Boynton Beach has lost its Orbit. The town still claims a 2500-square-foot club housed in a former Winn-Dixie up there in the Gulfstream Mall, but now it's going by the name "Club Ovation, formerly Orbit." The new owners, who took over club operations in January, enjoy the connotations of this new moniker. For the rest of us, however, the term Ovation has come to stand for a brand of hollow-bodied acoustic guitar popularized by Al DiMeola. The old handle seemed more appropriate for the club's strange brew of techno-dance acts, DJs, and heavy metal bands than does Ovation.
Ovation general manager and co-owner Randy Grinter disagrees. "We like the name," he says confidently. "After a change of hands, a name change usually follows. I'm not sure Orbit gave people the impression it was a music-oriented place at all. In my mind, it did not connect with the audience. And a standing ovation is what we want everybody to experience at some point in time in this building. So that name is representative of what we think the experience should be."
To date, audiences haven't been able to do anything but stand, as the venue lacks seating. That's one situation the new owners plan to rectify by adding a VIP area in the back of the club (right where the condiment aisle used to be) and another VIP section flanking the stage for "people in the industry or people we have relationships with," says Grinter. Soon, there'll be 100 seats for folks who want to avoid an SRO environment and upgrade to Very Important status with white linen tablecloths and candles. A hundred chairs in a place that often draws 1000 patrons isn't much, but as Grinter points out, "It's a far cry from what it used to be, which was zero."
Unfortunately, the linen and candlelight are unlikely to help the room's troublesome acoustics, a never-ending source of complaints from attendees. Grinter's crew will attempt to pad some of the walls that tend to bounce and reflect sound, but the corrugated sheet-metal ceiling -- which clearly does not act as a sonic enhancer -- is more problematic, since anything sprayed on it must meet stringent fire codes. "We're trying to change the acoustics of the room, but we're limited in what we can do," explains Grinter. Banners hung from the rafters, he hopes, may help a bit.
Since its opening in November 2001, Orbit brought in national acts that might have chosen to avoid South Florida in the past for lack of a suitable venue. Most of the events were booked by Orlando promoter Harry Tyler of Fat Harry Presents. Tyler's open season ended with the new regime, which has opened up Ovation to other agents and forged a relationship with Clear Channel Entertainment, now the country's largest concert promoter. A show with Drowning Pool and Coal Chamber on March 9 will be the first Clear Channel-sponsored event in the space.
Grinter plans other changes, including an effort to open every night rather than sporadically, as was the case with Orbit. Blue Fire, best known for its lengthy residency at A-Train in Delray Beach, will become Ovation's de facto house band. Plans for a Sunday-afternoon swap jam (a sort of rock 'n' roll flea market where retailers can sell CDs and instruments) are taking shape, so with all that and a load of luck, Ovation could transform itself into a veritable vortex of South Florida music. In Boynton Beach, no less.
"That's the address, but that's not necessarily the destination," counters Grinter. "The destination is Palm Beach County."
Dangerously close to Saturday Night Live's purple-prose parody "Goth Talk" (with your host, Azrael) -- yet still providing a much-needed facet to Broward County's unidimensional nightlife -- are weekends at the Venus Room. Fetish partier, spanking enthusiast, and small-time entrepreneur Joseph Banilla oversees a dark load of garments tumbling through the club on weekends. The Venus Room, like any bat cave worth its bloodworms, is harder than hell to find; it's on Miami Road behind the Coliseum, a huge nightclub just south of the entrance to Port Everglades.
Kissing the hands of buxom fashion plates entering his dimly lit, black-curtained domain, Banilla has been filling Friday and Saturday nights with gothic-industrial fodder courtesy of DJs Falstaff and Ruiner, who spin an assortment of old (Sisters of Mercy, Front Line Assembly) and new (Wolfsheim, Suicide Commandos). Banilla, making room for a scene that had plenty of places to play in the mid-'90s and is now all but dormant, is also hosting live bands under what he calls his "Strange and Beautiful" Showcase, including local outfits Terrorformer and Fainting in Coils.
If the goth scene had continued to evolve, as it did for a few years before freezing in place, it would be far less joke-worthy today (see SNL). Fainting in Coils, consisting of Dorian (vocals) and Amy (synthesizer, etc.), performing February 15, were neither terribly strange nor particularly beautiful (though the room was quite dark; Dorian's makeup and red-lace corset may have actually been quite fetching) but did receive rousing applause at the end of their short, seemingly pre-recorded set. A faulty sound mix seemed to put him and his partner in foul moods, but what do you expect from a guy plagued by "the disquietude of stagnation, the Elysium of love, the malaise of depression, and the heavy heart of abandonment," as his press kit notes?
Find the Venus Room at 2525 S. Miami Rd. in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, check out www.electronicpulse.com.
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