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The new Orpheum: A bigger, cooler hipster haven

Let's be honest — many of us are either borderline or full-blown hipsters. As much as I'd like to disqualify myself from that label, years of concert-going, playing in bands, DJing, and other unmistakably hip activities have made it difficult to hide from this reality.

If you can relate, then you're already familiar with the Orpheum.

When the Orpheum closed nearly two months ago in order to move to a new location, it had been open for little more than a decade, which is around the time I remember first going to shows there. The Republica de Cuba venue had to me become a constant in the Ybor City landscape — host to countless memorable shows, as well as a long-running and popular weekly DJ night every Saturday.

The shows ranged from indie and punk to hip-hop and death metal, and the crowd followed suit. But the club is arguably best-known for its DJ nights: Soul Night, which takes place on the last Monday of each month, and Retro Red Square Recall Saturdays, a sink-or-swim rager hosted by DJs Noi and Rig, with music running the hipster gamut — indie, electro, and half-ironic top-40 and hip-hop. The latter event has been going strong for nine years, which should give you an idea of the Orpheum's popularity.

But then, I wondered, how would a move to the other end of Seventh Avenue affect that popularity?

Would the crowd follow? Would the Orpheum lose its cool?

A few weeks later, I had an opportunity to find out.

Peelander-Z, a cartoonish (in a true sense of the word) Japanese punk band by way of NYC, were regulars at the old Orpheum, bringing their wild brand of barely-contained insanity to the relatively small venue at least once a year. These shows were consistently packed and featured a raw intensity that's hard to find in larger venues. When I heard that Peelander would be playing a show at the Orpheum's new — and significantly larger — location, I decided to check it out.

The new spot takes the place of the former Temple Lounge, on the far east end of the Ybor strip. From the outside, it looks like any other club on Seventh — really big. Once inside, I was shocked by the size of the interior, which is easily three or four times that of the old place. And then I noticed the temperature — it was actually cool. The Orpheum had moved on from its notoriously sweaty and cramped beginnings. There may have been a loss of scene cred somewhere in the new arrangement, but man, it felt good in there.

Looking around, I spotted two bars flanking the large dance floor area, with an island bar to the left and a smaller bar against the wall to the right. In the middle was one of the highest and largest stages I've seen, covered in a late-'80s roller rink's black-and-neon carpeting. This new Orpheum seemed much more like a true concert venue than the old spot, which seemed like a bar that just happened to have a stage. A second-level balcony contained a third bar (serving premium liquors) and a catwalk view of the stage and main floor.

The beer selection was manageable, with PBR cans on one end of the spectrum, and Magic Hat #9 on the other. The liquor selection was also standard, with the usual wells and calls, as well as a few basic premium spirits. Really, no one is here for the drinks alone. The last thing I'm going to do when I'm at a concert is order a Sazarac, so no problem there. However, the cocktails did contain a generous pour, which helped to offset the small plastic cup size.

After energetic sets by local pop-punk band Neglected Superheroes and neo-thrashers Party Time, Peelander-Z took the stage. To be honest, I was concerned that the new venue would be too large for this show, but I was wrong — mostly. Although the venue was nowhere near capacity, the stage and dance floor were just the right size for a crowd to congregate.

The show was an early one, ending just before 11 p.m., to make way for the Retro Red Square Recall, which continues to pack in crowds thirsty for endless drink and dance.

I'll admit, I miss the old Orpheum. I've seen so many shows there and have spent my fair share of nights choking down Ancient Age and ending up on the dance floor. But even in its new home, I think the Orpheum has still got it. Head out on a Saturday night or to one of the many upcoming shows, and I bet you'll find quite a few people that agree. —

The Orpheum

1915 E Seventh Ave., Tampa. (813)248-9500;

The vibe: A landmark concert venue and makeshift club moves down the street, gets bigger and better everything (including working air conditioning).

Booze: Beer, $3-$5; liquor, $5-$10. Saturday nights are sink-or-swim, where $12 gets you entry, unlimited well drinks, domestic drafts and quite possibly a punishing hangover.

Specialty: You're either here for the show or to dance, so grab a draft beer or a gin and soda and don't bother too much with the details. Expect to see many cans of PBR being consumed.

Hours: Vary depending on the schedule. Check the calendar at for specific door and show times.

The new Orpheum: A bigger, cooler hipster haven 08/04/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:13pm]
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