FastForward is a weekly column documenting the nighttime scene in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach County. It's a weeknight stop at your neighborhood dive; it's a blurry, bass-filled Friday night in the club; it's that one moment in a conversation you hope you'll remember the next morning.
"We wanted something cheeky," says Ed Whitty, a bearded, reflective shades-wearing Irishman from behind the decks this past Sunday at the launch of Spank Sundays. "F**k Monday. Spank Sunday," reads their slogan.
The rooftop dance party at McSorley's newly-renovated and re-branded Tonic Sundeck adds an eclectic, open-format mix of high-energy techno and tech house music to the otherwise blasé rotation of Top 40 tunes dominating Fort Lauderdale Beach.
"In our humble opinions, too many DJs are only concerned with getting famous, being some sort of rock star. We're doing something different -- we just want to play the music we love and for everyone to come out and have a great time," says Whitty.
Neither Whitty, nor his Spank partner Gabriel Ben, hail from South Florida, but both have been hustling in the scene long enough to know it could benefit from some new life and a fresh perspective. That's why, rather than booking several DJs and squeezing 25 different names onto one bill, the duo are focusing on promoting the party's brand: A no-nonsense, no cover charge, no dress code, "back to basics" music event with cheap drinks and an amazing view of A1A and Fort Lauderdale Beach.
"If you think it's nice now, just wait 'til the sun goes down," says Ben, who agrees the venue was the perfect fit for their new Sunday dance party. The DJ booth is nestled in the corner under a big umbrella, with the expansive blues of the Atlantic and clear skies as the backdrop to the beats.
Originally from Philadelphia, Ben has traveled the world DJing, but has lately taken a break from the circuit to focus on his techno and tech house productions. He linked up with Whitty, who is longtime friends of the McSorley's owners and has also worked at downtown Fort Lauderdale's alternative music staple, the PoorHouse. Together, they came up with the idea for the Spank party, with good vibes, good people, good music as its guiding principles.
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The vibe this past Sunday at the launch fit the description nicely. It was relaxed and unpretentious, while the off-the-main-strip backdoor entrance up to the Tonic Sundeck gave the party a cool underground feel. Think the energy and spirit of a rooftop party in South Beach, with fewer douchebags and less douchey music.
Despite the heat, the thumping bass and ice cold $4 domestic drafts kept people dancing. And, forgetting the fact that the next morning was back to work for most, there was no shortage of tequila and summery mixed shots being downed by rambunctious groups of friends from large, neon plastic shot glasses.
A natural flow of party-goers rotated from outside on the dance floor to the inside second-floor bar, where darkness and air conditioning offered a nice respite from the intensity of the summer heat. As the sun began to set, more people filed in to keep the party going until 9 p.m..
For now, Whitty and Ben are unsure whether the party will be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly -- they're waiting to gauge the response and see if this is something Fort Lauderdale wants, even if they don't know it yet. Considering McSorley's was previously closed on Sundays, it could be a challenge filling up the large venue week after week. But the potential is certainly there.
As large Fort Lauderdale clubs like Off the Hookah continue to book more and more big-name, bottle-service EDM acts, Whitty and Ben's Spank Sundays offers a laid-back, alternative daytime dance party, where a regular rotation of guest DJ friends will keep things fun and fresh.
Follow Spank on Facebook to keep up and find out when the next party will take place.
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