The pandemic mired Where Are My Keys? in a layover of uncertainty. But over Memorial Day weekend, the party series will return to the 94th Aero Squadron.
"Having everyone together will be great," Where Are My Keys? founder Will Renuart tells New Times. "Our whole team is friends we collected along the way, and now they're all experts in their own fields. So having everyone reunited, it's kinda like the band is back in town, and we're going back to doing what we love."
Where Are My Keys? started as an independent party series in 2016 on Virginia Key. The popularity surrounding the two-day event led Renuart to expand to shows throughout the year — including an afterparty following Detroit's Movement Festival and a stage at Rakastella during Miami Art Week.
For last year's installment of Where Are My Keys?, Renuart moved the dance floor to the nostalgia-laced 94th Aero Squadron, a restaurant and event space located near Miami International Airport where patrons can don aviator-style headphones and listen to the MIA air traffic control tower while eating their meals and watching takeoffs and landings out the window.
"I've been going there since I was a kid. My dad used to take me," Renuart told New Times last year. "You have planes landing, and they have this sick outdoor courtyard with beautiful wood paneling and oak trees. Inside there is this dive-bar feel and a wood fireplace."
Renuart is looking to put the woes of the pandemic behind him and focus on an event with a lineup that would win over the hearts and minds of any dance devotee. House and soul phenom turned Grand Theft Auto avatar Moodymann will make his return to Miami. There will also be extended sets from the legendary house and disco producer DJ Harvey and the Boston-bred funk duo Soul Clap.
"I started with DJ Harvey and sold him on that idea that Miami is coming around," Renuart recalls. "I sent him pictures of the oak trees and the old planes. Moodymann is more like hunting for snow leopards; they don't write back right away. So as I was locking in Harvey, Moodymann was in, and I was like, 'Holy shit, so now I got two of my wish-list lineups playing on one bill. So I hit up Soul Clap, and they were in too."
Coincidentally, now that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors under most circumstances, Where Are My Keys? — albeit a primarily outdoor event — will be an early glimpse of the newest New Normal.
"We are going to make people wear masks upon entry, and we encourage [that attendees be] vaccinated, but we're not going to mandate it," he explains.
The headliners are one thing, but the lineup is buttressed with Renuart's cadre of vinyl-loving, house-spewing friends. As the former owner and founder of the Electric Pickle, Wynwood's longest-serving nightclub, Renuart usually recruited his resident DJs for the event. After this hiatus, he believes the locals on the bill — Benton, Brad Strickland, Inbal, Mystic Bill, Puma, and Terence Tabeau — will be back better than ever.
"Everybody is pumped and super ready to get out there and do better," he says. "All they've been thinking about is how we can take it to another level. So everyone is coming in with a fresh revamp and mindset and plan of attack."
That includes Renuart — a self-declared vinyl fiend and a newly minted father — himself.
It's been two years since the Pickle closed its door, and its spirit has brined in anticipation long enough. Last week, Renuart threw a Pickle pop-up at the 94th Aero Squadron — an effort to bless the dance floor in preparation for Where Are My Keys? and serve as a homage to the Wynwood institution. The Pickle-centric lineup included the usual suspects with resident DJs and close friends.
"I met my wife [Shino] through the Electric Pickle, and it's how my friends met their girlfriends," Renuart says. "It was like our cultural ground zero for a lot of people I know. It's nice to have a reunion for it."
Between Pickle pop-ups and Where Are My Keys? cotillions, Renuart managed to bring to life ATV Records and Melinda's, the nightclub and restaurant combo, at the edge of downtown Miami. As with any venue, lockdown proved devastating, but the club is now back and running at full capacity.
"The parties have just been like I haven't seen," Renuart adds. "They're kinda like Pickle's closing parties."
ATV manages to have a headliner every other week — as booking international talent is still not accessible — while also honing local talent.
"We're having to book selectively, but we're really putting an emphasis on our residents," Renuart says.
If there is a virtue Renuart has learned from fatherhood that can extend to waiting out a pandemic and partying again, it's cold-hard patience. And with Where Are My Keys? in the distance, the patience is paying off.
"Enjoy every moment. Fatherhood has been completely life-changing in a way that no party has ever dealt me, but it's given me a different perspective that we're all family," he says. "In our parties, we try to do the same."
Where Are My Keys? With DJ Harvey, Moodymann, Soul Clap, and others. 4 p.m. Sunday, May 30, at 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant, 1395 NW 57th Ave., Miami; 305-261-4220; facebook.com/wrmkmiami. Tickets cost $44.06 to $86.50 via eventbrite.com.