RIP, Michael O'Brien, South Florida Punk Rock Legend
O'Brien and friend while working in Antarctica, early '90s.
It is not easy to write about a person who has passed away, especially when the one you're writing about is someone you respected and looked up to.
It was with a heavy heart that we reported on the Eat's drummer, Christopher Cottie's, passing back in 2004, and it is with a heavy heart and watery eyes that we report that on Thursday, July 25, Michael O'Brien, the younger of the brothers, has died at home after battling cancer.
It is well-known in South Florida's music circles how big a fan I have been of the Eat since I first heard the band on a mixtape and embarked on a long journey to seek out their recorded work. The Eat, and specifically the brothers O'Brien, basically invented South Florida's raucous punk rock scene -- equal parts roots rock and the underlying aggression that would eventually surface as "hardcore."
That these dichotomies existed succinctly within one band and never fully tilted one way or the other will always be the downright mathematical alignment of the brothers and their bandmates. They were guided by a twisted Irish-Catholic sense of humor that snarled acerbically at communism, the Mariel Boatlift, South Florida's sunny living, animal rights, and an encyclopedic love for sports.
Michael O'Brien had an energetically, almost electrically charged demeanor that materialized as Zen-like calm. Funny, witty, with a sly smile, I will remember him as a solid dude who always had the time to answer questions and chat about whatever. He is survived by his loving family and wife and by anyone who has ever identified him- or herself with South Florida's punk rock scene.
I, for one, will miss him. Tonight and like nights in the future, I'll listen to the Scattered Wahoo Action tape all the way through to the Pepto-Bismol-pink goodness of the Hialeah seven-inch.
And as far as I'm concerned:
a. Mixtape with the Eat on it: instant obsession.
b. Seeing their reunion on my birthday at Churchill's: priceless.
c. Scouring record stores, fanzines, and the internet for their records: best time spent in the pursuit of happiness.
d. Hearing Mike's work with the DT Martyrs: awesome.
e. Watching the Drug Czars live: cathartic.
f. Meeting him and getting to know him a little outside of silly fandom: It doesn't seem like we shared enough brews or conversations.
South Florida's music scene has taken a slap these past few years with the passings of Lisa Hodapp, Johnny Salton, Bobby Johnston, Dan Hosker, Bobby Durango, and Norm Sloan, among others. It's been a rough time.
May heaven have a guitar ready for you, brother.
You can pick up The Eat's discography from Alternative Tentacles here.