Easin' into Season

When the snowbirds come flocking, the locals start talking

 Dear Snowbird/Tourist/Recent Immigrant:

Welcome to South Florida! This music column is dedicated to you, the flocks of intrepid travelers who packed up the Lexusi or booked overpriced flights so you might sample our region's famously sunny disposition. Let's face it — this is the place everyone wants to be right now. Seriously. Sunburn on Hollywood Beach versus frostbite shoveling the driveway in Teaneck. You made the right call.

Here's an inside tip if you wanna get hip to the local lingo. Now that the Northerners are here and the weather has cooled, we know we've hit that glorious golden time we call, very unspecifically, Season. The name says it all: To us, the rest of the year is a hellish, humid limbo that exists only as a half-real mirage. Season is, among other things, that four-month windfall during which our restaurants, clubs, and concert venues fleece you out of your inheritance, trust fund, stock profits, or whatever stockpile you've accumulated to afford a vacation condo more expensive than most of our homes. So thanks for that.

But you may notice some, uh, ambivalence to your arrival on the part of the local community. Putting it bluntly, we have a longstanding love/hate relationship with you and your out-of-town sense of entitlement. So keep in mind that there are a few things you can do to keep us from what we call "going all Russell Crowe on your ass." As long as you tip big, do more than 65 in the fast lane, and generally stay out of our way, we're cool. This place was crowded enough before you got here, so even though we're happy that you and your bankroll came to visit, as you cut us off on the highway or muscle through the Publix Express Checkout with 15 items, remember that four out of five of us are packing a piece. And, by Florida law, we're allowed to shoot you in the back. I think.

Wait, you say. This is a music column. Where's the beat? Well, thanks to you, nightlife-loving locals are now facing bigger crowds and way more Prada than usual. Yes, Season is officially under way, made obvious last Wednesday by the sport-coated, Brooklyn bohos and Eurotrash revelers at Delux, the raucous hipster den on Delray's Atlantic Avenue. Local hero DJ Mark Leventhal spun so-wack-it's-dope '80s radio pop to drunken, Diesel-clad dancers who had no qualms spilling drinks on their expensive shoes.

According to owner Dave Robinson, though, what seemed like an unusual night heralding Season was really just coincidence. New Balance, the sneaker company, was holding a corporate retreat in Boca and had rented the place out for a fashion-forward footwear party.

"It's been an ordeal," he explained. "I've been talking with their people in Boston, New York, a chick in London, a guy in Seattle. The decorator, this guy from Seattle, he had a ten-page outline. He came in a few days ago, and it took him 48 hours to decorate the place."

With that extra-artsy ornamentation and "music curated by" New York promoters Giant Step, there was a decidedly snowbirdish air at Delux. But Robinson said that for him, Season is just another part of the year.

"We get the same numbers business-wise, summertime right through the wintertime. Summertime, you gotta work harder, throw more parties, keep a good vibe, and keep it fresh to keep people interested. Winter, naturally there's more business down here, so you get more people."

Further north, at the Lake Worth gem known as the Bamboo Room, owner Russell Hibbard shared similar sentiments.

"We're fairly constant because of the nature of what we're doing and the fan base, people who are into a broad variety of roots music," he said. "We're not targeting just an 18- to 34-year-old youth market. But we notice it — there's a different clientele coming in, and from now until Easter, we'll be full."

Smartly, Hibbard caters to tourists by marketing in those places where they're known to congregate. "We have concierge packages with all the major hotels — Four Seasons, the Breakers, Ritz Carlton — where the concierge sends people to us," he said. "They call up ahead of time and find out what's going on."

Because of venues like his, plus the growth of major festivals like Blues Cruise, Jam Cruise, and Langerado, wintertime South Florida is an ideal place to book a tour. "When we first opened," he says, "it was like pulling teeth getting agents to understand that, hey, man, the weather is nice, the tourists are here, why are you routing your guy through Iowa when it's fucked up up there? Now everybody knows it."

Only some people — mainly us locals — tend to forget it.

"You have to realize that we're really fortunate to be here in such a great place and we're living our lives off of people having a good time," says Denise Grant, director of marketing for Nocturnal, downtown Miami's vastly successful, 8-month-old nightclub. "Not everybody gets to do that. The good weather makes a difference in every aspect of your life."

Surprisingly, Grant says that she rarely deals with the stereotypical Noo Yawk elitism at Nocturnal. "I think people come to Miami expecting Miami," she says. "They expect South Florida. Between the fact that most people that come here to party are looking for what we have to offer, us specifically at Nocturnal and what South Florida as a festive environment has to offer, I haven't experienced too much of that."

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