Foundation Class Reunion

Respectable Street turns back the clock

Two months ago, I came across a MySpace group for the Foundation, the long-defunct West Palm Beach club that was the hub of underground music in Palm Beach County (groups.myspace.com/foundationnightclub). But what began as simple cyber nostalgia soon spawned a real-life reunion (or, as MySpace heads call it, a meet-up). And on Wednesday, December 27, the Foundation's (former) resident DJs take over the sound booth at Respectable Street — and many of the club's (former) regulars invade the dance floor.

"The whole thing started off as a joke almost," recalled Brian Jacobs, AKA DJ Messiah. "Someone said, 'Hey, let's have a Foundation reunion at Respectable Street.' But then I ran into Paul (KLoV, DJ and RSC's manager) and brought it up. Two days later, we had the whole thing organized."

The game plan's simple: Inside the main room, Jacobs and fellow Foundation DJs Floyd Kelly and Jeff Wrye rock it like it's 1991. Meanwhile, the Kollektiv crew takes over the back patio with sets by KLoV, de:Struction, meatRabbit, blkvinyl, and gG. But the main event is the reunion itself. There'll be plenty of declarations of "Oh my god, I haven't seen you in years!" and "Whatever happened to so-and-so?" (not to mention my personal favorite: "Oh shit! It's her. Someone hide me!"). Of course, an event like this can only work if enough people are in town; December 27 is as good a time as any.

"We chose that day because people are in town for the holidays," Jacobs said. "There are a couple of people living in New York who are going to be in town. They're going. There's also someone visiting from California who'll be coming up from Miami."

Indeed, nostalgia's a powerful motivator; nostalgic music, even more so. "We'll be playing the same sets we did at Foundation," Kelly said. "That means nothing after 1995 because that's when the club closed."

Yes, it's been 11 years since the Foundation shut its doors. (The short-lived version of the club that reopened a few years later under different ownership was a different scene entirely.) Located at the northwest corner of Military Trail and Southern Boulevard, it was the third incarnation of the venue formerly known as the Pit and 21 North. And in the early '90s, the Foundation was the only place where you'd find goths, punks, skins, metalheads, rude kids — and other varieties of the all-ages crowd — on any given weekend. Though, at first, the club was heavier on the dance nights than live shows. When the Foundation opened in 1991, Jacobs and the late Doug Skullery were among the first to take up DJ residencies.

"One of the things the Foundation was known for was playing the B-sides to the songs you heard at other alternative clubs," Jacobs said. "We'd spin anything from industrial and goth to ska and hardcore. And we were the first club to mix alt music with house music."

But in late '93, one of the club's co-owners bailed (that being Huey, whose last name no one can remember), leaving Bill Hedger in sole charge of the venue. The result was an increase in live music, mostly ska, which drew a younger crowd than before — a crowd whose upbeat vigor made Hedger's deadpan, I've-seen-it-all-before humor all the more hilarious. Here are a couple of Hedger-isms I still recall:

To a ska kid with a trumpet: "What is this, Gettysburg?"

To a friend of mine who aimed his video camera toward Hedger: "What is this? I'm not even running for political office."

And, of course, Hedger's famous answering machine recordings.

"I used to literally call up the club to listen to Bill's message every week, even when I knew what was going on," Kelly recalled. "I remember the incident where Kimsagro took a butchered pig and threw it at the crowd — which basically ended up in a fight with animal rights activists. The next week, Bill's message said, 'Don't worry, we don't have pigs onstage tonight.'"

But that didn't do anything to deter fake animals from being slaughtered, as Wrye pointed out.

"I remember when GWAR played there," he said. "Two years later, the ceiling and stage lights were still covered in fake blood."

Unfortunately, one of things I remember most is how everyone took the club for granted. When the Queers played the Foundation in 1994, there was only one song everyone wanted to hear — "This Place Sucks." And when the band played it, the crowd went apeshit, shouting along and meaning every word of it. But here's the thing: The Foundation was it. There was no other nearby club that catered to all those disparate groups. And though these groups had their own musical preferences and prejudices, the Foundation had a sort of unifying effect on everyone. Back then, I was into punk and little else, yet I'd go to the Foundation every week regardless of what was going on. No bands? No problem. I knew there'd be enough of a crowd to make it fun anyway — even when Huey tried to stop the rock.

"In mid- to late-'93 I was DJing one night and my friend John Juchemich kept begging me to play 'Hells Bells' by AC/DC, so I obliged," Wrye said. "Huey came running up the stairs screaming that he never wanted to hear anything like that again in his alternative nightclub. It was just a few months later that Huey left. The funny thing was that there were more people dancing to AC/DC than there were during the Cure song that had just previously played. That was really one of the greatest things about the type of people that went to Foundation. I could go from some fairly modern techno right into an early '80s Bauhaus song and the majority of the people would continue dancing."

And now 11 years later, the dancing continues — there just won't be any butchered pigs.

 
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