Magazine AM:PM
Articles Photo: Junior Hernández Castro

I, the Maxim

Do you remember what it was like before this? Before the crisis, before the covid, before the juncture... Before the closure... Do you remember what it was like before the closure? The hordes of black, endless, coming? The hand-to-hand booze pomettes? Do you remember the manes, the screams, the guitars, the full room, the devil's horns, the bands? The bands... How many have gone since then? How many I couldn't take in during the years I was shut down? How many I've seen born and die under my roof? How much longer can I be what I've been for fifteen years?

I am older than I look. Much older. And at the beginning, when I was born in Bruzón no. 62, between Almendares and Ayestarán, I didn't think that I would protect the pelús who have sanctified me like a temple. In my heyday, between the 40's and 50's, I was a neighborhood movie theater -a neighborhood movie theater with hundreds of seats and one of the biggest screens in Havana. Over the years, I lost a little the name of Maxim cinema, which I had inherited from a previous theater, because I was also a theater; but between repeated crises and a growing neglect, I was abandoned to my fate, at the mercy of the weather and the rain. Some cried for my absence; for others, I became another ruin of this insular Pompeii. "What happens is that 'Revolution is to build', not to repair", I once heard the lament of a neighbor. If I had had a mouth, I would have answered him... I resigned myself to silence. And to waiting.

Photo: Junior Hernández Castro

One afternoon -would it have been in 2007?- I woke up to the sound of construction work. How happy Mrs. Valiente, my administrator for twenty-four years, would have been to know that I would be alive again! I found out later from her son Oscar, one of my caregivers, who suffered for me for years and left this world without being able to see me active again. I love Oscar with all my heart. I also love Rafa -the guy who manages the lights at the concerts today and who could look for something more lucrative and less dangerous than balancing to adjust the lights, but he doesn't- and Raúl, Silvito and Friedman, the sound engineers whom everyone criticizes when the audio does not respond, and whom few praise when they make it work as best they can, even putting money out of their pockets to repair the speakers. I also love Benni, the old and blind black man who was once a props man; Juanelo, the long-haired blond who comes to the concerts in a wheelchair; and other recurring faces that are part of who I am.

Photo: Junior Hernández Castro

There are those who say that Maxim Rock is not the same. "It's not like it used to be", "it sucks", "it's no good anymore"... They say it at my doors and in my hallways, in my living room and in my offices. They have said it to you. But how can you be the same, if everything has changed? Me... you... your friends... Cuba.

Do you remember 2008? 2008, the first concert of Zeus, from Hypnosis, from Escape, from Combat NoiseDo you remember Ancestor and to Chlover? ¿A Stigma and DeadPointWhat about the Brutal FestDo you remember the enthusiasm for the Cuban Rock Agency, the faith you regained after they took away the Patio de María, after they took you out of the cultural centers, after they called you, for years, a delinquent, drug addict, lazy, antisocial? Do you remember the five peso entrance fee, the room packed to the gills, the smell of cheap alcohol, of sweat, of metal? Do you remember when they played salsa bands and tried to marginalize the freak bands, and between you and me -because I didn't agree with it's- we took out that director who tried to do so much harm, and we came out on top?

Photo: Junior Hernández Castro

But 2015 came. You know what happened... The ghost of deterioration, which always comes back. I was shut down again. Three years this time... While you wandered through the parks, hungry for concerts, and your musician friends looked for another space to play, gave up on having a band or left Cuba for good, I listened to their laments. Those of her, the lady who once raised her voice for you and suffered in her flesh your pains, and to whom you returned again to try to save me, and save yourself. I listened to her. To Maria Gattorno, Maria the Courtyard: drafting papers late, making calls, looking for materials, seeing, from a bureau she never wanted or asked for, how to bring me back to life so you and your friends wouldn't hang up your boots.

And he did it. We made it. I opened my doors again and you walked through them again. I remember your face that night, your eyes in front of the stage... even how bad your partner left for G's park! You came back, we came back, to believe.

Photo: Junior Hernández Castro

After the pandemic and the crisis, I have rarely filled my living room. I saw Tendencia and Treatment Choice, Helgrind, Trendkill and STONER play for the last time. I've seen a geek call a friend who was crossing the border that same night, and send him a video of the concert he couldn't attend before leaving. I remember the last time "La Ponina" and "Antes que lo prohíban" thundered out, and I was sorry I didn't hear about the Switch ending in time.

I have seen new faces, and I have missed many others.

I have felt you hesitating lately. I don't judge you. I am not THE rock of Cuba, as many told you; I am a part of it. An important one, but a part nonetheless. You called me temple. I don't know if it still is. Now, in order to survive, I admit electronic music clubs... You don't like that. I know... I don't like it either... but, what's my way out, if you demand that it be profitable...? I don't want to get lost, freak, but without you and your colleagues, I won't be Maxim Rock anymore. When everyone turns their backs on you, I'll try to be there; with my long time audio and my flashing light bulbs, with the leaks back to my roof and my paper sealed glass. But I will be there. With my fifteen years as a rocker, the walls that have seen a hundred bands and your memories in tow. OUR memories on our backs. Waiting for you.

Photo: Junior Hernández Castro


Photo: Junior Hernández Castro


*This text was published in the No. 11 of Magazine AM:PM

Junior Hernández Castro Junior Hernández Castro Freak and journalist. Reader and sleepyhead. Loves the sound of the keys, but finds it hard to write on demand. More posts

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