Kush Jones at ATV Records

Miami Doesn’t Want the Music to Stop at ATV Records

Jul 19, 2022

Zach Schlein

7 min read

As one of the Magic City’s most beloved clubs prepares to close shop, many are grappling with what it means for the 305’s underground dance culture moving forward.

It’s 4 am in Miami, and the collective sweat is so thick you can practically pluck it from midair. As clubgoers throw their appendages across the dance floor of ATV Records, a nightclub nestled in the downtown area, the sheer kinetic energy of the bunch has rendered the cool air of the venue’s A/C and CO2 machine all but inert. Local party crew Jezebel is hosting Tim Reaper alongside DJ Swisha and Kush Jones for its last proper night at the club, and it feels fitting that this brief-but-vital era of Miami nightlife is going out with this much vigor.

As Swisha and Jones go b2b, the Juke Bounce Werk pair steer the sold-out crowd on a breathless tour through footwork, juke, and techno, gradually upping the ante even as they weave in playful cuts like a snippet of ATC’s Eurodance classic “Around the World (La La La La La).” Machinedrum, fresh from his DJ set at Club Space nearby, looks on in approval.

Once the BPM has gotten high enough for Tim Reaper to take over the decks, the DJ-producer’s blend of jungle punctuated by hardcore rave makes one clubgoer effectively enter goblin mode, flinging excess energy out of his chest and into the crowd from the perch of an elevated booth, eyes closed, teeth gritted all the while.

This past Sunday morning’s shenanigans were the latest in an ongoing procession bidding farewell to ATV. The 150-person club recently announced it would close its doors for good at the end of July, prompting a period of reflection by Miami’s local music scene. As ATV goes under, so too does one of the city’s few remaining dance floors catered to the underground crowd. ATV is also the most recent in a long line of mid-sized Miami venues to shut down since March 2020, joining the ranks of cherished hangs like Churchill’s PubLas RosasOak Garden, and others that have kicked the bucket. Besides leaving few stages on which to perform and attract an audience, this drought of dives has left the 305’s creative community with meager pickings in places to call home and, in turn, gather with others.

“ATV stands for [offering] a low barrier entry for people… if you say ‘Hey, I want to go and enjoy a night out,’ you can only think of places with a $40 entry, and that’s not an intimate type of setting,” says Luis Yepez, co-founder of Jezebel and a manager at ATV. “The Jezebel nights cater to a younger crowd that doesn’t really have a space to enjoy something for their demographic. [Recurring party and ATV fixture] SALEM had a recent pop-up, but there’s no place — especially with Las Rosas closing – for them to [organize events]. It seems like the music scene is only being catered to one specific demographic, which loses the essence of community… and community is anyone that wants to be involved in the nightlife scene.”

Jezebel was founded in early 2021 by Yepez — then a server at Melinda’s, the now-closed bar and restaurant adjoined to ATV — alongside collaborators Juan Mejia and Camilo Cano. Although the first edition started as an excuse to DJ and organize a birthday party for friends at ATV, Jezebel became a beacon of post-social distancing nightlife, attracting many back into a club for the first time since COVID-19 upended the world. Hosting the likes of Perel and duo AceMoMA and champions of Miami dance culture, including Bort, Nick León, and Jubilee, Jezebel’s parties helped cement ATV as a communal hub at a time when people craved beat connections more than ever.

“We’ve always been clubgoers going to [shuttered venues] like Electric Pickle and Trade, so we were always in tune with that sound,” Yepez says. “But as the years went on… it seemed like ATV became the pillar of the community for Miami’s underground music scene.”

ATV established its prominence with little time but a lot of power behind it. After being known as 1306 — named after its street address — and largely hosting live concerts since 2016, the venue rebranded as ATV and Melinda’s in late 2019. Both the club and restaurant components were imported by Will Renuart, who’d previously operated Melinda’s on the first floor of the Electric Pickle, the venue he co-founded in Miami’s ascendent Wynwood neighborhood. After the much-loved den of decadence closed in June 2019, Renuart and other Pickle alumni like Alo Gonzalez — known on the decks as Puma — were brought into the space’s fold by Aramis Lorie and other partners.

For those invested in Miami’s after-hours culture, this arrangement signified a momentous meeting of the nightlife minds. As the people behind long-running party series and event production group Poplife, Lorie and longtime collaborator Jake Jefferson brought extensive experience from engineering some of the best gatherings Miami has ever seen. Poplife’s 20th-anniversary party in November 2019 was one of ATV’s first proper events and set a high standard for the gatherings to follow. Even Win Butler of Arcade Fire fame showed up.

Considering the pandemic, it’s a miracle the Pickle-Poplife partnership lasted for as long as it did. According to Lorie, cultural shifts and financial fallout from Miami’s ever-rising property values ultimately led to ATV’s demise.

Monica McGivern

“Miami’s become extremely expensive on the real estate level… and that trickles down into everything,” Lorie says, calling it the “growing pains” of an increasingly prominent city. “It puts a lot of pressure on us because we’re not trying to appease the masses.”

Many locals are concerned about the ripple effect, both overt and understated, of Miami’s affordable housing crisis on the city’s underground dance culture. This includes Alex Del Campillo, who DJs under the moniker Alexx in Chains and has thrown parties at ATV as co-founder of the collectives Gay Underground Network Inc. and GAZE Miami.

“Everyone I know is working really hard to make it,” Del Campillo says, adding that many in the scene are juggling two or three jobs simultaneously. “Now we’re reaching a tipping point where it doesn’t matter how hard you work because it’s just a rich person’s city. People are being priced out, and I’m scared that those who come from low and middle-class backgrounds won’t continue to be here to create culture.”

However, resiliency is intrinsic to the roots of dance culture, and Del Campillo, Lorie, and Yepez all remain optimistic about the underground’s long-term viability.

“I think there will be really interesting pop-ups happening,” says Lorie, a sentiment shared universally among the trio. There’s also ample talk of alternative spaces, such as the Boombox stepping in to fill the void by providing additional resources to artists and expanding on programming.

But in the meantime, ATV still has a few memorable nights left, including Thursday night’s extended set by Shermanology co-presented by Gray Area. The last party, on Saturday, July 30, is set to be a Miami family affair.

"For the closing on July 30, Jezebel, SAFE, Miami Community Radio… we’re all doing a day party across the outdoor and indoor areas, and it’s going to be one big farewell to ATV,” Yepez says, adding other local collectives including Dream VacationSarah ToninSURFACETropico Virgo, and yes, Poplife, are all getting in on the action.

“We’re all in communication right now to see how we can provide space for the continuation of our programming and the underground music scene,” he says. “Pressure creates diamonds, and I feel like once these things start unfolding again, the crowd ATV was catering to is going to come back with a vengeance.”

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