Every month, it seems, there is a new reason for people to go out and party themselves into a tizzy. This past week, it was Art Basel, the annual international art exhibition that, naturally, engenders dozens of parties, gallery exhibits, and performances throughout South Beach and downtown Miami.
Noticeably absent from the agenda, however, was Burn Down the Discos, a concert that would have featured the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Le Tigre along with DJ sets from New Order bass player Peter Hook and former Smiths bass player Andy Rourke. The show was one of the most highly anticipated of the year. It was organized by Cornbread Productions, which assembles the much-underrated Spider-Pussy party at Liquor Lounge every Thursday, and Off the Menu Entertainment. Surprisingly, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the two promotion companies issued a cautiously worded statement announcing that the concert was canceled because of "the withdrawal of our major sponsors and other unforeseen extenuating circumstances including but not limited to lackluster ticket sales and protracted contractual incongruities."
What does all that legal nonsense mean? I don't know. It is amusing, however, that Karen O, lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, found a way to cash in on her newfound celebrity by making a "personal appearance" at the chichi Rokbar during the MTV Video Music Awards in August but couldn't manage to play an actual concert here. Frankly, she couldn't pull that shit in her native Brooklyn, since people would be quick to call her a sell-out who's more concerned with posing for paparazzi than actually making music. Nevertheless, the disappointing news was a reminder that, for all the progress this city has made in attracting national music acts, it still has a ways to go in enticing them to do more than get drunk on South Beach.
Much more promising was the opening of Buck 15, a new lounge located just above Miss Yip's Chinese Café at 707 Lincoln Lane North. Its décor is suitably funky, with Seventies-inspired couches and love seats, and one of the tables has a massive ceramic pig sitting on top of it. On the walls hang street art canvasses by local artists such as Keen One, and there's a large display case with miniature toys. The vibe is akin to that of a romper room, with people jumping from couch to couch and making connections at a feverish pace. Meanwhile local DJs such as Ray Milian from Poplife and Ari K from the Raleigh Hotel spin some great alternative sounds, from Junior Boys to TV on the Radio.
Jennie Yip, who co-owns several businesses in the Miami and New York City areas, including the Townhouse and the Manhattan nightspot APT, runs Buck 15. True to Buck 15's underground intentions, there was no grand opening last week, only a soft opening on Tuesday, the night before Art Basel, and a party sponsored by The Fader magazine on Saturday that featured avant-garde rap duo Airborn Audio.
Across the water, Josh Menendez announced that he was moving his popular Friday night party, Revolver, to the Pawn Shop Lounge. Menendez is the second promoter to leave the Soho Lounge in less than two months; Lauren "Lolo" Reskin took her Eighties-themed Vice party to I/O back in late October. It's now part of the Poplife party on Saturday nights. "I used to spin at Poplife when it was at Picadilly Garden, when I was, like, 17," says the 22-year-old DJ and promoter. "So it feels really good ... like, öOh, we're home.'"
Lolo sounded a much less charitable note, however, when it came to the Soho Lounge's owners. "The main reason I had to leave is because of a grievance with management on a whole range of issues," she says. "The management doesn't see the value of DJs or promoters there. They see them as disposable."
Jessica O'Brien, who co-owns Soho Lounge with her husband Jay, is equally upset with Lolo. "She's not professional," alleges O'Brien. "In this industry, especially when you're not the main person [throwing an event], you have to learn to collaborate and work with others. She wasn't always willing to do that."
Clearly, there's no love lost between these two. Lolo is persona non grata at Soho Lounge. ("I'd prefer her not to be around at the club," O'Brien says.) But Menendez's departure is a poignant loss for her.
"Basically, we have a tremendous amount of compromise and fair share with Josh," says O'Brien regarding the leeway Menendez was given to promote and financially benefit from Revolver. "He got, for sure, without a doubt, his share. Basically, [Pawn Shop Lounge] offered him everything and anything that he wanted to move it. So he said he was going to move it if we didn't match [their offer]. So we wish him the best in his endeavors. We've parted on good terms."
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Menendez clarifies that he didn't leave Soho Lounge because of a monetary dispute. "The way I presented it to Pawn Shop was that, to make the party work at their venue, certain things needed to be implemented, from door policies to drink prices," he says, including affordable drinks and a cheap entry fee for the party. No one at Pawn Shop could be reached for comment.
To replace Revolver on Fridays, Soho Lounge is beginning a new event, Cinematic. On Saturdays, where Vice occupied the main room (and Kitchen Club continues to take place in the downstairs rooms), there's a new Eighties night called The Metro. "Nothing has changed at the club. Not one night has changed," says O'Brien, referring to the music programming Soho Lounge will offer. "It's all the same, it has always been the same, and it will remain the same, and we'll grow."
Still, the pressure is on Soho Lounge to replace its signature event, which was named one of the top parties in the country by Rolling Stone magazine. When the nightclub first opened in 2002, Revolver was the only party it had for several months. "I opened up that venue," points out Menendez. Even when it began hosting other events, Soho Lounge didn't have a comparably successful night to match Revolver until Vice began in the fall of 2003.
Meanwhile, with everyone angling to check out the newfangled Pawn Shop and its kitschy décor, Revolver should do well over there, at least until novelty wears off. After that, who knows? As Lolo says, "Individual promoters have strengths beyond their venues."