Inside the studio. Image credit.
A rumor was recently broadcast among the Miami arts community via various texts and tweets that an artist run pirate radio station was being operated from an undisclosed location 17 floors above Miami beach.
Every evening last week various Miami based artists assumed the role of pirate radio DJ’s and took turns in broadcasting on vacant frequencies. Running from around 4pm until midnight the shows, spontaneous yet consecutive, ran largely uninterrupted save for a few station changes and sporadic static problems.
Having tuned in during the week, always to a different station, I finally set out to find the ‘studio’ on Friday, the finale of the stunt’s stint.
Inside the studio. Image credit.
At around half past seven, after receiving a text about the Freegums show – perhaps the most publicized of all the shows – which read “Change station da popo found us! Now 101.3 fm call in ahora! 305-XXX-XXXX (removed by request).” I got in my car and with the wipers removing a light tropical winter drizzle from my windshield, set off.
For most of the drive from the ‘Artlurker offices’ across 79th Street causeway nothing came through the radio except a loud hiss, but as I passed The Crab House, and just after that, Benihana, a subtle, unintelligible, but decipherable fluctuation began to resonate faintly within the static. By the time I passed Normandy Pools, fits and starts of Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the brain,” punctuated by poor reception (more hissing) and samples of an elephant trumpeting in distress were coming through loud, if not clear.
View from the roof of The Deauville Beach Resort.
As the exact location of the secretive temporary studio – the penthouse of a hotel on Miami Beach – had been given to me via word of mouth under the assumption of hearsay and promptly forgotten I cruised around using the radio as a divining rod, trying to get the clearest signal, an exercise I hoped would guide me to my destination. After driving the wrong way down Harding Avenue for about ten blocks and almost causing a wreck when my lack of experience driving on ‘the beach’ clashed with Superbowl traffic, I pulled in desperation into a Walgreens parking lot to discover with some relief that I was opposite The Deauville Beach Resort (6701 Collins Avenue), whose name rang a distant bell in my memory as the hotel I should be looking for.
With just half an hour to spare before I got towed for not shopping at Walgreens I turned off the engine, killing the show which had now degenerated into chirpy karaoke covers of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, and crossed the street.
The lobby of the The Deauville Beach Resort was full of what looked like a foreign exchange program. Knapsacks, bags and plastic anoraks adorned gaggles of 18 something European types, who swarmed around docents and robotic hotel staff. Undeterred from my momentum by a faint but enticing whiff of profiteroles I made straight for the elevator and, as the doors closed on a number of curious, blazered authoritarians, I pushed the button marked PH for Penthouse.
Looking into the studio from the roof.
When the doors opened again there was dust, emergency lighting and a long, uninviting corridor. From beyond a rubble strewn emergency staircase, through the audible gloom of this forgotten place, a child-like version of Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean came drifting.
Pangs of excitement, fear, and disbelief at the sheer balls of this oddity and my new found proximity to it immediately subsided as I entered the room, a large, dark unfinished storeroom piled high with dusty chairs, and found Death Print director, Aiden Dillard, hunched over a microphone squeaking out the last of Jackson’s best selling 1983 single.
Freegums had just come off the air and Viking Funeral, who bowled through the door a moment later with a bottle of Whiskey, were up next. Through an unframed doorway, a rain swathed roof staged a darkened skyline. The city, a million twinkling points in a blustery void, stretched on below the damp veil of night. And an antenna, illuminated by studio lights, stood proudly erect as various conspirators and onlookers smoked in its shadow, patiently waiting their turn at the mic.
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.