With enhanced systems, revamped interiors, even totally new
venues, Miami’s club lords strive to one-up each other…all
in time for the world’s annual visit.
By John Landers
to Miami, beautiful club people. It’s that time of year
again, when the demigods of dance return to sunny South Florida
for an extended week of music, networking, and Bacchanalian
excess. But things here have changed significantly since last
winter, and in keeping with those changes, we’re going
to take a fresh look at the local nightlife, as well as the
sound, lighting, and interior design elements that have made
this subtropical metropolis so famous.
Musically, trance has lost the near-monopoly it once held
over the area’s premier venues. “The hip-hop industry
has taken over the beach,” posits Gerry Kelly, the club
visionary responsible for, among other things, the late, great
Level nightclub. Thanks to the persistence of various independent
promoters, however, it’s become much easier to find
quality house, techno, and even drum ‘n’ bass
parties around town. The resulting cross-pollination of musical
genres and cultural influences has produced both irritation
and innovation. It’s all muy Miami.
it’s been a turbulent year, and the future remains uncertain.
Five years ago, few would’ve predicted the current state
of the nightclub nation. Here in Southeast Florida, some high-profile,
well-financed enterprises have failed miserably (Billboard
Live, anyone?), yet investors continue to create fresh clubs.
Existing ventures, meanwhile, try to remain competitive, often
by upgrading their lighting and sound systems. Dave Chesal,
Martin Professional’s club and leisure segment manager,
hears the growing anxiety of many Miami nightlife leaders
in real time: “They all ask questions like, ‘Is
it time for a new club? Is there room for a new club? Is this
what the people want? If a new club came along, would the
people go? Are they satisfied with what they have?’”
what did you expect? It’s Florida. The City of Miami
Beach, which has benefited so greatly from its indigenous
nightlife, now seems ambivalent about the industry. The revitalization
of the area known as South Beach, or simply SoBe, has encouraged
the construction of upscale condominiums in close proximity
to the city’s entertainment district. Predictably, the
influential new neighbors aren’t altogether happy about
the increasingly powerful sound systems that are being installed
in various venues, and draconian noise ordinances now threaten
previously established operations like Opium Gardens and Nikki
a result, nightclub entrepreneurs looking for a friendlier
business environment have continued to go west, moving from
the southernmost island of Miami Beach, across the MacArthur
Causeway Bridge, and into Miami itself, where that city’s
government is actively encouraging the development of a new
entertainment-oriented area. The neighborhood, previously
dominated solely by Space 34, has attracted the attention
of some savvy investors, all of whom expect it to flourish
in the coming year.
that you have a sense of the situation here, let’s check
out some of the more intriguing local nightspots, both on
and off the beach. Like the veteran Winter Music Conference
attendees that we are, though, we’re not even going
to try to visit every worthy club and lounge. Instead, we’ll
spend quality time at a couple of the hottest new places,
catch up with some old friends, and then start making plans
for our next trip to Miami.
Quainter than a club, more liberal than a lounge – meet
the “club lounge.”
the time you read this, several new venues will be open in
Miami Beach, including State, which occupies the old BarRoom/Spin
space at 320 Lincoln Road. Under the guidance of Gerry Kelly,
along with partners Maxwell Blandford and Gregory Selph, the
club is designed to fill a unique niche in the crowded SoBe
market. “I felt that the beach was changing,”
Kelly says. “The five-year span of the monster club
on South Beach was coming to a slow end, but I also felt that
the small lounges were too small, and too overcrowded. The
people that were getting in were the most beautiful girls
and the highest bidders.” With State, Kelly wants the
best of both worlds. “Our concept,” he says, “is
a club lounge.”
sound will come from what Gerry Kelly describes as “a
state-of-the-art” (no pun intended) system, originally
installed by Miami-based Infinite Audio, which features EAW
speakers, Crest Pro Series amplifiers, and XTA processing.
The well-appointed DJ booth will be equipped with both Pioneer
and Denon CD decks, three Technics turntables, a Rane MP 2016
mixer, a Rane XP 2016 external processor, and four NEXO PS15
monitors. Lighting will apparently be a mixture of Martin
Professional and High End Systems products.
As for the interior design, Kelly describes State as “very
upscale . . . with a spectacular format.” Considering
his other career as a haute couturier, it’s believable.
State will also have “less dancefloor and more seating,”
Kelly adds, in keeping with the club lounge motif.
Musically, State will reflect recent SoBe trends. “The
music format of the beach has changed drastically,”
Kelly maintains. In keeping with the times, the club will
offer its fashionable guests two distinct environments. “One
will be a house room, and the other I would like to consider
a ‘fun world’ room.” Already onboard as
weekly residents are Ivano Bellini, Nicky Scanni, and Pierre
Zono Zon. Together, Kelly expects that “whether you’re
young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, black, white ... [you’ll
be] entertained by the music.”
WMC lineup includes Judge Jules, Todd Terry, Steve Lawler,
Saeed & Palash, Robbie Rivera, and Oscar G, but outside
of the madness of conference week, it will be known as a club
lounge where “fashion rules,” promises Kelly.
In that case, we’ll be expecting a live PA from Chicks
• State, 320 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, www.gerrykelly.com
Food, drink, and Phazon.
Another new venue on Lincoln Road (and, yes, two of anything
is officially a trend on SoBe) is Cafeteria, which arrived
fashionably late, several months past its projected opening
date. Cafeteria is a super stylin’ restaurant lounge
with a genuine Phazon sound system. The radical transformation
of the space, which once was an Art Deco Cadillac dealership,
is impressive. The cool, black-and-white decor contrasts nicely
with the warm food and hot music; the lounge in particular
feels like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey (but in
a good way). And did we mention the retractable glass roof?
There’s more to Cafeteria than just its uber-hip decor,
though. Phazon’s Phil Smith took care to make the aural
environment just as comfortable as the futuristic furniture.
“It’s easier to be around a Phazon system,”
he explains. “Some of the others are very painful at
close range. We keep it very friendly for the customers.”
Cafeteria’s lounge sound system features nine two-way
speakers (which appear to be customized JBL MS28 cabinets),
two more cabinets flown over the DJ booth, and at least four
subwoofers (apparently EAW SB48e cabinets) artfully concealed
throughout the room. The DJ booth is equipped with two well-damped
Technics SL1210 MK5G turntables, two Pioneer CDJ-1000 MK2
CD players, and a Pioneer DMP-555 tabletop digital media player.
BSS, Audia, and custom Phazon processors work their respective
magic on the audio signal before it’s sent to an imposing
stack of Crown CFS Series amplifiers. The system, Smith says,
“is very powerful, but it doesn’t hurt the ears.”
• Cafeteria, 546 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Old reliable ups its lights.
The only other full-on Phazon sound system on the beach, of
course, is the one in high-flying megaclub crobar (there’s
yet another Phazon system coming to the neighborhood in the
near future, but it won’t be on the beach). “Our
sound system is one of the things that draws people to the
club,” attests Seif Salem, the club’s sound, lighting,
and video guru. In addition to the awesome rig in the main
room, crobar boasts a separate system upstairs in the sizeable
VIP area (where the notorious Monday night Back Door Bamby
party is held), and a recently added DJ booth in the “ultra-VIP
The club has added many more lighting fixtures this past year
too, and crobar’s lighting team has been continually
working with the Whole Hog controller, trying to maximize
the sizeable system’s already-impressive visual impact.
“We keep on top of programming,” says Salem. “We
try to put in new programs every week.” The constant
additions and improvements to the lighting rig have yielded
some impressive results, as even the most jaded SoBe club
kids happily admit. “I think the lighting technicians
have just as many fans as the DJs do,” Salem jests.
• Crobar, 1445 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, www.crobar.com
New look, same style.
The sound system at mini-club Nerve may no longer carry the
official Phazon seal of approval, but it still sounds great,
and that Steve Dash Audio rotary mixer (serial #6, by the
way) is delighting the A-list DJs who frequent the booth.
The knobs on the SDX-3700 really do go to 11, so inexperienced
(or irresponsible) operators need not apply.
Recently, Nerve’s lighting has been undergoing a major
makeover at the hands of LD Michael Meacham. The system, which
consists largely of Coemar iSpots, ProSpots, and Martin Atomic
strobes, has been completely re-hung, re-lamped, re-programmed,
and pretty much reborn since last year’s conference.
“It really opens up the room a lot,” says Meacham,
who now controls the system from his own LightJockey-equipped
Decor-wise, Meacham has also added some tasteful illumination
to Nerve’s interior by installing a variety of ColorKinetics
iColor Cove intelligent LED products throughout the venue,
including along the back wall in the VIP room. The overall
effect is quite impressive, especially because the accent
lighting is carefully color-coordinated with what’s
happening over and around the dancefloor. “I enjoy having
this canvas,” Meacham adds. “The people at Nerve
have been very gracious at letting me flex that creativity.”
• Nerve, 247 23rd Street, Miami Beach, www.nervelounge.com
On-again, off-again, but irresistibly
Space 34, or 34, or whatever the club calls itself these days,
has endured some world-class drama since last year’s
conference. Fortunately for dance music devotees, however,
Louis Puig’s legendary venue has survived legal difficulties,
vicious rumor mongering (is there any other kind?), and even
its own series of “official” closing parties.
The nightclub actually seems stronger now than ever, much
to the consternation of the competition.
Part of the club’s continued success is due to its brilliant
audio system. Puig, a self-described “sound enthusiast,
aficionado, and freak,” simply has to have the very
best. “He’s probably the most technically-astute
club owner I’ve ever met,” remarks Infinite Audio’s
Lord Toussaint. “He wants everyone in Space to have
the same level of experience, even in the worst-case corner.”
“I have no loyalty to any particular brand when it comes
to sound,” Puig explains. “The old Space had all
BSS processors with Crown amps and EAW speakers. The new Space
has Audia processors with Crest amps and half NEXO speakers
(subs and mid-bass) and half EAW speakers (mid-highs and highs).
If something better becomes available in the market, chances
are you will hear it at Space first.”
And apparently it has. Late reports hint that by Conference,
Space will have switched out its current speaker system for
America’s first Dynacord alpha concept rig, commissioned
by Puig after just one listen at the Infinite showroom. “[The
alpha concept boxes] offer [Puig] the kind of mid-bass energy
that he wanted, combined with everything else he wanted spectrally,
without having to go across different factories,” explains
Toussaint. “They’re a one-stop shop for everything.
To get what he wanted before, we had to cut and paste.”
In addition to that massive, pumping sound
system, Space also have a very substantial light show. “Our
light men (we have three) are all very serious about their
lights. Sometimes I kid them about there not being any more
space in the ceiling to fit more lights,” says Puig.
During the past year, Space 34 has increasingly relied on
Elation lighting. “I am very pleased, not only with
the product, but also with the service we get from their regional
representative,” says Puig.
As for the interior design, the club continues to evolve.
“We have mostly added more plush and thick curtains
around the club, not just because they look good, but because
they absorb sound,” says Puig. Plus, the whole club
is now “darker and warmer,” following an ill-conceived
color scheme. “Originally, we tried to go the Ibiza
route with white walls,” he laughs. “Who were
Even more improvements are forthcoming. “We will be
closing down in September and October to do some drastic changes,”
says Puig. “Most of them will be structural, however.
Come November, 2004, Space will once again re-evolve.”
· Space34, 34 NE 11th Street, Downtown Miami, www.clubspace.com
Where A-Listers come to kickback.
Occupying the opposite end of the clubbing spectrum from Space
34, Mynt prides itself on being intimate and exclusive. Since
its original opening in November 2000, the self-proclaimed
“ultra lounge” has attracted the elite of the
SoBe scene, as well as visiting celebrities like P. Diddy,
Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, and Russell Simmons.Recently,
the venue closed so that original designer Juan Carlos Arcila-Duque
could give Mynt a “maximalist” makeover. “After
two successful years, we wanted to refresh the Mynt appeal,”
explains co-owner Nicola Siervo. The club’s new persona
has already proved popular with the glitterati. “We
are certain the renovations will keep them coming back for
more,” Siervo attests.
Mynt’s superior sound system is another Infinite Audio
creation. The speakers are a combination of EAW and NEXO,
all of which are powered by Crest Pro Series amplifiers. “After
the doorman and the DJ,” the sound quality is “one
of the most important aspects of the nightclub,” says
general manager Jeff Miller. “If you have a bad sound
system, you will hurt the ears of your patrons and they will
Mynt’s intelligent lighting is handled by four customized
Elation Color Spot 250 moving head instruments, upgraded with
gobos that add the lounge’s logo to the patterns. The
approach works well with Mynt’s contemporary design.
“We are a smaller venue, so we don’t want too
much lighting,” Miller explains. “We are happy
with what we have.”
• Mynt, 1921 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach
Techno goes upscale.
Here’s another SoBe club trend for you conference attendees:
The southern end of Washington Avenue is making a comeback.
Honey, now in its second year, keeps getting better and better,
and the new kid on the 600 block, Privilege, is actually bringing
techno back to the beach. During its first 45 days of operation,
the 6,000 square-foot venue has hosted international tech
talents like Chris Liebing, Misstress Barbara, Corvin Dalek,
and Marco Carola.
Privilege is yet another example of Infinite Audio’s
work. “I feel the club sounds very, very good,”
says the omnipresent Lord Toussaint. “It’s a real,
thick experience.” That power comes partly from EAW
JFX Series speakers smartly positioned throughout the rectangular
space. Plus, the club’s four separate sound systems
are connected to a single Audia processor: “At the push
of a button,” explains Toussaint, “they can assign
different DJs to different areas.”
The lighting system in Privilege consists of just 14 Robe
instruments, including six of the new Color Zoom 250 moving
heads, which make maximum use of the venue’s relatively
low ceilings. The system is largely programmed and operated
by Greg Lawson, who has created a rich, cohesive look for
the entire club. Lawson’s work at Privilege has even
impressed the famously fussy Toussaint, who recently hired
him to program the lighting in the Infinite Audio product
• Privilege, 637
Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, www.privilegeclubmiami.com
Still bold, just not brash.
Yes, Infinite Audio enjoys a significant home field advantage
when it comes to local installations, but it’s the quality
of the firm’s work, not the proximity of its operation,
that ultimately seals deals. When the new owners of the ever-popular
Clevelander Hotel, on Ocean Drive, decided to invest in a
serious poolside party sound system, you can guess which company
got the call. “The key thing was the choice of speakers,”
remarks Toussaint. “EAW does weather-protected speakers
like nobody else.” With all of the Clevelander’s
sound sources now properly facing in towards the patio, noise
complaints from the hotel’s neighbors have been radically
reduced. Power is provided by Crest Pro Series amplifiers,
with processing by (you guessed it) Audia.
• Clevelander, 1020 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, www.clevelander.com
Do It Like A Native
Obviously, there’s much, much more to Miami and SoBe
than we’ve mentioned here, but part of the fun, for
visitors and locals alike, is exploring the area’s nightlife
on your own. Although south Florida is admittedly lacking
in the mass transit department, the most interesting parts
of Miami Beach are easily accessible via scooter, skates,
or sneakers. The expanding entertainment district in Miami
itself is just a quick cab or shuttle bus ride away, so be
sure to take a trip or two across the bridge (and back) during
the conference. Don’t worry about getting into all of
the coolest parties; you can’t be in seven different
places at the same time, anyway. Relax, put on your dancing
shoes, and remember to pace yourself. You can sleep next week.