Crash Trash and Weekend Bash! Downtown Part 2!October 8, 2009 236 comments Print Article
Join us on part two of our ongoing reviews of the nightspots and watering holes of Jacksonville! This time, join Benton Richards, Jennifer Browning, and Stephen Dare as they sojourn more of the Downtown Offerings.
The Club Rating Formula:
There are six categories that our obstreperous reviewers rate:
S = Service
This is pretty self explanatory: Is it sufficiently staffed with trained well disposed people? Is service prompt and professional? Are the employees competent and attentive?
D = Drinks
This is a pretty subjective category. In liquor bars, it's a measure of the quality of liquors available, as well as whether the bartenders actually know what they are doing. We give extra points for showmanship during mixing, as well as how well constructed the drink is. Beer and Wine Bars get an automatic rating of 3, but we give extra points for great selections.
CZ = Crowd Size
This has everything to do with people per square feet, not total number of people. If a small club is crowded with 50 people in it, they will get a 5. If a huge club looks deserted with 300 people in it, they will get a 1. Clubbing is about socializing. If people are so spread out that you cant mix, then its sort of self defeating isnt it?
CF = Crowd Friendliness
Is the crowd itself friendly? Can a person meet and/or get introduced to others reasonably easily? Is it cliquish and not open to outsiders? Is it clear that a bar fight is possible from the minute one walks into the room? Should one mind one's P's and Q's?
FMS= Friendliness To Metro Jacksonville Staff
Lets face it, if their staff isnt going to be friendly to an honest to god reviewer, who are they going to be friendly to?
B = Bonus Points
Totally random. Anything that sticks out of the ordinary, whether positive or negative.
In the first five categories, we give a rating between Zero and Five. Zero being god awful. A rating of Five is excellent.
The sixth category is for Bonus Points, however and can earn a rating of -5 through +5, depending on the reason and importance of the bonus cause.
The entire amount is then divided by 5, which gives you our rating.
Now. it is important to notice that we do not rate based on the kind of music or the clientele that the clubs cater to. Nor do we give a fig's leaf about the size or age of the club, and are not impressed by cheap marketing ploys. We don't rate a club on the basis of the age of the clientele or whether it serves full liquor or beer and wine. The ratings reflect what any person walking into the club for the first time would notice.
And yes. We include the bathrooms. People should not have to consult with the EPA before using them.
Downtown and Springfield Friday Night
Fusion 8:00pm - 8:50pm
Fusion is all the more amazing because it is in Springfield. On this particular night there were several people associated with MetroJacksonville in the club including our lovely Restaurant Princess, Steph Bewley.
New man of the MJ Review and Marketing team, Benton Richards was also on hand.
From Benton's notes:
"Ill have to tell you frankly, I was very prominently surprised by how crisp and smooth the interior of the place was. I was expecting something with a little style, but the interior is so polished that I would have been just as happy taking clients there in Manhattan. Every detail was perfect.
As I had never met Jennifer before, It was a little like being on a blind date with an associate's niece.
Jennifer? I asked a young woman at the bar.
No, she replied, but she pointed me over to the end of the bar, where I found her to be very busily engaged in conversation with two reasonably well dressed real estate brokers....
I was a little disappointed that its a wine and beer only establishment, but I have to admit that the ambiance is so metropolitan that I wouldn't mind spending a great deal of time at Fusion. Presently the owner came out and chatted with me for a while, setting me even more at ease than I already was, and people began pouring in.
Definitely a well dressed and savvy clientele, the majority of whom were surprisingly from Springfield. It shouldn't be surprising, I suppose, but the image of so many snappily dressed yuppies is not how most people envision the area. Mostly the crowd was better dressed than a similar crowd would have been at Orsay in Avondale. If the interior was Manhattan, the style is vintage Palm Beach at the private clubs. I must say, I was impressed.
It was only the conversations that gave it away, and in my opinion made it even better. Im usually put off by the chatter at the private clubs, but this place was a little daring and even inviting.
That first night at Fusion was the place that you envision taking your wife to the day after you got engaged. The place where you will go after a few years of marriage and are young, successful enough not to count pennies, and full of piss and vinegar.
It really is ideal."
Fusion is located a little off the corner of 8th and Pearl, where the smoking craters of the New Springfield Project still steam off a faint whiff of demolished buildings and dreams.
The corner would hardly be a picturesque entrance to a dogfight, much less a place catering to people who aren't avoiding specific police cars.
The winebar might as well be in another universe however.
The venue has a noticeable upscale feeling----the modern decor, seriously tasteful lighting, and not at all ironic umbrellas on the ceiling see to that.
Jennifer Browning weighs in: "This is definitely the place to go after working in one of the offices downtown because it's not too far away and everyone is wearing suits or dresses."
The atmosphere, balancing affluence oddly with open friendliness, makes Fusion a supremely comfortable place to talk, listen to Jazz music and sip well chosen wine.
Because there is a God, smoking isn't allowed inside, but there are wonderful tables out front each equipped with a single flower in a glass.
You can purchase wines by the glass, ranging from 6-8 dollars, or by the bottle, ranging from 26-77 dollars.
Local puddinghead and would-be land baron, Ray Beeson of Streetscape notoriety was amongst the early crowd, gurgling something about village idiots and guffawing into his drink, so we anticipated the perfect setting for adventures in male enhancement drugs followed by methane huffing.
The team began to cast around looking for something fresh in the way of sedatives. But just as social options were beginning to look thin, Jennifer met a wonderful Jazz Singer named Sarah Sanders. Benton managed to continue on a bright conversation with the other realtor, and decided to mark the time at Fusion for the rest of the evening.
Jennifer chatted up the Jazz singer, Sarah who exclaimed, "It's great to have something like this in Springfield! The ceiling is artistically done."
We looked up.
It certainly was.
The bar was crowded by the time of Miss Browning's exit, full of happy, relaxed 20-50ish people. Stephen Dare notes that Fusion has the good taste to serve Illy espresso products, and it was the consensus of the team that everyone who works at Fusion has wonderful attitudes .
Even for an opening night, the service was excellent.
S(4) + CZ(3) + CF(4) + FMS(5) + D(3) + Bonus(2 illy espresso)
The Sinclair 8:55pm - 10:30pm
The Sinclair is like walking onto a set. Everything about the bar has history, and reeks of age and stories mutely witnessed. They have photos on the brick walls, and books, bottles of wine and beer decorate the bar. But there is something about the location that is more than the sum of its parts. The space's former incarnation, Voodoo Lounge had a bit of the same mojo, but was so swathed in hipness tributes that the sense of history was muffled.
Not so with the Sinclair. Perhaps that is due to the conscious efforts of the crew of Douglas Anderson Alumni who run the place, with the subtle references to Lewis, and the spartan hemingway approved nature of the bar furnishings, or maybe its because of the very bricks themselves.
As soon as I arrived, I was given the "Wicked Little Cocktail" --a cute nod to the the number "Wicked Little Town" from Hedwig. It was rimmed with red sugar, and garnished with a strawberry, which is obviously shorthand for YUM! to both drag queens and college girls.
Of course it wasn't really a 'cocktail', since the bar is beer and wine only, so I had to ask the cute bartender (a little hottie named Chris Stanton) what it was made of: Sake, Cranberry Juice, and Orange Simple Syrup.
Although I'm not a drag queen, I am a college girl so at that point I could have stayed just for the Wicked Little Cocktail (you can see the extra point for "D" in the review.)
You can smoke inside the Sinclair although fortunately there wasn't a lot of smoking going on, well, except onstage for the show.
When Hedwig was getting started, I took my seat on the front row on a very comfortable red couch.
I had never seen the show or the movie by John Cameron Mitchell before, and when Josh Waller, playing the main character turned to me just a few feet away and asked: "What about sex, is that how we put ourselves back again?" --- "I can smell your thoughts from here, take a thought shower!" embarrassingly, I burst out laughing so hard I think the crowd thought I was nuts, or gonna choke, or maybe both.
The Sinclair was totally transformed into a theater for this musical and the stage was awesome, especially as a nightclub experience (which the show is written to be).
Remember the cute bartender? Well, he has a role in the musical, too. He's a bell ringer.
Although I was there to have a nightclub experience---not a theater show, it was so much fun that I think more nightclubs should have entertainment like this in the early evening. What a great time. My editor was texting the shit out of me to remind me of the rest of the nights schedule, and so I had to leave at intermission. But I think "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is so wonderful that I'm going back to see the full show this weekend.
Check out April Hutchinsons review of the show, along with more photos here: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2009-oct-april-hutchinson-hedwig-and-the-angry-inch-review
S(4) + CZ(2) + CF(2) + FMS(4) + D(3) + Bonus(5 Hedwig!)
Well, the Landing was flooded with a sea of people when I arrived.
Parking was a mess.
After making my way to the upstairs part of the Landing, I waded through the sea of people outside to get to Mavericks.
Once inside, there were over 3,000 people having what appeared to be a hoot of a good time dancing to The "Electric Slide". It was like Back to the Future, only one where Patsy Cline partnered with Donna Summer and western civilization was changed forever. The crowd was simply mammoth.
If you have ever wondered where everyone from deep mandarin, the westside and parts thither go to spend godless amounts of money to provide a backdrop for Navy Boys hoping to get lucky, wonder no more.
I went to the bar and waited for five minutes to get a drink to be told that I needed to speak with Frank(?).
While I was waiting a guy walked up beside me and we started to chat for a minute. He said he'd never been there but his girlfriend likes country music. (He automatically had my sympathy) I asked him if he would come back to Mavericks, and he said he would. I waited to see if there was a caveat to this, there wasn't, so he also got my approval, even if his girlfriend was a Dixie chick. I hoped she was also cute as hell, and appreciated his devotion to her.
About that time, Frank came over and handed me a VIP bracelet and said, "If anyone asks why you're wearing this, tell them Frank put it on your arm personally."
VIP treatment isn't necessary for our club reviews, so I was very charmed and left that encounter feeling very warmly disposed to Frank. What a sweet man. Even though I'm sure that was exactly his motivation, I think effort should count for something. I also think he is the kind of guy that would take a personal concern over any issues or situations that happened in the nightclub. And that's a good thing. Especially with those crowds!
Not wanting to take undue advantage of the VIP status, I walked back inside the club and went to the regular bar to get a drink. This was a tactical mistake.
I waited.... and waited..... and waited..... I switched bars with identical results and realized that it was a futile effort.
Back to Plan VIP. Since I had the bracelet on my arm, I sought out the VIP bar instead.
Miss Browning's Ting Ting experience at the VIP Bar.
After commandoing through the crowd, I ran into a guy who complimented me on my dress. (Thanks, pal...only the top third was actually visible in the crowd.
Drunky McDrinkDrink was quite in his cups, and asked me what my name was. For the record, its still Jennifer.
Then he called me Tiffany, Amber, Amy, and a few other names before asking me 10 times if my name was Jennifer.
After that, he told me he loved me and smacked a wet one right on my cheek, the devil!
At this point both my need for and subsequent quest to get a drink had become Epic.
The soothing effects of the wicked little cocktails had long since vanished. In fact, they had been completely forgotten. It took so long to get drinks that I thought I was never going to get one.
Finally, a bartender asked me what I wanted, I replied, "A Hurricane." He promptly notified me that they don't have the stuff to make it.
A country bar that doesn't have Hurricanes? Mother of Jefferson Davis!
I looked around at the limited selection of liquor, wine and beer and decided on a Vodka and Cranberry.
That turned out to be a bad idea. It was gone immediately and I wasn't about to wait in line to get another drink since it had taken a year off my life and an unsolicited smooching to get the first one.
I perked up suddenly, because the Black Eyed Peas song, "Boom Boom" started playing. Finally, a chance to dance! Apparently me and the crowd at Maverick's have completely different ideas about danceable music. The sea of people stopped dancing and looked at each other, dumbfounded.
It was like being in a wave pool at a water park and then it just stops moving!
Well never mind. The Vodka was made out of real alcohol after all, and feeling its effects, I started dancing.
I got strange looks from the crowd for my efforts. Feeling like a lame outsider, I went to the other side of the club (which took a while since I kept bumping into everyone with my clipboard.)
I noticed that there were really cute girls riding on a mechanical bull and they were flung off! They seemed quite amused with themselves. Time to check out the Downstairs at the Landing. Next time, Ill just see if Frank will let me ride around on his shoulders. I bet its a lot easier to get a drink that way.
S(1) + CZ(5) + CF(3) + FMS(3) + D(2) + Bonus(4 mechanical bull)
Twisted Martini 11:20 - 11:45
Moving quickly through the masses at the Landing would be much easier with a Taser, Ive decided. And despite how many hot jocks and cute sorority bopper chicks were there, I would have no problem using one with abandon.
Sadly without one, I headed to the next spot on my Club Crawl, the Twisted Martini.
This Venue was swarming with people as well, the line was intimidating.
You would have thought they were handing out free sex inside.
Wait for it.....
The DJ was spinning Top 40's mixes, which inspired me to immediately head for the bar to claim a drink and a pen. (my original pen was abandoned to the masses at Mavericks.)
I spoke with a cute, sweet bartender who happily handed me an Appletini and something to write with.
Twisted Martini is another bar that knows that a hot bartender with an easy pour is right up there with chocolate strawberries and bubblebaths on the list of things inspired by God. Oh bartender. If only I had been able to catch your name.
The Appletini's were just beginning to kick in when suddenly a really loud shriek blasted through Twisted Martini with kidney rupturing decibels.... a few seconds into the noise, I realized that it was a loud siren. WTF? I could seriously live without these sirens. These aren't the kind that you normally hear in clubs along with the dance mix, these were apparently designed to signal the home fleet that an invasion from the east is imminent. Word to the deejay. Sirens that would stampede bison are not a good idea for clubs.
Smoking is allowed in the Twisted Martini, but with the excellent ventillation, it wasn't particularly smoky at all.
This place was filled with jocks, guys with hats on backwards and their pants around their ankles, I mean... below their perfectly well rounded bums....
By complete coincidence, I happened to walk directly and discretely over to the bar where one of these groups of guys was hanging out.
As if by magic, "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas came on.(ok, I have a bit of a fetish for the band).
What would the world be like without cute boys? Just at this moment, the irritating 'get the hell on to the next club' text message came through from the editor.
As I left the boys were off to "party" on the dance floor.
S(4) + CZ(4) + CF(3) + FMS(4) + D(3) + Bonus(0)
The Pearl: 12:00 -12:30
The Pearl is a funky little club in Springfield, owned by a sprightly, charismatic woman named Christy. Reputedly, she never sleeps, and spends all of her days making detailed cool stuff, running clubs and jet-setting back and forth from Portland to Jacksonville.
Her Club is cool, and unlike any other space in town. Maybe anywhere else except Disney.
There are sculptures of trees growing up from the floor to the ceiling in the entire venue. She built them by hand. It's like being in a haunted forest peopled by hipsters, people from Springfield, and people waiting for marriage to be legalized.
She also did most of the intricate detail work in the bathrooms herself. They are beautiful. Christy is the kind of woman you cant help but want to meet. Maybe one day I will.
I went inside without a hitch, and ordered an Oatmeal Cookie shot.
The shot was pretty good and quite tasty, not as good as 331's, but definitely better than Marks'.
I went outside on the patio because that's where the crowd was hanging out.
Bingo! Lots of cute guys singing karaoke with their shirts off... woot!
It wasnt good karaoke. It really wasnt even decent karaoke. Ok Lets be honest: There was some pretty awful karaoke going on back there. But it was actually a good time!
Suddenly the shirtless boys were replaced by a group of drunk girls. My ears started bleeding.
An intrepid fellow named Brad came over to me while I was watching the drunken trainwreck onstage, which was a relief. If he had come equipped with earplugs it would have been better.
Brad's a local of Springfield.
Something about locals. They all have a gallows sense of humor about the reputation of the neighborhood, "If you know crackheads, it's a really nice place," he told me, referring to the area.
There weren't too many people hanging out at the Pearl for a Friday which surprised me.
Definitely a place for Thursday or Saturday.
Brad was talking to me about Anime and some other stuff... blah, blah, blah. Then he blurts out, "Write down that I'm totally hot!" Okay, buddy.... About this time, I decided to make a break for it and finish hanging out at the Pearl.
S(3) + CZ(1) + CF(3) + FMS(4) + D(3) + Bonus(0)