After 16 years, South Street's favorite dance joint is closing in April. PW chats with the players who fueled its greatness—even as a sea change in DJ culture made the end inevitable.
“Womb was very forward-thinking electronic music mixed with organic soulful sounds,” Britt recalls. “The balance between Wink and myself was magical, a very special time. For dancers, it was a dream.”
“I have a lot of friends who would come to New York to have a gig, and then before they had their gig on the weekend, they would come to Philly,” says Wink. Richie Hawtin, Marco Corola, Loco Dice, Carl Cox: World-class DJs who demand thousands of dollars for appearances all came through Philadelphia to spin at Wink and Britt’s mid-week party at Fluid, where fans could see them for seven bucks.
The demand went both ways. “The residents at Fluid were also the DJs that were requested to go outside the city,” says Jugo. “So what people were dying to go see in some other city—we always had it.”
If you lived in Philly in the ‘90s and liked to party, you had a favorite night at Fluid. More likely than not, you were at The Remedy on Monday nights.
The highlight reel is endless. J Dilla and Common popped by when in town, and so did baby ‘N Sync-era Justin Timberlake. Then there was the night the British DJ Goldie was coming through town to open up for Jane’s Addiction at the TLA and asked if he could spin a last-minute special guest spot. In the dark days of party promotion, with no Internet and no cell phones, Baker spent hours photocopying flyers and walking them up into coffeeshops like The Bean.
Medina’s Fluid-memories list is long on lore. “Please! So many,” he says. “Hosting Louie Vega, Joe Claussell, Phil Asher, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money. I mean, Cash Money and myself and Botany500 had an all 45s night there called The Getback around the same time as The Remedy. We predated all this current analog 45s craze. There’s just so many moments, great situations, incredible DJs, live performances. It would require the whole paper to get all the highlights.”
Baker recalls a night when shirtless beast Val Kilmer got down on the dance floor while women licked shots of tequila off Dave Navarro’s chest over at the bar.
“Ultimately, the best nights were when me and Richie just … played our hearts out,” says Baker. “It was almost orgasmic.”
On a typical night, lord knows what was going on in the notorious unisex bathrooms, a delightfully scandalous set-up that made for several weird and countless memorable encounters requiring awkward phone calls come morning.
Which brings us to Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (“The most notorious rock’n fucking roll amateur go-go party ever!”), a Sunday-night institution that lasted for 13 years. Originally launched into infamy at Lucy’s Hat Shop in Old City in December of 1998, host Psydde Delicious set sail for Fluid because he felt the Old City location held the party back. Back then, except for the strange moment that was Live Bait on Second Street—a trashier Coyote Ugly rip-off for roid-y Jersey dudes and the gum-snappers that love them—the O.C. was still considered a respectable place. Even on weekends!
Thus, business owners didn’t care for the long row of gleaming chrome motorcycles parked on Market Street outside the party. No one was allowed to dance on the tables. To Delicious, these were oppressive conditions. “So that’s when I installed the trapeze,” he recalls.
It wasn’t enough. The party moved to Fluid on Jan. 9, 2000, and the Bettie-banged burlesque and Zipperhead-coiffed crowd that soon became notorious for pioneering the original amateur go-go dancing contest stayed there until the last party on Aug. 7, 2012. “[It was like] one brief shining moment where everything was in the right place at the right time,” sighs Delicious, who currently minds the store at his corset shop on Girard Avenue. “It would be impossible to recreate … That sort of recklessness doesn’t happen anymore.”
Delicious laughs recalling the first time Fluid’s then-new employee Gibson caught a glimpse of his leather and sweat carnival.
“We had three different porn stars come in as guests, and we did some of the wildest nights ever there,” he says. “There were always very liberated people and very liberated actions going on, but that night, it was just like—I don’t know how much I want to say legally. Oronde, his jaw dropped. And he realized he was really in for a ride.”
Unprompted, Gibson recalls the same moment. The way he tells it, it’s almost romantic, a real Philadelphia club-kid coming-of-age story.
“Fast, Cheap and Out of Control—that was like the whole other end of the spectrum,” says Gibson. “Psydde was doing all kinds of crazy things and scenes, and I was like, ‘This is really fast, cheap and out of damn control! As I settled into it, I began to understand what the music and the scenes were all about. I basically learned a life lesson. [From] what I viewed as, ‘All these kids are dancing off-beat; they don’t know what they’re doing,’ what I learned was that whatever you do is a reflection of you … so there’s really no bad dance—just to see everybody enjoying themselves, as long as it’s coming from the heart.”
Before Fast took over Sundays, DJ Robert Drake, known as the much-respected radio producer of WXPN’s award-winning Kid’s Corner, threw a party called Church. Then he birthed Sex Dwarf. Launched in 2003, Sex Dwarf is a retro party of new-wave sounds presented by Drake and DJ Marilyn Thomas. Drake fondly recalls his “big Divine moment,” as in dearly departed Divine of John Waters film fame. With Jimmi Shrode of the rowdy improv theater troupe Dumpsta Players in the star role, Divine was reincarnated and resurrected at midnight on the party’s fourth anniversary. Still going strong, the party’s now in its 10th year.
“It says something about the club and its commitment that a successful party is there as long as it stays there, unless the DJ moves [or moves on],” says Drake. “Josh Wink still could be spinning on Wednesday night if he wanted to. Same thing with Quest and Jazzy Jeff.”
Questlove, Wilson and Allworld made Fluid home for Tastytreats in mid-2002 after Gibson, noticing the party had outgrown Filo’s, asked the crew to move over.
“We’ve been [at Fluid] ever since,” says Wilson. “ We’ve hosted Jazzy Jeff, Q-Tip, Biz Markie, Cash Money, the Gang Starr album release party. Guru hosted, and Premier spun. Our five-year anniversary party, Melle Mel came and hosted out of nowhere.”
PW's Fall Guide 2014