The collaboration between Chris Potash and Joey Seeman, which produced the book Punk Under the Sun: '80s Punk and New Wave in South Florida, began with an iconic photo. In 1988, Seeman, with his hair rocked out, was captured leaving Miami Beach's Cameo Theater after a show featuring two legendary alternative acts with South Florida connections, Iggy Pop and a misspelled Jane's Addiction. Seeman saw Potash's byline in the accompanying story that ran in the Miami News, and tracked him down on Facebook. Soon after, the pair began discussing working together on the definitive tome on the underground music scene in 1980s Miami.
"I was initially thinking of making the book all photos and flyers from my collection. But as I got deeper, I realized that I needed to tell the stories of at least the core bands: the Eat, the Reactions, Charlie Pickett & the Eggs, Screaming Sneakers, the Cichlids, Critical Mass," Seeman tells New Times. "My main inspiration was always a sense of nostalgia for that period in my life growing up in South Florida."
While both long ago left South Florida — Seeman for Texas and Potash for Pennsylvania — that period and location in their lives of 1980s Miami was an era they wanted to document. Seeman played in bands and made sure to attend any show where someone might have a mohawk. Potash wrote a weekly music column in the Miami News called "Off the Record," as well as for the alt-weekly the Wave (which subsequently became Miami New Times in 1987) under the pen name C.P. Smith.
"By the time Joey asked me for my input, he had already interviewed many of the key musicians from the 1970s and '80s scene, including Charlie Pickett, Jim Johnson, and Gary Sunshine," Potash says. "He had a master list of who else he planned to talk to that was impressive. It was the comprehensiveness of that list and the work that Joey had already put into the project, his seriousness about it, that inspired me to volunteer my time to the project."
"That's what is amazing, that for a relatively small scene, there were so many people involved," Potash adds. "As small as our scene was, due to its isolation at the bottom tip of Florida, too far from Atlanta for many bands to want to make the trip down, there were so many people who made the scene as musicians and DJs, who promoted the scene as journalists, who nurtured the scene as clubgoers and record buyers, who grew the scene as homegrown record producers/labels and promoters."
The duo will make their way down to the southern tip of Florida to discuss their book at this year's Miami Book Fair on Saturday, November 18.
"We invited photographer Jill Kahn and Open Books & Records owner Leslie Wimmer to be our guests. Jill's photos really make the book; they tell the story. Not only did she document the scene, she played in the Psycho Daisies, so she has a unique perspective to share. Leslie obviously is a giant in the story. Her support of Charlie Pickett and others through her Open Records label was critical to the scene's success. She was a relentless fan of the music. And boy, does she have some stories," Seeman warns.
Potash hopes the Miami Book Fair appearance will serve as a reunion for those who lived through the era.
"We are hoping that everyone who still lives in South Florida or within driving distance will join us to celebrate this special time — the music, the clubs, the scene, the feeling of being pioneers, which is what we were in so many ways," he says.
Punk Under the Sun: '80s Punk and New Wave in South Florida. By Chris Potash and Joey Seeman. HoZac Books. 2023. 224 pages. Hardcover, $35.99.
Miami: Punk Rock City. 3 p.m. Saturday, November 18, at the Magic Screening Room at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Building 8, First Floor, Miami; miamibookfair.com.