Gaby's Lounge

You take one more shot at the bar and you're basically ready to sing your favorite song in front of a crowded room of strangers. Then you turn back for another. Just because. OK, now you're totally ready to belt it out — you're going to morph into Madonna up there! You are the Material Girl! You grab the mic and grab your crotch and say, "Come on! Vogue!" At Gaby's in Pembroke Pines on Thursday nights, you're not alone on the karaoke stage. And we're not talking about the 20 of your best friends yelling the lyrics into your ear; we're talking the band Boys Night Out, bringing Rockstar karaoke to this strip-mall staple. This live act plays instruments while you stumble drunkenly through the tunes of Metallica or Usher or Evanescence. And when you can't rap along with Biggie, Merv Thompson, Erin Hagerty, Wayne Hood, and David Bertok are there to help pick up your slack. These guys have been around for about a gazillion decades, or maybe like three, so they know what you're trying to say, and they'll sing it for ya. Ladies drink free till 1, so no doubt you'll be nice and lubed for your big moment in the spotlight. Now, sing!

Nope, that wasn't an earthquake. Those shaking windows and shivering chandeliers, that was Latrice "Mother*[email protected]#in'" Royale's booming voice rocking the whole of Wilton Manors. You can just hear the supersized mama yelling "The shade of it all!" while flapping a Spanish fan in front of her big, brown, lacquered face. Latrice Royale. She's a woman, but she's more than twice your size. The dazzling drag queen, born Timothy Wilcots, was a fan favorite on season four of RuPaul's Drag Race and RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race. A longtime Hollywood resident, the divine diva spends her time, as Royale'd put it, "showin' off my curves 'n' swerves," in the heart of gay Fort Lauderdale. You can find her taking over (and up!) the stage at the Manor, Boom, and Bill's Filling Station. But before the glamour and stardom, Wilcots was just a little black boy growing up in Compton, and prior to ruling the airwaves, she spent a stint in the slammer for a drug-related crime. But a star is identified by his, or her, ability to shine brightly through the darkest galaxy, and that is exactly what Ms. Royale does best.

A local music festival was born on April 20, 2013, in a whirl of tattoos, plaid skinny jeans, guitars, turntables, and dancing feet. This bouncing baby was named Block x Blog. It swept through Revolution Live, Green Room, and America's Backyard on the international day of stoners and Record Store Day, bringing with it a barrage of admirers. A particularly ambitious effort, the festival was given life by Subculture, Revolution Live's 3J Hospitality, and the force of all the other most powerful cultural players in the Fort Lauderdale scene. And by ambitious, we mean, 30 local acts playing original and quality music, all in one night. Block x Blog brought down DFA's Holy Ghost! from New York to get buzzing butts to the dance floor. Revolution bumped with bleeps by many electronic acts, including Afrobeta. Green Room was packed with live art, Mario Bros, and rock 'n' roll by bands like Jacuzzi Boys. Black Locust Society brought its enduring, hip-hop-tinged party Swarm to America's Backyard, turning that motherfunker out. Unlike huge festivals with mostly out-of-towners, like the former Langerado, Block x Blog takes a homegrown, and thus successful, approach to concert planning. It's planted the seeds, the music grew tall and strong, and the people grazed. They all left full and fueled for the next big Broward party.

The Manor Complex
Candace West

The thump of the bass is making your teeth shatter. You're smashed between the sweaty pumped pecs of a beefy Italian on one side and the sequins of a drag queen's dress on the other. Your arms sway to the sounds as rainbow-colored confetti falls lightly on your wet shoulders, sticking to your hair. Your drenched tank top is shoved into the pocket of your pants. Who the hell needs a shirt when you have the Manor? Chandeliers and disco balls hang mostly pointlessly as laser lights shoot through the dense air, thick with beats and human heat. The best decorations in the room are the go-go boys flexing and pumping the air. From the DJ booth, Kidd Madonny, or maybe it's Tracy Young, spins and strikes poses. The only cool thing in the room is the fog machine, which makes it even harder to see the dude you're grinding up against. Your boyfriend and your bottle are waiting for you at VIP, but they'll still be there when you're done with this song and maybe the next one too. This is the most fun you've had in years. Nothing, not even love, will drag you off this dance floor.

Respectable Street

Residing on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach since 1987, Respectables is the longest-running nightclub in the southeastern U.S. — and for good reason. Not only does RSC feature local and nationally known DJs to curate dance-floor shenanigans throughout the week but it's also been a hub for some of alternative music's most crucial musicians. With a simple stage sitting about four feet off the ground, the view is perfect from anywhere in the venue, and the understated hardwood floors are perfect encouragement for sound quality. When the weather is on its best behavior, there is plenty of room on the patio for alfresco tuneage along with an auxiliary bar, so you never have to wait too long for a drink. Lining the walls are plenty of opportunities to kick it and relax if you don't feel up to getting down on the dance floor on nights when the venue hosts parties, but if you're looking for the full RSC experience, you'll want to head out on a Thursday for the weekly edition of Flaunt. There, you'll get to take advantage of drink specials on the basics while the spotlight turns to local music. Two or three bands every Thursday from as close as Lake Worth and as far as New York play Respectables, and after the bands are packed away, the DJs are ready and waiting. Respectables is known for its theme nights (cheesy '80s prom night!) and often hosts cultural events where art and music meet. RSC is truly a melting pot on any given night and a staple in the South Florida music scene.

Gryphon

"Techno and tacos" are two things DJ Donnie Lowe loves in this world, along with making people dance, of course. Resident DJ at Gryphon Nightclub, located at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Lowe has been spinning records for the past five years. What sets Lowe apart from a lot of young DJs is that he spins wax as opposed to working straight off of a MacBook. "My mentor Matt Spector showed me how important it was to run vinyl exclusively. He wouldn't let me switch the record until the mix was perfect," he says of honing his art. One thing is clear from Lowe's sound: He has respect for his predecessors, especially those he's responsible for opening a room for, understanding the delicate balance of setting the stage and stealing it. You can find Donnie Lowe spinning at Gryphon, where he started as a promoter and shows genuine appreciation for his workplace. Humble and talented, Lowe isn't worried about everyone knowing him as much as he wants to ensure he's doing what he can to evolve as a musician. His first recording was released in 2012, and there's a lot more where that came from. If you have a taste for blowing off steam and shaking that ass, Lowe can help you with that. "You never know when someone's had a terrible day, but all it takes is one minute of mixing to get them dancing and you can see them just putting whatever it is behind them," he says. Keep an eye out for him this year, as he's got a few things lined up for release. He's all over SoundCloud, and you should be all over him.

Cowboy's Saloon

It's Friday night. That means ladies' night at Cowboy's Saloon. So squeeze into some Tight Fittin' Jeans, hop into your Big Ol' Truck, and head over to the unassuming strip mall in Davie. Once inside, check out the talent — Wrangler's, cowboy hats, and heeled boots all around. Country Girl, Shake It for Me — you say to one ponytailed hottie. You tell her you're looking for A Little Less Talk, a Lot More Action. She's a Whiskey Girl — she understands. You hit the dance floor for some line dancing and score her a shot in a Red Solo Cup. Chicks drink free, and Tequila Makes Her Clothes Come Off. I Love This Bar, you tell her. Tip It on Back, she says. The Gambler in you knows, if you play your cards right, you could end the evening with Nothing On but the Radio. After a few rounds of Boot Scootin' Boogie, you and your dance partner hit the road. Cowboy, Take Me Away, she says. You oblige. Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy. When dawn breaks, you drop her home and speed away like the devil. It's The Cowboy in Me, you say to yourself. And next week, you'll do it all over again. After all, life is short. Gotta Live Like You Were Dyin'.

America's Backyard

It's Thursday night. While you could stay home in your Pink sweats and watch Community, you and your friends are totes down to get shitfaced instead. YOLO and all that. So throw on some high-waisted neon shorts, scrounge up some stray dollars from the couch cushions, and make your way to America's Backyard.

College night means $1 drinks, $1 drafts. Challenge your roomies to an epic beer-pong battle ($10 unlimited all night) — loser does the laundry. Make it rain pennies from the second floor. Drink from a PBR pitcher. Hula-Hoop on a bar top. Do shots. Lots of shots. Make out with a stranger in the bathroom. It's the broad spectrum of college debauchery, all rolled into one two-story coed wonderland.

Does the fact that you're 32 make this weird? Nah. Everyone loves Old School, after all. Just try to keep the streaking to a minimum.

Cubby Hole

No offense to the gays of Wilton Manors, but sometimes that scene can be a little elitist and thus borrrring. It's on those downer days that you need to march your queer ass over to the Cubby Hole. It's located in one of the coolest strip malls ever, right next to Radio-Active Records and Arcade Game Sales. (Just let the giant bear claw lead the way to this straight-up divine dive.) These dudes call their spot "the best li'l butch bar in Fort Lauderdale," and man, are they into some hairy shit. Over at the Cubby Hole, they prefer their men masculine. Bear Chest Thursdays'll get you two-for-one drinks, as will Underwear Wednesdays (wear only underwear!) and Boxers and Briefs Mondays. These guys reward nude behavior with libations, and God bless 'em for it. They've got butch burgers, butch billiards, and butch dudes. Not everyone wants a tiny twinkie; some of us hunger for more — for man meat, a delicacy best found served warm and wet at the Cubby Hole. They're friendly to the straights here too.

Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen

The pub craze is blazing through Fort Lauderdale; some are as old as the city itself (or so they smell), and some are so new that the paint on the sign hasn't even dried before every seat in the house is filled. Almost overnight, the Royal Pig Pub appeared on the west end of Las Olas and has become an instant classic. So what does the Pig have that plucked patrons from the plethora of pubs reproducing in the BroCo? Beer. And not just any beer but probably the most extensive list on the drag. Sixteen brews on tap, including its own "Royal Pig" red ale and the perfect beer for South Florida weather, Magic Hat #9 (not easy to find on tap around these parts). On top of the tap options, about 20 other beers are on the list. And you won't even get stuck paying more than six bucks for that beer, which is a rare thing on Las Olas. Believe it or not, with that sort of selection, the beer shares the limelight with an even longer list of wines and a hip little list of cocktails to boot. And while the Pig prides itself on its diverse beer and wine menu, the food menu is nothing to scoff at. The options range from not-so-simple burgers (Cactus Jack Burger) to Cajun fusion pub fare (Fish of the Moment, with grits). Worth looking into for the beer list, worth staying for the food and with the number of televisions in the place — you won't miss that three-pointer because you're sitting at a table.

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