Fat Cats (a.k.a. Frat Cats) was packed with kids wearing flip-flops and Mardi Gras beads even though it was just about April. On-stage, there was some sort of small black box, but the ridiculous amount of fog blowing from a huge fog machine blocked most of the view. Then, a red beam of light shot out of the box. A laser light show. Awesome.
Next door to Fat Cats, Capone's was similarly packed with young urban professionals; there was even a guy wearing a sweater around his neck. The aneurysm-inducing sound of trance blasted from inside. Maybe that's why everyone was outside. Same goes for Rush Street, where apparently there is a dress code that requires men's shirts to be missing the top three buttons.
Moving on... Side Bar: bleh. Tarpon Bend: hippies and people too young to hang out at Christopher's just yet. Porterhouse: Chodefest 2004. Voodoo Lounge: Did Liberace's house throw up in here? And in all the aforementioned clubs, the same dull dance tunes were playing. If you stood in the middle of the street, all the acoustics would have come together to make one loud, shitty song.
The real gem was glittering next door to Tavern 213, in the narrow confines of Bar. A small crowd spilled out into the street as the sounds of Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" spilled out with them. The sign next to the entrance advertised $1 tequila shots and $2 Sex on the Beach shots. Two men, both with blond highlights, played acoustic guitars. As a woman in a jeans skirt and white halter top ground against one of them, the other, his eyes closed, tore into a five-minute solo, which was about four minutes and 30 seconds too long. Everyone in Bar was completely entranced by these tools. Guys in muscle T's played air guitar.
If this sounds frightening, it's because it is. The few good venues for live music downtown -- Tavern 213, Dicey Riley's, and the Poor House -- are up against the silk-shirt crowd. Hopefully, a revolution is on the way. The huge, square, black mass has been an eyesore for months, like a pox upon downtown Fort Lauderdale. People were afraid to go near it; mothers pulled their children away quickly. There were rumors that it was haunted by the ghost of old man Crenshaw and that if you looked in the upstairs window late at night, you could see him holding a $9 rum and coke, his eyes glowing with something like... revenge.
What was once the Edge, then the Chili Pepper, and last year, briefly and tumultuously, Star Bar/Venu, has been taken over by more capable hands. And these hands want to slap downtown folks out of their shiny-pants dance trance.
On a sunny afternoon, Mike Feinberg, a tall, friendly guy who recently moved to South Florida from Orlando to manage the club, walked me through the gutted, gray, cement interior of what will soon be called Revolution. "We want to be the anti-South Beach," Feinberg says as we stroll along the second floor, overlooking the outdoor stage. About $2 million has been dropped on renovating the problem-plagued venue, Feinberg says, and he plans to open in June. "We want to be a proponent of the local scene," he says. "And I think we could be a unifying force." Feinberg describes the theme of the club as "a 1960s Third World embassy being overrun by revolutionaries -- a guerrilla-camp environment." A camp that is estimated to hold roughly 1,200 people in the main room and the outside stage. Feinberg hopes to put on two to three concerts a week, featuring both local and national acts, at an affordable price. "We just want to diversify the area," he says. "Underground hip-hop one night, rock the next, just get people out and interested in stuff they might not know about. And Shepard Fairey, the guy who does all the underground art [most notably the "Andre Has a Posse" and "Obey" stickers and graffiti stencils with Andre the Giant's mug that have appeared on street signs and benches across the country; you've probably seen one -- you just don't know it], is doing the design for the club. I'm a strong believer in do-it-yourself."
If Feinberg and his posse follow through on what they've got planned for their Revolution -- and that is a big question -- they could finally awaken the giant that has been slumbering on SW Third Avenue. Let's hope the big guy isn't cranky.