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Florida Scene Report with David Donigan

David Donigan in Jackal at Middle East, Kansas City, MO, 2019. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

I first met David Donigan in June 2019 when I booked a band he played drums in, Jackal, for a show in the Middle East basement in Kansas City. I didn’t get to do much hanging out with the band that night, but we’ve kept up on social media and I figured he might be able to tell me a little more about punk and hardcore in the Sunshine State (despite his recent move to Richmond, Virginia). The Zoom call this is transcribed from took place in June 2021, so forgive any time sensitive elements. I procrastinated on it pretty hard, but once I pressed play and remembered how fun our chat was, I completed it in one (long) evening.

Is your Richmond move meant to be kind of permanent or are you just kind of hanging out there for a minute?
For a little while. I'm kind of in a nomad stage. I want to try and live in a bunch of different places for a little bit.

You were born in New York, right?
Yeah. I only lived there until I was like four. Then we moved from there straight to Florida and then I just grew up there pretty much.

Do you end up visiting New York much?
Honestly, up until the last maybe five, six years I hadn’t. Honestly, only until I started going to shows is when I started going more. But before that, no, not really.

So your first experience with the punk scene would have been in Florida. What first got you into punk music? And then how did you kind of discover your local scene?
I guess when I started getting into hardcore, my friend Alexis, he started bringing me to shows; or he introduced me to them. Because he would go to them and then he didn't have a car at the time and then I would be the one to drive when he was like, “Hey, do you want to go to this?” So we would go to a couple hardcore shows and then I kind of just got sucked in.

And then from that point, I started making new friends apart from the friends that I had at the time before going and then [kinda transitioned] more towards punk and stuff. I met Toli, who you know, and Flip and they started some bands like Ladrón and Klout and stuff like that.

That was kind of the start of the punk scene [in this era] in Miami. Miami always had its thing, but it wasn't really connected to the north of Florida like the Broward area. But when Flip and Toli made those bands, then it started to get more connected and then from that point, there just has been a lot more punk-style bands around.

I definitely saw Klout the one time they played a Kansas City basement way back. So your friends are having you having you drive to to these hardcore shows when you're younger. Did you not have really much experience with punk and hardcore before that? Was that really like your first jump into it?
No, not at all. I was mostly more into Warped Tour-style stuff. So that was like my transition from that and I was the only one with a car at the time. So I just kind of drove everybody to the shows.

What other bands and venues were important when you first started going to shows?
I started seeing Klout and stuff – I think around 2016 and ‘15 is when they came out, but before that the shows I was going to, they had bands like Super Mutant and Losin’ It and Blistered. And then later on I started to branch out and then I got interested in punkier stuff.

Losin’ It was a cool band. I remember their EP with the alien mosher guy on the cover. And Blistered was also tight, I saw them once. I hope I get to see dude’s new band Ecostrike at some point.
I like that [Losin’ It] cover art. I think that everything about the way that record looks is cool.

Florida is a big enough state where there are simultaneously a lot of different scenes happening at once. There’s punk and hardcore and all of their subgenres, but then there are also at least three relatively populous regions of the state. Do the reputations or personalities or vibes of certain scenes and regions vary a lot?

Yes, absolutely. I guess South Florida has always been a bit more notable in terms of the scene – and things have changed so much. It was always like South Florida was the more prominent one. I think Tampa was next because they had a cool venue called Transitions. When I was getting into hardcore, I saw so many videos of shows there. And I've been there a couple times. It was a really cool venue and obviously FYA Fest is there. And then Orlando – I can't really say Orlando has been too poppin’ lately.

That band The Nightmare was from Orlando though, right? The Invisible Audio Bandcamp page is helpful for finding newer hardcore punk bands from Florida and the Southeast.
Yeah, that was one of the bands that was there. As far as I can tell her in the last couple years Orlando hasn't really had too many bands. The Nightmare was one of them. That band Dominant Force was another one. And even way before that there was a band called Gross that would play a lot. And a band called False Punk. I’d have to think, but I really don't know of many current bands there now. Oh. Most of Android’s members were in Orlando.

It seems like Jacksonville and Tallahassee have got a little more poppin’ lately with everyone being hyped on Protocol and Armor.
Yeah, dang, funny enough, Tallahassee is the only place in Florida, the only major city, that I have not been to and I've always wanted to play there or at least just go to a show there. But yeah, obviously, from what I've seen, it seems like Tallahassee has a pretty good scene. Every video I've seen there looks like they have a pretty decent amount of kids that come out. And I've asked some of the people in the band. I think I've asked Jeff or just told him, “Seems like a good scene. You guys always have a lot of people there,” and he's like, “Not really.” But I'm just like, “Dude, I'm watching the videos and it looks like there's a lot of people.”

But yeah, Tallahassee seems cool. I'd still love to play there. I've been to a couple Jacksonville shows. I guess there's more capital-h hardcore that flows through there, but on Invisible Audio, I'm sure you saw there was a band from there called Plasma. That's one of the few punkier bands that I know that have come out of there.

Do kids freak out when Protocol comes to play Miami? I’ve been kicking myself for missing them at Everything Is Not OK Fest after seeing the video of their set where they used the Halo theme music as the intro and people were already stage diving.
Oh, trust me, I wish I was there, but I guess tickets flying there from Florida were not looking right. But yeah, I'm so mad I missed that, too. I think Protocol's played South Florida only a handful of times. I'm gonna say two or three times. And the last time I saw them, they played Miami at Space Mountain and there weren't a lot of kids there, but I think this was just a little bit after Bloodsport came out. So, you know, probably not a lot of people had heard it by then. But I was freaking out when they were playing. So, that's me. But I'm sure if they played now, they would probably get a bigger crowd.

Great venue name. What kind of spot is Space Mountain?

Well, it's unfortunately not a thing anymore. It died over quarantine and stuff. But Space Mountain was just some art space that this lady owned and if you wanted to book a show there, you’d just hit her up, but that was like the main venue we had for a long time. That was like the go-to because we had that and there was Churchill's, but it would be Space Mountain 75 percent of the time and then Churchill's 25 percent of the time.

What’s Churchill’s like?
Churchill’s is like a bar/venue. It was a pretty decent size, so a lot of bigger bands would play there as well as small bands at a stage. Pretty run-down looking, but it's pretty historical, I guess. It has character. A lot of people had their mixed thoughts about it. Like I guess some people would be bummed that there'd be a show at Churchill’s, but I like Churchill’s. I like playing there. The floor sets were usually a lot cooler, but honestly, if enough people came, the stage shows would be pretty cool, too.

I've seen a couple things in the parking lot recently. But yeah, I don't know if they're still doing shows either. I don't know what things in Florida are still popping now.

To backtrack for a second, you mentioned your interaction with Tampa’s scene. Did you ever see any bands from that era of Merchandise, Cult Ritual, Church Whip, Nazi Dust, and Neon Blud?
No, I wish. I didn't get into Merchandise or Cult Ritual until way after Merchandise moved out of there and way past Cult Ritual breaking up. I have friends that were around for that era and they said it was cool. But what I was talking about was the more hardcore aspect of Tampa. I can remember there was a band that I really liked called Crisis Unit that was from there. Really old, like 2014 to 2016 era. I mean, to me it feels so old now.

But yeah, there was an era where that band was pretty prominent and there would be tours that would go to Tampa and not South Florida and then drive up. Fury played there and I went out for that and that was a pretty cool show.

Between the heavy hardcore FYA crowd, the DIY punks, and then even the scene around The Fest in Gainesville with the more melodic bands, is there ever much funny crossover or interaction between all of them?
Let me think. For the most part, off the top of my head, it didn't really cross over that much. But when The Talent Farm was around, or even a little bit after, there would be several occasions where there would be the mostly indie/pop-punk bill and then there would be a hardcore band on it, like a local hardcore band. Yeah, actually, especially during that era, there was that one era where they were doing the indie/pop-punk tours with hardcore bands, so during that time, it was pretty mixed up.

But other than that, everything's pretty much been separated. Yeah, not only that, I mean, I don't know too many softer bands from my scene that are a thing.

What’s The Talent Farm?
Have you not heard of it?

I think I’ve heard the name, but I don’t know anything about it.
Okay, I don't know why I assume everyone knows by now, but Talent Farm was just pretty much the venue for South Florida for a long time. I only started going there in 2012, but it's been around way before that, probably, I want to say 2009 or something like that, and it closed in 2015 I believe. Something like that.

But yeah, it was like the go-to venue for South Florida. Everything would play there. Pop-punk bands would play there, indie bands, and hardcore bands and whatever. Yeah, you name it.

So your band Jackal did a decent amount of touring and I think anyone who’s not from a large coastal city always gets asked dumb questions about where they’re from when they travel, like people asking about cows and The Wizard Of Oz with Kansas. Did you get any alligator questions when touring? How do people feel about Florida?
Oh, I definitely believe that we've gotten some typical alligator questions or whatever, but I think for the most part now, I think bands from Florida are getting a pretty good word in I guess. So when we went on our first weekender with Protocol and Deviant in 2017, that's two Florida bands on that, so we played Richmond and there was a pretty decent amount of kids there. And we played Baltimore, but that show we just jumped on so I don't really count that one. There was an okay amount of people, but we kinda didn’t fit on the bill. But our D.C. show was pretty cool, too. We had a decent amount of people there.

Then the tour where you booked our show, that tour was, in my opinion, I had zero complaints about that tour. Every show was pretty well attended and well reacted in my opinion. So I guess people are a little excited to see a Florida band. And I pay really close attention to my friends’ bands like Protocol and Armor, too, and they went on tour together and I know that that one was pretty well attended, too. I was checking the event pages and stuff, seeing if people were going. But yeah, I think people are starting to take Florida seriously I guess.

I’m glad to hear that. Oh, it's funny – I'm sure you know Zig-Zag. On their 7”, I think it samples a clip from a documentary about Florida punk in the mid-’80s. I think the video’s called The Scene. It’s on YouTube. Is that something you're familiar with? Do you have any knowledge of ‘80s Florida punk stuff?
No, honestly, not really. But, every now and then, a couple years ago, I would see someone I know that books shows there post a band from around there, that used to play there, a band from Coral Springs, which is like 20 minutes from my old house. And another person that mainly books shows, he kind of reminisces a lot about a lot of the older bands and every now and then he'll just like to post, “This band was sick,” on Facebook or something.

I don't really listen to any of that. But I mean there were a lot of big bands that used to tour down here. 2009, 2008, 2010, 2011. He would share some old lineups and I'm just like, “Damn, like this band played down here?” Because I feel like now that would be just unheard of. I mean, granted, people tour Florida a little more now, but still not that much, I guess.

Do you think you could name a handful of current Florida bands you’re into and what you like about each of them?
Oh, yes, this is me getting my list of shoutouts. All right, well, first of all, obviously Zig-Zag, of course. That band, man. Amazing. Very good to see live. I want to see that band tour so bad. I want people to see that band so, so bad. They played Oklahoma City once and from that, people seemed to like that set. So I don't know, I'm just itching for more.

Josie seems like an insane frontperson.
[Laughs] Yeah, that's partly why, like, it's not boring to watch. They're so entertaining and Flip is such a good musician. Anyway, that's one band, I really hope that they tour sometime.

Another band that recently started popping up is called Real People. They’re honestly a bunch of newer people. I met them in 2019 and yeah, I saw them play a show at this venue called Loser Lounge and I was like, “Oh, damn, this is sick.” Yeah, they're so awesome. And I think they've been getting a little bit of attention lately. I would love to see them tour, too. Them and Zig-Zag, I literally tell them, “Make sure you guys tour at some point. You have to do it at least once. Do a weekend or a week. Do something. Just please. I want people to see this.”

I really love the first Real People tape. It was kind of just super fast, bratty hardcore punk. The second one I didn't love as much. It’s a little more like garage rock-ish, almost. But it's still pretty solid.

Yeah, I think they were just experimenting a little bit more with that one. Because the first one was pretty straightforward, but it was so interesting because even though it was so straightforward, it wasn't boring. I think on the second one they were just trying to branch out of their comfort zone a little bit, but I definitely do see what you mean on that being a little garage rock-y. And I think I think the label that they put it on is in that type of area, too. So maybe that's why.

What’s another band? Obviously the Android demo was pretty hot. Gosh, that's another band – I'm pretty good friends with the guitarist Daniel. Daniel and the singer moved from Orlando to New York over quarantine. But once again, I was just telling him, “You got a good thing going here. Make sure you do it right. Play out of town as much as you can.” And I keep pushing them to release the demo on tape because they don't have a physical release for it, but I think it's finally in the works. So I guess keep an eye out for that.

What do you like about the Android sound?
Well, no band has sounded like that from Florida. I don't know. So as far as I know, I've just not heard something like that from Florida. And I love that they have kind of a theme going. I was talking to the singer a lot and he's really into a lot of robot movies and stuff like that and that's where a lot of the samples in the tape come from. They made those, but they try to sound as robotic as they can. And even the music itself subtly gives me a vibe that it fits the theme, and with the lyrics. And the fact that the singer says the name of the song before the song starts, I think that's cool.

Kind of playing a robot frontperson character.
Yeah, exactly.

There were a few bands I wanted to check in about. Are NSA, Spur, and Rhino still active?
NSA? I guess we’re still a band. We haven't talked about music in the group chat in such a long time. But Flip and Toli, they write the music.

What’s happening in the group chat then?
Literally nothing. I think almost a year ago they shared some songs that they were practicing. But the last text in the group chat was completely unrelated. It was Flip sharing a screenshot of someone discussing the Booger tape in class and that was May 29. But I mean, as far as I'm concerned, we're still a band. I guess I just have to be the one to say, “Hey, what are we gonna do next?”

Spur, I don't know if Spur is still a band. The singer now lives in Pittsburgh. But I follow them and they're like, “Oh, you know, whenever I visit home, Spur will play a show,” but that was a long time ago. I’m sure they’re still a band.

Rhino, that I don't know. Rhino might not be a band. Jackal, I don't think we're a band anymore. But we have a record that's like 65 percent done and I'm probably just going to release it eventually and that'll be like the final hurrah.

Florida is also pretty well known for hip-hop and death metal. Do you interact with either of those scenes or have local favorites?
In terms of death metal there's one band – I'm not too in touch with the metal scene in Florida. But I do love one of the bands there called Caveman Cult. That band is crazy. Amazing to see live. I think they recently put out a new record on tape which I recommend. If I went to a metal show it would mainly be to see that band. They're really good.

And actually the singer, he played in another band. It wasn’t really a serious band, they didn't really do much, but it was called Hellmass. They had one recording and it wasn't the best quality, but God, watching that band live was so sick. They covered Celtic Frost’s “Into The Crypt Of Rays” and that was the first time I've ever seen a band cover that and I was like, “What? Insane.”

You ever run into the guys from Obituary?
I completely forget that band is from Florida. I think they might have done a Miami show within the last couple years.

Are you a fan of the Raider Klan guys like SpaceGhostPurrp and Denzel Curry? Or some of the newer street stuff like Kodak, Melly, Yungeen Ace?
Well, I don't listen to too much hip-hop and rap to be honest. But I did like Denzel Curry. A long time ago, my old friend played him in a car once and I was like, “Oh, this is kind of good!” and he's like, “Yeah, this is Denzel Curry. He's actually from here.” And I was like, “Oh, wow.” And since then it just kind of just stuck with me. It was an album with purple artwork on it. It's some sort of painting.

Nostalgic 64 maybe?
Maybe. But yeah, I think I saw him perform. I can't quite remember, but I think one of the two free tours that Trash Talk did, they played at this old venue called Grand Central. They played this insane outside show in a parking lot and I think Denzel Curry played one of those. I don't quite remember, but I did see him and it was very good. In terms of Florida rap, that's the only thing I really know.

Yeah, I love getting to see hip-hop and hardcore on the same bill.
Yeah, both of those shows were so crazy. Because it's like two completely different crowds, hardcore kids and then people that are into rap and stuff and so many people would be at that and it was a fun time. I really enjoyed seeing those worlds collide.

You put out a photo zine recently. What kind of subject matter is in there? Are you shooting film or digital?
Yeah, I've been taking pictures just casually for years now. I just started on my phone and then eventually people gave me cameras and then I finally bought a camera myself last year. And yeah, I would travel and take pictures of what catches my eye pretty much. It's a digital camera, and nothing [in the zine is] music related, but yeah, just stuff on the street.

Do you have any favorite shots in the zine?
Yeah. Most of those I actually took within this past year. There was this one picture that I took from inside of a car. We were driving and we stopped at a red light and then I looked out the window and there's a woman and her son sitting at a bus stop and she has her hand on him and she's kind of scolding him. And then in her other hand she's just holding this giant inflatable alien and I'm just like, “Wow, that looks so cool.” So I was lucky enough to get a picture of that. And that was in Philadelphia.

Another favorite picture, here in Richmond, I was on my friend's porch and it had just rained I think, the night before, so there was a bicycle attached to the rail in front of the porch and there was a spider web between the wheel and there was water caught in it, like a bunch of little droplets of water, and they were just hanging on the spider web and I was like, “Oh, wow, that looks crazy,” and I took a picture of that. I thought that was really nice. That was a favorite of mine.

Hell yeah.
I was in Philadelphia this past weekend and I was waiting for the train and I saw a different woman with a child and she had this same exact toy and I was like, “What is this?” [laughs]

Follow David on Instagram and Twitter at @poisonctrl for updates on his music and photography.


[This article first appeared in Issue 5 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to order a copy online, or pick one up for free at locations around KC/Lawrence/JoCo.]  

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