NY Hot List

We’re back in our hometown, New York City, where everything is on hold. The new smoking ban and old cabaret law debate are keeping clubs in check, but with dozens of new venues prepping for winter openings, New York feels like it’s at a simmer, about to boil any second. The city has rested enough, and is ready for a new era of nighttime madness. But have the mayor and his minions already put the final nail in the New York nightlife coffin?
Wait and see.



Not “favorite.” Not “best.” Just HOT

Compiled by Daphne Carr, Elisabeth Gibbons, Kerri Mason, and Mike Williams

HOT Homeless DJ – Victor Calderone
First it was Roxy. Then it was Arc. Next it was the doomed-from-the-start Estate@Limelight. Word has it that crobar is next. Usually a New York DJ needs a high-profile residency to become one of the city’s favorite sons – not so for the Brooklyn-born Victor Calderone. The tribal house specialist has never settled into a single space for any length of time (“I never plan it that way,” he says), but New York clubbers still fiend for news on where he’ll land next. Maybe it’s because he straddles the commercial/underground line so comfortably, likes to push sets well into the after hours, or that his annual Gay Pride theme parties at the Hammerstein Ballroom (usually a concert venue) are always such packed-to-the-rafters, well-produced successes. Whatever the reason, where Calderone spins the usually jaded hordes will eagerly cram. –KLM

– Cielo
Cielo sprung up on the Meat Packing District’s dingy, damp, partially hidden Little 12th Street with hardly any fanfare. But within weeks the tiny club’s innovative layout, air of effortless cool, intrinsic music appreciation, and pleasingly pounding Funktion-One speaker system (by Sound Investment’s Dan Agne) had the whole city talking. Described as a “techno log cabin” by lots of different folks all thinking themselves original, Cielo is one large square, with a sunken dancefloor flanked by bench seating on all sides. Fabric-covered “rods” line the walls all around, and are interspersed with LED-equipped ones that actually chase and blink when the night gets going. These make up the entirety of the club’s lighting system. The place is so damn cool that house godfather Frankie Knuckles recently accepted a monthly residency (Better Days); Deep Dish and Victor Calderone have hosted album release parties; and Francois K started a weekly, Deep Space, dedicated entirely to dub.
Co-owned by Nicolas Matar, a sometimes-Ibiza DJ himself, Cielo is proof that a for-the-music dance spot doesn’t need black walls
and dingy corners to be genuine. –KLM
Cielo Sound:
4 - Funktion One AX-88 loudspeakers;
2 - Funktion One F218 loudspeakers;
2 - Funktion One Infrabass subwoofers;
2 - MC2 T1500 power amplifiers;
2 - MC2 T2000 power amplifiers;
2 - Technics 1200 MKIII turntables;
1 - MC2 1250 power amplifiers;
1 - XTA DP226 processor

HOT Celebrities-Amongst-Mortals Lounge – Mission
Since opening in February 2003, Mission has seen more celebrities than the paparazzi. This bi-level space has hosted the likes of Tyson Beckford, Isaac Mizrahi, P.Diddy, Kelly Osbourne, and dozens more. What draws them, and the common folk alike, to the dark, sleek little lounge/bar is its unusual location (on the East Village’s Bowery, smack in New York University and jaded hipster land), and casualness combined with high-end décor, kinda like “a modern day speakeasy.” And don’t forget about the two DJs on two floors, and the excess of bathrooms. Plus, the lack of tension between the seated and the tree-house-style VIP area (with its faux-cowhide leather ottomans) make it an ideal spot for celebrity stalking. All the “updated vintage” styling, a powerful sound system by New York’s Frank Garcia of Mainline Sound and Lighting, and a specialty drink called a Jayne Mansfield, make Mission the perfect setting for a Rat Pack revival. –EG
Upstairs Audio:
8 - EAW MK 12 loudspeakers;
4 - EAW SB150 subwoofers;
2 - Technics 1200 turntables;
1 - Denon D9000 CD player;
1 - Rane 2016 rotary mixer and expansion pack
Downstairs Audio:
8 - EAW MK 12 loudspeakers;
6 - EAW SB150 subwoofers;
3 - Technics 1200 turntables;
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD players;
1 - Denon D9000 CD player;
1 - Rane 2016 rotary mixer and expansion pack
1 - 6’x3’ retractable screen;
1 – DirectTV connection;
1 - Panasonic DVD player;
1 - Panasonic VHS player;
1 - Sanyo ProX digital video projector

HOT Promotional MethodFriendster.com
First it was file sharing; now it’s people sharing. Friendster (www.friendster.com) is bringing together thousands of New Yorkers by linking them to their friends and to their friends’ friends. You can only join the site (by submitting a picture and setting up a profile) if you’re invited by a friend who’s already a member. You then become a part of their “friend network” and start piecing together your own. It’s the ultimate indulgence of “who do you know,” and apart from being a great tool for singles, it’s also becoming the new and free way to promote parties in NY, especially if you’re a self-promoting DJ. What’s the hierarchy of your usual gig attendance? First your friends, then their friends, then maybe their friends too, and so on, until you reach the general pool (which we estimate is about four degrees of separation on Friendster). The site gives you access to all of them, through the billboard function (which acts like a messageboard without replies). More proof that flyers are so last century. –EG

HOT Grass-Roots Promoter - Rob Fernandez
It’s practically eerie - whenever a serious house DJ sails into New York, Rob Fernandez of Rob Promotions is there, facilitating the night, promoting it, or maybe staking it out. NY promoters come and go, usually in a hail of self-inflating bombast, but the former Sound Factory Bar doorman keeps it low, promoting the party instead of himself. His three weeklies - Erick Morillo’s Subliminal Sessions at Discotheque (Thursday), Danny Tenaglia’s Be Yourself at Arc (Friday), and Assteria at Cheetah (Sunday) - are the longest-running parties in the city hands down, each with defined crowds and distinct vibes, but a common desire to “keep it real.” Armed with just a standard flyer brigade, modest website, phone line, and his own keen sense of crowd trends, Fernandez’ primary aim is to keep the buzz on his parties strong, and make info about them readily available - mostly to those who already know where to look for it. But when the word is hot enough to leak upward - as when Janet Jackson recently made an appearance at Assteria - no one’s prouder than Rob. –KLM

HOT DJ Booth – Danny Tenaglia’s Spaceship
The Big Apple’s booth-of-note isn’t in a big club in the heart of town – instead it sits in a private loft in Queens’ very industrial Long Island City, down the block from a bread factory. Over a year ago, internationally celebrated DJ Danny Tenaglia started converting an old corner building into a wood-floored, multi-roomed DJ getaway, complete with blinking LED lights in the hallways, a giant life-sized horse sent over from Ibiza, and a “club room” with black walls, Club Vinyl’s old speaker system, and a customized spaceship DJ booth commissioned by Tenaglia and created by the Lodi brothers of Advanced Audio Technology. The 18x10x6 Norwegian birch-and-steel monster was constructed modularly (for eventual portability), and features a motorized plank-style door, DMX-controlled blue and orange color changers, and an adjustable console. Something similar would run you around $50K (the modularity pumps up the price). The twins are also working on an eye-popping booth for new club Deep, opening in late fall in the old Ohm space. –KLM


HOT Dead Trend - Williamsburg Hipness
For a brief glimmering moment all of New York’s — scratch that, the Western World’s — attention was on the district just past the Williamsburg Bridge; the slow-to-gentrify, part-industrial area of Brooklyn where lots of suburban kids with dreams of arty greatness took up residence over the past decade. Their music was dubbed “electro” (think a new wave/techno cocktail obsessed with meaninglessness) and their clubs — like Luxx, Warsaw, and Galapogos — were meant to house the revolution, the next underground movement that would eventually bubble up to the surface and become popular after years of cultural importance beneath the radar. But it never happened — pop culture swooped in too fast, stole their best production tricks for use on mainstream radio, nabbed their fashion and repackaged it for suburban distribution, and basically ate what little meat was there in the first place. But maybe it’s not their fault — as one rock writer noted in the mid-’90s after grunge broke, “I don’t think there’s a scene today that would be left alone long enough to develop.” So maybe the fall of Williamsburg will eventually have more meaning than its rise. –KLM

HOT Dance Temple (On Holy Ground) – Spirit
Spirit owner Robbie Wootton admits that he didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he purchased the old Twilo/Sound Factory building at 530 West 27th Street for $13.5 million. “I knew nothing, and by knowing nothing I just blindly ducked things,” he says. “I think if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have done it.”
What he now knows is that the building in which he will launch a night entertainment experience focused more on spiritual awakening than the usual physical indulgence was once the infamous Twilo, a haven for the latter – so much so that young patrons died from drug overdoses within its walls, a city official called it “a bucket of blood,” and the city revoked its licenses, eventually padlocking it for good. Of course the community board knew that, realtors knew that, the licensing agents knew that. But Wootton didn’t.
“It would have been easier to start somewhere at ground zero instead of here at negative ten,” he admits. But the very centered Irishman doesn’t bemoan the setback. He sees it all as part of his – and the space’s – journey.
Spirit New York will be a conceptual center in three parts – Mind, Body, and Soul. It’s a nightclub, veggie restaurant, wellness center, and gallery all in one; a continuation of a seven-city project (the Cape Town location is already underway) that Wootton launched in Dublin to great success. The theory? That dance music is “the closest thing to indigenous tribal music” which can “help reconnect people to the stars” but that modern club culture has “conditioned [young people] to believe” that drugs are a crucial part of the celestial flight. Spirit will be a dance haven that’s still intense – with marquis DJs, “De La Guarda-meets-Cirque De Soleil” performances, a strong sound system and big-time light show – but decidedly chemical-free.
Impossible, say the cynics. Not so, says Wootton. “I’ve seen it happen in Dublin,” he insists. “We’ve recreated a non-toxic environment by keeping the dealers out. We tell them that this is not a place for them, this is not that type of environment, the people who come here are not those types of people.”
Some think that Wootton’s vision (which came to him while on safari in Africa) is a carefully veiled attempt to moralize New York nightlife, but his enthusiasm and plaintive manner suggest otherwise. “We’re not here to preach,” he says. “We’re here to enlighten.” And rather than disavow the sometimes sordid – and very toxic – history of the building he now inhabits, he embraces its cultural significance, and its natural energy.
“I feel that room,” he says of the main club area, which even with construction vehicles and bare brick walls still feels like a dancefloor. “Twilo is mythological – we want to keep that feeling, not the facts. We will interweave the mythology with the music.” –KLM

HOT Cause – Cabaret Law Reform
The absurdity of New York City’s endless Cabaret Laws argument can be best be understood in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo. The novel, like the Laws, outlines how sinister syncopation (read: African rhythm) spreads like a disease across the world (read: New York City) and strikes fear into the hearts of the administration (read: gentrifiers, robber barons, blue haireds and the administration). In Reed’s novel, the syncopation infestation leads to a liberated people. In New York City, the liberated people opted not to buy million dollar condos near their favorite clubs and have thus been SOL in staking claim to the “inalienable right of social dancing.” Racism, fear of social mixing, oppression of leisure time by the landed/funded – ahh how things have changed since 1926!
Since Saint Guiliani adopted the law to arm his storm-trooping Nightclub Enforcement Task Force in 1997, dozens of clubs have been padlocked for dancing infringements while many more suffer the broad repercussions of a general crackdown on bopping and swaying to the DJ, jukebox, band, orchestra, radio or even the seemingly innocent organ grinder/monkey combo. Think of all the chimps for their jobs, not to mention the 12,000 folks who work in the nightlife industry! Recent meetings, overwhelmed by pro-dance coalition support and first amendment brawn, still pointed to the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs desire to rage further anti-nightlife actions in the city. In the meantime, only super funded megas and velvet roped lounges rise above the Laws, leaving NYC looking more and more like a yuppie holiday than the grimy, free for all city we loved. –DC

HOT Theme Club – Show
Since its opening, Show has turned away an average of 500-700 people a night. It’s that good. This 6,000 square-foot nightclub just off Times Square has been packing in the young and professional, at a time when other New York venues are not nearly as lucky. The reason is no secret either – it’s all about atmosphere and diverse entertainment.
The single-environment club is a restored theater from the early 1900s with a decor directly inspired by Moulin Rouge. The banquettes, stage, floor, and staff are all outfitted in deep shades of red and gold that recall the sultry decadence of a more radiant age, and the menu features cherry vodka-based drinks. And entertainment includes dancers, live musicians, DJs, performance artists, cabaret, vaudeville acts, and trapeze artists. “We want to make the experience for a New York clubber be different from any other in the city,” says co-owner Joe Vicari. “We’re giving people a whole lot more than just a room with music; we’re entertainment at every angle.” With reported regulars like Britney Spears and P. Diddy, and a slew of other celebs, Show demonstrates that something as simple as a scantily dressed girl on a swing really can draw a crowd. –EG

HOT Light Specialist - Rick Ferrara
Rick Ferrara’s company Excel Lighting isn’t only the most omnipresent in New York clubland by far - it’s also one of the most club-focused dealerships in the country. So when Manhattan nightspots peak and dip, former DJ Ferrara is riding the wave too. And when nightlife fell off after the late-’90s golden age and then 9/11, Excel felt the squeeze.
Ferrara reports that 1999 was Excel’s busiest year, because of big clients like Sound Factory, Tunnel, Jet Lounge, Twilo, Float and their “really elaborate lighting systems,” each of which was a “long-term rental” rather than a one-shot sale. So Ferrara and his men weren’t only hanging the lights, they were servicing them, updating rigs, and tweaking designs to owners’ whims every weekend.
But things are different now. Ferrara, who got into the lighting game in 1991 when automated technologies first became available, says that today’s New York club scene is the bleakest ever. And while Excel is still one of the biggest High End Systems dealers on the East Coast, recovery has been slow. “There’s a lot of business going on out there, but the competition is very fierce,” he says. “It’s coming back, but it’s a lot easier said than done.”
But armed with a sharp wit, a huge collection of outrageous stories involving clubland’s most mythological figures in their heydays, and the knowledge that “doing what you say you’ll do” is the key to good business, Ferrara is ready to dominate New York’s second superclub wave. –KLM

HOT Gay Jock – Chad Jack
“Is Chad Jack playing tonight?” That’s the question of the moment amongst New York’s party boys, from the messageboards to the streets. With sets that combine an aggressive mixing style with an energetic assault of hard tribal beats and diva anthems, Jack has clubbers remembering the days when a jock would actually break a sweat. “I can’t just let a record play through; I’ve got to make it my own,” confesses the Detroit-born former hip-hop DJ.
His is the best kind of NY success story: In an era of fly-by-night DJs and club politics, Jack moved up the ranks through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Starting over two years ago, he made sure everyone in the city had one of his mix CDs, so when he first played rooms like SBNY and Estate at Limelight, the boys demanded more. But it was huge circuit party crowds around the globe that heard him the most, until Jack took a residency at NY’s Roxy earlier this year. His goal now is to solidify his place in the city’s competitive gay scene. “One thing I really want to do in New York is to continue to develop my own identity, and not be compared to other DJs,” he says. “I’ve never been a follower.” –MW

HOT Sound Guy – Paul Bell
Paul Bell has been around longer than almost of the New York venues he’s worked with. For over 20 years Bell has been installing sound for venues, and in 2001 formed his own company, PBell Sound. You might have heard his work at big time venues like Lotus and Webster Hall, but there are literally dozens of smaller spots, dance and otherwise, all over New York that host his installs, or use him to service their pre-existing systems (like Blis, Boutique in the Hamptons, Coda, Nectar, Central Bar, Red Lion, Copacabana, and Sub Mercer). Bell’s gear of choice includes QSC amplifiers, McCauley speakers, and Bassmaxx subwoofers, but it’s his dedication to doing the job right the first time that sets him apart. His experience has taught him to look at every space as unique, and to present to each venue a system that best suits its needs, even if he does admit that club owners don’t always agree with him. “New York club owners want sound systems that cost nothing and are invisible, but still [create] unbelievable sound,” sighs Bell. “I’ve seen a lot of these places where we go in and the client tells us what they want and where they want it, [and they’re] completely wrong. More than likely they’ll end up unhappy and spend more money than necessary to fix it. I try to go into a job and do it right the first time.” –EG

HOT Dance Alternative – Roller Skating at Roxy
Sometimes New Yorkers need a break from the monotony of clubbing, or just need a break, period. Some find relief on 18th Street, at the Phazon-equipped sometimes-superclub Roxy. Wednesday nights host “Roller Balls at the Roxy,” when the dancefloor turns back into a rink, and both skates and blades are available for rental. But as with most things in New York, amateurs should take heed – some of the regulars here are from the original days of roller disco. There are leapers, spinners, couples doing dips, and high-speed curve-turning. And the music ran the gamut, from hip-hop to “Vogue” to Motown classics. It’s one of the few club-oriented things in New York for which the older set has the advantage. –EG

HOT DJ Lounge, HOT Block, HOT Smokers’ Paradise ... and more, in September issue of Club Systems International.

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications