Change of Venu
If you've read something in these pages about an upcoming event at the new Club Venu in downtown Fort Lauderdale, and, intrigued, decided to hoof it down there and check out a show... we apologize. God forbid you listened to us and took the plunge.
Some fans grew suspicious not long ago when a slew of shows at the joint were pulled at the last minute. Slowly, media and concertgoers began to figure that Venu plain and simple just didn't have its shit together. Most recently, a November 10 appearance by KMFDM was silenced at the last minute to the dismay of performers and paying public alike.
The band drove down from Tampa, arriving at Venu in the morning only to find that the show that night had been canceled. As a result, KMFDM and crew arrived without a backup plan.
"KMFDM would like to express our deepest apologies to those of you who tried to attend the Ft. Lauderdale Fl Show last night at the Venu Club," wrote leader Sasha Konietzko ("Vowels Optional," Nov. 6, 2003) in an official statement issued through the band's publicist. "When we arrived at the venue we were informed that it was not up to fire code regulations and they would not be able to host a concert there that evening."
The incident caps a string of disappointing no-shows at Venu, including Interpol. Their October 11 concert was moved to Miami citing "space considerations." A date with Sugar Ray set for the following week was scrapped altogether.
Dispensing information at Venu was manager Mike Feinberg. Understandably wary about attracting more bad luck, he was leery of Bandwidth's interest in the canceled shows. "Let me delicately answer this question," he slowly replied to questions about the KMFDM debacle. "We've been having ongoing municipal issues with the property. Unfortunately, we had a bout of municipal issues on the day of the show. It was through no fault of the band."
Wasn't there a way to contact the band's road manager and tell KMFDM not to bother making the trip?
"None of us got a heads-up, unfortunately," Feinberg says. At the end of August, he explained, the club was damaged in an electrical fire, and that precipitated a whole mess of problems at the former Chili Pepper.
"There's been years and years and years of work done on this property without permits, and basically we've assumed the headaches, so to speak," he offers. "But they've all been addressed. Unfortunately, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not the easiest municipality to deal with. We thought everything was copacetic with them, and evidently, at the last minute, it wasn't. We hope we've ironed out all the issues at this point."
Are these the same problems, asks Bandwidth, that led to the cancellation or rescheduling of Sugar Ray and Interpol?
"Uh, I'd just say no comment," answers Feinberg. "I already have enough negativity floating around on this issue, so I try not to pour gasoline on the fire."
Repelling that negativity is his hope for Venu's future. "There's a lot of great stuff coming through, but it's important that we dot our i's and cross our t's with the city on these things," he continues. "We're going to be dumping a ton of money into the place."
The 70-year-old building in Fort Lauderdale's historic Old Town district is under pressure from the city to get those pesky code violations up to speed. The ashes of those club fires in Rhode Island and Chicago -- which claimed scores of lives and hit municipalities in the wallet with crippling insurance claims and big-money lawsuits -- have spurred cities like Fort Lauderdale to crack down hard on nightclubs.
In fact, the February 20 fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, will end up costing the town at least $4 million in insurance compensation, and the city expects to be hit with a staggering $7 billion in additional legal claims. And as we know, the City of Fort Lauderdale is so poor it can't afford fireworks even on the Fourth of July.
Feinberg vowed that a Friday, November 21, show with Atmosphere, Mr. Dibbs, DJ Bird, Micronauts, and Odd Jobs would go on in the face of recent problems. And, in fact, it did. A pair of holiday concerts is also planned. E-40 will appear on Thanksgiving night, and party-hearty rappers Method Man and Redman are set for New Year's Eve. After that, the club will go into "construction mode."
That's not much consolation to KMFDM. Konietzko had more to say about the day in question in an online diary entry posted on kmfdm.com with the header, "November 10th Ft Lauderdale -- The show that wasn't."
"We arrived at the venue at 12 noon only to find out that the cops were there, apparently the venue caught on fire a few months ago and closed down, they planned to re-open today for our show, but weren't up to fire-code yet. So the show was canceled. We felt horrible for the fans but were also kinda relieved to have a day off in Ft. Lauderdale."
So he and the crew set about Himmarshee for lunch, and he made sure to get "sloshed by the time I left... It was raining badly and near hurricane-type winds." After passing out on the tour bus, Konietzko recomposed himself and took the whole band down to Venu to meet the disenfranchised fans, who'd arrived at the club to find it dark. Konietzko and Co. made their way next door to the Poor House.
"[Venu] was dead," he continues, "but there were still some leftover fans from the nonshow around. We met them all and invited them out with us to the next bar, the Elbo Room. We all had a good time at the bar, and it was fun to see the fans and the band just hanging out."
For some of the 20 or so folks who made the trek with the band (which hired a couple of cabs to shuttle the black-clad posse to the beach), a good time was indeed had by all. But, ultimately, the scene casts a stain on the South Florida club circuit's reputation. And in case you haven't turned on a light and taken a good look at that reputation lately, it's pretty nappy in places.
"They could have played anywhere else -- that's what kinda ticks me off," says Justin Howell, who hung out with KMFDM that evening. "People would've paid $20 to go see 'em at the Culture Room.
"It was a fiasco," Howell continues, "but still, it turned into a fun thing." Howell buddied up with a well-lubricated Konietzko at the Elbo Room. "He was... uh... he was really drunk. He was pretty tanked. I guess I would be too. There was nothing else to do."
Howell's still pissed. He perceives Venu as another example of South Florida's proving to be an unworthy destination for those touring acts that are already weighing the pros and cons of journeying here. "And that equals the music scene sucking and everybody trapped in this crapola," he complains. "I'm sorry to use the word -- I know it's a cliché -- but there's no hip place to go."
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