It's tough to say what the greatest show at Bardot has been over the past five years, but that time Dwayne Wade rented out the Wynwood lounge in 2012 for Gabrielle Union's 40th-birthday pajama jam was one for the books.
"Doug E. Fresh played," recalls David Sinopoli, the guy responsible for booking all of Bardot's shows. "He's like, 'Yo, I've got a friend in the crowd, and he's gonna come spit a couple bars.' It was fuckin' Will Smith. He surprised Gabrielle Union. He had a mask on, took the mask off, and we're like, 'Wait, what?'"
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Bardot earned its rank but not with flash or over-the-top earnestness. Looking back on the cusp of its five-year anniversary, the low-key vibe is not only intentional; it's clutch to the club's success. Where else can you see Erykah Badu, James Murphy, George Clinton, Action Bronson, Nicolas Jaar, and Edward Sharpe play face-to-face to 200 people?
Only twice has there been a stage erected because the band demanded it, once for Digitalism and once for Miami Horror, and both times the artists and Bardot learned to regret it. It's the intimacy of the carpet that makes the signature feel. After five years of proving their point, the agencies and artists not only "get it," they want to play.
"Washed Out was just here," Sinopoli says, "He was like, 'I've been wanting to play this room for two years. A lot of my friends in the industry have played here and told me about it.'"
That's a great feeling for owner Amir Ben-Zion, who says the inspiration for Bardot goes back to his days as a child staying up late to watch episodes of Hugh Hefner's After Dark variety show. It was writers and comedians, singers and models, beautiful people of repute from all angles of life, gathering and talking and smoking, and he never forgot the desire to bring such a room together.
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"It was taken from there, but it was also if Mick Jagger was going to have a living room and wanted to have friends play, what is that living room going to look like?" he says. "A place that's a bit more free, where you can smoke whatever you want, you can say whatever you want, you can be whoever you want, and it's interesting. We have all these kinds of people here."
But it's not just the music, the environment, the club-goers that make Bardot. It's the people who work there too.
"The shows that we book, we get a lot of credit for our bookings, but the reason we continue to get bookings is because of the execution of things," Sinopoli says. From the doormen to the barstaff, from artist hospitality to the sound engineer, everyone at Bardot is a personality, and everyone is damn good at their job.
"I think it's a testament to the family environment here that they don't leave, they stick around, we love having them here," says Erica Freshman.
"It sounds cliché, but it's the only way I think I'd be happy to be here in Miami; to actually have a family and a home here," Sinopoli adds, "and that's rare when it's also your work environment."
But success doesn't happen overnight. Ben-Zion calls the first two years "a total test run," trying things here and there to find the right crew, programming, and overall niche. In the beginning, Bardot wasn't just a music venue. They hosted readings and discussions, but it soon became obvious that music was what made the place feel right.
"We've gotten braver," Freshman says. "We're willing to take risks. Sometimes, they may not always pay off, but if we feel they're artistic, cutting edge, and are going to put on a good show for people who will come and see it, we pull the trigger. The more we believe in things, the better the show."
"Amir always stressed on me, when we're booking these shows, it's consistency," Sinopoli says. "Five out of five times, they've got to hear something that has some kind of vibrant energy. It has to be cutting edge and different, and if we can do that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday over and over again for five years, then you build a credibility."
That credibility is why Dwyane Wade will rent it out for Gabrielle Union's birthday. It's why Bardot has survived to grow right alongside the Wynwood district, and it's why the Bardot crew can expand to create a three-day festival with III Points.
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"It doesn't feel like five years at all," Freshman says. "It's still fresh, still exciting, still new. We don't want to take our foot off the pedal by any means. We're still pushing to do better and more."
Bardot's Fifth Anniversary Party. With Aeroplane and a DJ set by Mayer Hawthorne. Thursday, October 23. Bardot, 3456 N Miami., Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $20 to $25 plus fees via showclix.com. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-576-5570 or visit bardotmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.