Farewell to Fluid, the Philly Nightclub Where Questlove, Dieselboy and Countless DJs Held Court

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.

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 25 | Posted Mar. 5, 2013

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“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.” 


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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 25 of 25
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1. sarasherr said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 01:48AM

“Awesome piece! Brought a tear to my eye. Hate to be That Guy, but Jimmy Carter from The Dumpsta Players is named Jimmi Shrode, or as he was known at the time, The Divine Ms. Jimmi. Perhaps we need a new queen named Jimmy Carter giving us 70s peanut realness.”

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2. Jimmi Shrode said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 03:08AM

“I have never played Jimmy Carter. I always thought I was too beautiful for that! Unless, Jimmy Carter is doing drag somewhere. *sigh*

The Divine Ms. Jimmi”

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3. @PhillyWeekly said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 09:40AM

“Apologies, Jimmi — corrected.”

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4. FLYGIRRL said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 01:23PM

“Join us for the last few Tastytreats/Saturdays at Fluid before it's gone for good!!

SAVE THE DATES :
TASTYTREATS AT FLUID
[FLUID'S FINAL WEEKS] :

3/9 DJ'S MIKE NYCE MR SONNY JAMES AFRODJIAK
[MIKE'S BDAY JAM BIGGIE TRIBUTE]

3/16 DJ'S MIKE NYCE THE LEGENDARY DJ CASH MONEY

3/23 DJ'S MIKE NYCE MR SONNY JAMES SPECIAL GUEST DJ TBA

3/30 DJ'S MIKE NYCE MR SONNY JAMES SPECIAL GUEST DJ TBA

4/6 [ FLUID'S VERY LAST NIGHT!!!!!!]
DJ'S MIKE NYCE MR SONNY JAMES
QUESTLOVE THE MAGNIFICENT DJ JAZZY JEFF!!!!!!!

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5. DJ Robert Drake said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 01:56PM

“Great piece - but let's not forget the female DJs that have helped keep the party alive at Fluid for so long - most specifically, my partner in crime, DJ MARILYN THOMAS - who has been with Sex Dwarf from the start ... Sure, the dudes ran the place - but don't be fooled ... the ladies drove the dance floor just as well :)”

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6. Napoleon Luther Meanas said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 02:53PM

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! First of all, this was definitely a good piece of writing, paying homage to both one of the very best nightclubs to alight upon the Philadelphia scene in years, as well as one of the brightest club owners around. I am more upset than normal to hear about its closing because I am unable to get there to feel that floor move under my feet to say goodbye properly. I can only hope that Tony Schiro opens a club in Las Vegas (hint hint hint)!!”

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7. ImriJonas said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 03:43PM

“Thank you, Tony and crew, for keeping the magic going for so many years.”

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8. Damian 'Dieselboy" Higgins said... on Mar 6, 2013 at 05:55PM

“MARCH 27th we have the return of the legendary PLATINUM. drum and bass madness with our kick ass team of residents dropping basshammers all night long. can't wait for this one.”

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9. Billy Slavin said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:38AM

“Beautifully done Tara. I made the move from serving coffee (The Bean cafe) to beer (Fluid/Latest Dish) in 1999, my first bar job. I'll never forget when Fast Cheap made the move to Fluid, I haven't served that much Jeager since. So many great memories.”

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10. Feebo said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 10:12AM

“I will forever have the fondest and funnest memories of Sex Dwarf .. I'll be on my death bed smiling of those awesome dancing drunk happy nights.. Drake n Thomas, THANK YOU!! ..for an outrageous, passionate, unique, strange and memorable run... (now about a monthly gig at the Troc or some such joint)
XOXOX”

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11. cheryl said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 12:11PM

“so many memories, so much love. thank you for all of it.”

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12. Lee Mayjahs? said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 01:56PM

“Great article, very sad to see Fluid go. I have so many memories there from different chapters of my own life. I remember working at Filo's down the street in the late 90's and I would sneak out to go hang in the alley outside fluid. Much props to Tony, JC, Oronde, Rasheed, Stacey, Mike Nyce, Cosmo, King, Josh, ?uest, Wink, Pete Moss, Rob Paine, Yameen & everyone who made fluid what it was. Maximum Love & respect.”

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13. Stefanie said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 02:55PM

“Billy, you probably served our Zipperhead/ CRASH BANG BOOM gang most of the Jeager at Fast Cheap! Thanks to ALL of the wonderful DJ's and staff at Fluid! Orande..thanks for all your patience;)”

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14. DJ Avid said... on Mar 7, 2013 at 05:40PM

“"Josh Wink, one of the most famous DJs to come out of Philly, laughs when he thinks about the changes in technology since he started out almost 30 years ago."

Don't laugh, Josh.”

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15. Candy Mayhem (Candace Ryan) said... on Mar 8, 2013 at 10:55AM

“"So many amazing Sunday nights with Mr.Delicious and the ladies dancing on the box. Fluid made my 20's, fun, filthy and glittery."”

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16. Q said... on Mar 8, 2013 at 02:00PM

“First it was The Bank, Knave of Hearts, Palmers (back when you had to be an actual member to buy a drink) Filo's, SOMA & St Jacks... the party is officially over now that out beloved Fluid is closing it's doors. Fell in love with Tastytreats & D&B at this place, loved the night Goldie popped in while opening for JA @ the TLA.”

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17. Rob Windfelder said... on Mar 8, 2013 at 05:36PM

“Sunday nights with Psydde!!! Almost never missed it.”

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18. DYLAN said... on Mar 8, 2013 at 07:45PM

“Fluid one was of the first venues i ever played in America after being born and raised in London England, I later moved to Philly and stayed and i think Fluid had alot to do with that! Gonna miss everything about it!!

TONIGHT Friday March 8th we have our final party!! darkside Drum & Bass "Therapy Sessions" Come out tonight and have a blast with us! <3”

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19. Elena Brennan said... on Mar 9, 2013 at 08:47AM

“So sad, it's the end of an era! I have so many fond memories & danced many a nights away on the floor at FLUID! Thanks Tony & to all the fabulous DJs I met at Fluid - Josh Wink, Carl Cox, Doc Martin, Maggy Thump (DJ Lorne), Pete Moss etc. The list is sooo long!!”

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20. AbnerDoon said... on Mar 9, 2013 at 08:20PM

“It's so sad..SO SAD to see the passing of this.. Fluid's closing does indeed mark the end of a particular era..but ahh....truth be told its another generations time to be handed the reigns of tearing up the streets and blasting their beats.

Best of all, that gem of all gems that was utter perfection as I saw it was Filos..an absolute diamond in the rough, small tho it was got recognition and respect from international visitors...I mean true club gurus from Europa (UK in particular)...I almost tore my guts out at the door when I after an admitted brief absence returned to see a restaurant (xoxo?) plying its trade at the site...Knocked me on my ass...lol..that itself was a number of years ago, ancient memory for some but vivid memory to me. I loved that place....LOOOVED IT, kept me sane, single-handedly made me love Philly.. Unpretentious, no fakers, no pretenders just a true mix of folk that loved close quarters and perfect beats. Harmony, bliss and weed smoke paradise..”

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21. Justin Paul said... on Mar 12, 2013 at 12:59AM

“So many amazing memories of Fluid. Started going to Ovum nights back in 1996. Listened to countless world class, and local DJs perform there over the years. Too many to type. Also had the pleasure of DJing and hosting Playloop parties there several years later. One of the best clubs in America for dance music. Sorry to see it end.”

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22. Anonymous said... on Mar 13, 2013 at 04:01PM

“So many good nights with Udoh and Deep, The infamous Lee Jones. Wink, Tasty Treats, Reflective Parties, Goldie, Platinum, Doc sooooo many QUALITY nights. I am glad i should be home to see it off proper.”

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23. allsortsofnostalgicjimmy said... on Mar 14, 2013 at 12:22PM

“I def partied at space aka motion 90 percent of the time when I was in philly. God its been so long. Shout out to imri...good to see u on here man! But anyway...one of the first times I was ever there I heard a set by dieselboy(first track had a busta rhymes beat in it, gimme some mo I think) and was hooked. Didn't know how spoiled I was. So I asked around and heard about fluid....platinum nights were some of my most memorable from any club anywhere, real talk. I'm f'n 30 now and have been hoping/praying for a night like this so thanks to all involved and mad respect.”

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24. teemoo215 said... on Mar 29, 2013 at 07:31PM

“Still have my John Digweed ticket from 2002 I believe it was. Show was cancelled last minute, and he never re-booked. Would have been nice to catch him at Fluid but I still got the ticket and never got a refund always hoping for redemption but it never came.”

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25. Sean Leonard said... on Mar 2, 2014 at 01:21PM

“Im going to miss this place. I meet my wife here. Sad to see it go.”

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