Pontiac has seen its nightclubs come and go, but who'd have imagined a swing mainstay like Velvet transforming itself into an electronic dance club called Tonic? As always with the evolution of popular culture and certainly with any social dance craze swing's retro stomp started underground, went mainstream, and is finally being put to rest. Now, Tonic's new name reflects the club's transformation from swank musical stylings to high-energy body-buzzing euphoria.
Anyone who's heard the digital wizardry of Velvet resident "Hometeam" DJ Terrence Parker can certainly understand the change. While swing's big band nostalgia has grown tired, electronic music's lifelike pulse is now re-energizing the masses. Outside, Tonic refaces itself accordingly with a keenly confident logo standing tall and proud. Inside, the decor is less than electrifying (they're working on it); dance floor-spare with a DJ booth (aka throne for Terrence) up front. In Velvet days, the backroom was a lover's den with cozy couches and a "rich-parents-out-of-town" feel. Now, it stands gutted (begging for the continued renovation). Downstairs, this dingy minimalism works better. The basement space functions as a clandestine rave scene, with kids breakdancing on an old tiled floor.
On any given night, you'll hear house, pulse, trance and jungle remixes. Friday and Saturday nights are 21+, attempting to attract dressier, more sophisticated elitists looking for a place to get their groove on (and cash out heavy tabs). Sunday nights are 18+, so the local ravers can show their stuff.
It's probably a little too soon to tell if Tonic will generate the crowd that Velvet once did, but at least Tonic caters to a wider variety of patrons. The freeform style of dance increases the opportunity for invention and eliminates all those embarrassing blunders from newbie swing dancers. Whatever the reason behind the change, it's OK to bid farewell to the past when it's replaced with the inventive sounds of tomorrow.