Roger Sanchez has a long history with South Florida's Opium Group, owner of South Beach clubs Mansion, Opium Garden, Prive and SET. So it comes as no surprise that we would see Sanchez playing at the Opium Group's newest venture, Opium Seminole Hard Rock. Situated amidst the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Resort—part casino and part outdoor entertainment complex—the venue is right in line with its South Beach sisters, providing a momentary respite from an otherwise mundane environment.
Arriving at the club just before midnight gave me a chance to take in the tranquil scenery: boudoir-inspired chandeliers, paper lanterns hanging above golden Buddha statues, floral wallpaper awash in red lighting and even a small waterfall trickling from the edge of the raised DJ booth. I might have mistakenly thought I was in an overpriced sushi house save for the lingerie-clad women pole dancing to the music of Miami DJ Chicco Secci. Waiting for the crowd to roll in, we threw back a few South Beach-priced drinks (read, $14 a pop) and made our way to the absurdly oversized VIP area, which encompasses most of the dance floor and upstairs level.
A marked change in the air was felt when Sanchez appeared on stage around 1:30, by which time the club was packed and the crowd was good and liquored up. Donning his trademark sunglasses, and accessorized with a large cross around his neck and Pioneers on his head, Sanchez came on strong and hard. This night began full of energy and remained upbeat, in step with his New York house roots. A lot of vocals, a lot of clapping, a lot of what you would expect from the S-Man. And—unexpectedly, but clearly coming from an unknown source—the cacophonous mix of air horn and siren. I'm not sure whose hand was at the reins, but the horn was heard earlier than necessary (if a horn ever could be considered "necessary") and the siren continued to sound inappropriately and all-too-frequently well into the night.
Even these dissonant interruptions couldn't slow the DJ down, though. A few months shy of 40, Roger Sanchez's age has yet to date his music. If anything, it seems his years of experience keep his tunes ever changing and the crowd on its toes. His affinity for disco-inspired vocals shined through in such tracks as Blondie's "Call Me" and Kim Sozzi's "Feelin' Me." As the night progressed, Roger integrated a synthetic harmony into his soulful rhythm. Later in the set, a bleep-y techno element emerged from the heavy beats we had been enjoying.
Although a far cry from Roger's characteristic repertoire, something about it seemed to work with this crowd. Meanwhile, true to form, Sanchez was dancing onstage, hands in the air, enthusiasm unwavering. Familiar yet fresh, the music invigorated the crowd, and the energy in the air seemed to drown out the sound of the sirens, the air horn becoming a distant memory. Sanchez aimed his notorious hand-held LED flashlight into the throng of fans below him, encouraging us. And the crowd went wild...