Cold Sweat

An indie Miami institution takes five

The sign, written in marker on a dry-erase board, leans against the remaining window of Sweat Records' store at NE Second Avenue and 23rd Street.

"Dear friends and customers," it reads. "As you can see, Sweat Records got pretty messed up by Wilma...."

And you can see: Weeks after the hurricane, plywood still masks a window's absence, fragments of ceiling tiles and other debris are swept into a small mountain in the center of the concrete floor, a tree branch lies forlornly on the sidewalk outside, and metal bars cover the façade of the darkened storefront. The handwritten notice concludes with the obvious: "We will be closed until further notice."

It might not be a casualty yet, but Sweat Records, retail anchor of Miami's precocious indie music scene, was certainly knocked into a coma by what its owners refer to on their Website as "lame and sucky Wilma."

"There's a lot of theories about what happened," sighs 25-year-old Sara Yousuf, who cofounded Sweat Records this past March with partner Lauren Reskin, age 23. "The building has been around since 1931. It's been through every hurricane. We think it could have been a mini tornado, or the pressure of the storm created some sort of suction." Whatever the cause, the damage was grave.

"We lost a window and a lot of ceiling tiles," Yousuf says. "The ceiling on the second floor just crumbled, and we can't operate our business for the time being."

The desolation of the storm-battered music shop is a far cry from just more than a month ago, when college kids and musicians packed the back yard for performances by the Down Home Southernaires and a so-called "homecoming dances-with-wolves" for recently-returned-from-tour duo Awesome New Republic. On that October night, the youth of Wynwood danced in T-shirts and sneakers to music powered by extension cords — a mass rejection of Miami gloss. In retrospect, the blown fuse at that show and an early shutdown by police seem like trifles.

"We were having anywhere between one and five events a week," says Reskin. They ranged from performances by local bands and vegan potlucks to film screenings and even a book club. "We've been told we're the hub of the indie music scene," she asserts, "and we're proud of it."

But it's a scene that now finds itself homeless. "Our landlord is working on getting a contractor," Yousuf says. "But it's really hard to get one."

She doesn't want to leave, but "if by Thanksgiving we don't have an answer, we would have to move though — we have to be open for holiday shopping."

The owners are already planning a reopening party, titled Sweatstock, which Reskin says will feature "tons and tons of bands." Even if the date itself is still unclear, the two are adamant: "We're not closing down," Yousuf states. "When we reopen, our intention is to stick around and be here 30 or 50 years from now."

 
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