Celebrating a 30th birthday at a bar isn't the most original idea in history. But if it's the bar you work at, that your band plays at, your friend's bands play at, and that serves as one of several pseudo-official clubhouses for the Broward punk scene, well, that's a little different.
Dirty Ol' Stayouts drummer Johnny Miller celebrated three decades of life Saturday night at PlayByPlay Sports Bar in Pompano with a crowd of his friends and family that doubles as the people you expect to see at punk shows around the county. "It's cool having our friends play a show for a birthday," Miller said. "These are our friends. We're all a close, tight crew here... We're just playing good music that we all grew up on and enjoy listening to."
PlayByPlay hosts two or three shows a week, with bands setting up in the corner stage of the self-described divey neighborhood bar. The stage is actually the back half of the dance floor, allowing the crowd to form an actual circle around the band while they play. Putting the crowd on literally level ground with the band bridges the rock star gap, despite the lack of rock star bullshit anywhere in the building.
Miller, who can be found manning the bar at PlayByPlay many nights of the week, describes himself as "the new guy in the band." He's been filling in for drummer Lowercase J since a car accident last year that left him incapacitated.
Though he's been a bassist since he was a teenager, Miller, who was handling recording duties for the Stayouts at the time, jumped behind the kit and has kept the band moving.
Dirty Ol' Stayouts spent 2012 accomplishing a lot, releasing a live album and two EPs, and going on a couple tours of the Sunshine State. Between regular sets at PlayByPlay and around Broward, longtime promoter Jessica Kross's tireless efforts, deep ties to South Florida punk, and Miller himself booking shows, the band has found itself helping to push a revival of what was once an active local scene.
"Our scene is basically our friends and family," said Stayouts bassist Jamie Naked. "All the kids that come out to the shows are their brothers and sisters and extended family and friends that we all grew up with in Pompano. We're all Pompano kids. So, to have our little bar in Pompano, and put Pompano on the map, it's really cool."
The PlayByPlay crowd started to fill in Saturday about two hours after the announced start of the show, as if they knew things would run late, when Riot Act frontman Christian Clarke walked in with the drum set all five bands used through the night.
After a casual load-in, the Secretors bashed out the hardcore for the last time with their pink-haired front-woman Vladimir Mellons. Planned or not, the last appearance wasn't announced until Sunday morning on their Facebook page.
Halfway through the set, when someone off to the side requested something funky, she suggested they start their own band. While the Secretors are on hiatus now until they find a new vocalist, maybe Mellons will make that guy's funk dreams come true.
The night moved quickly from there with the Riot Act getting set up quickly. The closest the duo, singer/guitarist Clarke and drummer Sean Chesal, get to punk is Clarke's Ramones T-shirt. They can be found somewhere in South Florida at least once a week carrying the garage rock flag of screeching guitar solos and lyrics about girls who won't give it up. Saturday night was no different.
The punk got faster and the pit actually moved once Suburban Swamp Kids hit the stage -- pausing only to sing "Happy Birthday" to Johnny over a cake that got halfway past the bar for the song and disappeared just as quickly.
There was talk that the Stayouts would play before Dead Cat Lounge, but with it, already after 2 a.m. the Tampa quartet with fast and faster songs about politics and societal outcasts, took over.
DCL bassist Jimmy Roach said the band had to come down for Miller's birthday, returning the favor for shows the Stayouts played on their recent trip up and down the state with Broward ska crew Stop The Presses.
By three, as equipment started disappearing and invitations to hit the road were being screamed from behind the bar, nobody noticed the lack of a set from the Stayouts themselves.
Though they are far from being the only band leading the once again growing punk scene in Broward, the Dirty Ol' Stayouts intentionally are dragging as many bands around as they can and putting them in front of the punk fans they know are starved for it, Naked said.
If it wasn't clear just how tight this scene is, the number of members of other bands in attendance, all of whom have played together at some point over the last decade and a half, is proof that their "family" line isn't just the equivalent of a mohawked drunken smile for the sake of being nice.
"The scene's building [up] down here," Miller said. "We're trying to do what we can to get this going."