Loud and Fast but Under Control
Whether in tribute to or in defiance of Sting, Roxanne's puts on the red light. Lots of them, actually: the recessed spotlights over the bar, the candles on the outdoor patio, and both lamps in the chill-out room. And could it be a party without the red siren light on the dance floor? The lighting certainly gave a certain urgency to Revenge, the Saturday-night post-punk, death-disco, dark-wave, new-romantic, industrial music party.
I arrived at the Oakland Park joint with my friends Kim and Ike after first stopping by the opening night of the erotic art exhibit at Art Expressions. After an artist's impromptu lecture on mortal vaginas and anxious masturbation, I needed a beer. Any would do, but Roxanne's has a good selection.
"It's gonna be a noise night," Mark, a singer for the Broward metal band Battle Axis, told me as I leaned on the bar waiting for my draft ale. "I was promised only stuff people can't dance to."
He said it like that was a good thing.
Next to him, his buddy with the horn-rimmed glasses set his martini glass on the bar and lit up a cigarette. Among many other tattoos, he had L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E on the backs of his fingers in detailed lettering. A gentleness (maybe it was the vegan pin in his lapel) made me trust him.
I pulled up a bit of space at the bar next to a pretty brunet with a ring through her lower lip. As Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy played on the TV behind her, I offered a compliment on her cotton sundress, which bloomed with roses and skulls.
"That's something I could wear," I said when Maria told me she'd gotten it at Fetish Factory, which specializes in leather and latex, "but I look like crap in latex."
"Everyone looks good in latex," she said. "Old people, fat people: They might not look 21, but they look good."
I guess it really depends on a person's definition of good.
About then my friend Michelle showed up. Her dark-blond hair was hanging in a multitude of fuzzy braids, which she'd topped off with a camo fishing hat. Beneath its brim, her eyes were rimmed with heavy, smudged, black makeup. She fit right in.
"I hate nightclubs," Michelle told me, vibing on the scene and its (actually quite danceable) music that included Moev, Severed Heads, Red Flag, and other little-known "classic alternative dance stuff," as DJ Mikey Ramirez called it. "I'm glad you picked this place."
Outside, it was quite a different vibe: ambient and chill. Ike and Kim had claimed the sofa near the entrance where another DJ was setting up.
"I'm still trying to figure out the connection between 'Visigoth,' the Germanic tribe, and Roman gothic architecture," Ike said as I plopped down next to him.
Since I had no answer, I let him mull over that conundrum while we segued into another topic: Michelle's experience at a very strict Christian college where there were gender-segregated elevators and beaches.
"How'd you get pregnant?" I asked the single mom. "Obviously not in an elevator or on the beach."
"That was later!" she laughed.
I explained that I'd once been born again.
"Once you're born again, you're always born again," she insisted. "You can't be unborn."
I was still processing that idea when the DJ, a lanky guy with tousled hair, came up and interjected: "I just wanted you to know tonight is all about me!"
He laughed good-naturedly and then explained that tonight was the release party for the CD he had compiled jmdj of experimental and progressive South Florida music. He introduced himself: Brendan Grubb. I wondered about both names.
When the music began, Ike and Kim winced. This was the noise part of the evening Mark had spoken of.
"If epilepsy had a soundtrack, it would be this," Ike remarked.
He had a point. Try to imagine the sound of a videogame and a pinball machine simultaneously tortured to death. And that was just the first track.
My friends were fidgeting uncomfortably on the couch directly beneath the speakers trying to talk over the music when they decided they'd had enough. Before they ditched for Peter Pan diner across the street, Ike took a parting shot: "It must be hard to be a hipster. You don't get to listen to good music you only get to listen to cool music."
I wanted to know how to keep abreast of the cutting edge, so I figured I'd ask the expert.
"It's a network," Brendan explained, acknowledging that many of the bands were MySpace friends. "You can download the whole CD for free at listenforclicks.com."
On the table, there were several CDs for sale by the contributing artists. Brendan handed me the free compilation.
"It's mostly just to get the word out," he explained, then laughed again. "Mostly about me."
I appreciated his self-deprecating humor more than the music. But now that Kim and Ike had left, I was alone in my more mainstream musical tastes.
"I listen to this all the time!" said Shanna, a graduate student studying environmental science at FIU.
"I love this!" chimed in Shanna's friend Francesca. "You get lost."
"It's kinda trancy," Michelle agreed.
Brendan had a prediction: "Like any progressive form, eventually it will get watered down and become more marketable."
Well, then, I'd give the stuff a try before it was soggy and sold out. As I tried to develop an ear for the stuff, I started giving the tracks my own names like "Being Stalked by a Ruthless Violin (and Its Piano Accomplice) on a Dark Night" and "R2D2 and His Synthesizer Have a Lover's Quarrel."
It was actually a fun game, but I prefer music I can hum, so Michelle and I headed back inside. I figured I'd get the scoop on hipsters from Mikey, who as a floppy-haired, tie-wearing DJ and indie-music storeowner seemed like a hipster poster child.
"I'm not a hipster. All that hipster bullshit is a farce," he declared. "A certain haircut doesn't make someone a hipster. I'll admit it: I like Phil Collins."
"Me too," Michelle chimed in.
Oh, super, we could all feel it coming in the air tonight.
Next to me, a big dude with a Sacred Heart plug in his ear and a blue tattoo up his neck began humping Mikey. It was a strange way to say hello, for a person, that is. I said so.
Introducing himself as Brooklyn, the 30-year-old straight-edge vegan laughed, and then he set me straight: "The people who are here want to be here; they aren't here to be seen like in downtown Fort Lauderdale."
"Have you gotten any attitudes from people here?" Mikey asked.
I admitted that everyone had been friendly and unpretentious. Even the bartender whose black tank top read "There's glory in subversion. There's glory in destruction" had been as sweet as pie.
"What about the name? Why Revenge?" I asked.
DJ Richard V. fielded that question: "The night's named after a Ministry song... When they were still synth-pop, before he was aggro."
Michelle had just come back from getting her groove on, and I suggested we go to the diner for a late-night (actually, early-morning) bite. On our way out, I asked Mikey about the red light on the DJ booth.
"I have no idea why it's there," he shrugged before adding a wry rejoinder. "The hipsters probably put it there."
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