9 Essential Throwback Songs for Floridian Punks
Nothing inspires anarchist angst quite like mosquitoes the size of birds, construction on the interstate, and the blistering heat. These Florida-born bands prove that the cry for anti-establishment ideology gets louder when it's roughly a hundred degrees outside. We aren’t surprised - from big events like Fest in Gainesville to house shows right here in the barns and backyards of Bradenton, there is a self-made and cherished live punk music scene. Check out these 9 essential throwback punk rock anthems that inspired us Sunshine State-rs to cultivate our own D.I.Y. music scene.
1. “Look What Happened”- Less Than Jake (Borders and Boundaries, 2000)
Walk on the cracks on the same old sidewalks / And we'll talk about leaving town /
And we'll talk about leaving / I swear it's the last time, and I swear it's my last try
Less Than Jake has been a ska staple in the Florida music scene for more than 25 years. They shaped the Gainesville music scene since their inception and shaped many a young mosh pit goer’s teenage lives. “Look What Happened” particularly reminds me of a time when I felt stuck in a boring city full of retirement homes and suburbs. Growing up in Florida meant making your own fun wherever we could. That feeling of nostalgia and a longing for the golden days of No Idea Records is still there when I throw this song on.
2. “Velvet Elvis”- Pink Lincolns (Back from the Pink Room, 1987)
I sifted through the rummage / who knows what luck would bring /
and then I nearly died / right there on black velvet was The King
What could be more Floridian than celebrating the rich and wild culture of the yard sale? Tampa first wavers Chris Barrows and Dorsey Martin use “Velvet Elvis” to tell a tale of finding the kitschiest velvet painting among a typical snowbird’s second-hand wares. Who hasn’t spent a few weekend mornings picking through the used treasure troves of our neighborhood? Barrows and Martin check their empty pockets but they can’t leave without the Velvet Elvis. No worries, according to the lyrics, “old ladies aren’t too fast when they run.”
3. “Police Song”- Whole Wheat Bread (Minority Rules, 2005)
Going to a punk show/ Somewhere in Orlando/
And here's the police tellin’ us we gotta go / I never thought that this would happen to me
Well, we're not moving / There's nothing else here in this town/
Why do you want to shut it down
Ever since their formation in Jacksonville, Whole Wheat Bread has always provided a sound that is somehow both fresh and deeply rooted in punk. Labeling themselves as a Dirty South Rock Punk Band, they were one of the first acts to give an honest and unflinching glimpse into the life of being a racial minority in Florida. “Police Song” touches on how it feels to be a part of a collection of outcasts just trying to have a good time when the cops turn up and shut down the show. We know that the officers are-thankfully-just doing their jobs, but it’s tough living in an area that lacks the number of venues needed to support the local music scene. This tune illuminates that against all odds -and authority- it doesn’t matter where the stage is… Florida punk is here to stay.
4. “Check Yes Juliet”- We The Kings (We The Kings, 2007)
Check yes Juliet / Are you with me?
Rain is falling down on the sidewalk / I won't go until you come outside
Honestly, could we here at IJ make this list and not include this jam from Bradenton’s own pop-punk heartthrobs? We The Kings were THE band Bradentonians begged mom and dad to take us to go see at local coffee houses and music shops around town. When they blew up and went on to play Warped Tour 2008, our collective emo hearts sang. Since then, they have continued to release music and tour worldwide. “Check Yes Juliet” will always remind me of first crushes, sweeping my dyed blue bangs over my face, and the panicked excitement of being a teenager in love. Class of 2007 and later - If they didn’t blast this at your prom, did you even really go to high school?
5. “Imperfection”- This Bike is a Pipe Bomb (Dance Party With…, 2001)
No matter how much you change, I still love you / You're my hometown…
This Bike is a Pipe Bomb sang about how they cherished the insanity of their home town and reminded us that we love it, too. These folksy Pensacola punks sang their hearts out about love, drugs, and being free hippie-ish outlaws. Their claim to fame may be mishaps surround the acts name (some unthoughtful stickering with the band's name led to real bomb scares in cities like Columbus and Memphis), but their strong anti-violence and pro-activism stance shows what the do-it-yourself scene can be when we pull our resources together for social change. They will always hold a place in my heart with this little garage band jam about life as a Panhandle punk. You might leave your hometown, but your hometown will never leave you.
6. “Trusty Chords”- Hot Water Music (Caution, 2002)
I hate this place, but I love these chords / An empty fate just means an even score
And the pain this morning, it filled my head / It's Jameson, it means that I'm not dead
Hot Water Music were early to make it in the Gainesville scene. With their Charles Bukowski-inspired namesake intact, they played throughout the late ’90s all the way until the present day. Fronted by the legendary Chuck Ragan, this band helped cement central Florida’s Nature Coast as THE place for pop punk. They have toured the world, but their Floridian youth inspired lyrics will always remind us of where they come from. I first heard them when this particular song was featured on Punk-O-Rama Vol. 8 (yes, I’m so old that I bought CDs) and I was in love at first sound. “Trusty Chords” always felt like a tune about turning to music when the going gets tough. Sometimes, it’s the bad times and heartbreaks that remind us we’re alive… at least that’s how I try and get through those wicked Jameson hangovers.
7. “Sink, Florida, Sink”- Against Me! (Against Me! As the Eternal Cowboy, 2003)
The panic was lost in a deep understanding/ that you will see what is wrong with everything /
what is wrong with you and me/ they make all the right reasons to f*!# it up/ you're gonna f#@^ it up!
If there was ever a singular voice that could speak to all of our adolescent to forty-something hearts, it would have to be Laura Jane Grace. Laura has fronted Against Me! for two solid decades of anarchist-laden and heavily personal lyrics. “Sink, Florida, Sink”, like the vast majority of the band’s discography, is so introspective that it feels like reading a diary entry of Gainesville's local scene. With its lullaby-like melody and raw “whooooaaaa whoa-a-whoa-oh ohhh” chorus, it sounds like something from my early LiveJournal days come to life. This song is basically a mandatory jukebox jam at any and all Floridan misfit reunions.
8. “Put Me in Coach… On Second Thought, Go F*$! Yourself”- Wolf Face (Still a Son of a Bitch, 2013)
I’m no longer your hero/ No longer your mascot/ No longer your t-shirt celebrity/ Don’t count on me
Don’t let the Teen Wolf inspired masks and 80’s basketball outfits fool you; Wolf Face is much more than a bunch of dudes in #tbt Halloween costumes. These guys know how to howl into a mic just as hard as they howl at the moon. Yes, this album dropped at a time in my life where I was way too old for a curfew, but there is still something so teenager-y about it that it makes me feel like I’m reliving my homecoming dance days. “Put Me in Coach” is absolutely a stand out banger on the record and at live shows. The whole PBR induced crowd typically goes wild for this song and it’s impossible not to love it. This is one of my favorite bands that you can still see all over the St. Petersburg and surrounding areas - don’t miss these Wolfy heartthrobs if you get the chance to catch a live show.
9. “We Laugh at Danger (and Break All the Rules)” (Against Me!, Against Me! Is Reinventing Axel Rose, 2002)
Mary, there is no hope for us / If this GM van don't make it across the state line
We might as well lay down and die / Because if Florida takes us
We're taking everyone down with us / Where we're coming from, yeah, will be the death us!
Okay, okay, maybe including two early Against Me! Songs on this list is cheating, but how could we possibly leave this bonafide Florida anthem off the list? In this amazing piece of music poetry, Laura Jane Grace sings about how she “cannot help but hold on to a handful of times when what was spoken was a revolution in itself.” Her friends are heard chanting the chorus as they pray for their touring bus (fondly named Armageddon) to make it across the Florida State line. Against Me! has been known to close out their always incredible live shows out with this song. The audience sings along with so much passion and heart that for just a few minutes, there isn’t a soul in the crowd that isn’t connected to that feeling of escapism and belonging to something bigger than your hometown. It’s a song about doing what you love, taking action, being young, and finding your destiny. If you don’t, how can you possibly survive... Especially in this weather?
Ideas, comments, feedback? You can reach Carlee at Carlee@independentjones.com.