As South Florida's urban strip coalesces into one massive megalopolis, some holdouts are attempting to stop the merging burgs from taking on too many attributes of a major metropolitan area -- like noisy nightlife, for example.
The City of West Palm Beach has transformed its brick-lined downtown from a squalid void of empty shops and storefronts into a true oasis of culture. Even Utne Reader thinks so, naming West Palm as the second most livable city in the United States, citing its CityPlace and Clematis Street urban renaissance program as prime examples. The Clematis strip is about as architecturally interesting as South Florida gets and is generally one hell of a fun place to be on a Friday night, boasting five live music venues and plenty of watering holes. But those who want to pitch a tent right in the thick of the action are also among the first to bitch about the lack of peace and quiet -- including the mayor, Joel Daves. In fact Bandwidth has detailed (July 27 and August 3, 2000) the town's decibel-meter enforcement of nighttime noise ordinances around Clematis, spurred by inner-city dwellers bothered by ruckus. I find these individuals to be rather hypocritical: They want the downtown, loft-dwelling lifestyle and the proximity of restaurants, health clubs, and bars but then get bunched panties over the sounds of late-evening music and revelry.
Now Boynton Beach is also poised to clamp down on noisy nightclubs, under a new law that takes effect Tuesday. Bars and nightclubs will have to break out the pillows, sandbags, and egg cartons, hermetically sealing in all sound. Bandwidth believes this law is part of a concerted effort to fool the public into thinking nothing fun ever happens in Boynton Beach -- a campaign that has been extremely successful for a long, long time. And no sooner than the new megaclub Orbit opened in early November did residents begin to fret over the possibility of eardrums assaulted by wayward rock and/or roll.
These whiners insist the city add a provision to a bill passed in September that would force new nightclubs to provide a "sound analysis" and an inventory of the soundproofing measures a club would take to ensure that no innocent passerby be aurally offended. A venue won't even be able to secure a construction permit until it proves it can pass Boynton's strict noise guidelines. In Orbit's case the rule makers appear a tad overzealous: It's not as if the venue abuts a residential area.
"Hell no," barks general manager Bruce Todd. "It's [next to] a shopping center, and there's railroad tracks behind us. When we're having an event, I can't hear anything [if I stand] outside the building."
But that hasn't stopped an uppity group of property owners near Federal Highway from expressing concern that, as Boynton Beach rapidly becomes an entertainment mecca (stifle your chortles, people), the city should have a plan to minimize club noise. Todd admits he's heard some unsubstantiated complaints from a landlord in the residential neighborhood nearest Orbit, though he's quick to dismiss them.
"I find it very hard to believe," he says. "I hate to say this, but most of those people need to turn their hearing aids down. They could probably hear a mouse fart in the next frickin' apartment."
Shiny toys: Just as yours truly is thinking about trading in my old Kenner Close-n-Play and Betamax console for one of these new fancy-ass DVD players or whatever you call 'em, the whole medium adds a new face -- literally. Recognition Media in South Beach has just released "the world's first dance music DVD+," which is actually a single disc with a digital video segment on one side and a straight audio program on the other. (I think vinyl records used a similar format; I'll go to the museum and see.) The first release features East Coast breakbeat specialists Saeed Younan and Palash Ahmed, recorded in Miami Beach, and a sweaty set from British DJ Nick Warren, recorded in the Balearic Island resort town of Ibiza. Side A shows Saeed and Palash gettin' crazy at hot spots like Level, Crobar, and Shadow Lounge, and side B features the audio portion of Warren's weaponry. A separate DVD contains the live film of his performance.
Oh, did I mention that it's Playstation 2 compatible?
One weekend night every month, the British eatery Shakespeare's Pub hosts "Poptopia," a celebration of contemporary British music that features performances by two pop-minded local acts. The last installment was held Friday, January 19. As songs from the likes of Lush and Blur mixed with the clink of pint glasses, Disconnect(formerly Ed Matus' Struggle) scrambled to get to the club on time: Singer and bassist Scott Nixon was delayed at a wedding and thought his band was supposed to play last. Disconnect was actually scheduled to go on first, though its brilliant (though truncated) set didn't get under way until nearly midnight. It was the band's first show without second guitarist Steve Brooks. ("Too many cooks in the kitchen," is how guitarist Juan Montoya summed up that amicable parting.) Brooks is once again adding squalls of delicious feedback to Miami's subwoofer-friendly Floor.
Next up were the Plantation-based glamsters of Fashionista (formerly the Nerve), who explored a set of guitar effects heavy songs very much in the vein of the Smiths, the London Suede, and the happier moments of the Cure. Flamboyant singer Anthony Jacobson stood front and center, sporting a long quiff of dangling hair in danger of sliding right off his head, eyes rolling to the heavens, and an annoying tendency to get his la-la's out with an overabundance of distracting tongue gymnastics. Some of the band's songs, such as "Kids in Stereo" and "Panic Attack" (available soon on a demo CD) have a calculated Britpop feel that Fashionista's press kit says offers an alternative to "a music scene ruled by the insipid and testosterone-saturated." Sad but true.
Get the Music Newsletter
Find out about upcoming concerts and special offers happening in the South Florida music scene.