In part three of our History of Dance Music in Florida, we're taking a look at the most influential nightclubs to grace the state. From Gainesville to Orlando to Miami, ravers have spent the past twenty-five years getting down, despite whatever got in their way. Here's a look:
Simons (Gainesville, FL)
Anyone involved in the Florida rave scene knows that Simons, the nightclub owned by Simon Semrani, was the Madison Square Garden of Florida rave locations. people would drive from all over the southwestern United States to see their favorite DJ.
Gainesville is a very large college town (Home of the, ahem, Gators) but what made Simons special was that promotion was done by good 'ol fashioned word of mouth. There were no radio ads blaring drink specials and the spot just had an unmarked entrance through an alleyway on the main street. AOL chatroom ravers and party kids all knew where to meet, and it worked out just fine.
While liquor licenses required clubs to stop serving alcohol around 3AM, a lot of clubs, including Simons, remained open until 5, 6 and sometimes into daylight. We all know ravers didn't care much for drinking anyways, and the club thrived.
Names like Richie Hawtin, Icey, and Sasha and Digweed would come to play house, trance and breaks. Paul Van Dyk played his first US set behind the Simons decks. There was very rarely any hip hop or pop. If played, the crowd would thin out and the DJ would know they were in trouble. Here is a Sasha and Digweed and Sasha 6+ hour set. I don't think you understand. Six hours.
Eventually, the police caught wind and began regularly confiscating everything from whippets to ecstasy, and people getting busted were from all over the south, Tennessee to Miami. While the city was trying to shut down these nightclub hours, ravers were fighting back via the Internat, arranging to dance in more secluded neighborhoods, calling for all ravers to keep their culture alive.
Simons eventually turned into your typical, flashy VIP-table style nightclub, but it will forever live in every Florida raver's memory.
The Edge Ft. Lauderdale, FL
The Edge maintained two locations over the years. One was in Orlando, where we yesterday mentioned DJ Icey got his start. The other was in Ft. Lauderdale, about thirty miles from Miami. I spent my wayward youth at the the Ft. Lauderdale location, first to see acts like NOFX and Bad Religion as, during regular hours, it was a rock venue. One day I ended up at the after-hours, and it was downhill from there.
Many of the parties here didn't get properly poppin' until 4 or 5AM on Sunday mornings,, so some kids would just leave their houses early in the mornings to head to the venue.
A DJ named Sharpe was one of the residents at the Edge and other DJs like Merlyn, Ash Rock, Icey and other local heroes like R-Fresh would play there regularly. If you were into the breaks sound of South Florida this was definitely the place to be. They started throwing parties with international. B-boys, club kids, goths and latin gangsters would all spend the latter hours sitting on the floor and massaging one another.
The Edge is now named Revolution, where I have recently seen acts like Kastle, 12th Planet and Nadastrom play, but at the time it looked like a crack house next to the train tracks outside Riverfront in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale.
The Edge had a reunion in 2011 and there was a heartwarming Facebook page for it but it is no more unfortunately
Club Space in Miami
Miami's had a deluge of ravey clubs over the years: Warsaw, Amnesia, Salvation, Paragon, Studio 183, a Grand Prix racetrack, etc. Nothing really lasted, though, and raves moved around to wherever they could fill up a space with all their madness. Space because it has been open, running and successful since 2000, though, and can't be ignored. All of the big names have come through Space throughout the years, and DJ Oscar G has pretty much been there the entire time.
Right outta the gate, Space was hosting DJs like Danny Tenaglia, Erick Morillo, Paul Van Dyk, many of them playing marathon sets. The club eventually moved due to capacity issues and changed layout several times, but despite everything, it's a Miami music staple.
The Club At Firestone
- Orlando, FL
The Firestone was a full-service garage turned dance music destination. What started as a gay club in Orlando, FL morphed into a legendary electronic music haven afterhours. The gay patrons would stay (many were Disney employees) and in would tumble the fuzzy panted halter-top girls and the JNCO wearing B-boys. Everyone partied together.
The vibe was all about PLUR before that phrase turned corporate. Firestone was famous to club kids all over the country in the mid 90s. While boy bands and rap rock were Orlando's claim to fame, the underground club kids were coming out at night to dance to Djs like Sandy, Andy Hughes, D-Xtreme and Icey.
Firestone was mentioned in Rolling Stone as one of the best nightclubs in the southeast in 1997 but they went through the same drama as everyone else. It became a place for people to point their fingers at for drug use and there were several police raids, some ending in multiple arrests. The raids had to do with both drug use and "gay stuff" – go figure, Florida. There was a period of time during which it seemed like the city of Orlando was at war against The Firestone. I remember my aunt telling me not to go there because there was apparently heroin in the ceiling? What does that even mean?
Firestone is open now and still holds mainstream EDM shows to this day. It is obviously not the same, but whenever I see a DJ announcing that they are in Orlando to play there, I still get a little bit excited.
- Tampa, FL
The Masquerade was a live music venue that held rock concerts, but was also known for its foam parties and all-night raves. Like Simons, Firestone and the rest of the clubs mentioned above, most DJs would swing through Tampa, FL and hit Ybor City to play Masquerade. If you are not familiar with Ybor City, it had a moment in nightlife during which it was a go-to spot that seemed like a mixture between the streets of NOLA and South Beach.
Information about The Masquerade is hard to find these days, It changed locations and names alot and had a go-to after hours (after the after hours) called Ozone down the street , therein making it a quintessential club. The video above captured the energy perfectly.