Hasn't changed a bit.
Two years ago, multi-million-dollar downtown venue Nocturnal missed opening for Winter Music Conference by a few weeks because of permit and construction woes, thereby losing untold buckets of business and getting off on the very wrong foot.
The fault start dashed the club’s hopes of dance respectability, and it soon shifted to hip-hop for survival. But like every Miami venue, for one week in March, it goes dance. Our Stalkers visited during WMC: Probably an unfair time to judge a venue overall, but who said life is fair?
This place hasn’t changed a bit, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I don’t think they’ve painted a wall, moved a banquette or, heck, even cleaned since 2005. The whole club looks dirty and beat up, like a bunker with a disco ball in it.
The sound system’s been abused too, and takes vengeance on your eardrums. Lots of squelch, pop and raggedy edges.
But all of that paled in comparison to what happened when we attempted to go upstairs to the patio. You can only take so much bleakness, right? How bad could a place in the Miami sunshine be?
A security guard blocked the narrow stairs that promised our escape, not on the top landing or on the bottom, but in the middle. “Terrace’s full,” he grumbled. So a queue – actually make that a crowd – was quite literally sealing off an entire staircase. Fire hazard is an understatement.
After five minutes with no movement – except to let stumbling people down and somehow special-er people up – we got the idea that this could take awhile. Maybe because we were sober and the people-watching was fun, or because it was ridiculous, or because we knew we’d be writing this after the fact, we decided to stick it out on the stairs and see how bad things could get.
So yeah, there we are blocking a major artery, getting claustrophobic in a 20,000-square-foot club because the air was so thick and the nastiness so palpable. We start to get the sense that the 30-or-so people around us are so compromised that they have no sense of time. Twenty minutes go by, and they don’t make a move to give up.
Then some insane Nocturnal employee – God knows who this guy was, all bug-eyed and loud with such an aggressive claim to authority that even the boulder of a security guard moved readily for him – pounded up the stairs with about three teetering sets of boobs behind him. The sudden rush of air made all the zombies think it was time to move, so they started pushing forward. At the same time, a group of four attempted to come down. Keep in mind this staircase could not have been more than eight feet wide.
We started to imagine the headlines: “Twenty Trampled In Nightclub Stampede: Two Good Girls Among The Dead.” But, at this point, even we can’t get out. The only way is up and, despite the fact that things are getting hairy – grabbing-other-asses-for-leverage, only-one-foot-touching-the-floor kind of hairy – the bouncer is not moving.
One hour later – let me say that again, ONE HOUR LATER – another, more senior guard made his way down the unblocked portion of the stairs, which at this point looked like utopia. Not even the terrace beyond, just the stairs. “The terrace is closed,” he bellowed in that borderline-sociopathic way that senior club security guards have. “You’re not getting up there, so just disperse. Now. Go. GO. YOU’RE NOT GETTING UP THERE.”
I wanted to put a small French boy on my shoulders, wave a red flag, and start everyone in a chorus of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” What was this injustice?! Loopy or not, these people had waited for an hour to get up these blessed stairs, relatively calmly, might I add. Now, we were going to banished back to the nasty catacombs? No sun? No air? And, worse, no explanation?
I confess, at this point, we whipped out business cards and got catty. Two minutes later, we were up there. We proceeded to the bar, did a shot of Patron, looked around for five minutes, and went back down.
The terrace sucked too.