondage gave way to new acts like Monostadt, the Crumbs, Anger, Chocolate Grasshopper, and Quit. Although Load often shared a bill with Miami's saccharine pop-punk outfit Quit — legends in their own right — Load's style sought to impale a rusty blade through the thickest coils of your cochlea. Oh, what a wonderful time to have been alive!

For many of us, it was the 1994 Ramones concert at the Edge (now Revolution Live) that cemented Load's reputation for punk posterity. For everyone else, a new documentary film, Whiskey on Beer, will shed light.

"Since the trailer came out, I've felt very emotional," says former Load drummer Fausto Figueredo, currently of Shark Valley Sisters. "These two guys came outta nowhere after [Load guitarist] Jeff [Tucci] died. They were inspired by Load to do something they had never done before, solely because they love the band and the music. It's unbelievable that what we did 20 years ago could have any kind of impact on anything."

Figueredo, a powerhouse drummer gifted with versatility and charisma, was the glue that tentatively held the freewheeling band together. For the uninformed, Load was a wrecking ball disguised as a brakeless 18-wheeler handing out candy to unsuspecting children, playing loud, unforgiving, seemingly careless, always-honest punk rock.

As writer and musician Tim Moffatt put it for the New Tropic last year, "[Load] were just local kids, but local kids who had just shared the stage with the greatest American rock band, and had made them work harder than they probably had to at any other stop on their tour." I personally bought a T-shirt and a seven-inch that night with the Ramones. I was sold.

"One of my friends from school moved down to Florida after graduation," says Rick Ahmed, now a documentary filmmaker. "One day, out of the blue, he messaged me and said, 'You gotta listen to this. This dude has got some venom!' The link was Load's 'Lumberjack Death Luge.' I was pretty blown away." His friend, Danny Morales of Boynton Beach rockers New Coke, would later follow up with news of Bobby "Load" Johnston's death in 2012. "I'm one of those people that when I'm into something, I need to know everything about it," says Ahmed. "I was just so intrigued. Who the fuck were these guys? What happened to them? What the fuck is a sleestack?"

Along with his brother Gary, a documentary filmmaker as well, Ahmed began immersing himself in all things Load. What we took for granted so many years ago, the brothers from Naugatuck, Connecticut, have been devouring in earnest among the fracas of both Johnston's and Tucci's deaths.

"I've been a filmmaker for over five years," says Gary, whose background proved an asset as Rick led the way. "I've been working on documentaries since 2011 and have always planned on making my own directorial effort. When my brother first played Load for me, it was like finding a hidden treasure. [When] we heard about Tucci's passing, we suddenly felt the urgency to reach out to the rest of the band and talk about the project."

What struck me most about Load back in the day was its devil-may-care attitude. If my current self were to contact past me and tell him, "Load's getting a documentary," I'd be bemused at best. Past me couldn't ever see it, but today it's strikingly clear. Load was more than just a local band of crazy punkers making way-better-than-usual racket; they were interesting people with a penchant for folklore. With the impending release of their film, that lore will reach screens beyond South Florida.

"We're making this film because we think it's an important story that should be seen about a band that should be heard," Gary explains. "None of this would've been possible if it wasn't for the fact that many of the people involved love Load and are passionate about telling this story."

"I'm happy that there will be a documentation of what we all did together," says Figueredo. "That the memory of my two brothers will not fade easily, that their nieces and nephews will be able to click on a link and watch a story of their uncles and what they did. It's also been very difficult for me because I miss my brothers, and I wish they were here to see this, to enjoy it as I am."

With most of the footage complete, including interviews with living members, family, friends, and fans, like Shai Hulud's Matt Fox, Marilyn Manson's Scott Putesky, and Interpol's Sam Fogarino, the Ahmed brothers are now looking to cut the film to a releasable runtime and enter the film-festival circuit. With the new trailer, they hope to garner interest for a crowd-funding campaign for a 2016 release.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Abel Folgar