When we began working on this issue, there was a distinct duo that sprang to mind — two people who truly fit the bill for changing Jacksonville for the better (unless you think metal is the still devil’s music … in which case, why are you reading Void?).
Enter Mike (or “Mikey”) Ciero and Rory (Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez) McCoid, two locals who are largely responsible for the hardcore punk and metal scene here in town. While you might know them personally, or perhaps you’ve seen them at a show, you probably don’t know just how much these two have actually done for Jacksonville.
Despite their humility, Mike and Rory are undoubtedly two of the biggest influencers on the music scene here in town — whether they think that about themselves or not.
Alright. Enough blowing smoke up their collective asses. Let’s get to why these two are important.
As a little kid, Mikey said he was always drawn to music, often watching MTV (not the bulls**t reality TV channel we now know as MTV) and going to shows. “I don’t even feel like I chose it, it kinda chose me — you know?” Mikey said.
When he moved to Jacksonville, he was always involved in the hardcore and metal community. While working at Thee Imperial, which many longtime residents of Jax probably remember as the hub of the hardcore and metal scene for many years, Mikey was asked to help with the books.
Initially, Jacksonville struggled to attract hardcore and punk bands to the city, but thanks to people like Mikey and Evergreen Terrace, this slowly began to change. Years after, the owners of Thee Imperial wanted to get out of the venue business, and Mikey ended up acquiring the place.
The importance of Thee Imperial still rings true even today. At the time though, there really wasn’t anywhere else for the hardcore and metal community to call home.
“It maintained a community that otherwise was really hard to maintain,” Mikey said. “That s**t [hardcore and metal music] was shunned everywhere.” Rory added that to be able to have a bar, especially in a city like Jacksonville, that was geared toward that type of music and be able to keep the doors open for so many years was a success in itself.
After Rory attempted to plagiarize the plot for “The Sandlot,” as his own background (thanks d**k) he summarized how his parents moved to the First Coast way back when he was a second grader. Eventually, Rory moved around, to return once again while in high school … before leaving again and enlisting in the army.
After his time in the military, Rory returned to Jax and began working on his career after noting Mikey and Thee Imperial as being a big source of inspiration. Initially, things didn’t always work out so well, “I don’t think you can be an expert at booking shows,” Rory said. “There’s definitely a learning curve. It constantly changes.”
During our interview, I got the overwhelming sense that both Mikey and Rory held a special place for Thee Imperial, both attributing a lot of their early starts in their careers, as well as some of the best times in their earlier years, to the venue.
What Thee Imperial did during its time was to give the underground and shunned music communities a place they could just be themselves, without the fear of being judged or looked down upon by others. Not only was this a place for punk and metal, but also a place for rap, indie and many other lesser-known genres and their fans — and that’s why these kinds of places are so important.
Now, Rory and Mike are responsible for FYF (For Your Friends) Booking, Southeast Beast Fest and continuing to bring in shows for the hardcore and metal community not only in Jacksonville, but all the way from Miami to Richmond, Virginia.
In addition to bringing in nationally acclaimed bands, there is another important part of what these guys do — and that’s supporting the local music scene by adding local groups and musicians to shows and giving them the chance to open for bigger bands.
Both Rory and Mikey said that supporting the local scene by allowing them to open shows is important for development of our music community. “I’ve always wondered why more agents don’t put locals on shows,” Mikey said. “You help develop the artists, and the more they play with national acts who have been doing it every day of their lives, the better these other bands are going to get.”
Since these two are so vital to the music in town, I asked them what the biggest thing the Jacksonville community should do as a whole to push the scene here locally. Their answer? Be more supportive, go to shows and stop skipping the opening acts or asking when the headliner goes on.
The only way to grow Jacksonville as a whole is to grow it from the ground up. To continue our use of plagiarizing baseball movies, let’s just say, “If you build it, they will come.”
So, the next time you’re out at a show and enjoying yourself, be sure to thank people like Mike and Rory for their time and hard work … just don’t f***ing ask them for free tickets.