Downtown Remixed

The underground scene is back in Fort Lauderdale, but is it hotter than ever?

That's because the venue didn't create this party or brand it with its catchy name and flame logo — a promoter and four DJs did. A nomadic bunch, Andie Superstar, Eric Michael K. (AKA DJ Esoteric), Sean Weeks, John Vincent, and the Commissioner are used to venue-hopping. When venues haven't shut or burned down, sometimes the party just outgrew the house.

They'd settled on the name Heater as "a humorous approach" to "how people always say things are hot," explained Eric Michael K., a 28-year-old, full-time DJ. Sporting a star pendant he'd bought at Forever 21, he explained the mission of the "collective": "We want to support local artists — musical and visual; people who are involved in doing things that are underground in all shapes and forms. We're trying to do our own thing and keep it original as much as possible. We're pretty confident that we can make something big happen in Lauderdale that hasn't happened here before."

Historically, these parties in Broward were in less populated areas, mostly Oakland Park. Until Heater arrived, the only place downtown catering to the indie and underground scene was the Poor House.

Tony Gleeson

"We gotta be in downtown to compete with downtown," Weeks said.

The competition was what Eric Michael K. called "the same lousy cover bands and songs coming out of every club."

I agreed. The scene needed to mix it up — a remix, if you will. But four DJs? Sounded to me like a case of too many cooks.

"Everyone brings something to the table," said Vincent, who also DJs Flaunt at Respectables and works a day job as an assistant editor of the Sun Sentinel's society section.

So what was hot on the turntable scene?

"The whole electronic thing was hot for a while," Vincent said, explaining that interest had shifted from that to "dirty garage bands."

Sean Weeks, godfather of the collective at 31, agreed that the next big thing was "definitely a live sound."

And fashion?

"I don't give a shit about fashion. If it was up to me, I'd be wearing a robe," Vincent said disdainfully, though his red-and-white-striped shirt looked new. "OK, that's a lie," he conceded. "I'm wearing skinny jeans. I've worn baggy jeans all my life, but I just think these look better."

Before Weeks left for the nightly giveaway — a poster that he'd created in his other life as a graphic designer — he introduced me to his girlfriend, Stephanie Rae, who'd raided her roommate's closet for the vintage navy striped and polka-dotted dress that she'd paired with her cowboy boots. The two had met thanks to the underground scene, when she'd spotted him at Roxanne's as he danced to "I Don't Want to Be Alone Anymore."

"It was iconic," she told me.

Sean nodded. "She's the best thing I got out of the place."

Inside, a few couples were looking to achieve their own best on the couches by an empty stripper pole. But most of the seating accommodations — the modular chairs by the couches, the high-backed, padded booths along the wall — were vacant. Even before someone busted out the Hula-Hoops, this was till a crowd of movers and shakers at nearly 3 a.m.

Evan headed out as Miss Kittin purred the lyrics to "Frank Sinatra" ("suck my dick, lick my ass"). We said goodbye while women undulated on a stripper pole on an illuminated plexiglass bar top.

But I couldn't leave before I'd heated things up on the dance floor, so I claimed a concrete square of space next to a guy whose pink satin lapels and pink Converse set off his black outfit and bobbed and weaved to Avenue D, the Miami duet who conversed ("Do I look like a slut?" "Uh-huh." "Shut up.") over more electroclash beats. I don't know if you could call my moves hot, but thanks to Heater, I was at least a little warmer.

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