There was something fun to do every week in 2003. Although there were still things to fret about, much more went right. Aside from the Eighties revivals (where the girls looked as if they had walked out of a Patrick Nagel illustration), fresh ideas and diversity at venues serving up different types of music (not just high-NRG crap) defined local nightlife.
"You've got to keep offering people things they don't usually get," Poplifer Ray Milian told me months ago. That's what the Design District has been about. To be honest, though, the DeDis still has a ways to go before it can rival South Beach in popularity. It's waiting to explode any moment, but things don't happen that fast from scratch. What it has created is a haven for original and creative locales like I/O and Soho Lounge that program a cross-spectrum of theme nights like Poplife, Revolver, and Miami Bass Night. That's phat because a viable underground scene is as important to the area as the upscale, impossible-to-get-into lounges like Grass.
The night the Design District shined in all its potential glory was during the Art Basel block party in November. What a mix of interesting people, out drunk and roaming the streets in the name of art! Thank galleries like Damien B. and OBJEX artspace and organizations like GenArt for whittling away at Miami's plastic mentality with funky art parties. Art should be to nightlife what reefer is to reggae.
In fact most of the excitement in 2003 (besides Space 34's weekly closings and reopenings) revolved around event weeks like Basel: Fashion Week, Carnival Miami (on Calle Ocho), the Grand Prix of the Americas (MotoRock), and the Latin Grammys. But the most nonstop party was easily Winter Music Conference week. Even as it grows a big commercial tail, the annual March showcase still attracts guerrilla DJ/producers to unsanctioned, anti-WMC events like Infiltrate. And the shenanigans that ensue! The guy who buried 10,000 rolls on Bayfront Park grounds a week before Ultra so ravers could truly enjoy the megarave was a godsend (hell, here I come). Speaking of drugs, does everybody do cocaine these days or just the people I hang with?
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But on to the one-off soirees like Aquabooty's Labor Day throwdown Party Over There, GADA Mag's Halloween party, Ocean Drive magazine's monthly shindigs, and even charity events like the Junior League Against Cancer's Arroz Con Mango last May, all of which were off the chain. Hotels warrant mentioning, too, especially the Sagamore Hotel, where Playboy and Von Dutch parties thrown this fall became a playground for pro athletes (Dolphins footballers) and models (the Coors twins). And the year's big buzz comes from the Ritz-Carlton's upcoming grand opening in South Beach, which is expected to draw A-listers out in droves.
Speaking of A-listers, the established guards of South Beach glitterati haven't gone anywhere and are still the biggest forces in clubland. I speak of Michael Capponi, Ingrid Casares, Nicola Siervo, Sharif Malnik, Antonio Misuraca, Tommy Pooch, Carlos Perez, SMAC, and everybody's friend, Rudolf Piper. Two other stalwarts who'll assuredly reinvent themselves after departing Opium Group-owned Level are Gerry Kelly and Maxwell Blandford. All these names are why SoBe has transformed into a New York Times-approved Riviera. Well, that and the fact that models and celebri-people have returned in a way not seen since Gianni Versace's death.
In pinpointing the magic formula for a reinvigorated nightlife, Capponi says the answer is more options. To prove his point, he notes that Mynt's hiatus last fall meant slower nights for other upscale places like B.E.D. But that doesn't mean the nightlife industry is one big happy family. He says that if he could change one thing, it would be to make clubs more supportive of one another. "We're one industry, but there are unfortunate divisions," he says. "If certain models are seen with me at Prive, other club owners get mad at them. That's the wrong attitude."
In any case the upcoming season, arriving on the heels of the best summer we've had in years, should be amazing. Another sure thing in 2004: The Spam Allstars will be performing.