The last time I crashed Crush, the Thursday-night indie-rock party, it was packed with boys wearing short shorts, ties, and sunglasses in '70s tennis player fashion. The Bjorn/Mac/Jimmy wannabes were showing more skin than the virtually nude girls. It was kinda hot, the only drawback being the pretty-boy attitude they were also wearing.
At one point, a young blond in his skivvies approached me at the bar and asked me to buy him a Budweiser.
I said, "Why should I?"
He replied, "'Cause you never know."
Not my type, but I was like "Whatever" and threw it on my tab.
He said, "Thanks," put his half-empty beer bottle down on the counter, picked up the fresh one, and walked away.
Sheesh, I thought, so that's what it's like to be a dude.
I returned to Crush recently but not because I was looking to be abused by another hipster with too high an estimation of himself. No, what brought me out was news that the party had returned to its mainstay venue, the recently renovated Rose and Crown Pub, and was packing the place on Thursday nights.
"Two years ago, when I started this party, there was no scene for this kind of music," 27-year-old promoter Isaac Alexander told me when I asked about the crowded house and indie-rock soundtrack. "Right now, we're really into the Cloud Room and Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah," he said, rattling off danceable alt-rock bands of the moment. The Broward crowds, he says, just prove that young club hounds have some taste.
"It's a small part of a much larger movement that's going on here in Broward. If you compare Miami to Manhattan, Broward would be like Brooklyn," he said. And to help explain what that comparison meant, he added, "It's not how you look. You don't go out to be seen. You go out to have a good time."
In Broward, in other words, looking good isn't the only thing, ass isn't the only obsession, and you can draw real crowds without treating them like ignorant cattle.
And Alexander isn't the only one promoting that manifesto. I've noticed other encouraging signs of life after dark in our town. Alexander himself puts on a 21-and-over Tuesday-night party at Lush he calls Bling. There's a spanking new party called Velcro at Riverfront's newly opened Brick nightclub where, oddly enough, you can hear indie, Brit pop, '80s, and electro pop in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale's club district.
Which is ground zero for tappin' ass. In the mid '90s, Luther Campbell left his mark nowhere deeper than in Broward County, where those weaned by "the dog in heat" and the "freak without warning" rode their prom dates doggy-style to "Scarred" and continue that not-so-upright tradition in Himmarshee Village to this day.
But before booty, there were those who partied with a blood lust.
Like long-lost lovers, alt/goth culture promoters and Revolution Nightclub (formerly the Edge of Lauderdale's dark-'90s lore) have been performing an elaborate ritual dance to gain each other's interest. Two Thursdays past at 11 p.m., I'm happy to report, local DJ Godfather finally got his end in... to the cavernous club.
The weekly event is called Industrial.
Broke as a joke, I popped in to the sound of Pulp's "Common People" (kick ass!) to witness Revolution submit to being overrun by a throng of plastic-clad doom-and-gloom mongers and was pleased to discover that I could get totally loaded on my scant cash supply. Draft beers and select well cocktails went for a buck.
I snatched up a Yeungling and headed straight for the tall, mustachioed, porn-star-looking Godfather himself. Of the union between his night and the club, he said, "They gave us Thursdays after 90 meetings. I spun first and opened the night with heavy '80s stuff. This is the last chance Broward has to have an alternative scene. We want people to know that it's not totally a bat-cave, vampire kind of night. There's something for everybody."
Indeed, half the fun of going to the previous Thursday-night party at Edge (underage; so what?) was to watch the freaky people get deaky. And nothing's been lost on that front. Scanning the crowd of about 80 people, I resolved to talk to a girl in a black tutu. A beautiful 21-year-old with long black hair, Samara was perched on the edge of a couch in her tutu with plastic corset, intently watching as the red velvet-pantsed front man of Formula Redux danced around the stage singing lyrics like, "To become who I really am."
Melodramatic? Yes, but such an unexpected treat in the age of apathy.
Though Samara usually hangs out in Miami, she said, Revolution's lineup drew her to Lauderdale. "I saw the flier for Formula Redux, and there was going to be a DJ at the Kitchen Club. I was like, 'Fuck that.' Kitchen in Miami is mostly '80s pop now. That gothic scene is fading away."
And that sucks, 'cause she finds goth so hot: "The music style is sexy. These people are characterized as sad, dark, and crazy. It makes you want to be in it more. Everyone is actually very happy."
Displaced nightcrawlers of morbid style, your inheritance has come through. The Edge is calling you home. Same address; it's just called Revolution now.
Slightly more macabre was what sprang to life a couple of weeks ago after the Hollywood City Council stupidly dropped the ax on Club Sonar.
If DJ Godfather's Thursday-night party at Revolution is not a bat cave, Abusement Park's recently revamped Friday-night Vamp party in the Safari Room behind Coliseum nightclub certainly is. I made my way 'round the back of the club at midnight last week to Joseph Bonilla's party. The room was pounding with enough electro, new wave, and EBM to keep the dancers winding wildly. Onstage, two hot females in lingerie were leading the erotic dance. I was surprised at how the space lent even greater intensity to the party that raged for more than a year at Sonar until it was exterminated by the out-of-touch City Council's ban on DJs past midnight.
His party suddenly homeless, Bonilla fortuitously bumped into Coliseum owner Brett Tannenbaum at the City Council meeting, and a new partnership blossomed.
I, meanwhile, bumped into someone myself. Mike, a scary-looking, dark-haired six-foot-five man in three-inch heels was standing next to a girl who was giving me the evil eye and stroking his leg. On the scene for 20 years, Mike recalls the days when Coliseum hosted a similar party when Safari Lounge was called Venus Room. "This space has always been good, but the drinks are expensive," he uttered. As for the goth parties of the mid-decade, he observed: "There's a new, hot crowd that looks like they bought their look at the mall, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's a lot more people here than at other places."
Another turn of fate took me to Karma Lounge, formerly the home of house and weekly D'n'B parties, which has incorporated hip-hop and rock under the ownership of Dave Gaudiana. Saturday is still house with DJ Paul Head. Friday nights feature local bands. And most recently, DJ B-Side has brought his old-school hip-hop party, Sunday School, to the club. The forever-mellow, dance-if-you-want-to vibe of Karma lends itself to a night that slowly unfolds to the sounds of the Beastie Boys, De La Soul, and Run D.M.C.
Danny Christiano, a 23-year-old breaker who spent the night spinning on his head, offered: "This is the best night for hip-hop. The old school is not commercial. This goes back into the roots."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
DJ B-Side, a gentle-eyed spinster with calm demeanor and braids that go well past his shoulders who has been DJing for 18 years, explains the concept: "The Sunday School party started when I lived in Texas catering to groups who needed an outlet. It's a little retro, funk, and reggae. Here, everybody is doing commercial, mainstream stuff downtown. I cater to the 28-to-32 crowd that remembers this stuff. I try to keep it between genres so the kids can get into it too."
Still, something's been missing from Broward's night scene, and that's a self-aware dive bar, a place for low-brow culture tourists to get a cheap drink on. It's every 20-something's dirty secret desire, and finally, we have our wish. The newly opened Mental Ward's got it down to a science with its beer-pong Wednesdays and drink specials like Tuesday night's $5 all-you-can-drink drafts, aimed at the thin wallets of local college students.
Owner Keith Chiaverini, who also owns local shop Costumes Etc., has given the formerly rundown Alexander's Tavern a makeover and maintains a weekly schedule of live bands like Phoenix Down, Just Joe, and Fate of Cain on the small stage in the club's back room. Mental Ward's laid-back environment and cheap drinks merit a looksee.
Well, now we're getting somewhere. Reggaeton, hip-hop, booty classics, deep house, and now alt- and goth-rockers get their own nights and a cheap dive to chill in after the party. In the end, of course, it remains all about ass. But if I'm going to keep buying beers for boys dressed like Guillermo Vilas and acting like Ilie "Nasty" Nastase, at least I can shake my moneymaker to something worthwhile.