Basshead

Around the Beach

Well, it's April already, and I'm still recovering from this year's Winter Music Conference. Accordingly I haven't been going out much and instead have focused on sifting through some of the stories that have flown across my desk. Some of them -- including the scandal-ridden Ultra Music Festival, which has been addressed elsewhere in this paper -- are too closely linked to WMC for me. After all, isn't everybody sick of reading about it?

That week saw the debut of several new local clubs, including (briefly) Club Spin, The Drink, and the Spy Lounge at the Catalina Hotel. Most people, however, were struck by how the heavily hyped multimillion-dollar Nocturnal didn't open. Now it's reportedly scheduled to have a "sneak preview" hosted by Aquabooty and featuring British DJ legend Norman Jay on Saturday, April 23.

Less controversial was the postponed opening of Angel Ultra Lounge, a new club at 247 23rd St., in the space formerly occupied by Mario Sopena's Nerve. When that place went the way of the dodo bird, Richard Nasr leased the building from a landowner consortium that includes promoter Carmel Ophir and several others.

Nasr made plans to open Angel Ultra Lounge during Winter Music Conference. Then, during what was supposed to be a routine final inspection March 20, just before the conference, the fire marshal told him that an occupancy license was required. "The previous owner never took out an occupant load permit," says Nasr, adding that it usually takes three to four weeks to get. How was Sopena, who was not contacted for this story, able to operate for nearly two years without the permit? "I have no idea. That's Miami Beach for you," says Nasr, chuckling.

As a result, the club had to cancel a SAW Recordings showcase featuring progressive house producer Satoshi Tomiie. Meanwhile, a Masters at Work party with house producers Louie Vega and Kenny Dope was moved over to Yuca Lounge. "We lost all the revenue [we planned to earn] for WMC, plus all [the money spent] on contracts," says Nasr. "It was real painful."

Now Nasr says there will be a "soft opening" for Angel Ultra Lounge on Saturday, April 16, with DJ Irie, followed by a grand opening "three weeks later." But visitors to the club should be warned that it isn't like Nerve, which stumbled with a conflicted identity made of equal parts VIP area and general-admission dance emporium. Like every other lounge owner on South Beach, Nasr wants to create an exclusive, "high-end" room where players and their female accoutrements can relax, consume copious amounts of bottled alcohol, and enjoy good music.

So far the event themes include Latin on Wednesdays; reggae on Thursdays; international music on Fridays; rock, Top 40, and hip-hop on Saturdays; gay and lesbian on Sundays; and hip-hop on Mondays. Frankly, Nasr is more worried about getting the damn club open. "I've been going through so much with the City of Miami Beach, trying to get all my paperwork in order, that I'm not really concentrating on promotion right now," he says. In the meantime you can get a preview of the club at www.angelultralounge.com.

One kid who probably won't be able to get into Angel Ultra Lounge is Greko Sklavounos, a nineteen-year-old student from the Florida State Conservatory of Motion Pictures. Then again, he might; though reluctant to admit it, Sklavounos regularly lands free entry into local nightclubs despite being underage. "I'm really into nightlife," he says.

When Sklavounos and fellow student Jason Benoit first began making a documentary on Back Door Bamby in February of this year, Sklavounos had never actually been to the party before. Nevertheless, the aforementioned Ophir and Mykel Stevens's Monday-night stalwart, which is celebrating its ninth anniversary Monday, April 25, inspired him. "I heard everywhere that it brings everyone together -- gay, straight, black, and white people," he says.

Held on Mondays at crobar, Back Door Bamby is notably unique: Unlike most local parties, its crowd can't be evenly divided between socialites and music nerds. It's where the best aspects of this city's party scene -- expensively, imaginatively, and occasionally outrageously dressed people partaking in a stark, almost uncomfortably sensuous atmosphere backed by everything from lush house music to aggressive hip-hop and Top 40 -- take on a vivid, freakish aura fueled by drag queens and exhibitionists. "I think it's interesting from a sociological point of view that a place can attract a crowd that's so, like, weird," says Sklavounos, who calls the party "Disney-esque."

"Because my cousin's gay, I've been to gay clubs before, and I know what kind of vibe it has," he continues, adding that he's straight. "But with Bamby, it's very hard to put your finger on the vibe, because it's such a conglomeration. You feel comfortable there."

Sklavounos and Benoit are paying homage to Back Door Bamby with interviews with resident DJs Ani Phearce and Shannon, and Gigi; guest DJs such as Erick Morillo and Larry Tee; and scenes shot during the party. The $2000 documentary is being funded with Sklavounos's and Benoit's own money and school funding, and the duo hopes to premiere it in August or September at crobar.

 
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