Outerland has smooth and festive takeoff

By Julian Wise - April 6, 2006

Mr. Castrillo's 15-piece Latin jazz band kept the beat alive and the audience members on their feet to christen the new nightclub in style. Photo by Ralph Stewart

The new Outerland nightclub celebrated its opening with a festive, crowded kickoff Saturday night. The evening celebrated the storied heritage of the building and represented a passing of the torch, as the former Hot Tin Roof emerged in its latest incarnation. In an evening of drink, dance, and music, the club reminded Islanders of its history as a favored place to gather with friends for quality entertainment.

New owner Barry Rosenthal, who along with his brother Arthur has taken stewardship of the club over from the previous owners, bustled around the club all evening, greeting members of the crowd like party guests and checking with the staff to insure that everything was running smoothly.

"I feel that it was like the opening night for a hit Broadway play," he said later. "The basic ingredients are there but there's tons of stuff to work out. Our staff, many of whom are new, came through big time."

While Mr. Rosenthal said there are still elements that need tweaking (food, table seating, etc.), on the whole he is satisfied. "I feel it went really well considering it was our first night," he said. "We delivered on our promise to revitalize the club and appeal to a broader, baby boomer audience. The most rewarding part was the many people who came up to me and thanked us for keeping the club alive. The best comment I heard was, 'even though it was the same building, it really felt we had a new vibe going.'"

The mixed-age crowd began filtering in for Latin dance lessons early on. After 9 pm, manager Cory Parker Cabral took to the microphone onstage and gave a brief introduction.

"For 27 years this room has brought people together," Mr. Cabral said before introducing bandleader Eguie Castrillo and his 15-piece Latin orchestra. The genial, rotund Mr. Castrillo led the outfit through a lively set of music, punctuated by his cascading drum beats and spitfire timbale percussion. Special guest Ayla Brown, the stunning and statuesque American Idol contestant, joined the band for several songs, including Oleta Adams's gem "Right Here." Her throaty, pitch-perfect rendition suggested that voters may have been hasty eliminating her from the show. After her performance, Ms. Brown, 17, said she was delighted to be part of the kickoff of the new club. She was also full of praise for Mr. Castrillo and his band.

"I feel as though this is something incredibly important, being part of this awesome band," Ms. Brown said. "It's a complete honor, just to be in the same room performing with them. It's a blessing and an honor."

Many audience members had been present at the birth of the original Hot Tin Roof. Michael Zane of Chilmark remarked, "At the time it was very special for our generation." As he surveyed the crowd, he said, "A lot of faces are here from my generation, from the younger generation as well."

Aquinnah resident Joan LeLecheur recalled the club's early days and said, "We thought we had died and gone to heaven. It was winter, nothing had been happening, and then we were all together, we were warm. It was beautiful."

Younger visitors were impressed by the club's ambiance. Shammara Humphrey, visiting from Manhattan for the first time, said the club made a striking impression. "It's beautiful," she said. "I love the new logo."

Emily Furlong, 28, said she knew the night was something special before she even entered the club. "It's a fabulous crowd for April 1," she said. "I couldn't believe the parking lot when I drove in. I thought it was August."

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.