As much surfjaxpier.com—the local surf report site that predated the mag—was both a formative experience and an instrumental tool in building a dedicated local following, perhaps no initiative played as significant a role in helping the what would become Void Magazine relate to its readership as a string of legendary and revelrous get-togethers, beginning with Surf Jax Pier nights at the dive-y and now-defunct Landshark Cafe in Jacksonville Beach.
According to local lore, the success of one particular Surf Jax Pier rager—one in which an inconceivable amount of Pabst Blue Ribbon was purchased (and consumed)—led to a sponsorship deal with the famed Milwaukee-based beer brand. That sponsorship helped spawn not only more parties. The money also supported the PBR Pro, the first in a series of surf contests held at the Jacksonville Beach Pier put on by the team that would eventually found Void.
Years later, with issue #1 ready to hit the streets, the crew could think of only one way to beat the hype drum: A party. Duh!
“We’d spent pretty much all the money we’d raised on printing that first issue,” founding partner Mikey Sasser told me. “So what did we do next? We threw a party and ended up in the red!”
The Issue #1 Release Party, held at the now-extinct Rock Bar on Beach Boulevard established Void’s reputation as the beach’s unofficial party planning committee.
“Going back to the Surf Jax Pier Nights, we already knew people would come out,” Sasser said about the first Void party. “We wanted to make it approachable and we wanted it to reflect what would be in the magazine.” More than 500 people showed up. Friends of the mag and Issue #1 featured musicians, Darkhorse Saloon, rocked the house that night, as did BLORR (now known as Swimm, they were featured later in Issue #2). “At one point in the night, I remember standing back and looking out over the Rock Bar… and seeing a sea of people and just thinking, ‘Wow, people are into this. We really have something.’ I think that kicked it off and eventually the parties were a way for people to connect with the brand in person.”
Void would throw parties for each subsequent issue release for the next few years at spots around the beach, from The Brix to Casa Maria (and Marina) to Salt Life to Monkey’s Uncle to Dick’s Wings to Lynch’s to…OK, pretty much every bar at the beach, plus the newly installed pools at the Jags’ stadium (then EverBank Field). Each party was a place to see and be seen. Often pro surfer Cody Thompson, moonlighting as DJ Code Red, was on the wheels of steel. When the mag went monthly in year two, the team at Void committed to a party a month.
These gatherings no doubt built brand awareness, endearing the publication to attendees and multiplying the number of eyeballs on each issue by a large factor. But for a skeleton staff of publishing newbies who were already burning the candle at both ends, they were also exceedingly depleting.
In a way, then, it was fortuitous that the crowds at the monthly release parties eventually outgrew the venues. Rather than turn folks away, Void became more strategic—cutting back on the number of events, but throwing them at larger venues, beginning with the first annual Bruval Craft Beer Festival held in the parking lot of Mellow Mushroom in Jax Beach. (Ironically, they quickly outgrew that location, as well, moving Bruval to the Seawalk Pavilion the next year.) Now with five large-scale events annually, Void remains committed to the party—albeit in a different way.
But you only get one shot at a 100th issue. So, in the spirit of those early issue release parties, Void is pulling out all the stops for a throwback-style issue release party at Surfer the Bar in Jax Beach on Saturday, Feb. 16. And this one is not to be missed. Our vendor market kicks off at 1 p.m. Then, the party really gets going at 6 p.m. with drink specials, a highlight reel slideshow, and a formidable lineup of local bands, from eclectic and jammy quintet Trail Diver to surf-garage trio The Mother Goosers to Void-party-OGs, riff-heavy rockers Darkhorse Saloon. MZG–twin DJs with local roots–keep the party going late into the evening. It’ll be a night to celebrate the past, present, and future of our diverse community. And, yes Mikey: there’ll be PBR!
Void’s 100th Issue release party goes down on Saturday, Feb. 16. More details, here.