Whiskey on Beer
A storied documentary that beckons all who have a passion for music
February, 2019, Savor Cinema, Ft. Lauderdale—Whiskey on Beer, a documentary about the punk rock band Load.
Whiskey on Beer is more than a documentary about the band Load, it is more than a documentary about a lead singer in his prime plummeting, it is a timeline about Robert “Bobby Load” Johnston’s life from cradle to grave. And yet, The Brothers Ahmed, Gary and Rick who produced this film documentary, allow you to comprehend Bobby’s life with personal accounts of adoration and vignettes from venues.
I met Bobby working at the Nocturnal Café (now the Poorhouse) in Ft. Lauderdale in 1995 when I was a short-order cook. He was a nice guy who introduced himself and talked about his band, Load. He was a recognizable force each time he entered the café to have a beer or in social circles when my friends and I would see him downtown. People always talked about Load as a great punk band and his persona as a front man. Once I recalled someone talked about his hardcore drinking and engaging performances and how his mom’s strong religious beliefs were the complete opposite of his character. On the latter, it was not in a disrespectful manner about his mom, but that Bobby would tell whoever entered his home what to expect. Aptly put, everyone knew about Bobby and his band.
I was also fortunate to meet many people who partied or played at the Nocturnal Café or socialized downtown from music venues to pubs. In the length of my three years hanging out in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, I would remember some of those people from a period bygone and Bobby was one of them. Twenty-three years later at an open mic night at the Zen Mystery Tea House, located in Dania Beach, I would hear Bobby’s name again.
After a few performers, a singer-songwriter named Jeanne Partridge took the stage with guitar in hand. She played a few songs then told the intimate crowd a story about her next song called, “Bobby Load.”
I met him in 2009 in Octopus, in downtown Hollywood. I didn’t know who he was since I only moved to Florida in 2007. Some of my musician friends quickly let me know he was a local legend. He was on the skids when we met but man, he could still sing! I liked him. Don’t think he ever learned my name; when he saw, me he always said, “You’re the chick that sings that Patti Smith song.” I bought a couple pieces of his artwork that he carried around in a backpack. One time I gave him a ride when he didn’t have bus fare. Another time he literally blew his partial out of his mouth while belting out a song… I found it on the floor and he popped it right back into his mouth. — Jeanne Partridge
When Jeanne referenced Bobby’s name and led into ‘local legend,’ I knew who she was talking about. After she finished her set, I approached her and said that I too knew Bobby. I didn’t think about Jeanne’s song until I saw that Savor Cinema was having a premier called Whiskey on Beer. When I learned this documentary was about Load, I knew I had to attend. And what I learned is that our timetables were bookends of a punk group on the verge of becoming something great and Bobby’s life thereafter.
In Whiskey on Beer, I learned that my moment and her story were part of many experiences people shared with Bobby. In addition to the table of contents about Bobby, Whiskey on Beer offers the scope of Load in the South Florida’s music scene in the early 90’s, an equally telling story.
Whiskey on Beer is exceptional. The film’s montage is meticulous with interviews from the remaining band members (Fausto Figueredo and Tony Qualls), a popular public radio show host who treasured the band, other bands during that era, and his brother who discussed the struggle Bobby had with alcohol. This documentary is deliberate with the preface that Bobby is the story. It was prepared for an audience abroad because whether you live in Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville or Seattle, Whiskey on Beer is a relatable story about a band attempting to make it big. However, you experience Bobby’s timeline before and after Load’s stint, and this is the major part of the film’s essence.
Robert Johnston, known to many as Bobby Load, died in 2012 and The Brothers Ahmed pay tribute to him as well as Load’s other band member, Jeff Tucci who died in 2014. The narrative is now in the annals of music and rightfully so. Whiskey on Beer is a compelling documentary that beckons all who have a passion for music.