The history of bars and music venues in South Florida is littered with cool rooms that hosted great bands while people had a sick time in the crowd -- but most of those places come and go in less time than it takes to get from I-75 to I-95.
That makes it surprising that anybody would show up for couple of nostalgic nights marking any single hot spot. But when we're talking about the Button South, the Hallandale club that was a must for every band in the region and plenty of national acts, then it's a different story.
"Everybody who was anybody -- whether they played or were just hanging out -- almost assuredly, they were there at some point," says Darlene Delano, the former Button South booker and organizer of the Button South Class Reunion. "Everybody forgets we were the home of Saigon Kick, the Mavericks, Marilyn Manson... Anybody that got signed in the early '90s played the Button."
While Marilyn Manson won't be appearing at this fourth incarnation of the reunion, held on September 26 and 27 at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale, the slate of bands includes Canaveral, Gypsy Queen, Slyder, Stranger, Heartless, Last Child, Motor, and Phineas J. Whoopie.
The Button South started off in the late '70s as the Agora Ballroom, which Delano says was basically the exact same club with a different name and different owner. Even at the beginning, it was the place everybody had to play.
"I started going there before I was of-age -- I had to see the Ramones," says former WSHE DJ Glenn Richards, one of the hosts of this year's reunion. He was also there the night the Button South closed to interview patrons, staff, and musicians for a cable access show he was doing at the time.
"I thought it was special because of the mix of people who'd end up there by the end of the night, since it was open until 6 a.m. People and staff from all the other bars and clubs would usually find their way to the Button South to unwind after their work was done, so you'd have this interesting mix of other musicians, DJs, bartenders, door staff, wait staff, strippers, and every kind of music fan."
Delano agrees that part of the club's draw was its 6 a.m. liquor license, a benefit of being in an area of Hallandale Beach that offered these rarities. That license, she says, allowed for bands seven nights a week -- at least ten or 15 -- and a continuous center for the Broward rock scene that exploded on the national stage in the early and mid-'90s.
The first reunion, held in 2010 in Boca, offered friends of a former Button employee, Billy Carbone, time to share memories of him after he passed away. "I was talking to the former owner and said we should do a reunion, get the bands together, and properly say goodbye," Delano says.
"I did it the first year with no intention of doing it every year but just to remember our friend... It's amazing that there's still a bond and everybody cares. I call it a class reunion 'cause if you could have picked who you went to high school with, this is who you'd choose. It's why we went to that reunion."
Despite the transient nature of bands, bars, and everything else in South Florida -- there really isn't a shortage of people playing great rock 'n' roll or places to see it. The sheer mass of what happened at the Button and these bands is worth going to. This year's reunion will be the biggest that's been held and offers another opportunity to witness a few groups who were around at the last true high point of our music scene.
"There was a lot of music there, and there were a lot of people in that room," Delano says. "I don't see any place that can create or generate that much music any more."
The Button South Class Reunion. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 26 and 27, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $12 for one day and $20 for two. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.
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