If summer festival lineups, Billboard charts, and Snapchat stars counting hundreds of thousands of teen viewers are any indication, rap is the new pop in 2016. But here in South Florida, punk-rockers NOFX still sell out a midsized venue like Revolution Live, homegrown minifests still boast post-hardcore acts like Further Seems Forever, and aging legends like Van Halen and Mötorhead were still some of the most exciting acts to breeze through our muggy environs in the past year.
Earlier this year, a new venue in Fort Lauderdale cropped up bolstering the idea that at least for us, rock is far from dead. Located upstairs from Trio Bierhaus and Trio Bistro (formerly Fritz and Franz Bierhaus and Bouillabaisse, respectively) along Commercial Boulevard, Trio Live! is the latest local nightclub shooting big for that old rock 'n' roll glory.
Its grand opening in February found the club at capacity three times over. Its main draw? For grownup fans who might not have the patience for grungy bars offering similar styles of music, Trio offers high production values in an upscale atmosphere with a more laid-back crowd.
"We don't water down our music, and we don't water down our drinks," Trio's co-manager Bill Murphy laughs over a busy weekend night. With experience spanning local radio, singing lead in the local band Nobody's Fault, and freelance record engineering, Murphy's music chops inform his work raising Trio as a higher-end venue for rock patrons. He often runs the club's mixing board himself.
Co-manager Michael Mark also claims past experience as a radio DJ and has run bars and nightclubs for 35 years. He knows what it takes to make the business side of things work — but not at the expense of excellence. "These clubs all just take these bands in because they're looking for the numbers; they are not looking for quality," he says. "They're looking for whoever puts the most asses in seats and sells the most drinks."
With Trio Live! Murphy and Mark cut out the fat for discerning music lovers, booking bands only once they've met the venue's rigorous standards. "We want people to know that they can come here reliably and consistently for quality music," Mark says, recognizing that with a venture as precarious as a nightclub, their reputation is at stake every night.
Though Trio's programming emphasizes rock music, it offers a little something for everyone. Wednesday is blues night with the South Florida Blues Society, and Thursday is jazz night with MaddJazz Presents with the Maddox Music Group. Comedy shows happen once a month, and acoustic and solo acts warming up the crowds most nights.
But on Friday and Saturday, expect nothing but sweet, face-melting rock 'n' roll. The classic American style is meant to be played loud, and Trio is generous with its ampage. But since the venue has been painstakingly optimized for killer acoustics, patrons can still carry on conversations without having to yell.
"We're more of an intimate club," Murphy says. "We're not a high-ceiling, warehouse-style venue. The big star of this club is the sound — we have an outstanding sound system. When this place was built, someone really did their homework and assembled it to be acoustically perfect." In fact, the entire sound system is analog, giving discriminating music lovers the raw, grainy character they crave but can rarely find.
"We're old-school guys... There's other clubs in the area that offer live music and have DJs, but I don't think there's anybody who's really trying to bring back from our generation what's been lacking in Fort Lauderdale for a long time, which is an old-school music room with good, clean sound," says Mark.
With a new all-vinyl night in the works, Mark and Murphy hope to catch some of the resurgent record wave. "That guitar isn't crystal-clear, but you can hear the guys' fingers sliding down the guitar — people want that stuff," Mark says. "Digital is great, but it's never been able to capture the beauty and sound quality of analog."
Lake Worth music lovers Rick Briscoe and Donna Callahan make the drive to Trio several times a month. "We come for the music. The acoustics, the sound, and the dance floor are just fantastic," Callahan says, slathering an enormous Bavarian Bier Pretzel with beer mustard. Trio offers a full bar and reserved seating at stage-front tables with plush cloth chairs. A full menu is available for the late-night crowd until 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
2871 E. Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. No cover charge most nights. Call 954-372-8820 or visit Facebook.