Let's Put on a Show
Bobby Macintyre's musical career began in prehistoric South Beach, where he and friends ran rampant through the Delano Hotel in the days before Ian Schrager.
They lived in the penthouse and rehearsed in the mostly deserted ballroom as birds flew near the high ceilings. His pal Dennis Britt ran a rock club in the basement its name, Beirut, provocative for a location in staunchly kosher territory.
Now, more than a decade-and-a-half later, Macintyre opens his boutique recording complex, Studio 71, on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami's burgeoning Upper Eastside. At the same time, his fledgling empire has expanded across the parking lot to Boulevard Bistro, where he cohosts the weekly Composers' Cabaret on the restaurant's patio. On Thursdays, Macintyre, along with Britt and Alex Diaz, converts the concrete courtyard into an outdoor salon, tiki torches softly lighting a well-curated songwriter showcase.
"It's funny, I think, that when I was growing up down here, why I attached myself to so many writers and rock bands, because there just wasn't enough rock coming down here," he says. "But the scene was still happening."
With Studio 71 and Composers' Cabaret, Macintyre hopes to foment a scene like that in the late Eighties and early Nineties when bands sprung up like Starbucks, playing at venues such as the Stephen Talkhouse and Washington Square, as well as the numerous hotels along Collins Avenue, before it was fashionable. With the closing of all of those venues by the mid-Nineties, the scene that produced major-label successes like Nuclear Valdez, the Mavericks, and Marilyn Manson fizzled.
Macintyre wound up in Los Angeles via Chicago, joining the glam-punk outfit Jimmy Girl, which received a major-label offer before the band's singer hanged himself. Finally he hooked up with legendary Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli, to become the drummer in Dulli's latest band, the Twilight Singers.
Dulli's rabid fan base ensured that the band remained on the road for most of 2002 through 2004, and at the end, Macintyre was exhausted. While they recorded their fourth album, Powder Burns, to be released May 16, he re-examined his hometown. This past August, he found the building that now houses Studio 71, in an area that alternates between desolate and gentrified, where he could work on his growing number of production projects, and made Miami his permanent residence again.
A rattan-fenced parking lot fronts a chartreuse cottage with navy trim. Here is Studio 71, where visitors are greeted by Macintyre, usually nattily dressed in mod-style peg pants and knotted scarf. Although the interior is photogenic now, like every other vaguely hip establishment in the neighborhood, it was a definite fixer-upper.
"The patio was covered in used condoms. The whole place was gutted," Macintyre says. "The floors, I had to peel up. The walls were bleeding with water. Had to clean the whole roof, redo all the electricity just make it so that people would feel comfortable coming here to create." Macintyre maintains an open-door policy for his musician friends.
The front room features pink lights and a funky, kitschy pseudo-Southwestern décor. A blue-tile kitchen stocks Macintyre's selection of alcohol. And in the next room over, where pink parachutes billow from the ceiling and tinsel covers the walls, the actual recording takes place. Microphones feed into an Apple computer in the main room, where Macintyre uses ProTools software to manipulate tracks.
Jonathan "J.B." Brightman, former bassist for hard-rock group Buckcherry, visited the studio this past week. Just transplanted to Miami after seventeen years in Los Angeles, Brightman is, surprisingly, laid-back and soft-spoken for a member of a band whose 1999 radio hit "Lit Up" is about a love of cocaine.
"I was on tour for about five years, and I checked out everything about different cities, how people lived, their energy," Brightman says, explaining his decision to move to Miami. "What I saw of Florida were great crowds, people who loved music; people always showed up for the [shows]. And the quality of life is so much better here. I had a house in L.A. and its one amenity was a parking space."
On a recent Thursday, the vibe on the patio at Boulevard Bistro is decidedly bohemian as a murmuring crowd fills the tables and waits for the cabaret to begin. Macintyre, Britt, and Diaz meet before the 9:00 p.m. showcase to catch up and plan sets.
Britt's hope is to foster the kind of musician's exchange he experienced running Beirut and later at the Seagull Hotel, where he opened the original Kitchen Club, whose spirit survives to this day as a weekly goth dance party.
"It always happens that you bring in a couple of people that you admire, and then other people start coming by and they listen to that night," Britt observes. "They say, öYou know what, I'm going to write a song, and I'm going to come back and play it next week.'"
Though Macintyre will leave in May for a brief tour with the Twilight Singers, he swears the momentum at Studio 71 will endure. "Just painting this house, putting this thing together, I feel like I'm doing something for the area," he says. "It feels like Coconut Grove in the old days before it got commercial, when it was all artists."
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