“Are you sure this is the right address?” your Uber driver might ask while hesitantly rolling up to your destination. In a shabby strip mall near Opa-locka, a solid 15-minute drive north on I-95 from the bustle of Wynwood, stands the Club. With little fanfare, it lets visitors know they’ve arrived: A flat, monochromatic sign and a smattering of youths smoking cigarettes outside the front door are the only indications of a party.
Dotted with nondescript warehouses and unassuming homes, the neighborhood doesn’t immediately come to mind as an option for a night out. But over the past couple of years, a tiny, smoke-filled dive bar inauspiciously christened the Club has gained a steady following of South Florida’s young, alternative, and arts-inclined.
“It’s the cheapest little bar in town,” says Cam, the mononymous cofounder of the record label Crass Lips, who frequently hangs at the Club and sometimes collaborates on bookings there. “Naturally, it’s where artists and their friends congregate.” Apart from the cheap booze and utter lack of frills, partygoers are drawn to the county’s outskirts by a diverse, slow-growing program of underground DJs, emerging bands, and experimental performance artists. The signature event and primary driving force behind the Club’s recent evolution is Vinyl Social Club, helmed by Danielle Hartmann and Marc Melton.
Hartmann began throwing her “traveling vinyl party” at various venues around town at the end of 2016 and made the Club its home base. The social club hosts instructional spin sessions Mondays and the namesake Vinyl Social Club party Fridays, inviting everyone in the community to bring their records and become part of the mix. A bartender at the Club, Hartmann brought on Melton to assist with bar duties at the growing Social Club nights. Since then, regular programming has expanded to include the queer party Octopussy, hosted by DJ and professional dancer Thug Pussy, and a mix of Saturday-night artist showcases.
“When we started, it was pretty much spread by word of mouth,” Melton says. “It kind of grew slowly, but people who saw it and liked it and got a really good feeling from it just stuck, and they actually became a lot of the hardcore supporters.” Now Hartmann manages social media for Vinyl Social Club, while Melton runs the Club’s Instagram account.
Open for 40-odd years, according to Melton, the Club hasn’t always been the mini hipster hub it is now, but it has always garnered fierce devotion from its patrons. The current owner, who prefers to remain anonymous and “doesn’t want to be in the forefront,” Melton says, was himself a frequenter of the dark, intimate establishment and loved it so much he purchased it.
“There’s always a lot of new, fresh talent at the Club,” says Cam, who will host an event this Saturday in lieu of Octopussy, which is on hiatus while Thug Pussy is out of town. Dubbed the CrassLippies, Saturday’s showcase will still offer a packed roster of queer, experimental, and underground talent from across genres and disciplines. Among them is headliner Reaches, a dreamy, experimental electronic-pop musician from New York. Combining drag, burlesque, DJs, and rappers, the party is “a time for us to make our own rules and still do what we do,” Cam says.
“I’m proud of the different dynamic it has,” says Gami, a DJ andcofounder of the Miami queer collective Internet Friends who frequently hosts Octopussy. “It’s more of a dive bar where you feel a little bit safer, and I’m superexcited to see what’s gonna happen.”
Vinyl Social Club has a number of events lined up for this spring, including a special WMC pop-up party at the Standard March 29. New parties and bookings for the Club are always in the works, so be sure to follow what’s new on Facebook and Instagram.
Reaches, with DJ Dirtbag, Hush, Swimmeng, Period Bomb, and Yoko Oso. 8 p.m. Saturday, February 23, at the Club, 14247 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; 786-409-3920. Suggested $5 donation at the door.