In the 1970s, Miami Beach was a crumbling pastel paradise, gone to seed since its sun ’n’ fun heyday in the 1950s. In the 1980s, even as the boarded-up hotels, grindhouse theaters, and grimy streets served as back-drops for Miami Vice shoots, South Florida—from West Palm to Lauderdale to South Miami—was being transformed by a relatively small but intensely free-thinking group of cultural pioneers. These DIY musicians, artists, and dreamers brought with them a ferocious creative energy and breathed new life into once-grand spaces. Abandoned bars, hotels, and restaurants were transformed into live-music venues, art galleries, and nightclubs that fostered an original-music scene that rivaled larger ones across the country in talent. Driven by punk and new wave music, the scene unfolded against a backdrop of racial, economic, and political upheaval as greater Miami emerged as a truly metropolitan, world-class city.
Bands like Screaming Sneakers, the Cichlids, Tight Squeeze, the Kids, Charlie Pickett & the Eggs, Critical Mass, the Eat, and the Reactions were on the front lines of the change. There were places to play dotted along the coast; underground and college radio stations spun their records; people in the scene created zines and papered poles with photocopied fliers; the mainstream press even took note and started giving these and other bands column inches. Meanwhile, national and international punk and new wave bands began making the long road trip down the Florida peninsula to play at respected venues such as Flynn’s and the Cameo Theater, including the Ramones, Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Adrenalin O.D., and Dead Kennedys.