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CityWalk – the groove

What: High-tech, high-gloss disco
Where: On the Promenade
Hours: 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m

the groove (the lower case is intentional) is CityWalk’s dance club and it sets out to compete head to head with the legendary nightspots that have caught the public imagination in urban centers like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is also the only venue that does not come with a recognizable brand name. No Jimmy Buffetts or Bob Marleys to give this place instant name recognition. This joint stands or falls on its own merits.

It succeeds remarkably well by providing a place where a mostly young crowd (you must be at least 21 to enter) can come and boogie the night away in a cacophonous atmosphere that duplicates big city sophistication. The main difference is that here you will be let in even if you don’t meet some snotty doorman’s idea of what is currently cool and hip. Intimate it’s not, with a maximum capacity of 1,277 on multiple levels, but with crowds comes excitement.

The design conceit is that you are in a century-old theater that is in various stages of renovation, but the dim lighting and pulsing light effects negate much of the intended effect. The various areas of the club provide ample space for those who want to thrash and writhe under pulsating lights to ear-splitting music while offering some refuge to those who just want to watch.

The main dance floor is dominated by a soaring wall of video monitors that operate separately and then coalesce to form a single image. Patterns of light swirl across the floor to disorienting effect. There is a small stage for visiting groups but we’ve never seen any here. Most nights the nonstop sound assault is provided by a D.J. The music is eclectic; typically the evening starts off with the more widely popular forms of dance music, with the mix changing gradually as the night wears on. Late at night, the music is predominantly “progressive house.” If you don’t know what that means you probably won’t like it. But those who know it love it.

On Thursdays, the groove is successfully pursuing the time-warped clubgoers left homeless by the closure of Disney’s “8-Trax” with its own “80’s Nights.” Admission is free before 10:00 p.m., and drink specials are available to get you in the new wave mood.

Wednesdays are often “Teen Nights” ($10 to $15), alcohol-free dance parties for 15- to 19-year-olds, lasting from 8:00 p.m. to midnight. The first soft drink is free. On these nights, the groove reverts to adult form at the witching hour. Teen Nights are more frequent during the summer months and are listed on the CityWalk Times & Info brochure.

Fortunately, there are some relatively quiet corners ( 50- to 80-seat bars actually) where you can get better acquainted with that special someone you just met on the dance floor. These are the Red, Blue, and Green Rooms, respectively, and each is decorated differently. The Red and Green Rooms are dim and deliciously decadent but the Blue Room is lit with a ghastly pallor that will flatter only Goths and vampires and seems designed to convince you you’ve had too much to drink. When it all becomes too much, you can repair to a balcony over the Promenade and look down on the latecomers standing in line.

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Universal Orlando 2011


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