Ray's of Light

One of Clematis Street's hippest hangouts could use a handout

Keeping an open mind toward new music and young crowds, Carbone has taken chances on the obscure-but-fascinating Pygmy (named Best Rock Band in our Best of Broward-Palm Beach issue last month) even in the face of diminishing returns. Following a fire in the club and a divorce within the past two years, Carbone has plunged himself into nighttime bartending at his namesake watering hole. Unlike the clubs at the other end of the street that are forever trying to conjure up a new concept to help flatten the wallets of the undiscerning, Ray's has no concept whatsoever. Sometimes there's a band on-stage. Sometimes not.

"Last night I had more fun being in there from 9 [p.m.] till 2 [a.m.], spinning my own shit," he says, " just playing all sorts of different music from Sinatra to Zeppelin to Morphine to Charlie Parker. There were only 20 or 30 people in there, but everybody made a comment about it."

Young, well-financed downtown entrepreneurs keep floating ideas past Carbone, who keeps shooting them down. "Let's turn it into a go-go club with girls in cages," one suggested. Carbone screws his grizzly face into a scowl. His answer? "Dude, whatever."

Like the Poor House in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Ray's key to happiness is live music. In that regard, Ray could use a little help: maybe a young ear to the ground who's hip to national bands touring the peninsula. Snagging a couple of those would help, he concedes, but not enough. "Who do I have to bring in there?" he asks. "One act, ten acts, 20 acts that I can bring in that'll catch me right up? No."

On a recent Saturday night, local blues songstress Kelley Richey performed at Ray's. "I made $200 over what I paid her," Carbone reports. "I had a punk show the night before, with all the punk kids screaming they want more punk stuff. I give 'em shows with, like, eight different bands, and I make $400 the whole night."

Occasionally, Ray's hosts a local band with a big draw, like Box Elder, which always packs the room. "And I'll ring $3,500, and I can't ring more because there's too many people and not enough of me," Carbone laments. "I'm just trying to shovel beer out there fast enough. At that point, it's not about the music; it's about shoveling liquor. It gets frustrating."

So far, it's been begging and borrowing, but no stealing. Yet. "I don't want to shut it down," Carbone says. "I really don't."

Next week: The summertime blues colors Clematis Street.

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