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Of course Fridays and Saturdays are the big concert nights, but Daniels says he wants to form a solid itinerary seven days a week. Killing Season has begun hosting the Tuesday night open-mike jams and Daniels is seeking the right person to handle the nearly defunct acoustic/folk jams on Wednesday evenings. Falestra holds forth with various insanity on Thursdays. "With the absence of the other clubs," Daniels says, "we should be able to do better acoustic nights." And this week Daniels will debut Pancake Tuesday. "It was a tradition in England," explains the British expatriate. "Kids would see how many pancakes they could eat. The next day at school you'd say, 'I ate fifteen!' or what have you. In addition to pancakes we'll offer oat cakes with bacon and cheese or sausage and cheese, because they go better with beer."
With all this cool stuff going on, and the club's reputation as one of the great rock dives in the universe, you have to wonder why Daniels must change anything to draw crowds. "I think all the Herald articles about crime on [Biscayne] Boulevard hurt us," the proprietor offers. "Everyone thinks we're located in such a bad neighborhood. I hired a barmaid not long ago, and on the night she was supposed to start, she didn't show up. I found out she'd heard that another barmaid had been stuck up by a man with a gun in our parking lot after work. I talked to the other barmaids and they knew nothing about it. No such thing happened."
Certainly there is crime in Little Haiti, just as there is crime in South Beach or anywhere else. And drug dealers did set up shop outside the club after Hurricane Andrew, but Daniels says the cops went after the dopers, forcing them to move to spots away from Churchill's. "It's been more than a year since a car was stolen from here," Daniels claims. "In fourteen years, maybe thirteen cars have been stolen. October was the last time a car was even broken into, and that car was parked on the street as I recall, not in the lot. Realistically, there is no problem here. I considered hiring a guard, but then I'd have to charge people to park in our lot, and they'd likely just park on the street further away, which would increase the chances of something happening to their cars." Also, there's a doorman out front during shows and many windows in the club's walls facing the parking lot, further reducing the odds of an incident.
Crime is crime and it's everywhere. A bigger concern is band loyalty. Because his club is relatively small (about 300 max cap) and lowbrow, Daniels has often booked upstart groups, as well as adventurous ones. "Many bands get their start here," Daniels says. "The frustration is that when other clubs open or become willing to book these groups, they might prefer South Beach. So we find ourselves competing against the same groups we fostered and helped."
That isn't always the case. After signing to Epic, Nuclear Valdez returned to the Church to shoot a video. Daniels says, and the band's management confirms, that the Mavericks (who literally formed on the Churchill's stage) also returned to the old haunt to shoot a video. MCA and the band gave Daniels $100. The bar boss put out a spread of food and drink. "They appreciated that and promised to return and perform a proper show for me. And they did."
And then there's Mr. Charlie Pickett, whose songs on Sun Brewed Action Music are further testament to his absolute greatness. Pickett has released plenty of albums over the years, but because his music is tough and honest and smart he never reached a huge market. The disillusionment drove him to Michigan where he enrolled in law school. During breaks he returns home and performs at the Church.
Daniels takes a sip of tea and waves so long to the older man in the blue suit. "Ah, yes, Charlie," he says. "He's always been sort of my favorite, very supportive and helpful. He usually pays his band out of his own pocket and plays here for free. I remember many years ago talking to Charlie about the old England scene and how Miami was beginning to recapture some of that. I asked him to play, he said yes, and I asked how much I should charge at the door. We could've got five dollars easy. He said, 'Charge two dollars.' I thought that was wonderful."
Pickett will graduate from law school in Michigan this spring. He plans to celebrate -- by performing live at Churchill's.
For information about Churchill's Hideaway call 757-1807 or see the "Clubs" listing.