Calibrations

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley is precisely the sort of cavernous, musician-friendly establishment that "Bonefish" John Stacey and Carl "Kilmo" Pacillo had dreamed of opening practically since the night they met at the Ancient Mariner Restaurant 17 years ago. Their club, which opened for business last Friday night in Sunrise, is a celebration of South Florida swamp culture. Framed turn-of-the-century lithographs -- many depicting Seminole Indian scenes -- and comical Florida tourist brochures adorn the walls of the 10,000-square-foot room. An immense stuffed alligator, donated by the Seminoles, resides on the floor just inside the entrance. Other totems to the swamps and the Indians who first inhabited them are scattered throughout the club.

Until six months ago, Bonefish and Kilmo were steadily gigging in the area with their greasy, funk-based band, the Shack Daddys. An offshoot of the semilegendary local funk outfit, Groove Thangs -- of which Bonefish's brother "Down" Pat Stacey was the semilegendary singer -- the Shack Daddys, according to Bonefish, "never found a place to call our own. Nobody would pay…. The idea of a creative bar band here was a very hard row to hoe." With that in mind, Kilmo, along with what he calls "a consortium of unnamed investors," purchased the space in the Sunset Square Shopping Plaza formerly occupied by Mr. Laff's West when the ill-fated, line-dancing, country bar went on the block earlier this year. For nearly six months, Kilmo, Bonefish, and a host of others busied themselves by transforming Mr. Laff's into what they hope will become the premier music club in South Florida.

Everyone involved is to be commended. Alligator Alley is a wonderful music club. There isn't a single hideous neon beer sign, pool table, or TV in the joint. Drinks are cheap, and with three bars there's no waiting all night for service. The menu is full of affordable, regional cuisine. The sound is stellar, and the sightlines to the main stage are uniformly clean and unobstructed. (A second, smaller stage, with an adjoining dining room and yet another bar, resides in the north wing of the club.) Kilmo and Bonefish are intent on booking quality national and local acts and vow to maintain a venue for musicians where they will be treated with courtesy and respect instead of like mongrel dogs begging for handouts. They promise a warm, inviting club where you -- the savvy consumer -- can throw down your hard-earned cash and for a change feel like you're getting something of equal or greater value in return.

Time will tell if Kilmo and Bonefish stick to their noble intentions or if people will even respond in profit-turning numbers to a topflight music club. Kilmo says that his demographic studies indicate that Sunrise is the happening place to be, and he seems unbothered by a population of locals whose tastes in music might be something less than discerning. "If bad music doesn't bother them," he says, "then good music shouldn't confuse them, either."

Alligator Alley certainly got off to a rousing start last Friday night. A bit rusty after their six-month hiatus, the Shack Daddys themselves -- Kilmo on vocals and bass, Bonefish on vocals and mostly rhythm guitar, Raiford Starke on vocals and mostly lead guitar, Bob Taylor on keyboards, and Jeff Renza on drums -- inaugurated the main stage with three strong sets of reggae, zydeco, blues, and funk. "We're trying to put the swamp back to where the swamp used to be," Bonefish announced to a crowd that fell a few hundred bodies short of the club's maximum capacity of 544. "Ya know we're all standing right where the swamps used to be."

According to Kilmo and Bonefish, Friday night's opening was just a "dry run" for their fledgling club. They want to work out the kinks in the sound system and allow their cooks, wait staff, and bartenders ample opportunity to acclimate themselves to their surroundings. Basically they want their place running as smoothly as silk before announcing its grand opening sometime later this fall.

For now, however: Alligator Alley, 2079 N. University Dr. (in the Sunset Square Shopping Plaza), Sunrise, is open daily from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays until 3 a.m. Live music nightly. Call 954-568-0175.


If Saturday night rolls around and you suddenly find yourself with an insatiable Jones to hear one of the finest -- if not the finest -- roadhouse rhythm-and-blues bands on the planet, here's what to do: Throw on some clean, casual threads, jump in the salt-corroded jalopy, and head on out to the Back Room in Delray Beach for an evening of exquisite revelry with the nine-piece pride of Providence, Rhode Island, Roomful of Blues. Trust the ever-thoughtful Calibrator, you won't be sorry.

Roomful of Blues has been touring the world virtually nonstop for more than three decades. Though the ensemble has undergone innumerable personnel changes and no one remains from its original lineup, the group's sound -- dance-inducing rhythms with a big backbeat; tight, swinging horns; dynamite vocals; explosive solos all around -- has remained remarkably consistent and irreproachable over the years. The latest version of Roomful has five new members, including lead vocalist Mac Odom, whose style leans toward contemporary soul and R&B. Roomful of Blues is what some folks call "a musician's band." It's never had a pop hit, and it's never broken out of the worldwide club-and-bar circuit; nonetheless the group has garnered four Grammy nominations and a veritable truckload of reader's- and critic's-poll appearances. Roomful's press bio declares the band a "quintessential American institution." Though that's typical press-bio blather, it also has the distinction in this case of being absolutely true.

Send whatever ya got that's good to Calibrations, P.O. Box 14128, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302 or e-mail to: David_Pulizzi@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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