I had interrupted the comedian as he sketched out poster ideas for his newest show, Destroy Comedy. He was looking for an edginess that had eluded him. "How do I bring a sense of danger back to comedy?" Robbio asked.
"Tell racist jokes at the Apollo," I suggested.
"I think I'm gonna go dance," he said as the Ruins began their feedback assault. Robbio improvised a dance that looked part Pee-wee Herman and part autistic epileptic. It wasn't pretty, but at least it wasn't the bored booty shake that the boy-shorts-wearing bimbos had done on the bar the last time I was at the Fort Lauderdale Riverfront nightspot.
Meanwhile, I went straight for the stranger in the Los Straight Jackets T-shirt. Scooter, as he asked to be called, was an FAU accounting student with a less-than-perfect record thanks to a D-plus in marketing.
"My GPA is 2. 666," he said meaningfully.
"So which band did you come out for?" I asked.
"I'm here to see my friend what's his name? from Slammie Productions," he replied. "I can't remember his name."
Not so helpful. So I turned to the dude with the Band-Aid-sized sideburns, Western shirt, and a bad attitude.
Maybe it was just the energy drink and vodka that spurred me on, but suddenly I had a little giddyup in me. I gave him my flirtiest smile, but he wasn't budging from his cool-guy deadpan. "So which band are you here to see?" I asked.
I was beginning to wonder who was here to see the bands.
"You a regular?" I speculated, thinking he might be disgruntled by the invasion of the punk crowd, one of whom was moved to dance by jumping with one leg forward and the other flung backward at the knee like he was propelling himself on an imaginary skateboard.
He shook his head. Tough nut. Didn't matter; I had all night to get him to open up.
I finally guessed correctly that he was actually in one of the bands Die Stinkin' and after I gushed over how much I liked his Rickenbacker guitar, he introduced himself as Matt and confessed, "I'm a little drunk. By the time we play, I'll just be sloppy."
As the Ruins called it quits, the place was still well below capacity. From his booth with "Slave to the Machine" spray-painted across it, the DJ began to spin and offered tickets to a February Lovelorns show at Maguire's if anyone could identify the old-school, local band whose music he was playing. No one stepped forward. The energy and attitude that usually defines the punk scene barely had a pulse or a sneer. The only attitude was Matt's, and he just seemed cranky.
It was the first time the Brick was trying this punk night, and as Assistant Manager Challo Schotts acknowledged, "Even though we're right downtown, people don't seem to know we're here. We're bringing in Slammie [a music promoter] and doing live shows two Sundays a week."
"Yeah, we're borrowing extra days," he laughed at his mistake (he'd meant there'd be live music twice a month). "We gotta make money somehow."
In the lull between acts, I adjourned to the "patio" actually just a few hightops without seats out front where people could enjoy their drinks as a glittery rainbow of Super-Fly rides rolled by on their dubs and 24s. When a guy in a leather hat, cowboy boots, and a Neil Diamond shirt took the stage inside, I could barely hear him over the beats pumping out of the open windows of the cruising Impalas, Cutlasses, and Caddies.
New Times' former music editor known in these pages as Fats Pompano but now just plain Jason again was standing out front, so I took the opportunity to ask about his band, the Bittercups. We'll be seeing Jason on stage more now that he's no longer covering the scene.
I later tried again, without success, to connect with the sideburn-sporting musician, Matt: "I'm not sure if you're mocking me or flirting with me. I'll know for sure if you pull my pigtail," I told him at one point as he stared blankly at me.
Not one to give up easily, I spotted him talking to a couple of girls I'd met earlier one in a pink satin headband and her friend with the black- and white-striped shirt and a lightning-bolt necklace. It inspired me to do a little female bonding to get some info on him. Ms. Lightning Bolt (whose parents named her Jennifer) laughed when I commented on the musician's grumpy demeanor.
"Matt meets everything with hostility," she said with a gleam in her eyes, which were so big and green that they reminded me of martini olives.
Maybe Sir Grumpalot's attitude was contagious, because when I asked her friend Ms. Pink Headband's name, she declined to give it.
"I used to be a journalism major. Now I don't want to be involved with any paper," she told me. "Now I work in a sandwich shop."
Some might argue it was a good move especially as the Internet has imperiled so many jobs in print media. After all, nothing can replace the sandwich.
Maybe grumpy was the new punk?
After some small talk while the pimp parade continued to roll by, Die Stinkin' rallied the small battalion of fans that remained. I was quaffing a beer and enjoying the West Palm Beach foursome's musical aggression when Robbio nudged me and nodded across the room toward three guys in ball caps and T-shirts, including one with Atticus printed across his chest.
"What are the chances he knows the To Kill a Mockingbird reference?" my friend asked with a wry smile.
One way to find out: I asked. OK, it was a smug and rude question, especially by way of introduction, and this time, I deserved some hostility. Instead, my bad manners were met with a broad, handsome smile and the humble admission that he had no idea what his shirt was about.
"It sort of rings a bell, though, now that you mention it," he said.
In turn, I admitted that I'd just come over to harass them since they looked like they'd been churned out of the Abercrombie & Fitch mill.
"Really?" he asked. "What makes you say that?"
"Have you looked in the mirror?" I countered.
"We're not anything. We're just ourselves," Atticus who called himself Pat insisted.
"That's so emo," his buddy Frank teased as he ordered a round of whiskey shots. "Why don't you go cry now."
Pat threw his ball cap down on the floor in a mock tantrum until the whiskey shots arrived including one for me and then they were off to the dance floor to create a broad-shouldered, moshing threesome. The fact that they were the only ones displaying enthusiasm for the high-energy music didn't keep Matt from glaring at the guys once his gear was packed up.
"I hate frat boys," he seethed as he sat on his amp and continued giving them the stink eye.
It was the closest to "dangerous" that things got all evening, but the "frat boys" didn't seem to notice his glaring. They were too busy having a good time. Frank and I even did a little bonding over the fact that he used to publish his own skateboarding 'zine.
"Oooh, I love skateboard boys," I flirted, forgetting all about band boys with bad dispositions. "They appreciate a good ride, and they're willing to work for it."
And I appreciated his efforts to convince me that if we hooked up, it wasn't cheating, since my boyfriend lives overseas.
"It's the rule of different area codes," the third buddy, Ryan, claimed. "It doesn't count if it's in a different area code."
We continued to drink and joke until after the punk bands had cleared their gear out. As the Brick kicked us to the curb and we prepared to go our separate ways, Pat gave me carte blanche: "Make me as gay and trendy as you want. Please! Just as long as everyone gets a good laugh."
How punk rock was that?!