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Ten Marvelous Milestones From Dada's First Decade

In a June 29, 2000, article about Delray Beach restaurant/performance space Dada (or "DaDa" for some) in this very paper titled "Get Yer Dada Out," John Ferri describes the Salvador Dali-inspired bulbous black ants on the walls of the 1924 Tarrimore House and how it was inspired by the famous literary nightclub Cabaret Voltaire. "It's a little bit more of a beatnik coffeehouse. No loud music. No dancing," owner Rodney Mayo said at the time. A decade later, the intersection of art, culture, and cuisine is still present at 52 N. Swinton Ave. -- but the music is often a lot louder.

Saturday evening marks the celebration of this ten-year milestone, an open Svedka bar affair featuring music by the Spam Allstars, Fusik, and Poppa E and the E Band beginning at 8 p.m. It's a great time to celebrate a local phenomenon that has entertained, fed, and boosted those in need (and has been heralded for its literary, social, and musical gifts by this publication). With the help of many, here is a list of ten marvelous milestones of Dada's first decade in no particular order.

10. It's a haunted house.

Dada has hosted notorious Halloween parties over the years (more on that later), but the house itself has a mostly friendly female spirit lurking according to Dada partner/executive chef Bruce Feingold. Starting with an incident during construction early on, the "John Malkovich" door to the attic would mysteriously unlock itself, bottles of wine fall off the shelf for no reason, people have heard footsteps, and dogs have been known to growling and stare at the walls for extended period of time. "Sometimes people think we're crazy," he says. "I've experienced it personally, there's no doubt."

9. The Halloween scene.
Among the many, many theme nights the restaurant throws, everyone on staff gets dressed for the grand, haunted night. Two years ago, Dada staffer Kristen Kelly remembers the bundles

of hay strewn around the yard, a bartender was dressed as a devil and was blowing balls of flame, and area spookabilly act Viva le Vox (singer-guitarist Tony Bone has waited tables there) set up their instruments on the roof to play for more than 200 people.

8. The Pank Shovel years.
Many remember the aforementioned Kelly, now the events coordinator at Dada, as an integral part of Delray Beach's own rap-metal outfit Pank Shovel. Between 2001 and 2004, the band played several residencies around the area, including a stint performing every third Sunday at Dada, and brought out a very eclectic, diverse crowd. "I've been at Dada a good portion of my life and met a lot of my closest friends there," she says. Pank Shovel later moved to New York and disbanded in 2006.  Read lots more about the early years here.

7. Live band karaoke.
This was fun while it lasted, which was about a year, according to Kelly. An

idea spearheaded by co-owners Scott Frielich and Rodney Mayo (and everyone else) based

upon similar events in New York and around the country. Just to get an

idea of the scene from 2007:

The couches on the front porch beneath the twinkle lights were full of

hipsters so adorned that even their tattoos had tattoos; their clustered

piercings created new, unnamed constellations. At the tables beneath

the illuminated banyan tree, tables of effortlessly pretty girls and

their casually handsome escorts polished off the last of their dinners.

6. Local music that rules.
Dada's fireplace has hosted countless local acts including the Postmarks, Rachel Goodrich, the Hard Richards, and recent phenomena including the Dewars and Lavola. Some acts such as Boynton Beach's psychedelic troupe Trip Don't Fall bring such a following that the performance is moved outside. The loveable goth rockers in Kill Miss Pretty played a fierce set in March of 2009 that was filmed by Alvin Toro.

5. Philanthropic efforts.
From the Dada All-Star Independence Jubilee (which apparently crammed together A Kite Is a Victim, CPM, Beatnik Boy, Brownie Points, Spazimoto, Maypop, Baby Robots, Whirlaway, Doorway 27, New Graduates, Pank Shovel, Keith Scott, Mindlikewater, the Yoko Theory, Groovenics,  and Dotfash back in 2002) to Dadapalooza, another coming together of local talent that was threatened by a bad hurricane warning, Dada has long been concerned with

raising money for art and music classes for the schools. Additionally, efforts to feed the homeless every Thanksgiving, a Darfur benefit, and tying other events to charities, such as the recent Billabong fashion show for Surfers for Autism, has long linked the venue to assisting social causes. 

4. Art shows and theme parties.

Frielich fondly recalls Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson

mentioned Dada during his opening monologue and heralding the "lesbian

poetry night." Ferguson called it the most unusual place he'd ever seen,

"So I went back the next night." From its inception, Dada has been committed to fueling artists' creative passions. Currently, the first Thursday of every month welcomes area crafters, designers, painters, and the like. Plus, monthly poetry slams, and costume and food theme parties --  Kelly reels off Mad Hatter, Pacific Rim, and French as a few examples.

3. The curious case of Billy Boloby.
Now the frontman for West Palm Beach power-pop act the Pots N Pans,

Billy Boloby was known both for his catchy songwriting as well as his

persona -- that of a costumed, frenetic enigma. None of his stunts as a

yacht captain or ice cream man could top what occurred one night at

Dada, as detailed in a 2003 profile:


the singer ran out to the parking lot to grab the set list, he was

struck by a white Saturn. Boloby was carried back into the club, where

an off-duty doctor enjoying an after-work beverage just happened to be in the audience. He was able to revive Billy's failing heart with a Fender amp and Von Uberstein's pair of jumper cables.

2. Fashion Shows.
When Dada hosts a fashion show, anything can happen -- including several people being suspended via piercings from the wide-trunked tree out front during an event in 2007. Initially Kelly feared that no one would be interested but 100-150 curious souls packed the space. Local designers, vintage shops, makeup artists and stylists are regularly recruited to participate. Designer Betsey Johnson assembled a show with punk rock and motorcycles bringing in the models four or five years ago.

1. The space itself.
Anyone who has watched a band by the stone hearth, eaten dinner in the lush garden, or just sipped a key lime martini with graham cracker crust rim at the bar knows this place is iconic. When Dada opened, there was a lot of furniture in the house and now there are tables enough in the old carport and nearly every spot inside and outside to serve close to 2,000 dinners a week. All without losing the initial artistic focus. "I wanted to call it Home," Frielich says. "But I'm sure glad we didn't."

Tenth Anniversary Party, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, September 4, at Dada Restaurant and Lounge, 52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. No cover. Click here.

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer

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