By David Rolland
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In early 2009, Delray Beach developer Robert Workens had no idea that turning dwindling Lake Worth house music club Mix into a live-music venue would have such a profound effect on Palm Beach County's music scene.
Workens turned for advice to the club's redecorator, Bryce Henderson, who was busy outfitting the space at 6 S. J St. as a Communist Lenin-esque shrine. Through Henderson, he found local promoter Steve Rullman, the final piece to the puzzle for a new, essential live-music source, Propaganda, which is now celebrating its one-year anniversary.
"I've had the indie-rock dive-bar concept in the back of my mind for 15 years," says the soft-spoken Rullman, who has booked bands across South Florida since 1991. He had more than a little free time when Workens contacted him because the previous venue where he booked acts, Delray's shimmering City Limits, had just closed. "The guys at Propaganda gave me the opportunity to test my concept with this room, and I was more than happy to oblige them."
6 S. J St.
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Out of Town
The indie-rock portion of Rullman's "indie-rock dive-bar" concept is undeniable, given the slate of up-and-coming acts rolling through. The dive part, however, is less convincing. Besides offering cheap drinks — Surfer Blood vocalist/guitarist J.P. Pitts is a fan of the $4 vodka ice teas — Propaganda is still too spotless to be classified as such. "I've always seen [Propaganda] as more of a clubhouse," Rullman explains, "where people can just hang out and hear stuff they wouldn't normally hear anywhere else."
How does Propaganda compete with bigger venues? It doesn't even want to, according to Rullman. "For me, the idea of our small venue has always been about building a sense of community." In Propaganda, Rullman wants a venue that grows organically in popularity, never something as "clinical" as places like the Hard Rock Live.
Already, local talent fostered at the venue has gone national. Propaganda is where West Palm Beach's current blog-buzz act Surfer Blood cut its teeth. "I thought we were going to be the house band there," says Pitts, "but then we started touring all the time."
Rullman has done more than just book local bands, though. Dashboard Confessional, the Vivian Girls, and Big D and the Kids Table have all played at the bar too. Recently, Rullman's website, TheHoneycomb.com, announced that '90s alternative rock band Cracker will visit Propaganda on Sunday.
Does Rullman ever worry about booking an act too large for Propaganda to handle? "Of course," Rullman says with a laugh. "But that has always been part of the idea: larger-scale acts coming through a small room, where their biggest fans can see them up-close and personal."