I'm not quite sure what I was up to on New Year's Eve half a decade ago. On the biggest celebratory night of the year, I've traditionally found myself at dive bars and house parties, rather than huge, flashy clubs or massive special events. But it's safe to say that five years ago, things were shoulder-to-shoulder at the Amphitheater, then one of Ybor City's largest and most popular clubs.
Then things changed — Ybor began to fall out of favor with the party scene, and the Amphitheater shut its doors in mid 2007. In the years that followed, several attempts were made to revive the club, but none of them stuck. Then earlier this year, former owner John Santoro and business partner Liane Bennati re-opened the dormant club, subtly re-branding it the Amphitheatre.
The new Amphitheatre is pretty faithful to the original, but with a few new bells and whistles, such as a pretty serious sound system upgrade that delivers a chest-pounding 70,000 watts of bass to the new generation of club-goers. But at its heart, the Amphitheatre is the same club that people remember — a huge, two-story space featuring weekly events and big-name DJ talent from around the world. Oh, and did I mention the 2,000-square-foot, rotating dance floor?
The Amphitheatre is open on Fridays and Saturdays, with other nights of the week reserved for special events. AMP!D Saturdays, a weekly event with resident DJ Doco and special guests, is familiar territory musically, delivering an updated selection of the house and electro fare that the club was known for in its heyday. The new kid on the block is #, featuring resident up-and-coming dubstep producer/DJ Nerd Rage, with partners Mr. Saturn and Winta, held every Friday night.
It was for the latter that I decided to check out the Amphitheatre refresh. If you've been awake for any extended period of time during the past year, you're likely aware that dubstep and other bass-heavy electronic music has been red hot in the clubs for a while now, gaining mainstream recognition while simultaneously packing dance floors and testing the limits of many a club's sound system.
This was the case when I visited, as people trickled in around 11 p.m., transforming into a full-on packed crowd within the course of an hour.
In all, the club is one of the largest in the bay area. Between two levels and 12,000 square feet, it's home to no fewer than 10 bars, as well as a VIP room and VIP tables throughout. The ground floor is wide open, with a long bar spanning the wall between the doors to Seventh Avenue and a second, smaller bar on the opposite end. The stage is populated by a projector screen backdrop, flatscreen TVs playing animation loops, an industrial-sized smoke machine and a towering DJ booth. In the center of the room is a large, circular dance floor with a giant disco ball spinning above.
This dance floor is perhaps the club's most well-known feature, perpetually rotating throughout the night. The rumbling bass, flashing lights and thick crowd of partiers rotating on a dance floor in the center of the club provides for a pretty unique experience.
Night club patrons are all-too-familiar with outrageously priced cocktails and beers, so I was pleased to learn that the Amphitheatre is not an offender in this regard. The average drink ran me $5 (calls and imported bottled beer), and although the selection was fairly basic, I don't think that the typical club-goer will find their drink options overly limited. There are drink specials as well, and the bartender was happy to explain them to me, which is sometimes a problem in a loud club.
New Year's Eve is sure to be a big draw for the Amphitheatre, with Baby Anne and DJ Trashy joining Doco for the night's festivities. It will certainly be a special evening for the club itself, as patrons celebrate not only the coming of the new year, but the resurrection of a big name in the Ybor City nightlife scene, as well.