This past weekend I made a belated first visit to Pulp Live, the venue on Oakland Park Boulevard that was known previously as the Metal Factory. I went to see friends play, so I won't review the actual music that night. When I go to a show to support a friend, I usually go as a "civilian," as it were -- I pay my cover charge if I need to, chill, and enjoy the experience without scribbling notes.
I truly want to like this place, as it's a legit venue -- not a warehouse or other makeshift space -- that hosts shows put together by local bands and promoters. The location is pretty central for Broward folks (and not too horrible of a haul from Miami), and you can be just 18 to go here, not 21. And normally I wouldn't bother reviewing a venue itself, but I left completely annoyed with this place's treatment of both performers and patrons, so here goes.
First, there are the aesthetic changes from its old incarnation. Nothing can be done about the building's cheesy reflective exterior, which is shares with an adult shop. The inside, though, has been cheesed up as well. As a warning before I went, a friend described it as "dinner theater gone bad," which is pretty accurate. Where the Metal Factory was your typical black-box rock vibe inside, now there is tacky ambient lighting and theme diner-style record covers and posters stapled at angles on the walls and ceilings.
Further the choice of people depicted therein -- like Jim Morrison and Jerry Garcia -- doesn't really jibe, considering the places' usual show and party line-up, and menu, indicate it's a reggae/Caribbean spot. Yes, there is a full dinner menu, featuring items like curried shrimp for about $16. I guess they don't sell that much food, though, because there are still ashtrays on every table. I did, however, see somebody order some wings, and they looked pretty good.
The major problem I had, though, was with the staff's attitude towards the bands -- bands who, by providing entertainment, draw cover-paying customers who then buy drinks. Expensive drinks, at that -- a plastic cup of soda, no booze, was $4, and some well cocktails were $8. That flies on a buzzing weekend night in downtown Miami, but at 7 p.m. in a nearly empty place on Oakland Park?
The bands didn't get paid, which is fine and to be expected for an all-locals show -- but none got to bring in a single friend for free. Cover was $7 (or $10 for the 18-to-20 year-olds) -- that's too high for an early show by unknown bands. It's a deterrent for casual fans on the fence about checking the place out, especially if they know they're going to get gouged at the bar.
The bands got gouged, too. When I saw one musician ask for water to keep onstage during his set, a cocktail waitress responded, "Do you want to pay cash for that, or start a tab?" Ixnay, too, on a complimentary pitcher of water and courtesy plastic cups. On top of that, a bouncer forced a singer to throw out the bottled water and tea he had brought with him. "I don't care whose it is," he retorted, when the thirsty fellow tried to explain.
But the staff was also generally rude with me as a relatively undercover paying punter. Rude when taking my money, rude when rifling through my bag, and rude when asking me repeatedly if I wanted to order another drink. While I was, in deed, sitting at a cocktail table, again, the club was empty -- so my friends and I weren't exactly taking up valuable bottle-service real estate. While the employees of the Metal Factory weren't exactly sweetness and light, either, in retrospect they seemed laid-back by comparison.
After the bitching, though, let me end with the good stuff about Pulp Live. The bathrooms are spacious and the whole place is really clean, two aspects of the show-going experience that are not to be discounted. The stage is well designed and situated, so there are great lines of vision from throughout the club. The stage lighting, too, is high-quality, and, most importantly, the overall sound was great, and the house engineer on staff was very skilled.
Pulp Live has a lot of potential, and perhaps they treat the patrons better on their bread-and-butter reggae nights. But right now, I can't really recommend the venue as a good place to play for struggling local rock bands. You will actually lose money playing a show there, once you factor in gas and a freaking water -- and you'll probably get treated brusquely as well. Proceed with caution and only work with a promoter you trust, who will make up for the venue's managerial shortcomings. For fans, just bring plenty of cash for the bar -- especially because the ATM fee is $3.50 -- and don't sit at any of the tables if you want to be left alone.