Hurricane Irma brought unprecedented flooding and destruction to Florida and the Gulf Coast this past weekend. In light of last week's historic storm, Revolver asked bands and artists who hail from (or are based out of) the Sunshine State to recount their Irma experiences. Below, Jonathan Nuñez of Miami-based sludge-rock outfit Torche tells of his journey into the path of destruction in the name of love — and rock.
JONATHAN NUÑEZ I currently live in Los Angeles. So does Steve [Brooks, singer-guitarist]. Rick [Smith, drummer] and Eric [Hernandez, bassist] live in Miami. I flew down here a few days before we took off to Hopscotch festival. The plan was to meet up in Miami and ride up to Gainesville [in Northwest Florida] with all of our equipment. We've all spent a lot of time in Gainesville, and we were staying with our friend up there. I kind of lived there for a little bit and had a recording studio, so we could rehearse in my old space.
We all knew about the storm. Growing up in South Florida, there's always hurricanes come the season. There's always the "What if?" But more often than not, the hurricanes don't hit. But as we all know — both now, and in the past with [Hurricane] Andrew, they can hit pretty hard sometimes, and it can be catastrophic. So we were in Miami, and we knew it was coming, and in the back of our minds, we weren't sure.
We went up to Gainesville for two or three days and rehearsed. Then we drove to South Carolina, and last Thursday [September 7th], we played Hopscotch. The fest was awesome — we got to see some good friends, and we had a blast — but the whole way up we were talking with family, and watching the news, and staying up to date with it.
We were set to wrap up the tour in Miami, and more importantly, our families are all in Florida, and especially South Florida, so you have that in the back of your mind the whole time. By the following day [September 8th] in Atlanta, we started to get nervous, because the eye of the storm was literally set on South Florida. We were like, OK, the show's not happening, but who cares? What about our families?
You want to be there for them in any way that you can, so the group decided to come down and do the Florida show. It pretty much came down to wanting to come down to help. We had our sound guy. We had our merch guy. We wanted to make sure that they got paid because they came out to work for and with us. We wanted to play — that's why Steve and I flew across the country, after all! Miami was out of the question, but the Gainesville show [at the Atlantic Nightspot] was still on. The owner of the venue was like "We'll see, we'll see." I was like, "Yeah, I know how this is gonna turn out — we're gonna not see electricity, that's what's going to happen."
Our vibe was, Let's go play Gainesville, remain there until the storm had passed, and then head down to Miami: A) to help our families, and B) to avoid this massive migration of people, and not be on the highway for days. Ultimately, Steve decided not to come with us to Florida — he felt unsafe, and was worried.
So we got set to go, and we went. Now, we were literally driving into the path of the storm, which was about to become potentially worse — if not as bad as — what our parents were going to experience in South Florida. The highways were crazy. By the time we left Atlanta, we saw that people were taking 18 hours to drive from Miami to Orlando, which is usually a four-hour drive, max. It looked like something out of the Independence Day movie: You could literally have gotten on top of your car and walked, and it'd have been faster.
Unfortunately, the original show — at this killer record store in Gainesville, Arrow's Aim — was cancelled. So we decided, "Screw it, man. Let's just do this shit" and the show went on, at Durty Nelly's. That's just how it goes in Florida: You sort shit out super fast, and move forward. The bill consisted of our remaining party – Rick, David, Eric, and myself – and my other band, Shitstorm. Eric and Ryan [Haft, Torche's sound guy's] band Wrong played, with Rick filling in on drums. My favorite band from Gainesville, Post Teens, also performed. Their singer, Tony Marquez, is like a brother to me. He used to tour with Torche, and also plays in Asshole Parade, a popular local hardcore band.
People in Gainesville were looking at this show with the hopes of freeing their minds, and having a good time — having that one last good night before the storm hits, one-to-two weeks of no power and constant cleanup. It's a college town: There are lots of hard-working, hard-partying people living that punk-rock life, who just want to blow off some steam because they'd been preparing their homes for the storm. Plus, we bought a lot of groceries in Georgia to provide something for our friends who were going to stay through it.
When the hurricane finally hit the next day — or rather, night — we were in the carport. It was almost like tailgating — cautiously tailgating, I might add — waiting for the storm. We watched a couple movies, and kept going in and out. At a certain point, we started seeing red-and-blue reflections on the quickly moving clouds, and the rain going sideways, and all of the light from the exploding transistors off in the distance. Sure enough, the power went out around 2 A.M.
We went outside. It was like staring at a fire: You're entranced by it. It pulls you in. It's hypnotic. There were branches falling. The wind went from 20 to 40 mph, and then higher. Maybe there was something wrong with us, but we were just amused and in awe of the power of this thing.
Luckily, we were in a safe spot. The storm started going west at the last minute — like I said, these things are unpredictable. We experienced strong winds, but I think we just mostly ate a lot of food and fell asleep. No trees fell on us, and transformer near us didn't blow, which is good, because there were a ton of trees. And since transformers are basically bombs, it's a big fire risk. I haven't heard anything too bad. Everyone I know is helping each other out. That's why I wanted to be in Florida. That's why we wanted to be in Florida.