As you crouch beneath a half-open metal shutter to descend into Beezlebub’s Cave, an uncanny whimsy permeates. Much like Alice’s multi-stage descent down her rabbit hole, a plain anteroom leads to a large set of double-doors which, in turn, lead to a bona fide metal clubhouse. And much like the inscription Dante reads upon crossing Hell’s gates — Abadon hope all ye who enter — The Cave also has a welcome sign. BEEZELBUB’S CAVE, big and in script, hangs like a wreathe over the entrance, with a small banner draped below quoting Shakespeare: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”
Like a rock and roll TGIFriday’s stripped of the kitsch and chicken tenders, the wall is a solid quilt of metal interwoven imagery from every variant and sub-genre: heavy, hair, speed, thrash, stoner. The rectangular warehouse space resembles a metal pantheon where the gods have come to retire in their truest format: the glossy, pinned-at-the-corner poster. It’s as though the walls of international metalheads have been pieced together to form a one room metal megalopolis.
A massive pentagram broodingly fills the tile floor, ominously suggesting that at any moment the proceedings at hand may turn sinister, otherworldly, or both.
Out front, Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine are collecting money and tying wrist bands, taking a break only to perform with their hard-and-heavy trio, Shroud Eater. The evening’s showcase is local, cheap ($5), BYOB, and straddles the metal axis with distinct subgenere representation: psychedelic black-metal from Orbweaver; traditional (Florida-style) death metal from West Palm’s Masticator; and, of course, the pure pummeling of the house band.
Felipe Torres, Shroud Eater’s drummer and the name on The Cave’s lease, sits on a couch a few feet away from his bandmates, near a table with flyers and headbangers eagerly awaiting hearty riffage. The trio have been active participants in the South Florida metal scene for over three years, gigging endlessly in all three counties, and self-releasing a self-titled EP in 2009 and a full-length album, appropriately titled ThunderNoise, at the start of this year.
In 2009, Torres was given a tip from a relative about a warehouse in Wynwood — the band has dubbed the neighborhood WynHood — that would soon become The Cave. As Torres and his band were respectively looking for, in Saiz’s words, “a new lair”, the roomy studio was a perfect fit. Soon thereafter, when a local metal showcase booked at another venue fell apart last minute, the Cave’s inaugural show was “born out of necessity.”
“WynHood” puns on the neighborhood’s ambiguous identity as an outpost of art-economy gentrification: Ground Zero of the Art Walk mob scene, which, on the second Saturday of every month, draws droves of dudded-up Miamians for whom “art gallery” is synonymous with “free booze”. At the same time, Wynwood, traditionally a poor Puerto Rican neighborhood, is populated with “zombies moonlighting as crackheads,” says Saiz.
Located in this strange place, The Cave draws a strange crowd. “All sorts of creatures come out to make noise,” Saiz says. (Not only noise though. The Cave is connected to a larger complex that is home to a number of musicians, businesses, social justice organizers, Power U, and, of course, visual artists.)
Since its organic inception, Beezlebub’s Cave has become the crown jewel of the South Florida metal underground (the New Times named it Miami’s “Best Rock Venue” for 2011). While this may attest to Miami’s dearth of real rock venues — The Cave is, remember, a man’s home and a band’s practice space — Beezlebub’s prolific programming and welcoming atmosphere deserve praise.
Despite the activity, and subsequent attention, Saiz says Miami’s metal scene isn’t exactly experiencing a renaissance. “The metal scene has been around in many variations for a long time,” she says. The only recent difference, according to Saiz, is that “bands have been getting more exposure via blogs and write-ups.”
This generation’s attention may owe partly to interscene pollination. The Cave is a crossroads for socially segregated music scenes that ultimately share a great deal of aesthetic overlap: When powerviolence speed thrashers Gorilla Pussy play alongside Orlando doom/sludge outfit Ether and black metal post-provocateurs Slashpine, the synergy is clear. “[Our events] have brought a cool combination of people together in the same room that might not otherwise be hanging in the same spot,” Saiz says.
Put otherwise: All roads lead to metal.
All of the DIY venues considered in this series have had their distinguishing signature traits: The Chumbucket and its institutional punk ethics (and bureaucracy); the end/Spring Break’s freeform, highly conceptual hustle for resources; The Snooze as a deliberate, art-and-music oriented DIY endeavor.
What distinguishes Beezlebub’s Cave is the venue’s inescapable simplicity. Like The Snooze, the spot is sufficiently tucked away to avoid confrontations with neighbors. Shows happen when an out-of-town band is coming through, or whenever Shroud Eater feels like having a show. In this way, the venue feels like the most logical extension of true and earnest metal fandom.
As Saiz suggests, Miami’s metal scene will survive with or without outside attention. Right now, its bloody heart is Beezlebub’s Cave, and that’ll stay the case as long as the devils have no where else to go.
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